Captain America #281-283
Issue(s): Captain America #281, Captain America #282, Captain America #283
She believes that Viper is her mother, and she thinks to herself that "she's sick -- and needs help". That's a rather enlightened view of the head of a terrorist organization, but i guess when it's your mom...
Anyway, she follows a lead but it brings her to a rather corny snake deathtrap.
While she's fighting the snakes, Viper delivers a retcon about their relationship. She calls Spider-Woman a "manipulator of minds" and then says:
Some weeks after our last encounter, as I lay, drifting through an opium dream, something in my consciousness shattered! A hypnotic wall built within my psyche crumbed!
Spider-Woman takes it for granted that Viper is not currently "drifting through an opium dream", and since she knows that she hasn't been manipulating any minds, it must be Morgan Le Fey. I'm not convinced. I will say that DeMatteis' Viper is truer to the original than Claremont's calm and rational version (when she learns that Spider-Woman escaped her death trap, she shoots the messenger)(why would anyone ever work for her?)...
...but i did like the mother/daughter connection that Claremont established.
Meanwhile, Bucky shows up at Captain America's doorstep, and at this point, after years of villains messing with him, Cap knows what to do when someone looking like Bucky shows up.
It turns out, however, that this is the 1950s version of Bucky, Jack Monroe. Unlike his Captain America counterpart, he's rational. So much so that when he was retrieved by SHIELD after Dr. Faustus was defeated, SHIELD kicked him out after a 3-week reorientation crash course. Now he's got nowhere to go, and isn't fitting in well in modern society.
It's a good move. Captain America's "man out of time" theme was interesting but was never developed to the degree that it could have been, and after almost 20 years of comics it's a little late to be doing anything with it now. But the same theme can easily be applied to Monroe.
It doesn't take long for Cap to get Monroe into a Bucky costume and out on patrol.
They're immediately attacked by the Constrictor, who is working for Viper. And while he doesn't have much luck with Cap...
...some of Viper's goons take advantage of the distraction and zap him from the rear. Bucky is left behind.
Cap is drugged and experiencing hallucinations about his father.
SHIELD Agent Runciter, who led a massacre of Zola's mutates in Captain America #278, has infiltrated Viper's operation. She breaks radio silence to alert SHIELD that Cap's been captured.
Meanwhile, Bernie and Jack go see Sam Wilson about the fact that Cap has been captured. But he's running for office and promised that he'd retire from being the Falcon. After getting into a fight (Sam calls Jack a "racist refugee from the 1950's"), it's suggested that they contact SHIELD.
Fury also gets information from Spider-Woman about Viper's activities, but she declines to help due to "a few very pressing problems of my own".
With no one else to help, Jack suggests himself, and Fury gets the idea to dress him up as Nomad, since Viper was handed a defeat by Cap when he was in his Nomad identity and she never learned that it really was Captain America.
Unfortunately, Cap is brainwashed enough at this point that when Nomad attacks Viper's base, Cap leads him into an ambush.
Meanwhile, Dum Dum Dugan has a heart attack.
He's captured and drugged and dressed up in an outfit reminiscent of his circus-strongman shirt from the Howler days.
Luckily, the Constrictor has decided that Viper's scheme, which would pretty much kill the entire world with poison, is a bit too crazy for him. He's just a simple mercenary; he wants to earn a buck, not rule the planet, and certainly not kill everything on it. So he helps Cap out of his drug-induced delirium and also fights Viper directly.
In the big balloon-fighting finish...
...Nomad is forced to take a shot that puts Cap at risk and definitely (seems to) kill the Viper. He's unusually hesitant considering that Golden Age characters generally killed without qualms all the time.
It's a good story. The introduction of the new Nomad is promising, and the character development for Constrictor is nice. I don't know why the Viper/Spider-Woman retcon was made so soon after the initial revelation or why it wasn't even done in Spider-Woman's own book, and it's just ambiguous enough to cause confusion.
