Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain #232

Issue Date: 
July 1977
Story Title: 
Death Duel!

Bob Budiansky (plot), Jim Lawrence (script) Ron Wilson & Fred Kida (artists), Brian H. Moore (inks), Irv Watanabe (letters),Larry Lieber (editor)

Brief Description: 

Captain Britain recognizes the machinery in Crushstone’s lab. Destroying it causes a chain reaction and enables Cap to save himself and Thomas from the lethal nerve gas attack. Outside, however, he is attacked by the zombie-like naval officers. Cap tells Thomas to fire the signal flares he sees. Thomas does so and the bright light shakes the men out of their hypnotized state. The Highwayman attacks and Cap dispatches of him, while he orders Thomas to block all possible escape routes. Cap then grabs Crushstone by the coat but receives a painful electric jolt, powerful enough to take him out. Crushstone flees with one of the fighter jets, but it crashes down into the sea, as Thomas also had the seamen empty all the fighters’ fuel tanks. Thomas and Cap have a talk and Thomas insists that he did this for the queen and his country. He still isn’t overly fond of Captain Britain. A Royal officer conveys the queen’s thanks and Cap graciously accepts it, but stresses that doing his part for the queen is all the thanks and honour he needs.

Full Summary: 

Having hypnotized Britain’s sovereign and the seamen of the Royal Navy, Basil Crushstone, aka the Manipulator, leads a battle fleet southward, to attack the African nation that deposed him, while Captain Britain and Inspector Thomas are intended to perish from a nerve gas attack.

In the locked compartment, Cap struggles desperately to resist the deadly onrushing gas. Cap sees the machinery and recognizes it from Crushstone’s lab, machinery that powers his hypnotic-ray ring. Mustering all his concentration, the paralysed hero wills his star sceptre to extend to full length, so that it smashes into the high voltage energizing gear. A chain reaction of explosions follows - as one electrical blast triggers another - while Cap protects himself and the tied up Dai Thomas with a forcefield generated by his staff.

The pent-up force of the explosions blasts upward though the carrier’s flight deck - much to the surprise of Crushstone and the Highwayman. Moments later, Captain Britain flies upward through the newly created hole, carrying Inspector Thomas with him.

The Highwayman tells Crushstone to leave the superhero to him. Apparently, he needs another dose of his chain. With a crooked smile, the Manipulator tells him there’s no need. They have the British Navy to do their bidding. He orders the glassy-eyed seamen to seize and slay the traitor who attacked the queen and, like zombies, they obey.

Cap is in a quandary. He has to defend himself but is unwilling to harm innocent men. Suddenly, he sees a crate of signal flares and shouts at Thomas to ignite those flares. Thomas complies. He hates the idea of siding with Captain Britain, but he owes him.

Like a crackling fusillade of automatic weapons fire, the signal flares shoot upwards, exploding into a ruby brilliance that sets the heavens aflame. Startled by the spectacle, the entranced seamen halt their attack to gape skyward and immediately reel back - dizzy and confused - as the dazzling radiance shocks them out of their trance.

New danger threatens, as the Manipulator order the Highwayman to act. Suddenly, fiery laser beams aimed above Cap blast the ship’s superstructure, which topples to the deck with a shattering crash, as the superhero executes a lightning take-off. Seconds later, Cap lands with hairbreadth timing to avoid flaming fragments and shouts at Thomas to have the men block all means of escape.

The Highwayman drives around Cap in circles at top speed, attacking with his steelchain and his laser monocle. Meanwhile, Thomas orders the seamen to block the entrances. Slowly and inexorably, the Highwayman’s attack wears down Captain Britain, who finds that his forcefield can only protect him on one side. Instead of focusing on the villain, he focuses on a wheel of his cycle and throws his staff right into the spokes. The result is spectacular and the Highwayman is down for the count.

Bruised and battered, Cap turns towards Crushstone, who is still unwilling to give up. As he seizes the African tyrant by the cloak, Cap is jolted by a charge of high voltage. Waves of agony race through his body. His fingers glued to by the sizzling current, the British champion sinks to his knees until the sheer weight of his collapsing body drags him down and breaks the circuit.

With a last, mocking good-bye, the Manipulator leaves, entering a naval fighter plane. He threatens that, the next time, the power of his ring will be twice as strong. The plane lifts off but, suddenly, loses speed, falters and falls. Sic semper tyrannis, thinks Captain Britain.

‘Lovely accident, eh, Thomas,’ he asks, turning to the inspector, who snorts in contempt. When Cap told him to block all means of escape, he had the seamen drain the fighters’ fuel tanks. ‘Quick thinking, friend,’ Cap replies. Thomas tells him not to call him ‘friend’. He still hates high-flying yobbos who flout the law. Crushstone has gone to feed the sharks and the Highwayman’s headed for hard labor behind bars. If he helped bring that about, he did it strictly for queen and country - not for the likes of him. ‘Still a hardcase, eh,’ Cap asks. ‘And don’t you forget it,’ the inspector replies gruffly.

A naval officer addresses the hero, telling him the queen has been appraised of all he has done. This radio dispatch from Her Majesty’s yacht conveys her gracious thanks and the promise of a suitable award on her next honours list. Cap asks the officer to transmit his thanks to her Majesty, but he wants no award. If he helped to save her Silver Jubilee celebration and did his best to assure her Golden Jubilee, that’s honor enough for Captain Britain.

Characters Involved: 

Brian Braddock / Captain Britain

Chief Inspector Dai Thomas

Royal Navy Seamen

The Highwayman

The Manipulator / Basil Crushstone

Story Notes: 

This story was published by Marvel UK.

The issue contains three reprinted backup stories:

The second part of Spectacular Spider-Man (1st series) #2, the first part of Fantastic Four (1st series) #129 and the first part of Defenders (1st series) #10.

first story

Captain Britain was shocked out of his brainwashed state by bright TV lights in Captain Britain (1st series) #39.

Sic semper tyrannis is Latin for “Ever thus to tyrants.” It was made most famous after John Wilkes Booth shouted it after assassinating President Abraham Lincoln.

Queen Elizabeth II did indeed manage to celebrate her Golden Jubilee in 2002.

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