Captain America #315
Issue(s): Captain America #315
...and the Porcupine for unrelated reasons in Captain America. The Porcupine is especially interesting because he is really the definition of Scourge-bait: a character with a goofy name that has been rarely used since the Silver Age and rarely in a way that made him seem like even a B-list villain. In fact, Gruenwald emphasizes all of that in this issue, making him out to very clearly be a loser. To the point where he runs into Cobra at an AIM base, and the other Serpents make fun of Cobra for even knowing him.
The Serpent Society was at the AIM base to get paid for the MODOK job. Porcupine was there to try to sell his armor. And i love that the secretary is wearing an AIM costume.
Cobra gives Porcupine the Serpent Society's number so that he can also try to sell the suit to Sidewinder. It's a little odd that Porcupine is still trying to sell his suit. In Defenders #128-130, it's said that Porcupine had successfully sold his suit to the Secret Empire, and Professor Power even made a point to ensure that Porcupine got paid for it. But according to this issue, the Porcupine has failed to sell his suit to the Secret Empire as well as a number of other groups.
Sidewinder decides that he doesn't want it because it's not snaked themed...
...which - i've already said that the snake motiff seemed unnecessarily limiting, and here's an example. Couldn't he have just bought it and redecorated it it? We'll learn that the Serpent Saucer ships that the Society uses are actually re-purposed AIM hovercrafts; couldn't they have done something similar with the Porcupine's suit? The real reason the Serpent Society doesn't need a battle suit is because they don't have any non-powered goons; maybe Sidewinder just didn't want to admit that.
Having failed to sell the suit to any villains, the Porcupine calls Captain America's hotline and offers to sell it to him instead, as a "get it off the streets" thing.
But Cap has been trying to hunt down the Serpent Society, and he hasn't been having any luck. So instead of just taking the suit, he kind of bullies the Porcupine into helping him with a sting operation. Porcupine pretends to tie Cap up and then calls the Society and tells them that he's captured him.
I know it's Cap's book, but he's going up against a whole team of super-villains, but he doesn't bring any Avengers as back-up. And considering the way the fight goes, that's a fatally bad decision as far as Porcupine is concerned.
Cap is able to handle himself against the Serpents, although he has to be extra careful due to the fact that many of them use poison.
But while Cap is busy, Diamondback chases after Porcupine (she couldn't bring herself to attack Cap again, because he's "so... manly"). After Cap defeats Rattler, Cottonmouth, and Death-Adder, he rushes after Porcupine, and finds that he's dying. According to the script, Diamondback didn't kill Porcupine; he tripped and fell on one of his own quills. Which is really really sad for him. As he's dying, Cap assures him that he really was a good opponent that he respected, but we all know that's just pity.
Cap takes the captured Serpents to prison, but unlike previous times he waits around to see how they keep escaping. And so he gets his first glimpse of Sidewinder.
(It's hard to reconcile this with the fact that in the Iron Man Legacy continuity insert, Tony Stark tells Sidewinder that SHIELD has a long record on him and even has a way to counteract his teleportation. Iron Man or SHIELD never shared this with Cap or the Avengers?)
The issue ends showing that Cap has hung Porcupine's armor in Avengers Mansion, calling him an "honored foe". That's potentially problematic. Not only is it not really true, but it sets a precedent where villains looking for glory now know that they'll get it by attacking the Avengers. Anyway, this action will be misinterpreted by the Masters of Evil in an interesting way.
Fans of the Porcupine or people who don't like the idea of dumping on older villains just because they haven't been handled well (something i can agree with) may not like some aspects of this story, but the Serpent Society storyline continues to be really well handled. Nice to see Cap having minor victories and defeats with the Society and the continued slow build up, with Cap now seeing their leader for the first time.
We also see this issue how they the handle members that run from battle.
Here's your weepy Bernie panel of the month.
And here's the number to call if you don't like my reviews.
Right now that's the number for The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or so it claims.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Captain America will be seen reacting to the call from the Porcupine in the middle of Avengers #264, so Cap appears in that issue in the middle of this one.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (8): show
This story is the reason why a lot of readers didn't like Rachel dating Cap- after Steve and Rachel started dating, a lot of readers complained that Steve was giving Rachel a Karma Houdini for her role in the Porcupine's death.
Posted by: Michael | November 10, 2013 8:59 AM
do you have any picture with just princess python and her python
Posted by: mike g | May 13, 2014 8:11 PM
Mike G, sounds like you'd want something from a Handbook entry or similar. You should be able to find that with a Google image search.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 13, 2014 9:00 PM
When the Serpent Society leaves AIM headquarters, we see their front organization is Cadence Industries. Cadence was the owner of Marvel at the time.
Posted by: Chris | March 7, 2016 1:09 AM
Possibly when Sidewinder was making his "porcupine isn't a snake" comment, he was being facetious, and he wasn't interested in the suit for other reasons. But your point about the serpent theme being limiting still applies.
Posted by: mikrolik | June 1, 2016 1:12 PM
I guess after the copied Porcupine suits failed to stop the Defenders, the Secret Empire sent the original back and probably demanded a full refund if Prof. Power's check had been sent to him.
Posted by: D09 | July 31, 2016 5:31 PM
Don't know if it's testament to Gru's writing but all along this storyarc, everything you've displayed fnord makes me actually find Sidewinder to be quite likeable. He's a reasonable boss, displays clear vision, isn't uncivil, apparently pays on time, and honors his promise to break out his teammates (who he refers to as "his friends")- this is intriguing stuff I never read in real time so am curious if it's collected in an Epic Collection.
