Captain America (1st series) #353

Issue Date: 
May 1989
Story Title: 
The Great Bear

Mark Gruenwald (Writer / Co-Plotter), Keiron Dwyer (Penciler / Co-Plotter), Al Milgrom (Inker), Jack Morelli (Letterer), Bob Sharen (Colorist), Marc Siry (Assistant Editor), Ralph Macchio (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

Michael O’Brien and Dr. Kincaid determine that Darkstar, Vanguard and Ursa Major are all dead, they wonder how they will get the news to Captain America, unaware that some sort of energy reading appears on one of the Super Soldier’s monitors. Captain America is unable to get the news as he has arrived in the USSR with the intention of finding out what happened to the Super Soldiers. Greeted by a welcoming committee, Cap shows of his Russian language skills by promising to make the Avengers available to the Soviet people just like the rest of the world. After taking a shower at his hotel, Cap sees some strange creature rampaging through the streets, he follows it, and attacks it, unaware that he is being watched by Fantasia of the Supreme Soviets, the creature soon vanishes, and Cap has a difficult time of explaining to the authorities, who are suspicious of him, all the damage. The next day, Cap is visited by the new Red Guardian, who takes Cap on a tour of the city, and Cap is pleased when he notices that the Soviet people adore the Red Guardian, though suspects it wouldn’t be the case if he were simply a law-enforcer. However, the mysterious creature appears out of nowhere and begins attacking again. Cap helps the civilians, while Red Guardian engages the creature, and is eventually sucked into it, before the creature vanishes again. The directorate of the Special Powers Committee basically accuses Captain America of working with the creature, after all, they arrived at the same time, while Cap is frustrated at the lack of answers he is getting here. The creature attacks again though, so Cap goes to investigate once more, as do Perun, Crimson Dynamo and Sputnik. Cap tends to the civilians, while the Supreme Soviets do their best, though are soon all sucked into the creature as well. Fantasia drops her invisibility and traps the creature a bubble, though the creature takes her also, causing Cap to dive into the bear-like creature, he is completely surrounded in darkness, until he is confronted by the life-forces of Darkstar, Vanguard and Ursa Major, who plan to restore their own super human energies by taking those of the Supreme Soviets, who stole theirs in the first place. Captain America tells the Super Soldiers that doing that would make them no better than the Supreme Soviets, that they will no longer be worthy of calling themselves heroes, when suddenly, they all vanish, and the bear-creature is gone. Cap checks the Supreme Soviets, all who are alive and will pull through. Two days later, he arrives back at Avengers Island, and the Super Soldiers are alive and doing well, explaining to Captain America that they had a dream where the three of them had joined together as a bear-creature, and travelled back to the motherland where they drew the Supreme Soviets out of hiding, and that Cap was present. Cap wonders how the Super Soldiers managed to manifest their powers out of their bodies, as well as whether the attack on them was officially sanctioned or not, before deciding that anytime something good can be accomplished without the loss of life is a victory. Meanwhile, Battlestar arrives at Super Patriot’s sisters house after trying to get hold of her by phone to talk about Super Patriot’s death, the house is deserted, and a neighbor informs him that the entire family oddly up and left in the middle of the night, puzzling Battlestar further.

Full Summary: 

Avengers Island infirmary, were a concerned Michael O’Brien asks Dr. Kincaid what the prognosis is. ‘Any of them going to pull through?’. Dr. Kincaid replies that it looks very bad, and informs Michael that Darkstar and Vanguard went into cardiac arrest a few minutes ago and would not respond to resuscitation, while Major Ursus, even on the heart and lung machine, is fading fast. ‘Short of a miracle, the Soviet Super Soldiers are as good as dead!’. ‘Blast it!’ Michael exclaims, asking how this could have happened - who could have got past the Island’s entire security system, past all of his security officers - and launched a murderous attack on Captain America’s visitors.