There's something about this creative team's handling of Bernie's religion that rubs me the wrong way. In the Stern/Byrne run, we knew that she was Jewish but there was nothing more to it than that. In this run, the fact that she's Jewish seems to come up a lot. For example, in issue #281 she makes a joke that since she helped Cap with Primus recently, she should get a cape and start fighting crime as "Bernie, the Hebrew Wonder!". There's nothing inherently wrong with any of that, it's just that it feels like she's gone from "a woman who happens to be Jewish" to "the Jewish woman". It occurs to me that this may be part of the "every issue is someone's first" effort, ensuring that Bernie's religion is one of her characteristics that DeMatteis wants to make sure readers know about, but it feels like an odd shift. I also find Zeck's version of her to be off, like she's deliberately drawn with harsher features, not stereotypically Jewish (whatever that is) but definitely different than John Byrne's Bernie.
Unrelated to that, Steve asks Bernie if she slept with Primus when he was pretending to be Steve, and Bernie straight up says, "no". That's not how i read the scene in the previous arc.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this between Avengers #230-231. Spider-Woman has to appear before Spider-Woman #50, where she dies for a while, but preferably after #48-49 where it becomes clear that her friends are disappearing, due to the fact that she tells Nick Fury she can't help with Cap's capture (and there's a reference to Spider-Woman #50).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): showBernie Rosenthal, Captain America, Constrictor, Dum Dum Dugan LMD, Falcon, Gail Runciter, Madame Hydra (Viper), Nick Fury, Nomad, Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)
Later backup stories in the 1988 "Evolutionary War" Annuals resolved the issue of Jessica's mom by having the High Evolutionary and Jessica's father find the dead body of Jessica's mother. The story was told from the Evolutionary's perspective, so it can't be written off as Viper being crazy or lying.
Posted by: Michael | November 20, 2011 7:08 PM
The Viper/Spider-Woman resolution was probably rushed through due to the impending cancellation of Spider-Woman's book.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 21, 2011 12:49 AM
FNORD - Didn't a later retcon reveal that Dum Dum Dugan was an LMD all this time? If so, how and why would he have a heart attack? Was this a cruel trick on Nick's part to foster the belief that he was real? Or was it simply that the LMD was malfunctioning (perhaps due to old age)?
Posted by: clyde | March 8, 2015 2:20 PM
@ Clyde - I vote we assume that by the time fnord is able to get to that story that they'll have ret-retconned it out of existence and we can ignore it. In fact, I think we should treat all the "(random person) is a Skrull" that way too! We'll use Nathan Adler's term and call it a FANFIX.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 8, 2015 11:17 AM
Dum Dum Dugan is a Space Phantom with a heart condition :)
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 18, 2016 4:47 PM
Eighteen months or so after the "Bucky Returns" issue where he explains that he survived because the gun was "only" loaded with blanks, actor Jon-Erik Hexum fired a blank round from a gun at his head. Skull fragments from the impact penetrated his brain and several days let, after hours of surgery, he was declared brain dead.
This issue immediately springs to mind when I think of stories that wrongly implied that "blanks are harmless" but I'm sure there were a ton of examples from television and movies as well. A blank round fired close to a person can still cause serious injury and in that original story the 1950s Cap was standing close enough to Jack Monroe that it should have been the case there as well.
I can't really fault Marvel for letting that explanation go out, but given how much publicity Hexum's accident received, I'd be very surprised if there were a similar "blanks are harmless" example published after early 1985 (Hexum's accident was in October of '84).
Posted by: Dan H. | April 23, 2017 12:08 PM
When did Cap find Bucky impostors before? Once in Tales of Suspense #89, another time in Captain America #131-132. Jack himself was integral to the story in #153-156. Anywhere else?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 6, 2017 8:22 PM
There was another one at the climax of Captain America #107.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | November 7, 2017 3:57 AM
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