These two issues are the beginning of “The Superia Stratagem,” a six-part story published biweekly over the next three months. It is… not great, but nonetheless we will have interesting things to highlight regarding Captain America’s ethical behavior, more of them in the first two issues than in the rest (when we will have assorted guest appearances to pad the posts!).
In issue #387, we see Cap begin to investigate an attack at Diamondback’s apartment.
He does not know this, but in the back-up story in the last issue, Rachel was abducted from her apartment by angry members of the Serpent Society, only to be “rescued” by MODAM, the successor to MODOK who is prominent on the two covers above.
Even in his thoughts, Cap seems rather nonchalant about Rachel being missing and possibly injured. Last time he saw her was at the end of issue #382, when she left with Paladin, but since then Bernie Rosenthal returned, which only made him think more warmly about Rachel again, so this strikes me as odd. (Ever the optimist, perhaps?)
Cap starts putting the pieces together, and like a good detective, he tries to find the last person he saw Rachel with—and for that, he needs the help of a fellow Avenger who has been “close” to Paladin herself.
And “lucky” for us, Paladin joins Cap for the rest of the story, starting here. (He makes me miss USAgent.)
Despite his bluster, Paladin turns out to be halfway decent, wanting to help find Rachel and her friends, and Cap regards him as useful enough to let him tag along (despite great sacrifice on his part—and ours).
When Cap and Paladin find the Serpent Society members that tried to abduct Rachel, they learn about MODAM… kind of.
Back at the ranch, Cap notes that MODOK is dead, but is self-aware enough to know that he’s only “comic-book dead,” which is not the same thing. We also learn that MODOK’s creators, AIM, have supposedly gone legit, and Cap decides to check it out for himself.
What a nice welcome! I am sure everything is on the up and up now.
Oh no, I spoke too soon—AIM is as secretive as ever, just more polite about it.
(This reminds me of The Dropout, when Elizabeth Holmes wouldn’t let the top brass from Walgreens inspect the Theranos labs before signing a contract to put their blood-testing equipment in Walgreens stores.)
Cap deduces from what the AIM head didn’t say that there is a new MODOK in town, but before he can act on it, news comes in about Rachel, who activated the tracking device in her boot heel in the hope that Cap would find her.
Where in the world is Rachel Leighton, anyway? MODAM took Rachel and her friends to a cruise ship full of female supervillains, named the S.S. Superia, for reasons yet unknown. (She, and we, will learn more as the story progresses.)
As Cap, Paladin, and Jameson head toward Rachel’s signal, they detect something chasing them—three guesses who—and John begins evasive maneuvers, until Cap notices that John seems possessed and is forced to take extreme measures of his own.
Cap stays cool under pressure, with just a bead of sweat sowing, as he tries to bring the jet down…
…but in the end has to eject the three men, and is most concerned about making sure John is OK.
There’s just one problem, though.
As issue #388 opens, MODAM has cut all the parachute lines, forcing Cap to ditch his chair and dive towards John’s.
Unsuccessful, Cap chooses to potentially sacrifice his mighty shield in a last-ditch attempt to right John’s chair…
…which works better, allowing Cap a chance to save John’s life, but at the cost of losing the shield (showing which is more important to the man who wields it).
Once Cap has John safe on a life-raft, he thinks of the shield… and sends his “partner” after it while he works to revive his pilot.
(To be fair, Paladin did manage to damage MODAM enough to force her to retreat.)
Ignore the exposition box in the first panel below—that’s relative the S.S. Superia, where Rachel is still trying to figure out what’s going on. The important thing is that the shield is OK, and Cap is forced to acknowledge that Paladin can do “likeable things.”
Cap tries to summon some Avengers to their aid (while being careful about the risk of repeated mind control), but before he can they are attacked again, this time by Moonstone and Blackbird, and Cap makes sure John is safe before engaging further.
Because there is no life at risk this time, Cap is reluctant to let go of his shield again, and instead goes underwater himself…
…cleverly letting the shield float on the surface while he helps Paladin, whom Blackbird tied up.
While he’s busy with that, Moonstone fires indiscriminately into the water, and gets lucky…
…though Cap is very unlucky, as is Rachel, who is attacked on the cruise ship by her old nemesis Snapdragon and thrown overboard, unconscious. Obviously, come back for the next issue to see if either survives!
Captain America (vol. 1) #387, early July 1991, “Maiden Voyage”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Rik Levins (pencils), Danny Bulanadi (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #388, late July 1991, “Deep Sixed”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Rik Levins (pencils), Danny Bulanadi (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: The Superia Stratagem.