Michael recalls finding Laynia Petrovna, Nicolai Krylenko and Major Mikhail Ursus in the training room and wonders who they got into the training compound without him knowing about it, as they were under almost constant surveillance since they arrived and requested political asylum. Dr. Kincaid informs O’Brien that Major Ursus has flat-lined, that his brain activity has gone. ‘There’s nothing more to be done here…except an autopsy’. Dr. Kincaid leads Michael out of the room where the three dead heroes lie.

‘Some security head I turned out to be!’ Michael exclaims, adding that as soon as Cap gets back, he is handing in his resignation. Dr. Kincaid suggests to Michael that he doesn’t do that, as it is not his fault someone managed to outwit Avengers security technology any more than it is his fault three patients the Avengers placed in his care died. ‘I suppose’ Michael remarks, before Dr. Kincaid asks how he can get hold of Captain America to break the bad news. O’Brien tells Kincaid that he cannot get hold of Captain America, as Cap should be flying over Soviet airspace right now, and there is no way to beam him the news without the possibility of a Soviet intercept. ‘If word gets out that the Soviet super heroes died on American super hero base, it could spark an international incident!’.

Both men are unaware though, that some sort of reading flits onto the life-signs monitor of one of the dead heroes….

At that moment, Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers is indeed flying over Soviet airspace in one of the Avengers Quinjets, and he tells himself that his official escorts have kept pace with him quite well, before deciding that now he has been given official landing clearance, it is time to show them what a Quinjet can really do, and without warning, Cap breaks formation with the Soviet aircraft, heading down to where he is to land.

Minutes later, Cap emerges from the Quinjet, surprised to see a welcoming committee, not to mention a red carpet. He then greets the officials in their native tongue. Boris Prokofiev approaches Captain America, introducing himself as the foreign relations consultant, he tells Cap that the assembly here would appreciate a few remarks, and asks him if he needs an interpreter. ‘Nyet’ Cap replies, shaking Boris’ hand, before approaching the officials, and in Russian, greets them as the esteemed leaders of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics.

Captain America announces that he stands before them as both citizen of the United States and as ambassador of the Avengers, the world’s pre-eminent team of superhuman peace-keepers. Captain America declares that it is his fervent hope to establish a viable means by which his team may serve the Soviet people in times of emergency, as it serves the rest of the people of the world. He thanks the officials, all who clap. Captain America waves to them as he follows Boris into a limousine, while asking him what happens now. Boris replies that they are going to take him to a hotel so he can rest after his long journey, and that tomorrow he has arranged for him to meet with the directorate of their Special Powers Committee.

Later, in a room on the top floor of the hotel, Captain America is in the shower, and thinks to himself that what he said to the assembly was true, he does hope to expand the Avengers operations to include communist nations as well as the free world. However, his ulterior motive for coming to the USSR of course is to determine if the attack on the Soviet Super Soldiers was officially sanctioned and undertaken by Soviet agents. Cap gets out of the shower and grabs a towel, wrapping it around his waist he wonders who else could have known the Super Soldiers were defecting? Who else would be worried about the intelligence they might reveal, or the negative publicity they might generate?

Cap recalls how they radar-scanned Avengers Island following the attack and did find an unidentified supersonic blip heading away from them in the general direction of the USSR, but that doesn’t really prove much. Something else on Cap’s mind is who - or what - the Soviet’s have working for them with sufficient power to beat the Super Soldiers within an inch of their lives. He thinks of the Avengers Files which will have data, when suddenly, hears a roaring sound out his window. Cap turns and looks out the window, where he sees some sort of ebony creature rampaging down the boulevard.

Cap gets dressed quickly, and leaps from the window, thinking that his hosts will not appreciate him running about unchaperoned, but when danger rears its head, it is time for action! Cap is unaware though, that someone is watching him from another hotel room. The woman watches Cap flee into the night and thinks that the directorate was wise to assign her to keep Captain America under surveillance. Grabbing a flagpole on his descent, Cap hopes that Soviet flagpoles are as strong as American ones!

