The first of these three comics focuses mainly on Dennis Dunphy’s subterranean struggles and his eventual emergence into daylight, with Cap playing a lesser role—but he has a much larger one in the following two-issue crossover with Silver Sable and the Funky Bunch, which contains some fine examples of necessary moral compromise (an issue also prominent in Avengers of late).
As reported, most of Captain America #418 deals with Dennis, currently held by the Night People of Zerotown (a Kirby concept introduced in issue #201), whose leader Brother Have-Not uses his powers to sap Dennis’s enhanced strength before taking him to the surface world on looting missions. At the same time, Cap, Falcon, and Moonhunter bring the injured Diamondback to Wakanda following their adventure in the Savage Land, which wrapped up in the last issue. Cap is obviously very concerned (as is Sam for him)…
…leaving him to wonder why she crashed their skycycle into a tree (unaware that she’s been tormented by visions of the woman she killed in issue #413).
(Note Cap’s helpful reference to Rachel’s recent blood transfusion using the batch of Cap’s blood that which Crossbones had her steal and then tested on her in issues #409-410.)
Later, Sam tries to get Cap to come home with him. Initially, Cap refuses to leave, for obvious reasons…
…but he quickly changes his mind, even though Sam didn’t even give an affirmative reason why he should leave.
Don’t be surprised if you do a double-take at the image below: Apparently the colorist thought Cap was Dennis, perhaps because of his blank expression in response to Sam’s questions about his feelings for Rachel.
(Or maybe he’s a Skrull! Nah, too early…)
Cap accepts Sam’s premise, but merely scratches the surface of his long history of giving flawed souls a chance at redemption, including several of his fellow Avengers as well as Sam himself.
Elsewhere, after Dennis comes to his senses and reveals Brother Have-Not’s deception to the rest of the Night People, the two begin to fight, and when a police officer points his weapon at Have-Not, he receives another weapon back…
…or would have, had not a mighty shield arrived first (allowing Dennis to take care of Have-Not).
Cap and Dennis’ reunion is brief, and Dennis is frustratingly vague about his future plans (which we eventually learn is to replace Brother Have-Not as leader of Zerotown).
Next, in Silver Sable and the Wild Pack #15, the title character has been hired by an anonymous party to track down the Viper, but keeps finding imposters instead. When Cap learns about this, he’s more concerned about who Sable’s employer is, for they are surely up to no good.
For her part, Viper (the real one) is planning to wreak havoc by using televisions to blind the world’s population—a true nihilist at heart.
Cap goes to the Bronx to find a faux Viper, where Crippler, a member of the Wild Pack, is undercover to do the same thing. (He’s the fella with the smiley face shaved into his head, which would seem to make it difficult to go incognito.)
Unfortunately Cap is mistaken, as there is going to be trouble, leading to a terrific shield-flip-kick combo before “catching” a Crippler whom this Viper tossed aside.
In case you think Crippler seems sufficiently awed above, you’ll be dispelled of that notion below. Cap generously wants to help him save face, but has to take him out after he refuses to stand down (and makes a joke Cap doesn’t take well).
(Of course, just because Cap doesn’t like the idea of flag-burning doesn’t mean he disagrees with current Supreme Court precedent allowing it—we all dislike certain instances of expression that we still believe is protected under the First Amendment.)
Cap barely starts to convince Alt-Viper to talk before she is assassinated, and Cap doesn’t even get a chance to react before he must protect himself from the same fate.
The assassin turns out to be the real Viper, but Cap is busy with two henchmen, whom he gives the opportunity to surrender—prompting a challenge from Crippler that allows Cap to clarify his position on fighting for the sake of fighting.
Soon Silver Sable joins the fight, followed by Battlestar, John Walker’s partner during his time as Captain America, and now a member of the Wild Pack.
Even though Sable takes down Viper, Cap asserts custody, backed up by his revelation of the identity of Sable’s employer.
Captain America #419 begins with a Red Skull monologue explaining why he’s trying to apprehend his former ally—”I believe in fomenting chaos in order to bring about a new order–while you believe in fomenting chaos for the sake of chaos”—before disavowing nihilism himself, forcing him to stop her schemes and then congratulating himself for enlisting Captain America himself to further his plan. (Mwa-ha-ha!)
Back in the Bronx, we back up a bit from the end of the Silver Sable issue, when Cap is still busy keeping Sable from killing Viper…
…and we get another view of the “I know who the real culprit is” scene, adding a line confirming Cap’s faith in Sable’s character (at least, for a mercenary/assassin).
The rest of the Wild Pack take care of Viper’s henchmen while Cap and Sable think through the situation. If we didn’t know Cap so well, that “I need a minute with her in private… to question her” might sound ominous…
…and unfortunately Viper knows him well enough also.
Cap and Sable go through with the terms of Sable’s contract…
…after planting listening devices on Viper in hopes of getting information about her plans (if not the Red Skull’s location). Cap finishes with a “we are not so different, you and I” line, but Sable doesn’t buy it (completely).
After they leave, Iron Monger (not Obadiah Stane but Cristoph Pfeifer, in his one and only appearance in the role) arrives with a laptop, through which the Red Skull demands to know the Viper’s plans—and when she holds back, the Skull commands Iron Monger to break one of her legs, with more to come if she doesn’t provide more details. Needless to say, Cap is more concerned about this than Sable is…
…and his strange thought that follows seems due more to the particular women he’s worked with lately, or the increasing “vicious” quality of heroes in general (remarked upon in recent Avengers stories), than anything else.
After Viper’s own gang, named Fangs (also in their one and only appearance as a group), rescue her and possibly kill the Iron Monger, Sable presents Cap with another moral dilemma…
…which he answers in a way he knows is right but regrets nonetheless (as one is bound to do in such cases when two treasured principles conflict).
So dramatically rendered by Rik Levins, Danny Bulanadi, and George Roussos!
By the time Cap and Sable make it to the Viper’s lair, Battlestar has joined them (somehow), and together they storm in and start fighting the Fangs. (Wouldn’t “F.A.N.G.S.” be cooler? Maybe that’s why they were never seen again.) Cap and Battlestar find they work together well…
…with the latter eager to impress the inspiration for his former partner (despite his horrible banter).
When Sable steers Cap’s attention to Viper’s transmission tower, he uses one of his foe’s weapons to take it out.
Was Sable happier than they foiled Viper’s scheme, or that she got to see Captain America fire a gun? We may never know!
Silver Sable and the Wild Pack #15, August 1993, “Vipers in Our Midst!”: Gregory Wright (writer), Steven Butler (pencils), Pam Eklund (inks), Joe Rosas (colors), Steve Dutro (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
All collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Arena of Death.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #416-417 and Mys-Tech Wars #4 (June-July 1993)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Invaders #4 (August 1993), Amazing Spider-Man #380, Spectacular Spider-Man #203, and Web of Spider-Man #103 (August 1993), Infinity Crusade #3-4 (August-September 1993), Avengers #365-366 (August-September 1993), Secret Defenders #6-7 (August-September 1993), and Avengers: The Terminatrix Objective #1 (September 1993)