For Part One of this series click HERE.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #157 (January 1973)
Title: Veni, Vidi, Vici … Viper
Villain: The Viper
Synopsis: We pick up an unknown number of days after Captain America has returned to New York City from Miami with the Falcon and S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Sharon Carter. The Police Commissioner, who is aware that uniformed cop Steve Rogers is really Cap, relayed a message to Steve to meet him in costume at the 13th Police Precinct building in Hell’s Kitchen.
On his way there, our hero gets ambushed by a trio of armed punks who say that someone called the Cowled Commander ordered them to prevent Cap from reaching his destination. Naturally Cap defeats all three of them.
In a private room at the 13th Precinct the Commissioner informs Captain America that the Cowled Commander is leading a secret group of criminals and crooked cops in an unknown plan. The Commish wants Cap to find out which cops really have gone bad and to clear innocent ones, like Steve Rogers’ antagonistic Sgt Brian Muldoon, who has been suspended pending investigation.
No sooner have the two men worked out their plans than the Commissioner leaves and a bomb explodes, leaving the precinct building a fiery ruin with no sign of Cap. Cut to the office of social worker Sam Wilson, who is secretly the Falcon. Sam and Leila Taylor are having another of their duels of insults, as Leila tries to get a rise out of Sam by implying she finds the Falcon more attractive because he’s a fighter, unlike Sam.
Wilson is annoyed, but is relieved that Leila is oblivious about his dual identity. After Sam and Leila part company, Sam slips into an alleyway and becomes the Falcon. He uses his falconing glove swing-line to swing on over to the plush pad of Morgan, Marvel Comics’ crime lord of Harlem.
On Morgan’s rooftop garden-lounge the Falcon drops in on the crime boss, one of his ladies and some of his gunmen. During their hostile exchange of dialogue Morgan again tries to convince Falcon to join his payroll and again the hero refuses. A phone call informs Morgan that Captain America is apparently among the dead in an explosion at the 13th Precinct.
While the alarmed Falcon swings over to that building, Sgt Brian Muldoon is informed by his Police Captain that the investigation into his conduct is ongoing so he’ll still be on paid suspension. Privately, Muldoon decides to further pursue his suspicions that Steve Rogers is a bad cop because of his frequent absences and seeming dereliction of duty.
At the 13th Precinct the Falcon and Sharon Carter join the police in sifting through the wreckage looking for signs of Cap. After a time, Falcon decides that, since there is no sign of Cap’s shield and since no explosion could have destroyed it, Cap must be playing dead while he tracks down the people behind the bomb.
Swinging around the city looking for clues, Falcon and his bird Redwing are attacked on a rooftop by a supervillain who identifies himself as the Viper. He is as agile as Falcon, wears viper “fangs” on the backs of his hands like Wolverine’s claws and also uses a blowgun with darts that are as poisoned as his “fangs.”
While the pair fight, the Viper mentions that he has been recruited by the Cowled Commander, who wants Captain America and the Falcon dead. The Viper also rants about how, in his secret identity, he is a master of the advertising business but longed for the supervillain life.
Eventually, the villain manages to hit Falcon by throwing one of his poisoned darts at him. As Falc falls to the rooftop in pain, Viper does a Villain Rant about how he spent years specially developing his viper venom that will kill Falcon in minutes.
Suddenly, Captain America arrives, shocking the Viper, who thought he was killed by the bomb he set off. The pair fight it out, with Cap insisting that Viper MUST carry the antidote to his venom with him just in case he accidentally got injected with it himself during a battle.
Our hero gets the upper hand on Viper, who immediately offers a deal. He’ll provide the antidote for Cap to save Falcon if he lets him go. Cap agrees and the Viper tosses the vial of antidote along the rooftop, forcing Cap to lunge for it. The villain uses his blowgun to shoot a poisoned dart into Cap’s back.
Viper boasts that both Cap and the Falcon are as good as dead in minutes and he flees the scene.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #158 (February 1973)
Title: The Crime Wave Breaks
Villains: Crime Wave (Viper, Porcupine, Scarecrow, Plantman and the Eel)
Synopsis: Captain America slowly, painfully crawls to the vial of antidote, then shares it with the Falcon. Slowly, the pair revive and compare notes. Since both Viper and the precinct bomb are tied to the mysterious Cowled Commander, Cap goes off to see if Brian Muldoon might have info on that figure while Falcon scours the city for the Viper.
At the Queens home of Brian Muldoon and his wife, Captain America arrives to question Muldoon, who reveals that the Cowled Commander has been bribing bad cops and killing city officials. Ultimately, Cap brings the conversation to an end and leaves when Muldoon tells Cap he thinks Steve Rogers is either working for the Cowled Commander or IS the Cowled Commander.