Captain America then flings himself towards the creature, wondering what it is, as it looks like some sort of wild beast, except that its surface is so black, that it is non-reflective. ‘Uh-Oh!’ Cap thinks as the creature turns and sees him careening towards it. Cap holds his shield up as the creature smashes its fist into, sending Cap crashing through a store window. Leaping out of the store window, Cap tells himself that it could have been worse - it could have brick - before heading back towards the creature to give it another try, he mounts the creature from behind, grabbing on to one of its tendrils.

Climbing up the creature towards its head, Cap isn’t sure if it can feel him, but that it seems to be ignoring him now. Looking up ahead, Cap sees Red Square, and wonders where the authorities are, or the army, why no one has reported this monster, when, as if on cue, the military arrives in trucks. Cap wonders if he can find some sort of nerve ending behind the creatures skull, before realizing that the creatures surface is all spongy, that it is like hitting gelatine. ‘What is this thing anyway?!’ he wonders, when he detects something strange happening - and indeed, it does, as the creature disappears from beneath Cap, who plummets towards the ground, putting his shield ahead of him to brace his fall. As the soldiers disembark from their vehicles, Cap hopes that someone else saw that creature besides him, otherwise he is going to have a devil of a time explaining all that damage!

Hours later, back in the United States of America, Lemar Hoskins, better known as Battlestar, sits in his car and examines a map, locating Orchard Street which is two blocks East. Battlestar begins driving and recalls that the last time he was here in Custer’s Grove, Georgia, John Walker’s home town, the two of them were on their first mission as the new Captain America and Bucky. ‘Seems like years already!’ he tells himself.

Approaching a house, Lemar’s thoughts are on how Walker has been shot, and everyone is saying he is dead, but he isn’t so sure, not with the way Walker’s body was rushed off and supposedly cremated before anyone had the chance to look at it. ‘That’s suspicious to me!’ Lemar looks at the pile of mail and newspapers on the front porch, recalling that Valerie Cooper told him Walker’s sister, Kate ordered it done, but try as he might, he hasn’t been able to get hold of Kate by phone to verify it, which is why he has flown here to check it out in person. Lemar presses the doorbell, but no one comes to answer it.

‘Sonny, you looking for the Tollifsons?’ an elderly woman asks as she approaches the hedge fence between her house and Kate’s. Lemar turns to her and replies that he is, as he is a friend of Kate’s brother. The old woman remarks that it is the most curious thing she has ever seen - the whole family left in the middle of the night the other week. She remarks that usually, when the Tollifsons go on holiday, they ask her to look after the place, take in the mail, but not this time. Lemar frowns and thinks that there is definitely something fishy going on, ‘And if I can’t get to the bottom of it, I’m not worthy of calling myself Battlestar!’.

Back in the USSR, Captain America sits in a chair and looks out of his hotel window. ‘So much for a good nights sleep’ he thinks, recalling how it took four hours to convince the authorities that he had nothing to do with the rampant beast - if indeed he convinced them at all. He is thankful though that there were reports of the creature before he made an appearance. Cap remembers that the authorities did make it clear he was not to go anywhere for the rest of his visit without an escort though, and hearing a knock at the door, believes that must be the escort now.

Captain America opens the door, and is greeted by a handsome man clad in red and white who introduces himself as the Red guardian, foremost champion of the Soviet people, he remarks that he is to be Cap’s guide and asks him if he is ready. Cap is slightly surprised, but replies that he is, while thinking to himself that this must be the third Red Guardian that the Soviets have appointed.

Soon, the two symbols of their respective nations walk side by side through the city, hundreds of civilians flock to see the mighty men, and the Red Guardian motions to Lenin’s Tomb, and the Cathedral of Saint Basil. Captain America exclaims that they are beautiful, before asking it if would also be possible to see where the civilians live. ‘Of course, Captain. You too are of the people, eh?’ the Red Guardian asks. Cap replies that is true, explaining that he serves his nation’s people, not the government, and asks the Red Guardian about him. ‘Here in the USSR there is no difference’ Red Guardian replies.

