Captain America #157-159
Issue(s): Captain America #157, Captain America #158, Captain America #159
Cap and the Falcon have returned from their fight in Miami with the 1950s Cap, and Cap is summoned to Commissioner Feingold, who wants Cap to investigate corruption in the police force. Cap agrees, and then Feingold rather mysteriously excuses himself from the room when the building suddenly blows up.
When the Falcon shows up to investigate, he notices someone lurking on a nearby roof, and when he investigates he finds a new villain called the Viper, who has his elevator speech ready.
I'm really torn about this guy. A guy with a marketing background becoming a super-criminal is an interesting prospect...
...but he really lays it on thick (i'm assuming Steve Gerber is responsible for his dialogue).
In any event, he's got a deadly poison.
But it turns out Cap wasn't killed by the explosion and he shows up to continue the fight.
Cap has Viper beat, but he lets him go in exchange for an antidote for Falcon. Viper crosses Cap when his back is turned, though, and both heroes are poisoned.
Viper rather confidentially leaves the antidote laying on the roof.
Cap tries to get Redwing to bring the antidote but the bird either won't listen to anyone but Falcon or just isn't trained for a task like that (it's a topic Falcon will bring up a few more times during this arc, saying that he needs to train Redwing more).
But Cap makes an effort and gets the antidote himself, and gets it to Falcon in time. The antidote is incredibly quick working, and a little later Cap is thinking to himself that he's feeling better - and stronger - than ever.
And he does indeed exhibit super-strength although it fades when a group of disgruntled cops, including former sergeant Brian Muldoon, attack Cap when he's in his Steve Rogers persona. Muldoon (claims that he) thinks Rogers is the "Cowled Commander" that is the head of the corruption in the police force, since Rogers was always coming and going as he pleased.
While Cap is dealing with Muldoon, the Falcon tracks down the Viper. He's still got some antidote left, so he's prepared for the poison, and Redwing makes sure he doesn't try anything new.
However, Viper says he doesn't know the identity of the Cowled Commander, only that a crime-wave is about to start.
Meanwhile, Steve Rogers manages to break out of the bonds the ex-cops put him in, exhibiting strength that he's never had before. Not really wanting to get into a fight with the cops who are understandably confused, Cap just leaves. He immediately stumbles upon a fight between more police and the super-villain team that Count Nefaria once assembled to fight the X-Men: Scarecrow, Eel, Plant-Man, and Porcupine.
They hook up with the Viper, who turns out to be the Eel's brother.
The Falcon shows up to help. It's kinda cool to see Redwing take on the Scarecrow's crows.
The bad guys manage to escape, in part due to the bunglings of the police commissioner, which makes Captain America suspicious. Luckily, Redwing is able to track the crows and find their lair.
Sharon and Leila show up, along with the suspended cops that captured Steve earlier. They all want to go with Cap and the Falcon, but the duo blows them all off.
As they're leaving, the Falcon says if they let her come they'd have to let them all come.
I don't know what's wrong with saying "The trained SHIELD agent can help us fight super-villains but the rest of you can't", but what do i know?
Turns out Cap and the Falcon don't really need any help anyway, especially since it's clear that Cap definitely has super-strength now.
It's now confirmed that the Viper's venom has had a reaction with Cap's super-serum, and now Cap's super-strong. The super-villains are disposed of, and their leader turns out to be Sgt. Muldoon, who was leading the attack on Steve Rogers as a red herring.
Muldoon had previously been in the "tough but lovable" category so it's odd to see him turn out to be the bad guy here. The idea was the Muldoon wanted to stir up crime so that the public would turn to the police for law & order, which fits with the theme of the stories Englehart has been doing, but it comes a bit out of left field for the character. The fact that Muldoon had been drawn to look like Kirby might even make it a little insulting, although i'm sure no harm was intended.
On to the major development of this arc: Captain America shouldn't have "super" strength. This development actually works out pretty well as a temporary thing (and when the strength eventually fades away Cap's reaction is handled fairly well by Jim Shooter in the Avengers), but i'm sure at the time it was intended as a permanent change, and it's really just not right for the character, who is supposed to represent the pinnacle of human achievement but nothing more (granted there are problems with that concept even without the super strength, but this just complicates things).
Throughout this arc, the Falcon is debating with Leila Taylor about whether or not he should be working with Cap (Leila incredibly still doesn't know Sam's secret ID) and also getting solicited to work for the crime-boss Morgan.
Morgan is an interesting character in that he's clearly a bad guy but the heroes don't seem to have anything on him and so they have a lot of interactions with him and he even helps them sometimes when it's in his interest. This same sort of relationship will eventually be what Daredevil and Spider-Man have with the Kingpin, but it happened with Morgan first.
This was a fun super-hero brawl, if nothing else.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: According to the MCP, Captain America appears with the other Avengers in Marvel Feature #10 in between the last arc (where he was in Florida) and this one.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Captain America vol. 4 (#159 is an original)
Inbound References (8): show
After wondering about Captain America's shield in your "Avengers 66-68" entry, I was wondering about the Super-Soldier Serum in the Silver Age (say, 1961-1970 or so).
I figured I would raise it here since this entry talks about Captain America's temporary super-strength.
What's the first appearance of the Serum in "modern" (i.e., from 50 years ago instead of 70) continuity?
I ask because it's never so much as mentioned in Cap's early appearances in "Avengers." There's even a funny scene somewhere around "Avengers 13" where Cap and Rick are performing for some teenagers, and Cap tells them that they can be as good as he is if they exercise and live right. ("Rick, turn the car around! I forgot to tell that kid to take steroids and get bombarded with radiation! He'll waste his life doing push-ups!")
I've read a couple of Cap's appearances in "Tales of Suspense" and it doesn't come up there either, at least not through issue 75 or so.
