These two issues of Captain America continue “The Superia Stratagem,” the twice-monthly story that began in issue #387, in which Captain America and Paladin are looking for Diamondback and her friends, who were abducted from her Brooklyn home and taken to a cruise ship full of women supervillains. Also, Cap reconnects with Daredevil in an issue of Darkhawk—don’t worry if you don’t know him, he goes to a different school—and advises the O.G. X-Men in this year’s X-Factor Annual.
In Captain America #389, having been knocked out by one of Moonstone’s blasts at the end of the last issue, Cap sinks into the deep, only to be saved by Paladin, who luckily notices that Cap had floated his shield on the surface of the water, both to deflect attacks and to trap some air.
Paladin manages to hit Moonstone with a shot from his stun-gun, and when Blackbird flies down to see if she’s OK, someone else rejoins the battle…
…and all of a sudden he’s bantering like Spider-Man. (Moonstone’s blast must have hit him really hard.)
Cap shows off his impressive acrobatic ability (earned during countless hours in the Avengers gym, no doubt) while fighting Blackbird in mid-air…
…but still has the presence of mind to be concerned about her safety as they approach the water. And after they’re safe, he then turns to addressing Paladin’s crude comments.
After Vision arrives in a Quinjet and takes John, Moonstone, and Blackbird away, Cap and Paladin head in the direction the two villains came from, eventually finding the cruise ship where Cap hopes he’ll find Rachel (who was thrown overboard by an old enemy in the last issue, but was saved earlier in this one).
Cap and Paladin infiltrate the ship, but are soon discovered by its unique passengers…
…leading to a battle that takes up almost half of the story in issue #390, with Cap trying to talk his opponents down while he and Paladin fight for their lives.
His reflexes are almost matched by his old-fashioned chivalry, which he realizes he cannot indulge under present circumstances.
Paladin isn’t faring as well, and Cap switches to rescue mode…
…and finds himself having to compromise another traditional principle of honorable combat.
When her friends Black Mamba and Asp check on her in the infirmary, Rachel reiterates that she wants out of the adventuring life, preferring to put her past behind her, leading Asp to tell her about the most recent addition to the ship passenger list—who’s busy trying to impart some of his legendary resilience to his new partner.
Eventually Cap and Paladin are captured, and several of the more persuasive women on the ship try to extract information from him, but his iron will (and SHIELD training) keep him from providing what they want. (Paladin, though, cracks like an egg.)
When they meet Superia, the story really takes an unfortunate dive.
Yes, it gets as bad as you think in the last two issues of the story. (But please come back anyway!)
Cap also appears in this month’s issue of Darkhawk, the title character of which is a young man named Christopher Powell who discovered an amulet that gave him armor and powers, similar to Jaime Reyes and the scarab that transforms him into Blue Beetle. (The Darkhawk amulet was later given some epic backstory.) More interesting for us is the appearance of Charles Little Sky, also known as Portal, an indigenous American and mutant whom Cap met in Avengers #304 (also written by Darkhawk scribe Danny Fingeroth) and here visits in the hospital after Darkhawk fought Portal in suspiciously similar armor. (Hint: There is more than one amulet floating around.)
Just like in Avengers #304, the U-Men show up looking for Portal and ready to fight, and Cap and Darkhawk join forces in response.
Pretty soon Daredevil crashes the party, and young Christopher is starstruck…
…but don’t worry, he has the same reaction to Cap too.
Soon the heroes are dealing with a hostage situation, and after Daredevil makes a move he knows at the time is rash, Cap tries to calm the situation…
…and guess which inexperienced young hero decides to jump into the fray regardless.
Cap is forced to intervene, and together they end up saving the day.
After Cap finishes off the last U-Men using his deep reading of the Avengers files and a little science, he touches base with Daredevil, who stands up for Darkhawk given his own impulsive behavior.
Hey, it’s been a while since we saw a “fella” on this blog!
I appreciate that Daredevil’s answer reiterated the point about protecting those you love as well as doing what’s right; I wouldn’t necessarily expect Cap to emphasize the former, given his relative lack of personal attachments compared to heroes like DD, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. (He does get the last word, however, when he corrects Christopher about calling the more experienced heroes “perfect.”)
Finally, in X-Factor Annual #6, Cap appears on the mutant team’s viewscreen as part of a Council of Caps alongside Captain Britain and
Captain Russia the Red Guardian.
Let me zoom in on Cap’s appearance, where he leads his colleagues in urging Cyclops to rethink his strategy (and the fact that Cyclops shouts back at the screen does not give me confidence he is willing to do that any time soon).
Captain America (vol. 1) #389, early August 1991, “Pageant of Power”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Rik Levins (pencils), Danny Bulanadi (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #390, late August 1991, “When Woman Wage War!”: 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.
Darkhawk (vol. 1) #6, August 1991: Danny Fingeroth (writer), Mike Manley (pencils), Ricardo Villagran, Bob Wiacek, and Bud LaRose (inks), Joe Rosas (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Not yet collected (although it was reprinted in Marvel Tales: Annihilation #1).
X-Factor (vol. 1) Annual #6, August 1991, “King of Pain”: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Terry Shoemaker (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Brad Vancata (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: X-Men Epic Collection: Mutant Genesis and The New Mutants Epic Collection: The End of the Beginning.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #387-388 (July 1991)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #335, Infinity Gauntlet #2, and Avengers #336, Alpha Flight #99, and Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #26 (August 1991)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #391-392 (September 1991)
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