Characters Appearing: Asp, Black Queen (Selene), Captain America, Crossbones, Diamondback, Fabian Stankowicz, Fourth Sleeper, Hate Monger (Hitler), Jarvis, M'Daka, Machinesmith, Mother Night, Peggy Carter, Thor, Thunderstrike, Tinkerer, Tristam Micawber, Voice
Captain America #369-370
Issue(s): Captain America #369, Captain America #370
Following up on his promise to keep in touch with Diamondback, Captain America visits her colleague, the Asp, who is working at a strip club (Cap got this "intel" from the Avengers' security chief, Michael O'Brien). The Asp initially assumes Cap is there to arrest her, so she blasts him and then tries to escape, but Cap subdues her...
...and gives her the message. The Asp refuses to admit that she knows where Diamondback is, so Cap just tells her to have Diamondback call his hotline if she sees her.
As he's leaving, Cap expresses his disapproval of Asp's downtime activities.
Meanwhile, Diamondback is picking up a new supply of trick diamonds from the Tinkerer. I guess the police didn't have much on him and he was let go after he was arrested in New Mutants #86.
A "dirty old man" comment from the Tinkerer as she pays him for his work.
Diamondback checks her messages and learns from Asp that Cap is looking for him. She then calls his hotline and tells him to meet her outside the Hellfire Club. She knows from Asp that the Red Skull's minions are interested in the Hellfire Club because they're looking for Red Skull after he was attacked by Magneto.
In fact, the Skull's minions, calling themselves the Skeleton Crew, are headed there right now.
Issue #368 implied (really, more than implied) that the Serpent Squad would be the ones checking out the Hellfire Club, but it seems plans have changed, probably to introduce the "Skeleton Crew", which consists of Crossbones, the Voice, Mother Night, and Machinesmith in the body of the Fourth Sleeper. "Skeleton Crew" is kind of a silly name, but i am glad that only one of them is skeleton themed, just like i'm glad that the Red Skull and Crossbones are rarely referred to as "Skull and Crossbones".
We know from our X-Men comics that the only proper way into the Hellfire Club is through the sewers, so that's where the Skeleton Crew goes. They encounter a group of Hellfire Club soldiers...
...as well as the Black Queen.
It turns out that Magneto wasn't actually holding the Red Skull at the Hellfire Club, so the Skeleton Crew is just trying to leave at this point. Diamondback has followed because she wasn't expecting to run into Crossbones and there's still a secret between her and Crossbones that she doesn't want Captain America to know about.
The Voice's power proves effective against the Hellfire goons, and it does actually work against Selene as well, but she's still able to use her powers.
And she is immune to Mother Superior's powers.
She can also take a crossbow bolt in the heart, even while she's using up her lifeforce.
Captain America shows up as Selene is getting tossed around by the Sleeper. Cap catches her and she's about to drain his lifeforce when Diamondback tosses a diamond from the shadows...
...and then jumps out to warn him.
Mother Superior then turns the Skeleton Crew invisible and they escape while Cap and Diamondback are fighting the Hellfire goons. Selene brings down the ceiling to end the fight, because she doesn't like an Avenger getting too close to the Hellfire Club's inner workings. The collapse leaves Cap and Diamondback buried in rubble.
And that ends the main story in issue #369 but we then go to the back-up featuring the Red Skull, who has also been buried alive. The back-up is really just a dream sequence, with the Skull going mad from solitary confinement and lack of food.
One point of interest is Arnim Zola saying that there's a "loss of fidelity" with every transfer into a new cloned body.
The sequence ends with a vision of Captain America, who urges the Skull to not give up because what's been done to him is vengeance, not justice.
Cap and Diamondback break out of the rubble at the beginning of issue #370. The Skeleton Crew, meanwhile, decide that since their investigation of the Hellfire Club turned up nothing, they're going to get Tristam Micawber, the psychic dwarf that Baron Zemo used during the Bloodstone Hunt, to locate the Red Skull. To find him, Tristam needs a personal effect of the Skull's, and Mother Superior pulls out one of his ties, which the Skull once left in her quarters.
Tristam is able to trace the Skull to Bergen County, New Jersey, but the effort causes him to either have a heart attack or faint (both possibilities are raised, but either way this is Tristam's last appearance). The Crew digs up the trapdoor to the bunker that Magneto trapped the Skull in, and Crossbones locates him.