Soon, the two men approach a blockade, and the Red Guardian asks if this is the scene of the destruction which Captain America participated in. ‘Yes. In a manner of speaking’ Cap replies. Red Guardian greets the soldiers guarding the area and tells them that their staunchness does mother Russia proud. Cap wonders why he is getting the feeling that the Red Guardian made a point of bringing him this way. Walking through the market district, Soviet civilians all cry out to Red Guardian. ‘Our hero puts the American to shame!’ one of them exclaims. Captain America observes the adoration the people have for the Red Guardian and he thinks that it is good to see he is so popular, for were he simply a law enforcing government operative, Cap doubts the Red Guardian would be so warmly greeted.

A child asks their father who the man in blue is, while another child asks Red Guardian to make her fly like a super hero. The Red Guardian lifts her up and tosses her in the air, telling her to be good, and then one day she may be a hero too. The children run after Captain America and the Red Guardian as they continue on their walk, while the Red Guardian asks Cap if he assumes correctly that the American people acclaim him similarly. ‘Usually’ Cap replies. Suddenly, there is a scream, and both heroes turn around - where they see the civilians all running for their lives from the strange ebony creature.

Captain America announces that this is the creature he saw last night, while deciding that the outline seems more distinct this time, although it may just be that he sees it in daylight this time. ‘This is the behemoth you claimed ravaged out streets, eh?’ Red Guardian asks, before declaring that he will prevent the creature from doing such a thing again. ‘Right here beside you!’ Cap adds, as both men toss their shields in unison towards the creature. Both their shields bounce off though, and the creature punches the ground beside Red Guardian, knocking him over.

Captain America lunges at the creature, thinking that it seems more defined this time, less hazy around the edges than last night, while hoping that it makes it easier to fight. ‘Apparently not’ he thinks as the creature smashes him into a set of crates. The creature attacks the Red Guardian again, who thinks to himself ‘This creature is like some monstrous version of - no! It cannot be!’. A child screams as the creature looms over it. Captain America sees this and rushes over at the same time Red Guardian does. Cap notices that Red Guardian is closer, and the red-clad super hero lunges under the creatures paw, urging the boy to get up.

Cap arrives in time and manages to pull the child to safety, but Red Guardian gets pinned underneath, and cries out in pain. Cap remarks to himself that it is strange that it looked as if the creature waited until the child was clear before putting its weight down on Red Guardian. The Red Guardian is in serious trouble though, as he fumbles about as the beast sucks him in. ‘The beast is like a tar pit!’ he exclaims, while Cap calls out for him to hang on - but it’s too late, as the creature lifts its paw and Red Guardian is nowhere to be seen. Cap wonders where Red Guardian went while watching the creature mysteriously disappear again. ‘Blast! This is infuriating!’ Cap exclaims, wondering what the creature is and what it wants, not to mention why it disappeared as soon as it downed the Red Guardian. ‘I want some answers!’.

Within the hour, at the office of the Directorate of the Special Powers Committee. Captain America informs Mr. Krysenko that he does not know what happened to the Red Guardian, explaining that the creature apparently swallowed him. ‘Yes. Through it’s foot, you said’ Mr. Krysenko replies, clearly with some disbelief. Captain America slams a fist down on the director’s desk and asks if he is mistaken, or if he detects a certain lack of concern. Krysenko replies that he is concerned enough, but that he is also suspicious, pointing out that the bear-creature’s arrival did coincide with Captain America’s arrival, and that it only appeared when Captain America was in the vicinity. ‘It took our champion and left you untouched, no?’.

