These two issues complete the “Superia Stratagem” storyline that began in issue #387, when Diamondback and her friends were abducted from her Brooklyn home and taken to the cruise ship of Superia, who had gathered a motley crew of female supervillains for nefarious purposes. At the end of the last issue, Captain America and Paladin were captured after they came aboard looking for their friends, and Superia declared her intention to transform them into women. (Definitely one of Gruenwald’s more uncomfortable plot points—if you roll your eyes just half as much while reading this as I did while writing it, you’re lucky.)
As issue #391 opens on Superia’s “island paradise” of Femizonia—not a new concept, but rather where the Fantastic Four and Hulk foe Thundra comes from, albeit in the 23rd century and on Earth-715. There, she explains to her colleague Nightshade—yes, the same “Deadly Nightshade” who first appeared in issue #164—that, although she assumes Cap and Paladin will appreciate the change, if they don’t like it, she’ll threaten not to restore them to being men if they get out of hand.
After she leaves, Nightshade’s thoughts reveal that she has a much better idea of what Cap is capable of than Superia does… and as we see below, she is correct.
Eventually, both Cap and Paladin manage to resist the sedatives Superia gave them and break out of their tanks, with assistance from Black Mamba and Asp, and then it’s back to action for the Sentinel of Liberty.
But first, some clothes—specifically, Black Mamba and Asp’s very elastic clothes.
The “new” and old Black Mambas find Cap’s costume and shield, but before he can change, Superia finds them. (I like how much the mask makes Cap look like Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, below.)
Cap shows off his tumbling skills to knock her off her platform, but it does little good…
…as she explains that she just launched a rocket with satellite-bombs that, when detonated, will bring about Thundra’s future Femizonia by sterilizing all of Earth’s women, except those on the island, on behalf of whom Superia will rule the world.
And I love the Ozymandias vibes when she tells Cap when the rocket took off!
In issue #392, Superia has four of her resident supervillains try to recapture Cap, and their fight takes most of the last installment of this story. After he defeats them (with the help of Black Mamba), he tries to contact Peggy Carter about the rocket when Superia discovers him and attacks. He is forced to pull back strategically, riding the shield…
…and being very grateful for its unique properties!
(It doesn’t last, of course, but the blue suit is really growing on me; it definitely fits his acrobatic moves below.)
When there’s a break in the action, Cap finally challenges Superia’s ideology and her superiority, figuratively and literally.
Cap does use his shield, though, not only in their hand-to-hand combat, but also to block her final blast, which does more harm than she planned, as he is happy to point out.
As she leaves, Cap takes a moment to reconsider the risk he’s taken…
…but when Vision and John Jameson arrive in a Quinjet arrives to pick up Cap, Paladin, Black Mamba, Asp, and Rachel, he learns there had never been any risk at all (because Quasar had already destroyed the rocket).
Of course, he didn’t know that at the time, so the risk he took was still enormous as far as he knew—but if he had no other choice, it was the risk he had to take, and in that sense was no risk at all (compared to the alternative, which was certain catastrophe).
Captain America (vol. 1) #391, early September 1991, “No Man’s Land”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Rik Levins (pencils), Danny Bulanadi (inks), Marie Javins (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #392, late September 1991, “Superia Unbound”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Rik Levins (pencils), Danny Bulanadi (inks), Marie Javins and Steve Buccellato (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: The Superia Stratagem.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #389-390, Darkhawk #6, and X-Factor Annual #6 (August 1991)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Infinity Gauntlet #3, Adventures of Captain America #1, Avengers #337 and Alpha Flight #100, Avengers #338, Thor #436, and Damage Control #4, Avengers: Death Trap — The Vault, and Avengers Annual #20, Namor the Sub-Mariner Annual #1, and West Coast Avengers Annual #6 (September 1991)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #393 (October 1991)
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