Having found Rachel Leighton, aka Diamondback, in the previous story, in this issue Captain America can now turn his attention to searching for his other missing friend, Dennis Dunphy… but he doesn’t. D-Man will have to wait some more, because Cap chooses instead to help Rachel hunt down one of her foes, Snapdragon, which happens to coincide with one of Nick Fury’s goals as well. So everyone’s happy… except Dennis, of course. Plus, Eric Masterson goes to Cap for advice one last time before heading into his last adventure as Thor (which heralds the return of the original and Eric’s new identity of Thunderstrike, a 90s superhero name if there ever was one).
Captain America #411 opens with Diamondback and the Falcon working out in the Avengers gym when they are interrupted by Captain Acrobat.
After being flummoxed by the return of Rachel’s classic hair color, and confirming her future career plans, Cap lets her know that the sample of his blood that Crossbones had Rachel steal from Avengers Mansion in issue #405, and which the Red Skull’s people injected her with in the previous issue, apparently contained traces of the drug “Ice” that he was accidentally exposed to in the “Streets of Poison” storyline starting in issue #372, but it wasn’t found in her blood.
(We can only assume the blood was drawn from Cap before Hank Pym and Keith Kincaid replaced it in issue #377 to cure him of the drug’s influence, which also negated the Super-Soldier Serum for a short time.)
Rachel turns down the wonderful prospect of more poking and prodding to pursue another grudge (having nearly killed Crossbones in the last issue), and then turns down Cap’s offer of assistance with that mission too. (“This road, Diamondback must walk alone,” she says in classic superhero loner fashion.)
Cap takes one more shot at convincing her to let him tag along, explaining how much he values being with a woman who shares his lifestyle, and wanting to return the favor she’s done for him in the past. It’s very romantic and heartwarming… until he calls Nick.
Cap gets some good intel from Nick—while playing coy about his relationship with Rachel—and Nick manages to recruit Cap into a mission at the same time.
Cap decides to play along (without acknowledging Nick’s sarcasm), and calls on a fellow Avenger for help with disguises.
Sersi works her Eternal mojo and transforms Cap, Rachel, and Sam into Crossbones, Mother Night, and Jack O’ Lantern—and even if Cap had known more about Rachel’s history with Crossbones, it doesn’t seem it would have made a difference in his choice of aliases.
And his successful imitation of “the Crossbones growl” makes it even worse.
Soon after they get in to the weapons expo, Batroc sees them and, citing a prior arrangement Cap obviously can’t vouch for, arranges for “Crossbones” to fight five of the assembled villains. Cap considers it an opportunity for Rachel and Sam to look for Snapdragon—and resents Rachel’s concern about his skills sans shield.
It doesn’t take long for Cap to realize that, in order to pose successfully as Crossbones, he has to fight like Crossbones too—a concern that shows that his honorable methods in battle are not meant simply to protect Captain America’s reputation (which isn’t at risk here), but reflect a key character trait of Steve Rogers himself.
Nonetheless, he seems to play the part very well…
…very well indeed.
His next move, however, would have been justified by necessity, given the firm grip Ramrod had on his neck. (Yes, that’s his name—and he’s not the only one using it.)
Cap dispenses with Ramrod just in time to face General Wo, the sumo wrestler he fought waaay back in Tales of Suspense #61…
…but that bout will have to wait for the next issue.
In the meantime, Eric Masterson (the current Thor) checks in with his academic advisor—whom he clearly respects and admires—for their regular meeting, as he last did in Thor #447.
(Gee, those “mechatrons” look an awful lot like a certain armored Avenger. “I really like beating up these guys,” Cap says, “although I have absolutely no idea why.”)
Eric asks Cap a question about fear, and in response Cap lists every human atrocity he’s witnessed before citing his never-ending defense of the American dream as the only way to keep his fears at bay (or something).
(There’s much more about Cap and courage in chapter 3 of my book.)
As usual, Eric leaves the meeting inspired and amazed, but uncertain he can make use of the advice, given his low self-esteem.
Lucky for him, the original Thor will reclaim the mantle in the next issue, in which Eric receives a new hammer and becomes Thunderstrike (receiving his own comic several months later).
Captain America (vol. 1) #411, January 1993: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Rik Levins (pencils), Danny Bulanadi (inks), George Roussos (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Arena of Death.
Thor (vol. 1) #458, January 1993, “To the Victor”: Tom DeFalco (writer), Ron Frenz (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Mike Rockwitz (colors), Rick Parker (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Thor Epic Collection: The Final Gauntlet.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #409-410, West Coast Avengers #88, and Soviet Super-Soldiers #1 (November-December 1992)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Guardians of the Galaxy #32 and Excalibur #60 and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #43 (January 1993)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #412-413 and Slapstick #4 (February-March 1993)
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