Mr. Krysenko rubs his hands together and smiles smarmily, asking Captain America if it is any wonder he is suspicious. Captain America assures Mr. Krysenko that he has nothing to do with Red Guardian’s disappearance, when suddenly someone rushes into the room, announcing that the great beast has been sighted once more, heading for the Kremlin. ‘Engage the Supreme Soviets!’ Krysenko exclaims. ‘The Supreme Soviets?’ Cap thinks to himself. ‘I figured the Special Powers Committee must have more than one operative to direct. I wonder…’ he thinks suspiciously.

Minutes later, soldiers are firing the guns at the bear creature, while Captain America rushes into action, thinking that despite the director’s suspicions, he is allowing him to confront the monster again. Cap suspects that is because the director is hoping he will do something to incriminate himself as the beast’s accomplish. ‘No matter, I just want another crack at the thing’.

At that moment, Perun leads Crimson Dynamo and Sputnik into the battle, while Sputnik announces that his sensors are indicating the entity is a construct of unknown energy which is an analogue to the Darkforce. Crimson Dynamo knows that Darkstar wields the Darkforce, and all three begin attacking the creature. Perun tosses his axe at the creature, while Crimson Dynamo and Sputnik blast it with their own energies. Eventually, Sputnik points out that the creature is staggering. The Crimson Dynamo remarks that all of their bombardments are entering it without much effect though.

Suddenly, the beast, in a frenzy, lashes out at the wall of the Kremlin, and large rocks begin falling to the streets below. A woman cries out to her husband who is in the direct path of one, but is saved when Captain America tosses his shield at the rock, separating it. Retrieving his shield, Cap tells the civilians to cleat the streets, as it is not safe. ‘The American saved my life!’ the Soviet man exclaims in surprise.

Sputnik informs Perun that he is detecting Red Guardian’s life-force within the entity, and announces that he is going to investigate. ‘Have a care, android’ Perun replies as Sputnik dives into the, while Crimson Dynamo thinks that he has bombarded the creature with every weapon he possesses, yet it simply absorbs them all. Crimson Dynamo recalls that Vanguard had a similar ability, and wonders if this creature is connected in some way. ‘Dynamo! The monster’s eyes!’ Perun exclaims, but it’s too late, as the creature blasts Crimson Dynamo with his own plasma-bolts, before trapping Crimson Dynamo in his tractor beam and pulls him towards the creature.

As he is sucked into the creature, Crimson Dynamo calls out for Perun to help him. Perun tells Dynamo to ‘Fear not’ and boasts that hr has yet to wield his most potent weapon - the elemental lightning. A massive bolt of lightning smacks into the creature, but it is barely fazed, and soon Perun finds himself sucked into the creature. ‘do as you will, beast. The Slavic Lord of Thunder shall not beg for mercy!’ Perun exclaims.

Captain America watches as, suddenly, a massive bubble encases the creature, and Steve thinks to himself that he gets the feeling the globe is not the monster’s doing, before seeing something - someone reaching an arm out towards him. ‘A woman! In costume!’ Cap exclaims as he sees Fantasia, trapped in the creatures grasp, he wonders where she came from, or if she was here all along, then why he didn’t see her. The bubble vanishes, and the creature turns away from Cap. He assumes that it means the creature does not want him, just the Supreme Soviets, so he dives into the creature.

‘I’m in…I think!’ he exclaims, surrounded by complete darkness, Cap suddenly sees a dim light in the opposite direction. Turning, he sees three glowing figures which resemble the Soviet Super Soldiers. He decides that he must communicate with them, when the trio tell Captain America that he does not belong here. Cap calls out to the heroes, and they reply that they are their life essences, their spirit selves. Captain America motions to the five Supreme Soviets and asks what they are doing to them. ‘Draining their life-force. The Supreme Soviets attacked us - left us near death’ the Super Soldiers reveal, adding that to restore life to their mortal bodies, they must have super human energies - theirs.

