Schrodinger's CapWolf: Werewolves Assemble!

Captain America #406
“Man and Wolf, Part 5 of 6: Leader of the Pack”
Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Penciler: Rik Levins
Inker: Danny Bulanadi
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Gina Going
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

One reason “Man and Wolf” has appealed to me for so long is that, for someone who is not overly familiar with the character and his history, it doesn't seem like this should be a Captain America story.

This is the issue that proved it is.

We open with Nightshade directing CapWolf into the “Punishment Pit” – the cage where Moonhunter was disciplining werewolves back in part 1 – if he wants any chance of being restored to his human form. He goes along with it, I presume because of the pheromone control Nightshade was trying to exert at the end of last issue, although there's no callback to it.

In the pit with other wolves who don't play by the villains' rules, Cap finds X-Factor's Wolfsbane, lured there by the “call of the wild” that attracted Ferocia and maybe John Jameson, the guy whose disappearance started this whole caper. After asserting himself as the alpha by defeating maybe-John, Cap gets some speech therapy from Wolfsbane and delivers an honest-to-goodness Captain America speech (interspersed with a few growls) about working together and freedom.

In the church, Dredmund monologues as he prepares an incapacitated Dr. Druid for some sort of ritual. We learn two important facts of which I, at least, was previously not aware: Dredmund is an existing Captain America villain, having tangled with Cap in issues 188 and 256 (at right, art by Gene Colan) of the series, and his first name is actually Dredmund.

I don't like to make fun of people's names. Since mine rhymes, it feels like chucking stones from inside a glass house. But nearly a full minute of Googling brought me only results for this character (Dredmund Cornwell, aka the Druid) and doctors whose first names are Edmund. So I feel safe in saying this guy's path to villainy was paved by his parents. Had they just called him Edmund or Ernie or Doug, he might have been an accountant or a dentist or a mechanic. It's kind of like how nobody in the Green Lantern Corps should have been surprised when Sinestro went bad.

Along those lines, we also learn Moonhunter's name is... Zachary Moonhunter. Perhaps more importantly, he and Nightshade neither one seem to be fully on board with Dredmund's plans, whatever they are. (They possibly involve cutting off Dr. Druid's pony tail, which Dredmund does, leading to a shot of it on the floor, so maybe that will come into play later?)

A cutaway shows that another wolfen character, X-Force's Feral, has also gone missing and Cable is off to look for her. Shatterstar mentions Feral has been missing since the previous night. Meanwhile, Wolfsbane's been gone for days and we get no shots of anybody from X-Factor worrying about her. I'm disappointed in you Havok, Strong Guy and Multiple Man. (Polaris and Quicksilver, I'm not surprised.)

Meanwhile, CapWolf and his new pack have escaped, but Wolverine is still too mind-controlled and antisocial to join their ranks. They overpower Moonhunter and Nightshade and find the only other high-profile lycanthrope not to get a mention yet in this story, the Werewolf by Night, aka Jack Russell (yes). Nightshade has him in the lab, using his blood to make her werewolf serum.

Bursting into the church like a jilted lover trying to speak before he has to forever hold his peace, CapWolf interrupts Dredmund's ceremony, in which he plans to use Druid's blood to transform into a wolf via Jameson's moon gem while still retaining his intellect. While Cap battles the werewolf congregation, Dredmund goes ahead a slits Druid's throat (yikes!), then starts to get all glowy.

I don't understand Dredmund's ritual when Druid's presence is apparently a happy accident. Maybe it will be explained next issue. Maybe it won't. I'm not too worried. The story remains a blast, and the scene of CapWolf rallying the troops could have been hokey but it just reminded me of the strength of the character. One of my favorite Cap stories (although there are many I haven't read) is “Castaway in Dimension Z,” where he's far from America and most of the things we think of him as fighting for. But he's still Steve Rogers, daggone it.

And he's still Steve Rogers, even when he's a werewolf.