Comics : Captain America (Vol. 1) #138

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This story is part of an Arc: "To Stalk the Spider-Man"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 2002.

Background...

Our two-part tale continues, as we see the return of Stone-Face.

And who, you may ask, is Stone-Face? He's a Harlem gang leader who previously encountered Captain America and the Falcon in issue #134 (February 1971). In that issue, Sam Wilson's nephew Jody Casper is running numbers for Stone-Face (who is called Stone-Face because the left side of his face is paralyzed and stone-like). Jody thinks he is untouchable because of his mob connections. When the cops bust him, Cap and the Falcon use their influence to get Jody released with a suspended sentence but Jody assumes that Stone-Face pulled strings to make it happen. When Stone-Face hears the news, he assumes that Jody must have ratted on him so he sends a couple of goons to Jody's place to take care of him. Cap and the Falcon step in, but not before the goons shoot Jody's mother (and Sam's sister) Sarah. The two heroes take over and beat the pulp out of Stone-Face before sending him to jail. Sarah recovers (since she only had a flesh wound) and Jody realizes that "there ain't no such thing as a little crime". But now Stone-Face has come back!

In Detail...

"It Happens in Harlem!"
Captain America (Vol. 1) #138
Jun 1971 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Arc: Part 2 of "To Stalk the Spider-Man"
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  John Romita, Sr.
Inker:  John Romita, Sr.
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Review
 Reprinted In: Essential Captain America #3
 Reprinted In: Marvel Visionaries, John Romita, Sr.
Articles: Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Stone-Face

Our story picks up just as Captain America rides away on his motorcycle, leaving the Falcon behind. Sam is glad that Cap didn't ask any questions because "I still want another crack at Spider-Man by myself". Just then, Redwing who is perched on Sam's shoulder starts raising a fuss, alerting the Falcon to the approach of two gunmen. Falc recognizes them as "two of Stone Face's torpedoes" and he wades right into one while Redwing attacks the other. (The two hoods are named Benny and Chico and note how Stone Face's name has lost the hyphen between #134 and this one.) When Stone Face and his limo driver realize that Benny and Chico can't take the Falcon alone, they decide to help out. "Start the engine," orders Stone Face, "We're movin' in!"

Even though Benny takes a bunch of punches on the chin from the Falcon and Chico must cover up his head to escape injury from Redwing, both hoods still have the wherewithal to run away and get "in the clear". Next thing Falc knows, he is standing alone in a narrow alley and Stone Face's limousine is "gunning its motor" preparing to commit hit and run on him. Desperately, Sam calls out to Redwing to attack the car's windshield. The bird does as ordered. With Redwing "beatin' its wings in front'a [his] eyes", the limo driver loses his nerve and loses control. The car swerves away from a direct hit on the Falcon but still manages to clip the superhero. The limo crashes into a fence and the limo driver is knocked unconscious. Stone Face has no sympathy for his man. "That's nothin' to what I'll do to ya if you ruined the grillwork up front.", he tells his knocked out flunkey. Then he exits the car and orders Benny and Chico to return to the scene. "The Falcon ain't gonna stay asleep forever" he tells them.

Although the Falcon is knocked out, Redwing is still protecting him. The faithful bird hovers over his fallen owner and flaps his wings in a menacing manner. Stone Face orders Benny to shoot the bird but Redwing is too elusive to be hit. Still, the shooting has the desired effect. Redwing is finally scared off, allowing Benny and Chico to load the unconscious Falcon into the limousine. Stone Face figures he has things going his way this time. "With [Falcon] as our hostage, Captain America will be eatin' out of our hands" he says. Just as the hoods load Falcon into the car, Chico notices that there is some device hidden under the hero's belt. Stone Face could care less. "So what?" he says, "This ain't no fashion show". But Stone Face might care a little more if he knew that the hidden device is a functioning spider-tracer.

Meanwhile, the creator of the spider-tracer is clinging to a building in another part of town. He has decided to check in on Harry Osborn before going out again to take on the Falcon. So, he sneaks back into his apartment, pulls off his mask, and peeks from his bedroom into the living room. Spidey recalls that Harry "was almost in a state of shock by the time I reached him" and sure enough, as Pete enters wearing a bathrobe with a towel around his neck, Harry is looking pretty rattled. Trembling all over, Harry says, "I thought you'd never wake up and unlock your door", then tells his roommate all about his experience. When he's done, Pete asks Harry why the Falcon thought he was Spider-Man. Harry has no idea. Desperately he tells Pete, "You've seen Spider-Man... You've shot pictures of him. I thought maybe you'd have some idea..." but Pete tells Harry it's a mystery to him. Then he reassures Harry that the Falcon won't be coming around again since he now knows Harry isn't Spidey now that he's encountered the real Spidey. With Harry settling down and certain that he is safe, Pete returns to his room, takes off his robe revealing his Spidey outfit beneath, webs his way out of the window and goes in search of the spider-tracer that he planted on the Falcon.

