Captain America #387-392
Issue(s): Captain America #387, Captain America #388, Captain America #389, Captain America #390, Captain America #391, Captain America #392
...and some characters have changed their names (Fera is now Ferocia! Jackdaw is now Blackbird!). But due to the number of characters and obvious space restrictions, few characters gets enough screen time to highlight their changes or to even merit being here at all.
The one in the purple and white costume with the white mask in the first scan above is Mysteria. Her only appearance is in this arc. I'm pointing her out because she'll be mentioned in a later story (Vagabond will pose as her sister in the USAgent mini-series).
The group is led by a new character named Superia.
And i have to keep reminding myself that she is a new character. I already get the Red Skull's daughter, Sin, aka Mother Night, confused with the other Mother Night, aka Suprema, who is currently the Skull's "girlfriend" (and is appearing in the back-ups in these issues). Superia is neither of those characters. This note is mostly for myself, since i get them all mixed up.
Superia has a plot worthy of Man-Killer (who surprisingly does not appear in this story). With help from the super-geneticist Deadly Nightshade, she wants to sterilize all the women in the world except for the super-villains on her boat, thus ensuring that the future of Earth will become that of of Thundra's Femizon dimension. On top of that, she has the ability to turn men into women, a fate almost inflicted upon Captain America and Paladin, who come to Superia's boat to rescue Diamondback, Asp, and Black Mamba, who we saw were rescued by MODAM in the back-ups from last arc after the Serpent Society kidnapped them. Anaconda, one of the Serpent kidnappers, is also brought to the boat; after all, she is a woman too.
Diamondback winds up getting into a fight with Snapdragon; it turns out that they both trained under the Taskmaster and there was a grudge between them.
The fight ends with Diamondback nearly drowning, and she resolves after this to give up her life of action.
Cap learns from the male Serpent Squad characters that were attacked by MODAM that a MODOK-like creature is what attacked them. He therefore goes to AIM, who is now acting as a legal organization in the country of Boca Caliente. He meets an exec named Alessandro Brannex, who denies knowing anything about a new MODOK (although Cap can tell that he's lying).
Brannex, who also appeared in Quasar #9, will later turn out to be the Super-Adaptoid.
Here is a shot of Paladin shooting up MODAM's "exhaust pipe".
Paladin is actually highly effective, especially at the start of this arc. To the point where Captain America pales by comparison, and yet still takes a condescending tone towards him.
A lot of butts in this story. For all that this story is full of super-powered women, it's not exactly empowering.
Here's your group shot opportunities.
Mind control would be the best explanation for some of these characters appearing here (Frenzy?!) but we don't see Asp and Black Mamba, newcomers to the ship, subjected to anything, and they are given free reign from the start. The other villains might not know exactly what Superia is up to, but they don't object to being there. We did also see that the characters are given cash when they are invited, but i don't see that being a compelling reason for some of the characters here (Ion?!).
And Superia does make an earnest pitch to the characters, albeit very late in the story (issue #391), after they've all been hanging out together for a while and fought to capture Captain America and Paladin.
There are some weak objections to her plan.
But no one walks out when they hear it.
Even if you can bring yourself to believe that it makes sense for all these characters to be here, there's still a basic structural problem. There are simply too many characters to do any of them justice. Franky, any story with Pink Pearl has to at least explain what the fuck she is doing there. And that's true of a lot of these characters.
And you have to love that there's a mall on the boat. Ladies have to go shopping!
Captain America and Paladin are rescued from their sex change operations by Black Mamba and the Asp. Hilarious that the villains kept the good guys' masks on.
After that, they try to disguise the men by giving them their costumes.
Yeah, that isn't fooling anyone.
Odd exchange where Cap calls Superia a female Dr. Doom, but Superia knows that Cap is just trying to get her goat.
The main story isn't really concluded. Cap, Paladin, and the Serpent ladies escape Superia's ship after stopping her sterilization plan, but Superia isn't captured and Cap doesn't go back with the Avengers to catch the other villains on her ship, even though the Vision and Sersi show up at the end to pick Cap and the others up.
The back-up has Red Skull and his "Skeleton Crew" (Crossbones, Mother Night, Machinesmith) getting captured by a new team of German super-heroes and being taken to Germany for war crime trials. The leader of the group is a new character, Hauptmann Deutschland.
And with him are Blitzkrieg (now Blitzkrieger), a character seen previously in the background of some panels of things like Contest of Champions...
...and Zeitgeist, who will later turn out to be the same Zeigeist that appeared in Alpha Flight #78 and also the weirdo character Every-Man (but none of that is apparent in this story, where he appears to be, and was probably meant to be, a new character).