The Red Skull is alive, but he's lost the will to live and asks to be taken home to Skullhouse to die. Crossbones tries to cheer him up by bringing him through his trophy room.
This doesn't work, but the Red Skull asks to see Captain America one last time before he dies.
Meanwhile, Captain America has taken Diamondback to the Avengers' current subbasement base and left her to play cards with the support staff while he meets with Eric Masterson to discuss the architectural plans for the rebuilding of Avengers headquarters. But the activity in Skullhouse triggers an alarm, so Cap and Diamondback go to investigate.
After fighting their way through some deathtraps (nice pose, Diamondback)...
...they find the Red Skull on his death bed. Mother Superior is using her powers to make the Skeleton Crew look like health care workers.
Seeing his old enemy rekindles his hatred, and therefore his will to live.
Captain America then just turns around and walks out, looking shellshocked.
It's worth observing that of the women depicted in this story, the Asp is shown to be a stripper, Diamondback is given the opportunity to pay for her new weapons with sex, the Black Queen is a seductress (i caught my partner Min giving the cover of #369 the hairy eyeball), and Mother Superior is revealed to be not just a valued super-villain minion but a sexual partner for the Red Skull. There's nothing wrong with female characters being sexual, but it's all a bit much especially when there's nothing equivalent for the male characters. In fact Captain America is depicted as a nearly sexless boy scout.
Beyond that, issue #369 was a fun cross-villain battle, but i found #370 to be weirdly sappy, with all the action in the issue (the deathtraps) feeling like filter, and the ending doesn't feel true to me. The idea that Captain America would just walk away from the Red Skull at the end seems completely wrong, regardless of a line inserted into the dialogue for Diamondback saying, "Unless you don't think you have enough evidence to convict him. Yeah, I'll bet that's it! Besides, you know where he lives and works -- you could come back any time, right?" Cap doesn't respond - too spooked by the Red Skull's eyes and the realization that it really is the real Red Skull. I also have to admit that i'm surprised at how short a period it was that the Skull was trapped in the bunker. I had issue #367 because it was an Acts of Vengeance issue, but i never followed this portion of Mark Gruenwald's run in realtime or sought it out until i got to this year for my project. I always kind of assumed that issue #367 was the last we saw of the Red Skull for a while. Him coming back 3 issues later kind of dilutes the impact of Magneto's actions. Too bad Magneto didn't put a tracker on him or something just in case, and show up in the middle of issue #370 to kill him this time or something.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 178,800. Single issue closest to filing date = 164,400.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: It's been "weeks" since Captain America last saw Diamondback in issue #365.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
good issues. helps show how Diamondback was able to hang with Cap in the fighting department.
Crossbones sure goes above and beyond what would be expected of a paid henchman.
Cap's little confrontation with Asp shows his opinions well, he doesnt approve of her choice morally but understands her right to choose.
Posted by: kveto | April 23, 2015 4:08 PM
Funny, I was wondering the same thing about Diamondback's hair that Tinkerer voiced.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 23, 2015 7:01 PM
Fnord, I think the problem is that Gruenwald was unaware of the Assassin Nation Plot. As we'll see in Captain America 393, the FBI knows where the Skull is but they have no evidence to arrest him on. The problem is that in the Assassin Nation Plot, the Skull was photographed and caught on tape admitting to murder. So Gruenwald's idea that they can't do anything against the Skull for lack of evidence doesn't work.
Posted by: Michael | April 23, 2015 7:39 PM
I love Ron Lim's rendition of Diamondback. He made me fall in love with the character. I love every issue of Captain America that Lim drew.
Posted by: Steven | April 24, 2015 11:38 AM
Compared to his previous appearances, the 4th Sleeper seems to have contracted Liefeldrocephaly.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 25, 2015 4:00 PM
I always get Mother Night/Suprema, Mother Superior/Sin and Superia confused. Does Marvel really need three skull-cap wearing women with "Super" names?
Posted by: Berend | April 28, 2015 12:50 AM
Crossbones really does win Devoted Lackey of the Year.
I agree with Steven - the Lim art is really good. I can't believe Cap was getting this art while AWC was making do with whoever they could grab off the street after Byrne left.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 2, 2015 8:59 PM
Comments are now closed.
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