Jack Kirby's second and last Captain America annual (#4), produced while he was holding the reins on the Cap book and other titles during his late '70s return to Marvel, wasn't as bold in concept and rich in story as the Cap annual he produced a year earlier. In fact, if you were to compare the written teaser on the splash page with its predecessor, which had more scope, this time it would have an almost generic tone to it:
The wording here offers no spur of anticipation, except perhaps to make us wonder what Magneto is doing mixed up with Cap. But at least on the double-page spread which follows, we have a curious newspaper advertisement that indicates there's something more to this meeting than fisticuffs between hero and villain:
But first, let's get this issue's audacious title out of the way: "The Great Mutant Massacre!" I'm sorry to report that the only thing in the issue relevant to this title is the word "mutant." "Massacre" implies the killing of a large number of people, but the deaths in this issue don't occur on such a scale; and there's nothing "great" (as in "grand") about Magneto's plans, nor does he or anyone else initiate a slaughter that the title would lead us to believe. But we do have mutants. Magneto, for one; then there are his mutant hirelings:
As well as his mutant target, which will unwillingly help him investigate a mystery--a mutant small enough to fit inside a watch casing:
But this mutant, unknown to Magneto, co-exists with another, larger body, which reacts violently whenever his smaller body is put in danger. In other words, Magneto should be careful who he tries to put the snatch on:
So why is Magneto so intent on capturing "Mister One"? And do I really need to tell you that his larger counterpart is named "Mister Two"? Don't look so surprised. When you shake a Kirby book, a "mister" is bound to fall out from between the pages from time to time:
Much of this story is spent doing one of two things--investigating the mystery of Mister One and Mister Two, and following Magneto's efforts to recover Mister One and make use of him in his secret project. Captain America, at least, can help us with the first, when he finally deduces the reason for the connection between the two "misters":
As for Magneto, we eventually find out that he needs Mister One in order to investigate a small-scale space ship which has fallen into his grasp, and thereby access and control whatever power may lie within its hull:
It's certainly an issue full of plot devices. Magneto's little strike squad, for instance, is just hired muscle in order to gain his prizes and provide battle sequences with Cap. And while we know it's the secrets of the space ship which motivate Magneto, we never do learn anything more about the ship itself. Yet they all connect in some limited fashion to move the story along. "Burner," for instance, incinerates Mister Two, which means that Mister One's moments of life are numbered--so while he's inside the alien ship, he finds the self-destruct mechanism and detonates the ship (with himself still inside it), foiling Magneto's plans (whatever the hell they are--beyond the grasp for power, we never learn anything more from him, either). And Cap? Cap just fights his way through and around this mess, to no avail. It's a battle-heavy issue, to be sure--but it all seems so pointless.
So you'd expect at least the final page to connect the dots and put it all together, right? Well, we get an explosive climax, but I'm afraid all the answers go up in smoke with it:
Yes, you're reading that correctly: it's the last page of the issue, and not even Cap knew about the ship. And judging by the last three panels, he's clueless on pretty much everything at this point:
Join the club, Cap. We're wandering in a daze right there with you. Hey, mind if I give your shield a toss?
The story's ending also lets the wind out of our sails as far as the mutant it makes such an effort to focus on--the mind that shared two different-sized bodies. This mutant was the driving force of the entire issue, yet once it sacrificed itself no one gave it a second thought--not even Cap, who just drops the entire matter as quickly as Magneto callously did. (And as quickly as Kirby himself seems to.) I at least felt sympathy over the mutant's circumstances as well as a little sad at his death, yet Cap just seems to be dusting his palms together in the satisfaction that the case is wrapped up. Not exactly the model Avenger.
With Kirby due to make his final departure from Marvel in about eight months, he wouldn't have the opportunity to work on another Captain America annual. I can't help but wonder how this annual would have read if he didn't have one foot out the door at this point, so to speak, though that may be over-simplifying it. Over in Cap's main title, Kirby was still the workhorse--but the only significant story we would see from this point on would be one featuring the Red Skull and Arnim Zola. Bookending it would be more of Kirby's stock concepts featuring deformed creatures, science gone mad, time travelers, and dimensional intruders, complete with pat wrap-up endings:
Bet you thought it was going to be "Mister" Swine, didn't you?