Captain America #393-394
Issue(s): Captain America #393, Captain America #394
As Kveto notes in the comments, Germany did not actually have a death penalty, but it's presented as if the villains will be executed after their trial. Someone from Germany writes in to complain about this (the letter is in issue #400), and the response is, "do not assume that the Hauptmann and crew had official government sanction for executing the Skrull - it's only what they wanted him to believe".
All of the Skeleton Crew were tied to chairs and gagged so that they could "participate" in a trial, but Machinesmith manages to get free and free Crossbones, who takes the prosecutor hostage. The rest of the Skeleton Crew is then freed. At that point the Red Skull declares the trial a sham, claiming that he isn't the original Red Skull.
There is still the matter of escaping the three German super-heroes, but that is achieved thanks to the arrival of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man.
The Avengers say that the Skeleton Crew are American criminals, and they are going to take them back to the US for trial. After the villains are recaptured...
...the German super-heroes reluctantly allow them to leave. And that actually ends the backup/prologue.
It turns out that the Avengers are really bioplastoids created by Arnim Zola. After Zola's Primus, these bioplastoids are named Secondus, Tertius, and Quatrus. I would have went with Faith No More, Jane's Addiction, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The Quinjet that they are in is actually Doughboy.
Meanwhile, Captain America is saying goodbye to Paladin at Avengers mansion. Cap also tells Asp and Black Mamba that he "misjudged" them, because "despite your dubious backgrounds, you both came through when push came to shove". Black Mamba tells Cap that he owes her a new costume, and then both Serpent ladies leave with Paladin. Diamondback, now a blond, stays behind. She tells Cap what she told her friends last issue, that's she's no longer interested in being a super-person any more.
It's not the intent, but the scripting makes it sound like Cap is more interested in learning if she was raped.
Jarvis sees Cap with Diamondback and thinks to himself that in all his years he's never seen Cap display affection like this. So when Bernie Rosenthal shows up to talk to Cap, Jarvis sends her away.
Cap has a lot going on. Bernie wants to talk to him, Fabian Stankowicz has a new invention he wants to show him, John Jameson has seemed to vanish, and a Hauptmann Deutschland is on the phone wanting to know about how the transfer of the Red Skull is going. Cap doesn't know anything about that thing, or who Hauptmann Deutschland is, and says so, and Deutschland hangs up without an explanation.
Meanwhile, the Red Skull is deciding that his current headquarters in Washington DC is too public (with the Hauptmann Deutschland attack being the last straw). He's jealous of the Kingpin, who seemingly operates more openly (although the Kingpin is actually working towards greater legitimacy in Daredevil at this time). But for now he decides that he needs to evacuate the building, and sets that in motion.
Sure enough, Captain America later arrives at the headquarters, because of Hauptmann Deutschland's call earlier. Cap is still under the weird impression that the "current" Red Skull is officially a non-criminal, so to investigate the building he'd have to break and enter (using a decoder key, the invention that Fabian wanted to show Cap earlier).
But Hauptmann Deutschland (i wish i knew German so i could find a way to abbreviate that instead of typing the whole thing out every time. How about the Hauptmann?) is also at the Skull's HQ, and the Hauptmann assume Cap is the Skull's doppelganger again, so they get into a Misunderstanding Fight.
Beat you what, too!
The Hauptmann eventually decides he's wasting time fighting the Red Skull's guard and leaves the fight to look for the Skull. But he finds that the Skull has (seemingly) been killed by the Scourge.
Cap searches the building and finds the dead bodies of Crossbones and Mother Night as well (he looks under Crossbones' mask and doesn't see anyone that he recognizes). He and Hauptmann Deutschland then exchange notes. Derek Freeman of the FBI (former love interest of Monica Rambeau) also shows up.
Meanwhile, we learn that the Red Skull and his organization have successfully relocated to a mountain hideout. Here he is meeting with his "division chiefs". Splitting a double-page splash in half for readability:
I'm kind of shocked to see Strucker among the "division chiefs". Based on their conversations in the Nick Fury series, he and the Red Skull seem more like partners that had formed a loose alliance. It never seemed like Strucker was working for the Skull. Maybe Strucker doesn't realize that he's just a division chief in the Skull's mind, but getting sandwiched between Arnim Zola and Minister Blood would probably give him a clue.
