For Part One of this series click HERE.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #180 (December 1974)
Title: The Coming of the Nomad
Villains: The New Serpent Squad
NOTE: This week’s look at 3 issues and next week’s look at 4 issues will wrap up my look at Captain America & the Falcon’s 1970s classics, as the various storylines reach their finale.
Synopsis: We pick up shortly after the end of the previous issue. It is nighttime and Steve Rogers (Captain America) has just parted company with his former fellow Avenger Hawkeye (Clint Barton). Hawkeye had posed as a villain called the Golden Archer and waged a vendetta against Steve Rogers to rekindle his interest in superheroing.
After revealing his true identity, Hawkeye convinced Steve to go back to being a superhero, just NOT Captain America, since he was so disillusioned now. He could just become a new hero with an all-new pseudonym.
Thrilled with the idea, Steve hurriedly walks back to the New York City apartment he shares with former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sharon Carter. He starts making plans for how to go about creating his new superhero “brand.”
When Sharon returns from shopping, Steve excitedly tells her how the Golden Archer who had been stalking them was really Hawkeye, who has convinced him to become an all new superhero. Sharon shows her disappointment and just says “Oh, that’s … nice.”
This triggers a lengthy argument between the pair. Sharon’s points go that since Steve was already Captain America when they met, she had no choice but to endure the constant danger he was in and the way it disrupted their lives. Since he quit being Cap a few months back, they have spent all their time together. They could even make plans a week in advance and they’d come off.
By the end of the argument, Steve sympathizes with Sharon’s point of view but states he IS going through with adopting a new hero identity. He had even hoped the two of them could go to the quiet of her parents’ mansion in Virginia while he worked out all the details.
Sharon tells him that HE can go to the Carter Estate if this plan means so much to him, but she will NOT go with him. Steve sadly accepts this, but wallows in introspection about it, wishing that just once everything in his life would come together. (In case you thought Peter Parker was the only Marvel character who indulged in this behavior.)
Elsewhere that same night, on a Virginia roadway, three federal marshals are escorting the handcuffed supervillain called the Viper to Washington DC. Their conversation makes it clear that it is now Viper’s turn to at last go on trial for his role in the Secret Empire/ Moonstone conspiracy to take over the country and kill his old foe Captain America.
The Viper observes aloud that he would rather have just stayed where he was, serving out his time for the Serpent Squad caper from several issues back. Suddenly the car with the villain and the marshals is attacked by Madame Hydra, who kills the marshals and then faces the Viper.
NOTE: Madame Hydra was the supervillainess who ran the most recent incarnation of Hydra when the group clashed with Captain America, who was then partnered with Rick Jones as the latest Bucky.
Back to the story, having gunned down the three marshals, Madame Hydra regales the Viper with her nihilist philosophy and how she plans to go on waging war against society until she herself is slain in battle some day.
With the remnants of Hydra wanting revenge on her for leading their organization to its most recent failures, she is abandoning her Madame Hydra identity to become the new Viper. She guns down the Viper and adopts his former costume redesigned for her body and with no mask.
NOTE: This is, of course, the female Viper who goes on years later to partner with the mutant supervillain called the Silver Samurai and battle the New Mutants and the X-Men.
Meanwhile, back in the Virginia prison that the now-dead Viper was being transported from, the supervillainess called Princess Python has broken in and is freeing the other two members of the original Serpent Squad – the Eel and Cobra.
She and her trained python kill at least two guards while busting out Cobra & Eel and giving them back their costumes. As they escape, Princess Python (a former member of the Circus of Crime) boasts that “the Serpent Squad lives again!”
By sunrise, Cobra, Eel, Princess Python and the new Viper are all assembled at their hideout – a vacant warehouse near Washington DC. Viper lies to Eel and claims his brother (the dead Viper) was killed while fighting the marshals and that she has “adopted his symbol and name as a memorial.”
While the Eel is broken up over his brother’s death, the new Viper goes on to explain how she – as Madame Hydra – survived her apparent death at the end of her clash with Captain America and the Rick Jones “Bucky.”
Though her dead body seemed to confirm her death, that was really the Avengers’ foe the Space Phantom, who had been assuming her form at the time and thus banishing her real self to Limbo as long as he was impersonating her. The dead body was really the Space Phantom, still masquerading as her.
That villain could not be killed with Earth technology so he was just playing possum as her corpse until he eventually switched back to his real form, thus freeing the real Madame Hydra from Limbo, still alive herself.
The Space Phantom then went on to lead a new Hydra organization against the Avengers but was defeated by them.
Madame Hydra linked up with Princess Python, who was on the run after her recent defeat at Iron Man’s hands and they decided to reconstitute the Serpent Squad. Cobra, who formed and led the original Serpent Squad objects to Viper’s leadership but she outfights him using the original Viper’s venom weapons and forces him to surrender to her leadership.
Later that day, Steve Rogers arrives at the Carter family’s mansion in northern Virginia. Sharon’s father Harrison Carter greets him and has the butler lead him to a room where he can work on whatever “secret project” that Sharon claimed he was involved with. (Sharon’s parents don’t know Steve was really Captain America.)