If you were a new reader in the 60's, it would seem like Captain America is simply a gymnast who loves to box and boast about judo all the time.
(I recognize this is a persnickety bit of pedantry, since it's clear from Captain America's athleticism that he's pretty gol-darn amazing. I'm just wondering when, in the Silver Age revival, it was confirmed that this came from a performance-enhancing chemical treatment, rather than him simply being highly motivated, like Daredevil.)
PS. This is a great site.
Posted by: James Nostack | August 21, 2011 8:09 PM
The Super-Soldier Serum was first mentioned in the modern age in Tales of Suspense 63.
Posted by: Michael | August 21, 2011 8:33 PM
Thanks for pointing out these villains were Nefaria's goon squad in X-Men. It's weird: Engelhart not only wrote lots of appearances of the X-amen in this period (that much could be an attempt to restart the franchise) but he had a predilection for X-villains as well, between this squad and Lucifer a few issues later. He gives us the Savage Land Mutates and Magneto in Avengers as well.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 31, 2012 7:08 AM
Despite their loser status, I find the concept of the Eel-Porcupine-Plantman-Scarecrow team to be awesome. It's like someone asked, "What can we do with those Stan Lee created villains which are just awful, but not complete losers?"
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these villain concepts. They've just never been used well, and therefore lack the gravitas of other villains.
I always thought that various "loser" villains had enormous potential - if only writers were willing to invest some effort into them rather than be lazy and try to be cool by making fun of them in the story (like what always seemed to happen to the Trapster). It's one reason I liked how Roger Stern slowly built back up Mr Hyde as a major threat (working him up as menacing in no less than three titles he penned - Cap, ASM, and Avengers). More writers should have done that.
Posted by: Chris | January 1, 2013 10:30 PM
Tom Orzechowski has a letter in #157.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 26, 2013 12:06 AM
Wait...ad exec creates formula that gives people super-strength!? Why didn't he just go into marketing that instead of just becoming a villain!?
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 28, 2013 11:25 AM
@Ataru320: That is not quite what happened. Cap believes that his strength comes from some sort of reaction between the poison and his super-serum (and presumably also the antidote), but we are not even sure about that.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 28, 2013 8:32 PM
Yeah was partially joking there, not to mentioned after I posted it I realized the "Super-Soldier Serum" connection. But still, if someone could recreate that serum (or at least draw out some of Cap's blood during that period to get the chemical reactions at least), money could have been made for at least a temporary super-strength formula...and with Viper being a former ad exec, he could profit prime time.
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 29, 2013 9:04 AM
Really love Viper and all his ad puns.
Posted by: Robert | March 15, 2016 6:53 PM
why give a blowgun to a villain with no mouth?
Posted by: kveto from prague | July 1, 2016 3:51 PM
Don Glut said in Alter Ego #143 that when he was writing the Occult Files of Dr. Spektor, he would occasionally stick Captain America in by using a police officer called "Steve" or "Rogers".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 2, 2016 12:12 PM
Does Commissioner Feingold ever show up again? Besides mysteriously escaping the precinct house explosion that was apparently intended to kill Cap in #157, he cuts off Cap and Falcon with his prowl car in #159, allowing the Porcupine to escape just when they thought they had him nailed for sure, and maybe along with the rest of the gang too. Feingold was deeply involved in Cap becoming a cop in the first place, supposedly to investigate corruption on the force. Feingold was also involved in the suspension of Muldoon, who was revealed to be the Cowled Commander in #159. At that point the whole police corruption sub-plot gets dropped without further resolution as to Feingold's involvement. Was Feingold originally intended to be the Cowled Commander, a red herring, or what? The entire subplot, stretching back at least as far as #139, was engrossing for as long as it was going, but disappointing in its summation. This Cap run was overall a better writing performance by Englehart than I expected it to be, but disappointing resolutions and dangling threads like this always give me the feeling that Englehart is just making a lot of things up as he goes along.
Posted by: Holt | January 16, 2018 12:02 PM
Yes, he does.
Posted by: clyde | January 16, 2018 12:49 PM
Thanks clyde. I didn't capitalize and just used the text box search:
Posted by: Holt | January 16, 2018 1:00 PM
You could have just clicked his name in the Characters Appearing at the bottom of the entry.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | January 17, 2018 1:02 AM
Thanks Morgan. I was finally able to figure that out, but like so many things I had to learn it the hard way:-/
Posted by: Holt | January 17, 2018 1:57 AM
I don't know what's wrong with saying "The trained SHIELD agent can help us fight super-villains but the rest of you can't", but what do i know?Yeah, try peddling this to a bunch of NYPD officers and see how far you get. These are cops, not florists; I doubt they'd be so receptive to the idea that Sharon, simply by being a SHIELD agent, can do things they're incapable of.
And, given that the NYPD eventually has its own anti-supervillain task force in Code Blue, they're probably right to be skeptical, IMO.
Posted by: Dan Spector | March 19, 2018 12:15 AM
I like Gerber giving Viper the ad-speak, such as "You're a fool, Falcon! Typical of your demographic segment!"…but on a closer read, doesn't that come off as a bit racist? Unless Sam is obviously part of some other "demographic segment" (bird fanciers? sidekicks?) than just "black guys". Sounds as though Viper is declaring all black men fools.
First the Scorpion, then the 1950s Cap, and now Viper. That's rather a bit much casual racism. And it's three separate writers, too, so it's not an ongoing story…it just seems as though this is the book's way of underscoring "he's evil!" by having the bad guy say something questionable about Sam's "demographic segment". Ugh, stop that. We can tell who the bad guys are without this kind of "help".
Posted by: Dan Spector | March 26, 2018 5:02 PM
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