Posted by: Wis | December 11, 2016 2:33 AM
Wis, thats not a bad idea. A trade of Sidewinder's tenure would be fun, starting with MTIO with him getting the funds and ideas to start the society. In general, the Society was fun because it was trying to be different. For a change villains could be loyal to each other. Gru was always better writing villains than heroes.
I feel Porcupine got a good send off here. A story that acknowledged his past and gave him a memorable send off. And its fun to see that there are cliques and a caste system among villains as I presume there is in the real world.
Posted by: kveto | December 11, 2016 5:09 AM
kveto- I didn't mean Sidewinder per se but the entire Serpent Society epic. Update: it looks like there is! I'll order it unless fnord insists on buying us both a copy for the upcoming holidays! But yeah, this was an era of Cap I didn't get to in real-time- I was 7 or 8, and started getting Cap around the "Captain" era- this is stuff I'd like to delve more into. Quick random fact/question: I was exposed to a lot of Marvels I wouldn't generally have found by something my Grandmother used to get me every Christmas and I'm curious if any other readers of fnord's work know what I'm talking about: the JC Penny Christmas Catalog had some kind of 25 random Marvels gift box into the 1990s'- this was a decent exposure to a lot of titles and a fond memory. Not sure when that started or ended, but it was a regular part of my Christmas for a few years as a kid.
Posted by: Wis | December 11, 2016 6:05 AM
Well, the serpent society epic kind of starts with Sidewinder in MTIO when he works for the serpent squad and gets the idea (and funds) for the organization which is why I'd start with those issues (plus they are good issues).
I recall seeing a serpent society trade on amazon at some point. Happy holiday shopping.
Posted by: kveto | December 11, 2016 6:14 AM
Appreciate it Kveto. I shudder to think what Sidewinder and the Society are up to in the *current* Marvel U...
Posted by: Wis | December 11, 2016 6:17 AM
For me, the MU ended in about 1992. Everything that comes after that don't count none.
Posted by: kveto | December 11, 2016 8:05 AM
Same here my friend.
Posted by: Wis | December 11, 2016 8:20 AM
Sidewinder was reformed and retired (c.f. Cap #424). He appeared on a talk show in New Thunderbolts talking about reformation and being an ex-con.
I'm sure they've undone that by now though.
Posted by: AF | December 11, 2016 8:41 AM
In each consecutive appearance of fnord's recaps- I'm right now to where Scourge I is killed- Sidewinder continues to just appear to be civil and competent and sincere in his efforts to create a supportive, productive, and profitable group, albeit made up of a bunch of snake-themed supervillains. It doesn't surprise me he'd appear in such a manner later on. Though I have to wonder if he could avoid being imprisoned for things like sanctioning a hit on Modok.
Posted by: Wis | December 11, 2016 9:49 AM
A really good defense attorney could argue that A) MODOK wasn't human, B) MODOK was the leader of a worldwide terrorist group who was personally responsible for numerous deaths, and C) MODOK subsequently came back from the dead so obviously he's no longer a murder victim.
It's been some time since I read the New Thunderbolts issue where Sidewinder appeared, but I believe it was stated that he had either served his full sentence or was granted parole for good behavior. Perhaps the authorities decided Sidewinder was a very low risk for recidivism. As far as I know, Seth Voelker never did return to crime, and the current Sidewinder is a completely different guy who gained the same abilities courtesy of Roxxon.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 12, 2016 2:29 PM
Cap #424 also suggests that Cap would sponsor Sidewinder's rehabilitation if not offer supportive testimony since he willing turns himself in to face justice.
Posted by: AF | December 13, 2016 8:00 AM
There's a cute callout to this issue in Avengers Annual '98 by Kurt Busiek. There's a scene set in the Avengers trophy room where you can see the Casket of Ancient Winters, several Ultron heads, the Wanda and Pietro dolls from Avengers 181... and the Porcupine suit. I always wondered what the suit was doing there. Now I know.
Posted by: Andrew | March 1, 2017 7:41 AM
What with Fnord currently reviewing the 420s of Captain America (and also the later issues of Quasar), it's crazy how much his early issues seem like the work of a different person.
There's certain tics still in place a hundred issues later, but it seems like the strengths have disappeared while the weaknesses stay on. Obviously not many people have done a hundred issues of the same comic without some deterioration, though with Gruenwald it seems like something else is to blame, the heart seems to have gone.
I like Gruenwald's use of the Porcupine here as a depressive guy with low self esteem. Seems to be a recurring thing of Gruenwald's, best done in D.P.7 with his self-doubting character Dave Landers (who has a history of suicide & mental illness in his family), but also in Cap characters like Armadillo & D-Mam. Gruenwald is normally portrayed as a joker in his personal life but I do feel he must have related to those characters somehow.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | March 1, 2017 3:05 PM
The sad thing is, the Serpent Society is already on the downslope here. Their first and only major high point was killing MODOK. Now, in their next appearance, three of them have their asses handed to them by Cap and Diamondback doesn't even manage to kill Porcupine, he slips up and kills himself. Plus Diamondback is suddenly distracted by her desire for Cap, which is obviously going to cause conflicts with the Society down the road. And they have to kick out Princess Python... which leads to Death Adder getting killed, a murder the Society vows to avenge but plays no part in actually avenging (not that they didn't at least try - the scenes of them roughing up AIM and the Circus of Crime were great).
And it's not much longer before the Viper tears the Society apart from within and Sidewinder has to part company with the group. Under Cobra's leadership, even with a bigger lineup and more time to gain experience working together, they are never as much of a threat as they were in their very first mission.
Posted by: Dan H. | April 16, 2017 12:52 AM
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