I take notes as i read these comics, and when i first saw Hauptmann Deutschland i just drew a sad face. And that's basically how i feel about all these issues. The idea of the Red Skull being put on trial for his days as a Nazi is actually potentially interesting, but the main stories in these issues put me in a bad mood. In any event, more opportunity to talk about that with the next arc.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This arc starts with Captain America investigating the wreckage of Diamondback's apartment, after the Serpent Society's attack on it from the back-ups from last arc. It's clearly meant to take place not long after the attack (the police have allowed Captain America to take a first look around the ruins before going in themselves), so this shouldn't take place too long after the back-up from that arc. It had been "two weeks" since Captain America last saw Diamondaback, which was in Captain America #380-382.
Quasar is not available to help out in this story because he's busy with Quasar #19-25. Sersi is sent to look for him. Quasar actually returns a few pages into Quasar #26 (which is an Infinity Gauntlet tie-in, although there is a gap between his return to Earth and the rest of the story). At the very end of this arc, Quasar isn't shown but it's said that he's helping dismantle Superia's rocket off panel. So this story takes place concurrently with Quasar #19-26. That concurrency is also what allows Dragonfly to appear here even though she returns to Earth in Quasar #20.
The Red Skull back-up skips issue #392 but will be the main story for #394. If they are going to skip an issue, i feel entitled to place as much space between this arc and the next one as i need, and i do need a fair amount, due to dependencies stemming from the fact that this arc takes place concurrently with Quasar #19-25 (and part of #26). Hauptmann Deutschlan initially disguises himself as one of the goons that Taskmaster sends to the Red Skull for training purposes (i.e. so the Skull can kick their faces in). The back-ups end with Machinesmith breaking out of the chair that he's been tied to, but that scene is repeated at the beginning of issue #393, so call it a flash-forward with the Skeleton Crew having been imprisoned for an indefinite period of time prior to that scene. The MCP give the Taskmaster a behind-the-scenes appearance but there's no reason that he has to be active at this time (i.e., he could still be laying in a hospital after his appearance in Daredevil #292-293). His goons could be sent by an administrator, or per a regular schedule.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (14): show
This is the point where I jumped off. Not sure which particular issue it was, but it was midway through this story.
I'd held out hope Gruenwald was spinning his wheels and biding time the past few issues and would get back on track, but the cliffhanger of "I'm going to turn them into women" told my he had completely lost it.
I would Byrne-steal a few issues here and there over the years to check in and see if things improved, but it seemed the worst elements of this story (Paladin, the Snapdragon plot, etc) stuck around long after this arc and the plots that had worked were shoved aside.
Meanwhile the book was saddled with the D-listiest of D-lister art, as pretty much anything at Marvel that wasn't X-men or Spider-Man was for the first half the early 90s. By sticking around on covers, I thought maybe Lim would return after Gauntlet, but it wasn't to be.
The cheese may have been tolerable with serviceable art, or subpar art could have been bearable with a decent story, but everything falls apart here.
It's really a shame Gru went out with the bad second half of this run, as his work until this point had been pretty entertaining. Everything he did after 383 was just pissing away his legacy.
Posted by: Bob | October 1, 2015 3:31 PM
I would disagree that the stories mentioned in the beginning were "maybe not so great." They're still some of my favorite stories to this day. (Not defending this one, but...)
Posted by: Thanos6 | October 1, 2015 4:49 PM
I must say that I absolutely hate stories where we have villains teaming up just because they are villains, with no regard to their goals and personalities. That's one of the reasons I hated Bendis' Avengers: he gave us that huge villain army led by the Hood, which consisted of absolutely random collection of villains. It included Dr. Demonicus, of all people, who really had no business being a muscle for the Hood...
The same thing happens here. Arclight? What is she doing there? Is she on loan from Mr. Sinister, or something?
Posted by: Piotr W | October 1, 2015 6:11 PM
That's a brief comment on Superia being a Straw Feminist. I'm disappointed, fnord.
Posted by: Michael | October 1, 2015 9:31 PM
Horrible. What is sad is that there are some interesting kernels of ideas here, but they are just developed terribly. A villain based on very radical feminist ideology could be interesting, but not this. It would have to be a very small outfit - it's just bizarre all these female villains are here. Far better to have a small core of like minded villains along the lines of Man-killer, plus a few hired guns (all female) who are in it only for the money and don't take the politics seriously. Since t hey fight only Cap and Paladin, Superia actually doesn't need all that many goons for a good fight.
Putting the Red Skull on trial for war crimes is a much better idea, but it fails for various reasons. Gruenwald gets a lot of things wrong about German culture at the time, but like many mistakes he accepts it in the letter columns and fixes them. I believe Hauptmann Deutschland later becomes "Vormund". Given modern Germany's fear of appearing nationalistic, no sanctioned German superhero would ever take such a nationalistic sounding name (then again, Blitzkrieger is also in poor taste).
Posted by: Chris | October 1, 2015 9:57 PM
I know this story is silly and has its problems...but I still enjoy it. Its not great, but its fun.