While Falcon continues his search, Captain America travels the rooftops of New York City trying to link up with him again. Cap begins to feel his body having strange reactions to the Viper’s poison followed by the antidote.
At length he comes across a half dozen armed bank robbers claiming to be just a small part of the Crime Wave that the Cowled Commander is now unleashing all across the city. Cap totals the men easily, amazed at how much stronger he seems to be.
NOTE: For a time Marvel Comics gave Captain America Spider-Man level strength, explaining that it resulted from the Viper’s venom and antidote mingling with the super-soldier serum in his body to vastly increase the hero’s strength. This higher level of strength will last until Captain America & the Falcon #218 (February 1978), when we are told that the change has worn off.
Back to the story, Falcon takes one of Viper’s darts to a pharmacist who analyzes the unique blend of chemicals in the venom. His records show the name of the man who bought all those drugs recently and he gives the name to the Falcon.
As Falcon swings over to that man’s address, Cap, unable to find his partner, turns back into Steve Rogers and goes home to his apartment, figuring Falcon will call him there eventually. Once at his apartment building, Steve’s body has another passing reaction to his increased power, causing him to pass out.
Brian Muldoon and a cop friend of his emerge from the shadows, pleasantly surprised that they didn’t have to attack Rogers since he fainted on his own. They carry off his body into the night, bragging that they will force him to admit that he is the Cowled Commander.
Back with the Falcon, he invades the home of the man who bought the chemicals in the venom and finds the Viper in costume whipping up another batch to dip his darts in. Falcon defeats the Viper and tries to get the Cowled Commander’s identity out of him, but the villain insists he doesn’t know.
For this issue’s cliffhanger ending, the Viper reveals that he is just one of the supervillains employed by the Cowled Commander – the rest of the team called Crime Wave is now revealed as Iron Man’s old foe the Scarecrow, the Human Torch’s old foes the Eel and Plantman, plus Giant-Man and the Wasp’s old foe the Porcupine.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #159 (March 1973)
Title: Turning Point
Villains: The Cowled Commander and Crime Wave.
Synopsis: Steve Rogers regains consciousness in an abandoned room somewhere in New York City. He has been tied to a chair by Muldoon and Officer Courtney, who say they are keeping Steve imprisoned there until he confesses to being a dirty cop and/or the Cowled Commander.
They leave Steve alone there to sweat it out (it’s a comic book, just go with it). Once they are gone, he uses his new level of super-strength to easily break free of his bonds. Donning his Cap costume, he sets out across the city, leaping from rooftop to rooftop as easily as Spider-Man does.
Soon, Cap realizes that much of the city is being attacked by the Cowled Commander’s goons, who are robbing and looting everywhere they go. Spotting Eel, Porcupine, Plantman and Scarecrow, he takes them all on, relishing being more powerful than ever.
After a time, the Falcon swings by, carrying the defeated Viper tucked under one arm. The Eel, seeing this, reveals in anger that the Viper is his brother. Eventually, the five supervillains realize they are losing and flee.
Cap and the Falcon try to pursue them, but are cut off by arriving cop cars led by the Police Commissioner, who Cap now suspects of being the Cowled Commander. Sharon Carter shows up, wanting to help, but Cap asks her to stay there and keep civilians like Falcon’s gal pal Leila Taylor safe.
After a long search Captain America and Falcon trail the group called Crime Wave to their hideout and attack them. As the battle goes on, the villains maneuver our heroes into a separate room where a viewscreen suddenly turns on, with the Cowled Commander himself taunting Cap and Falc.
He tells them that the room is secretly made of reinforced steel and they are trapped. He begins pumping poison gas into the room, but Captain America, showing off even more of the new strength he possesses, rips open part of the steel wall, surprising the Falcon, and the two escape the gas.
Cap and Falc fight Crime Wave again and defeat them. Falcon catches the Cowled Commander as he tries to escape, and the villain turns out to really be … Brian Muldoon. Brian confesses that he planned on getting rich while unleashing a crime spree that might scare the city into expanding the police department, so he was playing both sides against the other.
Muldoon is taken off to jail, while the cops and our heroes express surprise about how thoroughly Brian Muldoon fooled them all.
I’LL BE EXAMINING OTHER CAPTAIN AMERICA CLASSICS FROM THE 1970s SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ MANTIS/ KANG/ CELESTIAL MADONNA STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ KREE-SKRULL WAR STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s ADAM WARLOCK/ GAMORA/ THANOS/ MAGUS STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s BLACK PANTHER VS KILLMONGER STORY CLICK HERE.