These two issues finally reconnect Captain America with Diamondback, aka Rachel Leighton, his sort-of ladyfriend, who was abducted in issue #396 and held hostage by Crossbones, as shown in recent back-up stories (for the most part not covered here). To be fair, Cap’s been busy, what with Operation: Galactic Empire, Citizen Kang, and being a werewolf, but now he’s on the case! As a bonus, we have a couple panels from West Coast Avengers, featuring our favorite archer not named Ollie (or Kate, or Roy, or…), and the Soviet Super-Soldiers one-shot.
Captain America #409 opens with our hero experiencing a mystical vision of
the Justice Society of America Rachel…
…courtesy of Doctor Druid, Cap’s companion during the entire werewolf incident. You’ll also remember that Sam teamed up with Cap, as of the last issue, to help search for Rachel and D-Man (who goes on a subterranean journey after being pulled underwater in the last issue).
He’s right about Crossbones, but a little out of date regarding the Red Skull’s face, as seen in recent issues.
Druid offers no clue as to Rachel’s whereabouts other than “mountains” and “desert,” so Cap and Sam call the new Avengers pilot Zack Moonhunter (also from the werewolf story) and head out to search in… the Rocky Mountains. He realizes it’s a needle-in-a-haystack situation, but as we see below, he feels very bad he hasn’t had a chance to look for Rachel until now.
Sam silently notes the futility of their search, and reads Cap’s true feelings out of it.
While the search continues, Rachel manages to break out of captivity, subdue Mother Night, and escape wearing her outfit. She finds a way to send a distress signal, which Zach picks up in the jet. But when Sam calls out Cap’s incredible luck, he writes it off as anything but.
(But it was very good luck.)
By the end of the issue, the Skeleton Crew recaptures Rachel and plans to test the properties of a batch of Cap’s blood Rachel stole from Avengers Mansion for Crossbones in issue #405—but a pair of uninvited guests land outside, who introduce themselves in the opening splash page to issue #410.
Cap and the Falcon fight Crossbones and Jack O’Lantern for a while, with ‘Bones unsuccessfully trying to goad Cap, who reminds himself how tough his foe actually is…
…a thought he keeps in mind until Crossbones gets the upper hand—and the mighty shield.
Now Cap has to fight a formidable foe, who has his shield, with one arm effectively tied behind his back—and he still has time to regret that he isn’t looking for Rachel.
Cap puts his best foot forward, then saves Crossbones for plunging to his death before being blinded by the Skeleton Crew’s helicopter.
Rachel escapes from the lab where she was injected with Cap’s blood, but Mother Night prevents her from helping Cap, whom Crossbones now has over the ledge.
I’m sure Cap’s plan was great, but it’s rendered moot when Rachel defeats Mother Night, knocks out Blackwing, and then zeroes in on her real target, Crossbones.
Cap takes the opportunity to reclaim his shield, but as soon as he gets back to his feet, Blackwing knocks him over the cliff. (You know somebody had to go over that cliff eventually–thanks, Mr. Chekhov.)
Sam catches Cap but is attacked by Blackwing before he can carry Cap all the way up to the mountain. By the time Cap finishes the climb, the helicopter crashes (thanks to Zack), shooting a shard of metal into Crossbones’ back, which also catches fire—and Cap just wonders why Rachel isn’t helping him (forgetting that his code of treating even his worst enemies with humanity and compassion isn’t shared by all).
Cap tries to help by dousing the flames (and later calling for help), but he didn’t know about the piece of metal, which he further plunges into Crossbones’ back with his shield. (Oops.)
Cap characteristically rushes back into the flames to search for survivors, and Sam essentially nods.
As the Medic of Liberty stabilizes Crossbones on their way to the Vault with the rest of the Skeleton Crew, Rachel defends herself, to which Cap generously offers only support, not reprimand. (But seriously, there is always time for a lecture on morality!)
The romance-comics nature of the final panel above always reminds me of the cover to Captain America, vol. 3, #44 (August 2001), by Dan Jurgens, who does a great job homaging John Romita Sr. and other greats of the genre.
In West Coast Avengers #88, Cap Zooms with Hawkeye to get an update on the Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man’s mission to Canada that began in the previous issue, and Clint takes Cap’s offer of help a little too personally—and his insolence towards Cap, not seen for a very long time, does not go unnoticed.
Finally, Soviet Super-Soldiers #1 follows up on the story in Captain America #352-353, as the super-powered defectors Dark Star, Ursa Major, and Vanguard are returned to Russia, against the wishes of Cap, Avengers government liaison Raymond Sikorsky, and the Secretary of Defense.
How many times can Cap say “I know”? Count along!
Five! Five times! Ha, ha, ha…
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Blood and Glory.
West Coast Avengers (vol. 2) #88, November 1992: Roy Thomas and Dann Thomas (writers), David Ross (pencils), Tim Dzon (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Steve Dutro (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Not yet collected.
Soviet Super-Soldiers #1, November 1992: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Angel Medina and Javier Saltares (pencils), Jeff Albrecht (inks), Kevin Tinsley (colors), Michael Higgins (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Not yet collected.
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #408 (October 1992)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Infinity War #6 and Quasar #40 (November 1992), Punisher – Captain America: Blood and Glory #2 (November 1992), Guardians of the Galaxy #30-31 and Excalibur #59 (November-December 1992), and Punisher – Captain America: Blood and Glory #3 (December 1992)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #411 and Thor #458 (January 1993)