The bit with Cap and Paladin in "drag" is just stupid though. There are two reasons to do such a sequence--either for comedic value, or to play it straight and have it actually be a disguise. This fails at both, since Asp and Mamba's new costumes are so generic that there is nothing about them that seems feminine--and it clearly isn't disguising their gender at all.
Its interesting to note that one of the villainesses raises the idea of raping Cap and Paladin after they've captured them (I can't remember who off the top of my head, but I want to say either Titania or Knockout). That's the first time I can think of seeing the idea of woman-on-man rape being suggested in mainstream comics, outside of the context of love spells and such like the Enchantress.
Posted by: Dermie | October 1, 2015 11:28 PM
Some of the villainesses might be explained by the fact that Superia, unlike a lot of superficially similar straw-feminist villainesses, isn't committing gendercide, but sterilizing all the women that aren't on her boat. Which suggests she and Gruenwald don't have a clue how genetics actually works, but it does mean any villainesses that want their genetic line to be passed on need to join her if she asks, regardless of their personal philosophy. Villainesses with boyfriends like Titania might be more likely to join her given that.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | October 1, 2015 11:31 PM
How on earth does the Everyman end up on a German superteam? Did Gruenwald just create superheroes based on a random German word, then discover that name was already in use by a random character that once appeared in a dangling plotline and decide to merge them?
Posted by: Berend | October 2, 2015 2:52 AM
agree with everything you say here fnord. (Although the shots of the males in their underwear tries to balance out the cheesecake, which wasn't that much actually) Speaking of which, the feminization process was nearly complete when Cap and Pal got rescued. Shouldn't they be feeling a bit more feminie, at least?
the power pagent was beyond dumb.
Posted by: kveto | October 2, 2015 7:57 AM
@Morgan- that would work but the problem is that the villainesses seem to side with Superia BEFORE learning about the sterilization part.
Posted by: Michael | October 2, 2015 8:20 AM
Zeitgeist looks way too much like DC's Clock King.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 2, 2015 9:05 PM
Quick question, fnord12? Is "D" the lowest grade you give? Let me be clear that i'm not generally one to "trip" over grades and ratings for these sorts of things. (It's more about curiosity than "How dare you?" arguments)
I just asks becayse it seems like you really want to give this arc an "F" (and i totally wouldn't blame you), but the ends up recieving what a school would consider a "passing" grade. Did you see something vaguely...redeeming...kinda about this? Again i was just wondering.
And speaking of "Superia" confusion, is this the same chick that Bendis used for the "Dark Reign" storylines?They don't really seem alike (or look alike for that matter), although i think both characters (versions?) were scientists.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | November 17, 2015 12:35 AM
From The Rules page: "F - You will never see this rating because if it gets an F, i've thrown it out." This may be bad, but it's not The Crossing/Sins Past/Countdown to Final Crisis/Scrappy-Doo bad. The search-by-grade in the advanced tool also does not include F or D-.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | November 17, 2015 1:29 AM
Where i went to school we didn't have D minuses. We went from D to F. And yeah, an F comic would be something so bad that i couldn't stand to own it. We haven't come across anything that bad yet; i don't know if i'll ever bring myself to do that.
As for this issue, there are some slightly redeeming qualities. First of all the art is serviceable enough. I wouldn't say it's great, but it's not the worst. And i do give credit to Mark Gruenwald for all the research he did in bringing together this group of female villains, even if i don't think he used that research wisely. And some of the interactions between Cap and Paladin, especially in the beginning of this arc, are kind of fun.
As for Superia, as you note, i get the Superias and Mother Nights and the like confused. But it does seem to be the same Superia. The MCP hasn't fully indexed Bendis' second run of New Avengers yet, but i see that they've tentatively tagged this Superia as the same one that appears in New Avengers #9 (vol 2).
Posted by: fnord12 | November 17, 2015 8:11 AM
Fnord clearly went to a different school from Peppermint Patty.
Posted by: Erik Beck | November 17, 2015 10:40 AM
Yes, it's the same Superia- she's referred to as Dr. Wentworth and Roger Stern has confirmed that she goes directly from Captain America Corps to Bendis's Avengers issues.
Posted by: Michael | November 17, 2015 7:53 PM
Stephan Pastis, the creator of Pearls Before Swine, constantly denigrates his artistic talent and his inability to draw perspective. But he's successful because he's funny, not because of his artistic talent. Yet, Pastis is far better at perspective than whichever artist drew those horrible splash pages of all the villains sitting on folding chairs. It's just horrible.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 3, 2016 9:26 AM
I got a bit nostalgic the last few months and got me some old german comics from my youth. I always loved Gru's run and had it in good memory.... but I think that's mostly bc I've read the second half since now.
Posted by: Multiple Manu | November 24, 2017 3:15 AM
Weird that Man-Killer doesn't show up here at all, isn't it?
Posted by: AF | March 27, 2018 5:18 AM
That's because she was seemingly killed in Marvel Team-Up 107.
Posted by: Michael | March 27, 2018 7:57 AM
Comments are now closed.
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