Back in Harlem, Cap returns his motorcycle to the alley in which he hides it. As he covers it with a tarp, he muses over the fact that the Falcon is keeping a secret from him. He doesn't like it but he accepts it. "He may be my partner in crimefighting but he still has to be his own man". Besides, Cap knows what it's like to have something he doesn't want to talk about. He doesn't want to talk about his relationship with Sharon. "And yet" he admits, "No matter where I go, what I do, she's always on my mind." He returns to his/Sam's apartment and stands before a mirror while he puts his civvies on and returns to his identity of Steve Rogers. But all he can see in the mirror is Sharon's head; about ten times its normal size. Realizing that Sharon "means more to me than anything else", Steve wonders if the two of them could make it if he tried to expand his life beyond Captain America. "If I could get a part-time job, offer her a chance of a normal home life", he muses , then has to put his thoughts aside as someone knocks at his front door.

The knocker turns out to be Sam Wilson's nephew Jody Casper, though Cap seems to have forgotten the young man's name and calls him "Toby". Jody/Toby says he's looking for his uncle and Steve says he'll take a message. The message is "that Stone Face is out on bail" which "means Harlem's in for some big trouble" because Stoney will be "out to get his turf back". Jody/Toby is relaying this information because he wants his social worker uncle to "steer clear" of the gangster, NOT because Sam is the Falcon... which Jody/Toby doesn't know. Cap thinks that "Toby remembers how Sam once helped him break free of Stone Face's influence" as a further explanation as to why the young man has shown up with this information but the whole thing is really pretty weak. Stan just needed a way to inform Cap that Stone Face is back in action and this was the best way to get it done.

So, after Jody/Toby leaves, Steve removes his shirt and prepares to get back in the Cap suit again. Now he thinks that the Falcon knew Stone Face was out and kept quiet because he wanted to tackle him on his own. Before he can think on it any further, Redwing bursts into the room "beating his wings frantically". Cap knows that this means "the Falcon must be in danger"!

He just has time to get in costume and grab his shield before Redwing flies out of the window. With no time to grab his motorcycle, Cap knows he must follow "as best I can". He flips in the air and grabs onto some nearby power lines just as it begins to rain. The raindrops quickly become a rain shower. Cap can "hardly keep Redwing in sight" and besides "the wires [are] getting too slippery". The star-spangled Avenger is forced to leap over to the roof of a nearby building. The rain has gotten so thick that Redwing is lost to sight. All he can do is hold his shield up to shield him from the rain and wait for the downpour to end so that he can pick up the trail once again.

At the same time, "on upper Park Avenue in the heart of Harlem", the Amazing Spider-Man follows his spider-tracer in the rain. His spider-sense tingles violently when a limousine rides by below him. "There's no doubt about it." The Falcon is inside that limo.

Inside the limo, the unconscious Falcon is propped up between Stone Face and Chico. Chico has a gun trained on the Falcon but he's rightly nervous about the fact that the super-hero isn't even tied up. Stone Face is worried about such things. He's too busy thinking about how capturing the Falcon equals capturing Captain America equals how nobody else will dare to try to stop him equals "This town'll be mine! Mine!" (The man thinks big, you gotta give him that!)

The limo arrives at a warehouse and backs into the loading dock area. Unbeknownst to Stone Face and his men, Spidey is perched right outside keeping an eye on things. With Chico taking the arms and Benny taking the legs, the two thugs carry the Falcon out of the car. They lay him on his stomach in the garage and tie his hands and feet. Stone Face leaves the duo to their work. He has "a big deal to take care of with a high-binder from the State Capitol". And Spidey yanks a sheet of metal aside so he can spy on the whole thing through a window. What he sees is not what he expected. "Looks like the Falcon's a prisoner" he determines.

In his hideout, Stone Face is helped into a dashiki by a woman who has "been working on [the] outfit all day". All Stone Face knows is that the clothing has "gotta be just right for when Whitey gets here. I'm gonna play up this ethnic bit for all it's worth!" One of his goons comes in to tell him that "the man is here" and Stone Face tells his crew to "go into our act".

