These two issues continue the build-up to the game-changing issue #332 as Captain America, accompanied by strength-augmented wrestler Dennis Dunphy, a.k.a. D-Man, continues to hunt for information about the Super-Patriot (John Walker) and the Buckies, as well as their enabler, the Power Broker, while the U.S. government steps its investigation into Cap behind the scenes.
After having defeated Dr. Karl Malus in the Power Broker’s compound at the end of the last issue, in issue #329 we see Cap fighting a group of the Broker’s thugs, whom he soon realizes are augmented themselves, which doesn’t make them effective fighters.
As Cap fights them, using his acrobatic skill and shield-work to counter their enhanced strength, he starts to double-guess his decision in the last issue not to finish the augmentation process himself, preferring to rely on his familiar strength, skill, and limitations, despite the ever stronger foes he seems to face these days.
While D-Man faces his own goon squad outside the compound—and is eventually beaten and captured by them—the Broker’s men trap Cap and Malus in the boiler room, where the only way out is through the sewers, despite the doctor’s warnings.
(Gee, the way Cap’s costume is colored in the last panel above… nah, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.)
Malus’s worst fears come true, as he and Cap face…
…the failed augments!
Malus escapes through a drain pipe, leaving Cap to face the poor creatures alone as issue #330 begins. Cap fights for his life while humanely considering the impaired nature of his foes…
…and tries to swim away from them under the surface of the sewer water, but emerges only to find even more of them. Luckily for him, the cavalry soon arrives… such as it is.
Cap is clueless, which is understandable, given that this is the first appearance of the Night Shift, assembled by the Shroud, seen below (and also in Super-Villain Team-Up #10-12).
The Shroud explains to Cap that, posing as a criminal, he gathered other criminals into the Night Shift to oppose yet other criminals, leveraging their own self-interest for the greater good. (Not quite what Adam Smith envisioned, but close enough.) He and Cap agree to work together, but they both have conditions: Cap doesn’t want Malus tortured to get him to talk, and the Shroud wants Cap to help him save face with the criminals in the Night Shift.
Not only does the Shroud’s plan involve several layers of subterfuge, but it also requires that Cap trust him, which he is hesitant to do, but in the end he decides (or realizes) that he has no other choice.
The Shroud’s teammate Dansen Macabre bewitches Malus so he will reveal the Power Broker’s location, leaving Cap once again uncomfortable with the idea of mind control, as we saw recently in X-Men Vs. Avengers #1-4., given its denial of autonomy and free will (in the psychological if not metaphysical sense).
After Cap and the Night Shift invade the Power Broker’s estate, our hero is surprised to recognize the Broker from a previous last encounter (though somehow he pronounces an extra ‘s’ at the end of his first name). Cap demands to see D-Man, and then marvels at the material benefits of the successful criminal lifestyle.
It’s so cute when Cap tries to bluff… and even though it usually doesn’t work, it might have this time? (At least Cap thinks it did.)
Jackson leads him to D-Man, who is restrained in a machine next to a woman who will be familiar to readers of The Thing and Fantastic Four: Sharon Ventura, aka the second Ms. Marvel and the future She-Thing.
We’ll see more of Ventura in the next issue—for now, Cap is preoccupied with his new friend and partner D-Man, who has been “stimulated,” augmenting his strength even further and enraging him beyond the point of rationality.
Cap tries to dodge D-Man’s blows while he hopes stress will burn the drugs out of his system before it burns him out.
Terrific final panel above, courtesy of Tom Morgan and Sam de la Rosa, reminiscent of the cover to Captain America #230 (starring the Hulk in the role of the fist).
Eventually, D-Man falls, and Cap worries he made the wrong choice, before struggling to save his friend’s life.
Come back for the next issue to learn the fate of D-Man, as well as the government’s next move.
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Justice Is Served
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #328 (April 1987)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #331 (July 1987)