This issue launches a three-part story featuring Rachel Leighton aka Diamondback, who was mysteriously abducted from outside Avengers Mansion in the last issue… and from the cover it’s clear who did it and why. Although much of the issue deals with Rachel and her former crew, there is plenty of Captain America material to cover as well—including the return of a beloved character not seen for quite a while.
The first three pages see Rachel waking up in captivity, only to learn that she will be “tried” by the Serpent Society for “treason,” mostly for consorting with Cap. Speaking of whom, on page four he’s playing gym teacher for the Avengers Support Crew when a wayward member returns. (No, he’s not the person I alluded to above.)
As you remember, Cap sent Fabian to rehab after discovering his drug habit in issue #372, after which he fell under the effect of the same drug after an explosion in a drug warehouse (in the same issue). Below, he tells Fabian he knows what it’s like to “kick the habit,” then explains that he didn’t actually kick it after all, but had it done for him (and he never really had a habit to begin with). But he partially redeems himself by suggesting that they support each other in staying clean, even though Cap was never… oh, never mind, his heart is in the right place.
Before we turn to Cap’s party, let’s check in on Rachel, who’s being interviewed by her “counsel” and friend, Tanya (aka Black Mamba), who was one of the secret chaperones for Rachel’s first date with Steve Rogers in issue #371, but she didn’t know that he was also Cap… until now.
Next, Rachel gives a quick overview of her time with Cap so far, but Tanya is still suspicious regarding his motives, reasonably skeptical about why the squeaky-clean Sentinel of Liberty would choose to be with a known criminal unless he has ulterior, crime-fighting motives. (He’s not Batman, you know.)
They’re for her.
She’s who I meant, obviously. (Sorry, Fabian.)
Bernie and Steve leave the party and take a short walk on a long bridge, catching up and feeling uncomfortable…
…especially when she tells him her plans after passing the New York state bar exam.
We don’t see Steve’s reaction, but we can trust he realizes the value of defense counsel to the criminal justice system: ensuring that the state makes a solid and fair case against the accused and thereby helping prevent conviction and punishment of the innocent. (To his credit, though, most of the “crooks” he “catches” are caught red-handed, so he may not be putting much weight on the possibility of false convictions in those cases.)
Next time we see them, Steve is updating Bernie on his recent activities, but leaving out one little detail.
Did he lie to Bernie? Maybe not. Was he truthful? That’s another matter entirely—and he knows it, acknowledging that he should have told her about Rachel.
As their evening together draws to a close, Steve comes to realize that hiding relevant information often comes at a practical cost as well as a principled one.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave… even for superheroes who didn’t get bitten by radioactive spiders.
We’ll wrap up the post by returning to She Whom Steve Neglected to Mention, whose trial is underway. She explains why she likes Cap…
…and then elaborates on the earlier discussion of why he likes her, trying to keep the focus on what he sees in her and not any plans to infiltrate the Serpent Society. (Although, I would point out that the Society’s “self-gain” is very much opposed to the public good to the extent it’s pursued through criminal behavior.)
In the end, Rachel is found guilty by the Society (by a vote of seven to four) and is sentenced to death—unless she reveals everything she knows about Captain America, which she flatly refuses to do. But as they prepare to administer a lethal injection, their founder Sidewinder transports Rachel away, having been notified by Tanya what was about to happen. (Needless to say, the story continues in the next issue.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #380, December 1990, “With Friends Like These…”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Ron Lim (pencils), Danny Bulanadi (inks), Christie Scheele and Steve Buccellato (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). More details at Marvel Database.
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Streets of Poison
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #379 (November 1990)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #381-382 (January-February 1991)