Captain America # 319 “Overkill”
Captain America # 319 “Overkill”
This book along with the rest of the Copper Age Cap books are available in a variety of formats, the easiest is probably the online subscription with Marvel Unlimited. I’ve had one for a long time and it’s well worth buying annually. The format I’m reading for this issue is the comic itself, which I bought through eBay along with some others in my ongoing pursuit of collecting the run.
All in all, it was a good read, Cap is still roaming the countryside with a Ham radio network feeding him leads. He seems to have ditched the helmet debuted in #318. The side story with the snake-themed labor union, The Serpent Society is advanced as they react to the death of Death Adder at the hands of Scourge. The issue also prominently features Diamondback as she and Cap team-up to find the killer.
The cover is pretty dramatic with cap advancing in the foreground laid over a photostatic looking backdrop of villain’s heads looking mostly shocked and a message proclaiming, “If Cap can’t stop Scourge, every supervillain on this cover will die!”
Opening it up wide with a splash page depicting the titular hero slinging his shield straight at the viewer. We’ve jumped right into the action from the wrong side. Changing perspective on the following page, it’s a minor villain named Backlash. The two quip for a moment but Cap quickly takes him down and hands him off to the police.
As an aside, I want to mention, Cap comes off a little uncharacteristically arrogant and aggressive. I don’t know if that was a meaningful choice, but it hit me as odd. In any case, he seems to calm down a bit when he is talking to Blacklash after. The conversation reveals the villain expects to be killed by a serial killer that targets “high profile costumed criminals”. It’s cute that he sees himself and the other victims that way.
The clue is enough for Cap to see the connection to a recent attempt on Constrictor, back in # 311. Immediately following this revelation the scene cuts to the secret headquarters of the Serpent Society to a mournful scene as Sidewinder has returned with their fallen comrade, Death Adder. The group decides they will avenge their friend and find the killer.
Cutting back to The Bar With No Name, favorite night spot to many street-level costumed bad guys. We continue observing the ongoing efforts of Gary Gilbert, once known as Firebrand. Gary has lately been meeting with every small-time crook and hitman with a codename he can find. His aim is to organize them all to stop the threat of the serial killer Scourge, who has been targeting criminals just like them. After the brief check-in, we get back to the Captain underway in his own investigation.
One thing I really enjoy about this era of Cap is the long ongoing plots and recurring characters. It’s definitely thanks to Mark Gruenwald’s lengthy time as writer on the book. It’s the same advantage all the Chris Claremont stuff in the eighties has. The consistency of the setting. This stuff with the Serpent Society and Scourge has been developing for the last year of the book and will continue to evolve in this organic way as we go forward. It’s very rewarding without being an event, you’re just in the world of Captain America with the best view possible. Gruenwald has a way of treating all his characters with realistic concerns so you see Cap struggling with day to day work and relationship troubles as well as seeing the villains and their point of view.
Returning to the book, we get a montage covering a few points, Cap gets a list of recent murders probably committed by Scourge and resolves to stop him. The Serpent Society is busy, questioning Death Adder’s family (seemingly just middle class, grieving people) as well as roughing up and interrogating underworld types they think might know something. We also peek back at the bar to find that of 100 contacted, about 50 guys agreed to Gary’s upcoming meeting.
Suspecting a connection to a villain called Foolkiller, Cap visits the last Foolkiller at a mental institution. The meeting is unproductive. As Cap is exiting the facility, he happens to come across Diamondback. After Diamond convinces him she’s not hostile, the two have a chat. She also convinces him to come with her to her serpent saucer so they can share information and look for Scourge together. Cap is reluctant but Diamond is being very friendly and in fact, we see from her inner monologue, she might be developing a crush on the man.
As the two get to know each other, Diamondback reveals her origin story, wherein her two brothers figure prominently, remember that. It’ll be important 70 or 80 issues from now. After that, Diamond puts all her cards on the table and comes on to Cap in a big way. She goes so far as threatening to crash the ship in a wild flirtatious gambit. Cap calls her bluff and won’t go for it, immediately declaring the partnership over and starting to jump off the ship. Diamond convinces him to let her land first and he leaves.
Cap takes off into a nearby wheat field and she takes off after him, trying to apologize. Cap quickly outpaces her but it’s not long before a gunshot brings him back to find Diamonds been shot. Taking off, he finds the gunman and tackles the figure expecting to find Scourge, but in fact, it’s a farmer trying to scare off trespassers. Once everybody knows whats going on Cap scoops up Diamondback, who isn’t seriously hurt but needs a ride to the nearest hospital. We leave the happy couple there and turn our attention to the big meeting in the bar with no name, already in progress.
The place is full, all the costumed guys are standing around making small talk. Once Gary confirms everybody is there, they have quite a roll call. With it done and everyone present, Gary makes his pitch, suggestions are plentiful as the crowd all shouts at once. Cutting through the den, the everpresent bartender asks to make a suggestion. With everyone’s attention on him, he suggests they all die as he fires two automatic weapons into the crowd. Eighteen more dead at the hands of Scourge.
Next up: Cap vs. Scourge!
This comic was published in 1986, the same year the first Highlander movie came out. I talk about that movie in the first episode of my hit podcast, “I Freaking Love Highlander, Why Don’t You?” Check it out, it’s the first show I’ve ever done and new episodes are out every week.