Over the next few days, Steve works on a new costume design, even purchasing the materials from a nearby town. He sows the black and yellow costume himself while still wrestling with what new alias he wants to go by.
He rejects a long list of names before deciding on his new identity and tag line. He dons his new costume and christens himself “Nomad – the Man Without A Country.” (To get as far away as he can from being the symbol of any existing country this time.)
The next morning, in Harlem, Roscoe Simons, who runs the gym where the retired Steve Rogers had been working out every day, shows up at the office of social worker Sam Wilson. He has been checking out places frequented by Steve since he hasn’t shown up in days.
The Falcon arrives at the building in his costume, not expecting to find anyone there. Roscoe excitedly mentions the coincidence – he was hoping to ask master athlete and acrobat Steve Rogers to train him to become the new Captain America, so he could hopefully do better than the other would-be “new Caps” who got seriously injured trying.
And who else should show up but the Falcon, Captain America’s former partner. Falc explains away his presence near his secret identity Sam Wilson’s office by telling Roscoe he patrols all of Harlem regularly. Hoping to save Roscoe from the violent consequences suffered by the other new Caps he tries to dissuade Roscoe from becoming the new Captain America.
The Falcon gets very blunt to reinforce the message, telling Roscoe that if he’s going to dream, he should go home and go to bed while doing it. Roscoe gets incredibly angry at this dismissal and leaves in a huff, vowing to show the Falcon.
That night, Steve Rogers as Nomad is excitedly patrolling Washington DC (which is very close to northern Virginia) to start his new identity’s career. Through a comic book coincidence, this happens to be the night when the new Serpent Squad is abducting a wealthy man as he gets out of his limo at a movie theater.
The screams of the tycoon’s wife attract Nomad’s attention and he heads toward the Serpent Squad. The villains flee inside the theater with their now-unconscious kidnapping victim. Nomad follows them inside, where, as intentionally done by this story’s writer, the film being shown is a documentary on Captain America from his creation in World War Two up to his recent resignation.
Artistically paralleling the movie and Nomad’s battle with the supervillains, the film’s narration goes on and on about Captain America’s long career and importance to the American public, sometimes using interview footage with Cap himself.
Nomad has the new Serpent Squad on the ropes, but then accidentally trips over his own cape, giving them the opportunity to escape with their hostage. Nomad angrily tears off his cape to avoid that ever happening again and vows to track down the Squad and free their victim.
Later that same night, at their warehouse hideout, the Serpent Squad meet around a table again, with their bound abductee nearby. Princess Python needles Cobra but Viper tells them to knock off the in-fighting.
Viper goes on to explain that the man she led them in kidnapping is Hugh Jones, the president of Roxxon Oil.
NOTE: Just as Marvel’s fictional “Brand Corporation” was clearly based on the real-life Rand Corporation, Roxxon Oil was clearly based on Exxon.
Back with the Serpent Squad, Viper goes on to explain that they will need some of the offshore equipment of the vast Roxxon Oil corporation in order to fulfill her master plan. To that end, she introduces her “silent partner” whose identity she has kept hidden even from Princess Python.
That ally enters the room and reveals himself as Warlord Krang, a long-time foe of the Sub-Mariner. Like the Sub-Mariner, Krang is from Atlantis and always tries to seize the rule of Atlantis from Prince Namor (Sub-Mariner).
Warlord Krang holds aloft the Serpent Crown of Lemuria (above), which he and Viper say will enable the Squad to conquer the entire world within a few days.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #181 (January 1975)
Title: The Mark of Madness
Villains: The Serpent Squad and Warlord Krang
Synopsis: We pick up late the following night. Nomad spent the rest of the previous night and all of today scouring the Washington DC area for any trace of the Serpent Squad and their VIP hostage.
As he often used to do when he was Captain America, Nomad has come to the Lincoln Memorial to contemplate the late president. He reflects on Abe’s career and many of his words.
Among those words that he calls to mind are Lincoln’s remarks on how dangerous it is for free people to become accustomed to other free people being denied their rights. That doing so inures them all to such outrages and makes them fit subjects for the first cunning tyrant who arises among them. (And how appropriate is THAT Lincoln saying to 2022 America?)
Suddenly, Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, lands near the Lincoln Memorial and addresses Nomad, without realizing he is really Captain America. Namor explains to Nomad that he has been on the trail of his old foe Warlord Krang (right), who recently found the Serpent Crown of Lemuria where Namor had buried it years earlier. Krang planned on allying himself with the Serpent Squad.
NOTE: Lemuria is well known in real-life legends as a lost continent which supposedly sank into the Pacific Ocean just like Atlantis sank into the Atlantic Ocean. The Serpent Crown is purely a Marvel Comics invention and is a relic of Lemuria. The crown – formerly called the Helmet of Destiny – is possessed by an ancient other-worldly intelligence and can enthrall anyone who wears it.