Speaking of Minister Blood (aka Malachi Scarbo), it's interesting to see him a chief. He and Mother Night used to be partners. I don't know if her inclusion in the Skeleton Crew is a promotion or demotion compared to being a division chief, but at this moment it feels like a demotion because she and the Red Skull just had a fight prior to Skull entering this closed door meeting without her.
Regarding the Watchdogs, i assume that there is a "we" when there should be a "he" in his dialogue, and that does confirm that the local chapters of the Watchdogs aren't aware that the Red Skull is behind them. It does seem odd that "Watchdog Prime" isn't aware that his group is supposed to look like a grassroots organization, but i assume that's really exposition for the reader's benefit, and it's not badly done.
Also note that this scene belatedly marks the off panel death of Black Abbot, Lionfang, and the Wrench. Sad to hear about Black Abbot, just because he appeared in some Marvel Team-Ups during my formative years. Anyway, the Red Skull kills that Scourge for trying to hide the fact that he didn't kill all his targets, including the Shocker.
I mentioned that the the Red Skull was fighting with Mother Night. That gets worse later on.
Red Skull missed his calling as a cast member of Mad Men.
He also gets annoyed with Crossbones and winds up kicking him off the team.
The subject of their dispute is Viper, who the Skull wants to recruit. Mother Night's objection is depicted as at least partially due to jealousy, but everyone seems to agree that she is too unstable to work with the group. It seems like the Red Skull has that figured out, though.
Meanwhile, Diamondback wants to be Captain America's secretary!
And Gruenwald is doing his best to work up a love triangle.
I really don't need this. This book is getting weird.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: As i mentioned in the Considerations for the last arc, the back-up in issue #391 ended on a cliffhanger, with Machinesmith escaping from the chair he was tied to, and the story here opens with that scene. To avoid cutting up the issues, calling the last scene in last issue's back-up a flash-forward, with a gap in between where the Skeleton Crew are held prisoner. The gap allows time for issue #393 (which had no back-up) to take place, but not too much time should pass between entries and Captain America and the others that were in the Superia story shouldn't appear elsewhere, since they are all together at Avengers Mansion at the beginning of issue #393.
Quasar has his new costume here but that's not a surprise since Quasar #19-25 took place concurrently with Captain America #388-392 and Quasar appeared (off panel) in Cap #392 after he got back from that story. The MCP split this up so that the second half of issue #394, after Cap and Hauptmann Deutschland part ways but before Diamondback asks Cap to be his secretary, takes place after Infinity Gauntlet. It is actually in the second half of #394 that Quasar and Sersi appear (in a training session).
The back-up story in issue #394 continues directly in #395, which means i have to split it into a separate entry.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showArnim Zola, Asp, Baron Von Strucker, Bernie Rosenthal, Black Mamba, Blitzkrieg, Burner (Crucible), Captain America, Crossbones, Curtiss Jackson (Power Broker), Derek Freeman, Diamondback, Doughboy, Fabian Stankowicz, Fourth Sleeper, Hauptmann Deutschland, Jarvis, Machinesmith, Madame Hydra (Viper), Mother Night, Paladin, Peggy Carter, Quasar, Red Skull, Scarbo, Scourge III, Secret Empire Agent Number Seven, Sersi, Sin, Taskmaster, Vision, Zeitgeist (Every-Man)
"Cap is still under the weird impression that the "current" Red Skull is officially a non-criminal"
Posted by: Michael | October 4, 2015 12:13 PM
I'm not exactly sure why the Skull would be behind the Scourge program, if that's what we're to believe at this point. Marvel Universe Update 89 said purpose of the organization was to rid the Skull of possible threats to him, but with the possible exception of Albert Malik (and even that's debatable), but I can't think of a single Scourge victim who could have plausibly or coherently represented a threat to the Red Skull or his organization.
I think this was just Mark Gruenwald saying "Red Skull is behind everything!" without thinking it through.
Posted by: mikrolik | October 4, 2015 12:30 PM
Many problems with this issue and its depiction of the Skull. It also requires a deal of stupidity among law enforcement officials for the plot where the "Avengers" pick up the Skull to work. This would be fine in an early Silver Age book, but completely fails in the time it was published.
Gruenwald seems capable of only producing one good back at one time, with the other book written on automatic. I think the Executive Editor simply has too much work to do. Worse, as Exec Ed, he is likely not being properly edited - after all he is his own bosses' boss.