"Whitey" turns out to be a gray-haired man in suit, overcoat, and scarf who announces himself as Harrison, representing the Governor. The "act" set up for Harrison's benefit features Stone Face in his dashiki and sitting in a throne with African shields to each side of him and a white fur rug at his feet. A beautiful woman in a two-piece outfit reclines on the floor to his left. His men gather on both sides. They are young, stoic, and carry automatic weapons. Harrison tells Stone Face that the Governor "was most disturbed by your thinly-veiled threat" and Stone Face replies that he "was just statin' a fact". It seems that the Governor wants to "build a state office building" in Harlem. Stone Face tells Harrison that it cannot be done unless he gives the go-ahead. Harrison argues that the building "will improve the area and provide hundreds of new jobs" but Stone Face isn't interested in that. He tells Harrison that the state must "make a donation to my community cent er" if it hopes to build in his neighborhood. In other words, they must fork over "a cool millions bucks... all cash!" Without the kickback, Stone Face promises that the building will be the scene of "riots and burnin' like ya never saw before" and he adds, "I'm the one they listen to here! What I say goes!"

Elsewhere in the building, Spider-Man hangs from the ceiling as Benny and Chico walk underneath. Chico passes through a door, and Spidey reaches down and grabs him. Chico drops his gun. His body blocks Benny's view of the proceedings. Before Benny ever does figure out what is happening, Spidey swings Chico like a wrecking ball and knocks Benny unconscious with Chico's feet. Then he gives a love tap to Chico's jaw, knocking him out. In seconds, he has the two hoodlums webbed up together in a net hanging down from the ceiling. The web-slinger snaps the ropes that held the Falcon (who is still unconscious). Then, he slings Falc over his shoulder, scales a wall, and totes him back outside.

By now, it has stopped raining. Now that the skies have cleared, Redwing circles back so that Captain America can follow him. Outside Stone Face's hideout, the Falcon finally wakes up and finds himself being toted along by Spider-Man on the girders of some elevated tracks. Spidey tells him he rescued him so that he can find out "why you tried to tackle me". The answer is simple. "Cause you're wanted by the law, man" says the Falcon, "and maybe I'm tryin' to prove something to a partner of mine". And so saying, Falcon, still slung over the web-slinger's shoulder, grabs Spider-Man around the neck in a headlock. Once again, however, the wall-crawler demonstrates his superior strength. He casually flips the Falcon off of him, shakes off a big punch from the Falcon, and uses both hands to shoot out webbing and tie Sam down to a girder. The Falcon only gets angrier. "You runty web-head" he says, "I don't care how strong you are. You ain't puttin' the Falcon down." Spide y points a finger at his opponent and tells him, "Nobody's puttin' you down, fella", explaining, "We're all in the same line of work", adding, "Okay, so I'm wanted, but it's a bum rap! I never hurt anybody. If you wanna prove how good you are, try someone like Stone Face". Then his spider-sense starts tingling. The Falcon, on Spidey's side after that speech, tries to warn him to look out but it's too late. Even though Sam tries to call him off, Redwing attacks, digging his talons into Spider-Man's shoulder. Then a shield clangs off a girder right next to Spider-Man's head. Captain America has arrived on the scene and he declares, "Fight the Falcon and you fight me, too!"

Spidey doesn't back down from Cap. He wades right in and swings a hard left hand... only to have the punch blocked by Cap's shield. Even with spider-strength, that has just got to hurt. Redwing starts pecking away at the webbing, starting to free his owner. And before the battle can go any further, the Falcon calls out to his partner, telling Cap that Spidey is not the enemy in this situation. "He was just tryin' to drum some sense into my thick skull." Cap backs off and asks the Falcon to fill him in on the situation.

Now that the heroes have calmed down, they realize that the cops have shown up below and that a crowd is growing. Spidey explains that Stone Face has threatened the Governor's aide and Cap explains that Jody (as Cap finally gets his name right) warned him that Stone Face "was out to cause trouble in Harlem". Winghead and Webhead agree that they must take charge of the situation. Step one is to free the Falcon of the webbing. Spidey is willing as long as Falc has finally simmered down. "You picked some pard, Cap!" says the web-slinger, "He's as tough to handle as you." This is all the Falcon is looking for... a little respect from his super-hero compatriots. Now, he's ready to let bygones be bygones and kick a little Stone Faced butt. Redwing gets the webbing off Sam and, with Spidey leading the way to the hideout, the threesome prepare to take care of business "as a team!"

