These three issues of The Amazing Spider-Man comprise the second half of the storyline “The Assassin Nation Plot,” describing political intrigue in the fictional nation of Symkaria, which borders Doctor Doom’s Latveria and is the home of the mercenary Silver Sable. Captain America becomes involved when the CIA is implicated in a political assassination, and he works with Spidey and Silver Sable to absolve the American intelligence agency of any involvement and bring down the new leader of ULTIMATUM (yes, that ULTIMATUM) in the process. (As is often the case with Cap’s appearances in other titles, this post will barely scratch the surface of the larger story, so be sure to read the entire six issues for all the details.)
Before we start, I must note that this seems to be the first (and only?) time that superstar artist and writer (and Image Comics co-founder) Todd McFarlane has drawn the Sentinel of Liberty, including the cover you see above. (To be precise, issue #324 is penciled by another superstar and fellow Image pioneer, Erik Larsen.)
We first see our hero in issue #323 as he interrupts Spider-Man’s impromptu press conference by parachuting into Symkaria to address the rumors of American involvement in the recent killings of their prime minister and their king’s fiancée (in separate incidents).
Cap successfully dodges all the reporters’ questions by giving a vague answer instead. (He clearly underestimates his skill as a politician!)
He meets with Silver Sable, and based on reputation alone, convinces her that the US was not involved in the assassination…
…turning their attention instead to ULTIMATUM, with Cap hoping that confirming their guilt, if they did do it, would clear the CIA for good.
Cap, Spidey, and Sable prepare to storm the ULTIMATUM headquarters, and Spidey admits patriotic feelings to Cap. (For context, Spidey’s struggle with how political he wants to get underlies much of this story.)
Cap is disappointed with ULTIMATUM’s preparations…
…which is a double-fail for them, because our three heroes are not the only people after ULTIMATUM, especially when you include the fella in green who meets the business edge of Cap’s mighty shield below.
He introduces himself to the gang as “Solo” (no relation to Han) and Cap fingers him immediately as another Punisher or Scourge who believes that the ends justify the means… and his means aren’t pretty.
Spidey captures an ULTIMATUM agent and Cap has to stop Solo from some particularly violent interrogation, instead handing him over to Silver Sable, who plans to do exactly the same. (Be careful who your friends are, Cap!)
The heroes get a lead, but Solo wants to work… alone… while Cap reveals he’s on to Silver Sable’s methods.
In issue #324, Cap addresses this concern directly to Sable, first in practical terms…
…and then in more philosophical ones.
This is the second time he’s used a parachute in this story… playing it safe, I guess!
After Cap and Sable land in Mexico, the local mercenaries give them a less than friendly welcome…
…and are not fooled by his threats, showing his reputation is as well known here as it is “north of the border.” (Silver Sable, of course, has no such reputation or reservations.)
They find Sabretooth, who fights Sable in a temple while Cap deals with more mercenaries. Sabretooth injures Sable badly, so she takes a chance to trick him into bringing the temple down on himself…
…apparently killing him, which frustrates Cap to no end.
Meanwhile, Spidey has apprehended the ULTIMATUM leader Toler Weil (saving him from Solo in the process), who is the only hope the heroes have of preventing a diplomatic catastrophe.
Finally, in issue #325, Cap tries to obtain a government security clearance for Spidey, but even Cap’s word does not go that far, despite his and Silver Sable’s persuasive arguments.
Cap raises the stakes with information about an upcoming assassination attempt, but the colonel is hung up on procedure, anticipating issues that will arise again in the lead-up to the Civil War.
(This rejection affects Spidey deeply, as he had never been aware of the depth of his patriotic feelings before.)
Cap and Sable prepare for the attack, with Cap addressing the elephant in the room…
…before a spider shows up, having snuck in (as spiders do), and Cap is none too happy about the implications for Pentagon security.
Spidey suspects that Weil gave them false information, but cannot persuade Cap or Sable of this…
…and goes so far as to accuse Captain America of blindly following orders. (Does he even read Cap’s book?)
Before they leave, Cap mentions Weil’s location, which Spidey takes as a subversive act on Cap’s part. (Whatever.)
Eventually, Spider-Man discovers that one of Cap’s foes—whose name sounds kinda like “Dead Bull”—was actually behind the entire plot from the beginning. (And when the villain offers Spidey a lot of money to join him, the wallcrawler is tempted, but in the end he puts his country first.)
When all is said and done, Spidey receives an apology from the colonel, payment from Silver Sable for services rendered, and a compliment from Cap, whom I think Spidey understands just a little better now.
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #323, early November 1989: David Michelinie (writer), Todd McFarlane (pencils and inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Rick Parker (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #324, mid November 1989: David Michelinie (writer), Erik Larsen (pencils), Al Gordon (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Rick Parker (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #325, late November 1989: David Michelinie (writer), Todd McFarlane (pencils and inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Rick Parker (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Assassin Nation
ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America #361-362, Captain America #363, Avengers #310 and Fantastic Four #333, West Coast Avengers #49, and West Coast Avengers Annual #4, Thor Annual #14, and Fantastic Four Annual #22 (November 1989)