These two issues continue Captain America’s search for
his good friend Dennis Dunphy his girlfriend’s archrival Snapdragon, which began in the last issue. As the first cover above notes in the corner, Shang-Chi shows up to meet Cap, setting the stage for Cap’s recruiting him to his Secret Avengers years later. As a bonus, we get a few panels from Slapstick, which introduced a wacky Looney Tunes mentality into the Marvel Universe (before Deadpool had developed to serve that role).
Captain America #412 opens with General Wo, the sumo wrestler Cap faced back in Tales of Suspense #61, facing Cap, whom Sersi transformed into Crossbones in the last issue so he, Falcon, and Diamondback could infiltrate an underground weapons expo. (“Kids get in free after 3pm!”)
Cap leads with some offensive trash talk, but not to worry—it’s all part of the act to seem like well-known nasty guy Crossbones.
Cap won’t meet Shang-Chi until the next issue, but let’s see his first appearance in this title (along with a mention of the father who is not mentioned anymore).
Back to Capbones: After he takes care of Wo and then Razor-Fist (incidentally, a Shang-Chi villain who also appeared in the movie), the master of ceremonies himself, Batroc, declares himself Cap’s fifth and final opponent… and yes, he has figured out it’s really Cap. Despite his famous code of honor, Batroc tries to blackmail Cap into letting him win.
Of course, Cap doesn’t fall for it, putting on his best Crossbones to threaten Batroc into le silence… but it is all for naught as Zaran blows his secret anyway.
Now that the jig is up, Cap ditches the disguise and reclaims his shield…
…which allows him to strike a much more impressive pose as he faces the onslaught of Marvel’s worst. (Well, maybe “worst” is too generous—none of these folks is exactly Doctor Doom.)
As Diamondback confronts Snapdragon and Sam is introduced to Shang-Chi’s right foot (ouch), Cap takes on countless villains, a grand battle that continues in Captain America #413, where our hero is more worried about his friends than his own well-being (which, to be honest, doesn’t seem much imperiled).
There he goes, thinking of others again.
Even though Cap loves a good workout, his concern for his friends takes priority, so he goads the villains into piling on to him…
…and sneaks out the bottom. Of course, skulking away offends Cap’s sense of honor, which unlike Batroc’s is still intact. (Speaking of Looney Tunes: This always reminds me of the cartoons in which a bunch of thugs jump on one character, brawling in a huge cloud of dust with fists and feet poking out, and the main character slips out of the cloud while the rest continue fighting each other.)
Having “found” Sam, Cap asks about Rachel…
…but meets Shang-Chi instead. After expressing their mutual admiration, Cap leaves to find Rachel while Sam and Shang-Chi face the remaining villains.
Uh oh, the shirt’s coming off… we know what that means!
Cap curses his insufficiently thorough preparation because he was “obsessed” with Rachel, but then thinks he sees her being carried by MODAM (the version of MODOK introduced in issue #387), and chases after them.
But first, he has to fight some AIM agents, and makes a joke that would make even dads groan (although it’s barely one step removed from “how you like them apples?“).
The split kick is impressive, though!
He keeps going with the exceedingly lame jokes—making up for the lack of quips he was criticized for earlier in the issue, I guess—and eventually takes MODAM down…
…seemingly forgetting he’s not disguised as Crossbones anymore, judging from the feet he delivers to MODAM’s eyes below. But in the end, it wasn’t Rachel he saw, but Superia, whom he still tries to save (even though he wouldn’t have pursued her in the first place if he knew who she really was).
Where is Rachel, anyway? Earlier, her battle with Snapdragon ended when she drowned her foe in a shallow pool of water.
At the end of the issue, as Cap to wonders to himself where oh where might my Rachel be, she is emerging solemnly from the not-so-deep, and you can imagine how this act will reverberate in future issues (starting with the next one).
And switching abruptly from the deadly to the deadly-funny: In the final issue of the miniseries Slapstick, the title character is trying to convince the heavy hitters that he knows the best way to deal with the Major Threat of the Day…
…and nasty bugger that he is, he uses coffee to do it.
As well he should, Cap calls him out on this dishonorable tactic.
After all, if you can’t trust an honest cup o’ joe, what can you trust?
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Arena of Death.
Slapstick (vol. 1) #4, February 1993: Len Kaminski (writer), James Fry (pencils), Terry Austin (inks), Glynis Oliver (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Not yet collected.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #411 and Thor #458 (January 1993)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #414-415 and Iron Man #292 (April-May 1993)