Captain America asks if that will kill the Supreme Soviets, and the Super Soldiers reply ‘Yes. But that is of little consequence. It is the price they must pay for their heinous deeds!’. Cap doesn’t agree, and tells Darkstar, Vanguard and Major Ursus that no one may judge a being’s worthiness to live. ‘If you rob them of their lives, you are no better than them!’ he exclaims. ‘You will no longer be worthy of calling yourselves heroes!’. Cap declares that he will fight the Super Soldiers to prevent them from killing the Supreme Soviets, when suddenly, the Super Soldiers shine brighter, blinding Captain America, he wonders what it means. ‘If they’ve dared to murder them…’ he thinks, when suddenly, he appears outside.

Cap examines the situation - the bear has vanished, soldiers are all around, and the Supreme Soviets are lying on the snow. ‘Are they dead?’ Cap wonders, before putting a hand on Red Guardian’s chest, and thankfully, detects a heartbeat. Cap realizes that he must have gotten through to the Super Soldiers and orders the soldiers to go and fetch medics.

Two days later, Captain America is returning to Avengers Island and radios to Michael O’Brien, requesting permission to land, while recalling that the Supreme Soviets were still bedridden when he left, but that they are expected to pull through, as apparently, the Super Soldiers didn’t drain their life-force completely. Making his way towards the infirmary, Cap is followed by O’Brien, thinking to himself that according to Dr. Kincaid, the Super Soldiers have made a recovery that is nothing short of miraculous.

Entering the ward, Cap stands before the Super Soldiers, and Vanguard informs him that they had a strange dream, all three of them, in which they left their bodies and joined together as a great beast. Major Ursus adds that it was Nicolai who deduced their attackers were the government’s strike force, disguised as the Avengers through the witch Fantasia’s magic. Darkstar tells Captain America that, in the dream they journeyed back to the motherland and drew the Supreme Soviet’s out of hiding, and avenged themselves. ‘You were in our dream, Captain!’ she adds. ‘I know’ Captain America replies.

Later, Cap walks across Avengers Island, thinking that it would probably take Dr. Strange to figure out what happened, how the Super Soldier’s managed to manifest their powers out of their bodies while hovering between life and death, and he still doesn’t know if the attack on them was officially sanctioned by the Special Powers Committee, but regardless, he is going to have to beef up security so such an attack cannot occur again. Looking to the stars, Cap tells himself that loose ends and unanswered questions are par for the course these days, but smiling, knows that any time something good can be accomplished without any loss of life, he calls that a victory.

Characters Involved: 

Darkstar, Ursa Major, Vanguard (all Soviet Super Soldiers)

Crimson Dynamo V, Fantasia, Red Guardian III, Perun, Sputnik (all Supreme Soviets)

Captain America


Michael O’Brien

Dr. Kincaid

Mr. Krysenko

Boris Prokofiev

Soviet Officials

Soviet army

Soviet civilians

Neighbor of Kate Tollifson

Story Notes: 

Darkstar, Vanguard and Ursa Major arrived at Avengers Island in Captain America (1st series) #352, seeking political asylum, they were beaten up by the Soviet’s new super team, the Supreme Soviets.

John Walker a.k.a. Super Patriot’s death was faked following Steve Rogers reinstatement as Captain America in Captain America (1st series) #350. This thankfully proves short-lived though, as Walker returns in Captain America (1st series) #354, and joins the West Coast Avengers as USAgent in West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #44.

Captain America’s belief that this is the third Red Guardian appointed is correct. The first was Alexi Shostakov, a man mainly associated with the Black Widow. The second (and perhaps most well-known) is Dr. Tania Belinksy, a former Defender, and now known as Starlight. This third Red Guardian is Josef Petkus, later known as Steel Guardian. He is succeeded by Krassno Granitsky, who appeared in the second Maverick series.

An error occurs when Captain America is talking to the Super Soldiers at the end, Ursa Major says “It was Mikhail who deduced our attackers…”. Of course he is Mikhail, so it should read as “It was Nicolai who deduced our attackers…”.

Darkstar (and Vanguard & Ursa Major) remain in the States for some time, before being deported back to the Soviet in the Soviet Super Soldier’s one-shot, which is their next appearance.

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