These two issues focus primarily on the Captain and his team—now augmented by Rachel Leighton, aka Diamondback—fighting against Viper and her attempts to take over the Serpent Society. (Admittedly, the last part is mostly Diamondback’s concern.) We also check in briefly with John Walker and Lemar Hoskins (the current Captain America and his recently renamed partner Battlestar) as they enforce the mutant registration act (very much contrary to how Steve Rogers will confront registration in the Civil War).
In issue #342, after three pages of Nomad and D-Man fighting over Vagabond (Jack’s “friend,” in the red, white, and blue), a strange aircraft appears, and Cap forgoes airstairs in favor of the diving board (and some showing off).
It turns out Cap was expecting the visitors… whose names, not to mention their “liege,” should give a clue as to where they’re from. (Please, no “Amazon” jokes based on the package K’Bali is “delivering” to Cap.)
Now here’s a guy who might be offended Cap went to Tony Stark first for a new shield, although he didn’t seem to be aware of Cap’s new status (or non-status, as it were). (To be fair, T’Challa is a little busy at the moment, as he mentions, having lost his connection to the Panther Spirit and threatened with losing his throne, in July’s Black Panther (vol. 2) #1.) Not surprisingly, T’Challa gives his apologies and Cap deflects them, as two men of humility and grace do.
(I love the Golden Age-ish look Cap has in the last panel above—I think the simplicity of the black outfit helps.)
Black Panther signs off with a pledge to help any way he can, while Cap and the two Wakandan pilots are focused on the shield and someone trying to come aboard.
It would have been cool if K’Bali or M’Daka has recognized their liege’s handiwork in the Falcon’s wings, but oh well. Sam tells Cap about Diamondback’s call to his hotline (from the last issue), and Cap orders his team into action after hailing a very advanced cab.
Diamondback lets Cap know to meet her and Society leader Sidewinder (whom Cap tangled with in issue #338) at Fred’s Lube & Pump in upstate New York, and while Cap is fully aware it may be a trap, I’m sure he didn’t expect confirmation so soon… much less from Diamondback herself.
“Just checking,” she says, becoming the umpteenth person who can’t recognize Cap in a slightly different outfit (despite her massive crush on him, which is reasserted below).
Cap makes it clear that “I didn’t kill Bill” is not particularly impressive to him. Try harder, Rachel!
As Cap’s New Kooky Quartet Plus One—I’m not calling them a quintet yet, sorry—stakes out the Serpent Society’s headquarters, Rachel and Jack clearly have other things on their mind. (And Sam looks like he’s wondering if he left the oven on.)
After they sneak in to the building, the rest of the group tussles with various Serpents, including D-Man and Diamondback struggling with Anaconda, while Cap searches for the captive ones who refuse to side with Viper, displaying a Gruenwaldian memory for D-list villains.
He makes a mental note to adjust his shieldwork for this new one’s slightly different feel—and is Rachel flirting with him, right now?
Cap/Gruenwald even remembers Slither from way back when.
Rachel frees Cottonmouth only to have him expand his massive jaw in an attempt to swallow her whole, and Cap gives him something else to chew on before confronting the classic dilemma between fighting crime and saving lives, even when those he must save are criminals themselves (which he struggled with in issue #340 as well).
They manage to get the antidote in time, but Viper gets away. In issue #343, Rachel shows him where Viper is leaving from, before dreaming of an Olympic career with him.
(I jump into water slides the same way.)
After failing to bring Viper’s ship down with his shield—I guess he still hasn’t got the hang of it—he takes a courageous leap, probably as much to get away from his stalker as anything else.
Viper tries to shake him off by speeding up, but she should know that Cap can do this all day.
On another ship commandeered by Diamondback and the fellas, Jack takes the opportunity to extract information from Slither more aggressively, and D-Man tries to remind him who they work for.
If that weren’t bad enough, Jack wants to blow Viper’s ship out of the sky, assuming that if Cap had latched onto it as Rachel said, he would have brought it down already. Rachel signs on to the plan, and D-Man objects yet again—and if his objections worked with torturing Slither earlier (which we don’t know), it did not work this time, as we can see below.
Cap counts on the Black Panther to have put plenty of vibranium in his new shield to cushion his fall…
…which he did, even though the shield is still not the original item, as Cap laments.
Cap defeats Viper in time for his pals to land right next to him, and he’s not even mad that they shot him out of the sky. (What a guy!)
The next issue is set up as D-Man tells Cap about Viper’s plan, already in motion…
…and, despite Falcon’s advance call, the final page of the issue shows the president of the United States taking a late night drink of water before the phone rings in the White House.
Before we finish the post, let’s check in with John Walker and Lemar Hoskins, who are busy rounding up mutants who refuse to comply with the Mutant Registration Act—even if they deny being mutants at all (although he actually is a mutant). While Walker is satisfied to “just follow orders,” Lemar has reservations, much like Cap did with a broader registration act during the Civil War, but for more personal reasons (and ones more relevant to the X-Men concept).
Walker and Hoskins get closer to Cap’s orbit in the next issue when they run into Nomad, D-Man, and Diamondback. It’s only a matter of time before they come up against Cap himself…
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #341 (May 1988)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #344 (August 1988)