Posted by: Chris | October 4, 2015 1:11 PM
Bringing Bernie back served no purpose whatsoever and was problem number 3,875 of things going wrong with the book at this time.
I still feel bummed seeing such a great run coming apart almost overnight. Lim's departure was the real tipping point, though.
The other problems could have been tolerated a little longer with a better artist on the book.
Posted by: Bob | October 4, 2015 1:26 PM
This has to be basically a rogue Scourge, as the Gruenwald scripted (if I recall) U.S. Agent miniseries shows that it was founded for genuine vigilante purposes. How I rationalize it is that after the real Scourge debuted, the Skull either got a Scourge agent to defect or created a new one and used him to both settle old scores and continue Scourging (this is at a point in time when the real Scourge group seems in disarray). He kills Malik not because Malik is a threat, but just because he hates the dude. He also could have conceivably killed the Hate-Monger android (another old score to settle, although it wasn't the same Hate Monger he met).
My guess is the Skull has the Scourge go after super-villains to both give Cap something to chase after to waste his time and confound him, as well as perhaps drive up villain paranoia and activity (perhaps gambling that desperate villains will do desperate, destructive things). He also perhaps could conceivably get villains under his thrall eventually if they seek "protection" (like he'll later bring in Blackwing, Cutthroat, and the dufus Jack O'Lantern--those are all Scourge bait guys).
Posted by: MikeCheyne | October 4, 2015 1:28 PM
"After Zola's Primus, these bioplastoids are named Secondus, Tertius, and Quartus. I would have went with Faith No More, Jane's Addiction, and Red Hot Chili Peppers."
Sad to say, Red Hot Chili Pepper is the name of a Stand in Morioh Town, controlled by a rocker and everything. But hey, at least it wasn't named Killer Queen or else we'd all be disappointing.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 4, 2015 1:50 PM
Poor Viper looks so miserable... ;)
Posted by: Piotr W | October 4, 2015 4:47 PM
So the Skull got the idea to recruit Viper when he was yelling "Wipe! Wipe! Wipe!" no doubt switching his "w" for "v"s.
Posted by: kveto | October 4, 2015 10:37 PM
The Viper non-story that emerges from the Skull recruiting her is baffling to me, as if Gru just forgot what he was doing. When she eventually gets to fulfill her wildest nihilist fantasies, it turns out to be not very ambitious -- definitely not as ambitious as turning the president into a snake-man! -- and the Skull balks and pulls the plug. Why the setup just to go nowhere?
It raises the alarming prospect the the setup, with its glimpse into the sex lives of the supervillains, is the point. On some weird level, Gru has decided to make Cap a romance comic for the grim 'n' gritty era.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | October 5, 2015 12:26 AM
... I'd have no problem with a comic book exploring the romances and the sex lives of supervillains, actually :)
Come to think about it, why don't we have romance comics anymore? They used to sell decades ago, right?
Posted by: Piotr W | October 5, 2015 1:38 AM
If I recall, Marvel paid for Gru to visit Germany to research this story. You think somewhere in his research he'd learn that Germany, like all EU countries, doesn't have a death penalty and that Blitzkrieger and Captain Germany would be pretty unlikely good guy names. (Of course Zeitgeist is a cool name)
Posted by: kveto | October 5, 2015 6:49 AM
Vision should be tagged as appearing (Captain America #393, Pg. 17, Vision is piloting the Quinjet Cap gets out of)
Posted by: AF | March 4, 2016 3:48 PM
Nice catch. Thanks AF.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 4, 2016 4:15 PM
Hauptmann Deutschland can be translated as captain Germany. Greetings from Belgium.
Posted by: Johan Mattheeuws | December 25, 2016 6:33 PM
I wonder if it has ever been clarified if this Doughboy is a recreation of the original or if he has somehow been separated from Primus. Probably the former, since Primus is still shapeshifting in New Warriors before and after these issues.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 31, 2017 12:32 AM
I'll admit that I haven't read these issues or, really, any of the Scourge appearances at all, but I'm wondering if maybe a case couldn't be made that the original Scourge was an outlier, a potential threat that the Red Skull perceived, but he liked the concept and decided to usurp it for himself, creating a "Scourge program" and retroactively taking credit for the original's terrorist crusade after his death.
Posted by: Jonathon | November 10, 2017 10:15 PM
Comments are now closed.
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