Back at Stone Face's place, Harrison is getting his dander up over the requested million-dollar "donation". (It is as if no time has passed since the last time we saw this scene. Spidey and the Falcon must have fought really fast.) Harrison calls it blackmail, which cheeses Stone Face off most severely. He stands, grabs Harrison by the collar of his coat and says, "One word from me and this town becomes a powder keg. So, if you wanna build your crummy skyscraper you better come across, hear?" Then he adds a personal threat, saying, "We wouldn't want the governor to learn you had an unfortunate accident, would we?" which serves as a cue for the arriving Falcon to say, "Don't worry about it, Stone Face! Nothing'll happen to anyone 'cept you!"

The sound of the Falcon's voice rattles Stone Face ("It can't be! He... he's my prisoner!") so much that he loosens his grip on Harrison. This gives Spidey the chance to swing down, grab Harrison and take him to safety. Stone Face orders his men to gun the web-slinger down but then Captain America joins the fray and disrupts the ordered shooting. Instead, Stone Face's men start firing at Cap, who defends himself by deflecting the bullets with his shield. Unfortunately, Stone Face is standing behind Cap and he's got a pistol of his own. But the Falcon sneaks up behind Stone Face, grabs him around the neck, and pulls on his arm so that the gun fires harmlessly upwards. Then he punches Stone Face right in the unstoned part of his face.

That's when Cap goes on the offensive by clubbing two gunmen down with two powerful blows. The Falcon grabs a big curtain off the wall, covers the rest of the hoods with it, and pummels them through the fabric. Everyone is taken care of now except for Stone Face. He's approaching the Falcon from behind, preparing to brain the hero with a chair. Cap calls out to warn his partner and recommends he use "Maneuver Six". This apparently means Falc should brace himself with his hands while he kicks back with his legs. He catches Stone Face right in the chin and that, as they say, is that.

Soon after, the cops show up and drag Stone Face and his gang to jail. An officer approaches Cap and tells him there is someone waiting for him in a car. Falcon notices that this news gets Cap all tense. So, Cap goes to the car and converses with someone hidden in the shadows. "I thought it might be you" Cap says. The mysterious figure tells him "I'll have to ask you to come with me now". So, Cap tells the Falcon that he must "leave for a while" but can't give him any explanation. Falc takes the news calmly but is concerned. He's never seen Cap act like this before. Whatever is going on, "it must be serious". Cap takes off in the car and the Falcon is left to talk to Redwing. "Something's in the wind" he tells his bird, "And it's giving me bad vibes. I got a feeling that Cap'll never be the same again!"

What's that you say? Spider-Man swung in to rescue Harrison, then disappeared for the rest of the issue? Well, yeah. What can I tell you? That's the way Stan wrote it, gang. It was Cap and the Falcon's book, after all.

And speaking of being left in the lurch, what about poor Harry Osborn, still rattled from the attack by the Falcon, unable to get his roommate to open the door so he can talk about it? The next time we see him he's dabbling in drugs! If this is Harry's reality, it's not hard to understand why he's trying to escape it!

So, who was the mysterious figure in the car? The Commissioner of Police. (Yeah, I know. Big let down, isn't it?) He asks Cap (in issue #139) to investigate the disappearance of "more than a dozen different city officials" by assuming the role of a rookie policeman. This dovetails beautifully with Cap's idea of getting a part-time job so he can develop a normal life with Sharon. Unfortunately, the idea is never really used all that well. Cap doesn't get the normal life with Sharon. All he gets is a dual identity and subplot that become more trouble than they are worth. (The villain behind the disappearances is the Grey Gargoyle, by the way.)

As for Stone Face, he next appears in Captain America and the Falcon #171 (March 1974) where his name is now spelled as one word... Stoneface. He meets Spidey again in Marvel Team-Up #114 (February 1982) where he goes back to the original hyphenated spelling of his name... Stone-Face. Then, as Stoneface, he runs up against Luke Cage and Danny Rand in Power Man and Iron Fist #91, March 1983. Neither Stone-Face, Stoneface, nor Stone Face has made an appearance since.

In General...

Unfortunately, the tale starts to fall apart as soon as Stone Face enters the picture. He's not a very interesting villain, to begin with, and the whole story of the Falcon's abduction as well as Stone Face's attempt to blackmail the governor seems hurried and anti-climactic. After bothering to finally set up a team-up between the stars of the book and the web-slinger, Spidey is hustled out of the picture without participating in the closing fight scene at all. Better if the two issues had focused entirely on the Falcon versus Spider-Man and left Stone Face out of it altogether.

Overall Rating...

We head downhill with this second part. A mere one and a half webs for Cap #138.