Back to the story, Namor demands to know where Krang and the Serpent Squad have gone. He knows from this day’s news reports that Nomad clashed with the Squad the previous night. When Nomad insists he doesn’t know where they are, the quick-tempered Sub-Mariner tries to rough him up to get the information out of him.
The pair fight from the Lincoln Memorial to the Reflecting Pool, and, of course, since Namor is so much more powerful than Nomad/ Cap, he has him on the ropes. Nomad saves himself by admitting to Sub-Mariner that he is Cap under a new name. He proves it by saying things to Namor that only Cap would know from their battle in Japan during the Avengers- Defenders War.
Sub-Mariner (at left) explains to Nomad that since the Serpent Crown leaves a psionic residue among all who have ever worn it, no matter how briefly, past wearers are sometimes privy to random thoughts from more recent wearers. Sub-Mariner was temporarily under the Crown’s control long ago, and Warlord Krang placed the crown on his own head after finding it. Thus Namor is aware that Krang came to Washington DC to ally himself with the new Serpent Squad.
NOTE: This random psionic link between past wearers of the Serpent Crown will be very relevant in next week’s installment.
While Nomad and Namor decide to discuss the situation civilly, we cut to the Serpent Squad and Krang, who have made their hostage Hugh Jones, the president of Roxxon Oil, the latest thrall of the Serpent Crown by placing it on his head.
While having Jones take actions to help their plans, Krang reflects on how the otherworldly intelligence in the Crown has been driving his actions since he placed it on his own head after finding it. He recruited the former Madame Hydra to help him and that led to the present circumstances.
Back with Nomad and Sub-Mariner, they are still talking when Krang uses Atlantean technology to take over all surface world broadcasts. Our two heroes hear Krang’s voice coming from a nearby car radio.
The Warlord takes credit for being the real leader of the Serpent Squad and tells the world that their hostage Hugh Jones will now address his employees around the world. Jones does so, numbly saying that the Squad has assured him they will free him unharmed as long as any and all of his employees who are contacted by the villains in the coming days do exactly as they say.
The public assumes that some sort of monetary ransom will be demanded and that authorities face a near-impossible task of keeping track of Roxxon Oil’s hundreds of thousands of employees around the world, not knowing which one or ones will be approached with the Serpent Squad’s demands.
Namor, however, recognizes from Hugh Jones’ numb manner of speaking that he must be enthralled by the Serpent Crown. Sub-Mariner has heard other wearers of the Crown speak under its control and would recognize its effects anywhere.
Subby and Nomad put their heads together. Steve Rogers figures that if Roxxon Oil’s president is who the Squad chose to kidnap they must need some of its holdings. Warlord Krang’s involvement means it must be an oceanic plan and given where Namor has told him Lemuria is located in the Pacific Ocean, they find out where Roxxon presently has offshore oil rigs that are near Lemuria’s locale.
Obtaining the information, Sub-Mariner and Nomad enter the Atlantean sub-aquatic craft which Namor drove to the docks in Washington DC. The vessel will take them to the Pacific Ocean location of that Roxxon Oil rig.
Cut to the Carter Estate in Virginia. Sharon Carter arrives and tells the butler she came to see Steve Rogers. She has come to try to make up with him and further argue her case to him, but the butler says he left a few days ago. Sharon is furious because she figures Steve is already off adventuring under a new name.
Meanwhile, in Harlem, the Falcon is refining the mutant powers he has that Professor X told him about during the Secret Empire storyline. Falc is now able to give his hawk Redwing instructions psionically, with no need to say them out loud for any foes to hear.
Roscoe Simons suddenly shows up in a Captain America costume and with a Cap shield made of normal metal. Roscoe shows off his impressive acrobatic skills to the Falcon and tries to convince him to train him and make him an even better “new” Captain America.
Again, Falc tries to talk him out of trying this dangerous line of work but their argument is cut short by the arrival of Peggy Carter, Sharon’s much older sister, and black Gabe Jones, her fellow agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Peggy excitedly thinks Roscoe is the real Cap but then realizes he is too short.
Roscoe feels awkward at Peggy’s sadness over him not being the real Captain America and goes off, insisting that he’ll go it alone if the Falcon won’t help him. Falc visits with Peggy and Gabe, and wonders how close the two are becoming now that the real Cap finally told Peggy that what they had is over. (He did this a few issues back, during the Golden Archer story.)
The next afternoon, in the Pacific Ocean, the Serpent Squad, Krang and Hugh Jones arrive at the Roxxon Oil rig close to Lemuria. Krang orders the enthralled, Crown-wearing Jones to have his employees follow his instructions and they go about setting up the procedure by which Lemuria will be risen from the deep.
Its rise will cause massive tidal waves that will kill millions along the coasts of every nation which has a shoreline along the Pacific. After that, Krang and the Serpent Squad will use Lemuria’s long-lost secrets to take over the entire world.
The Roxxon laborers, urged on by additional threats from our villains, have progressed quite a way at finishing the process to trigger Lemuria’s rise, when Nomad attacks. He has asked Namor to stay in his ocean vehicle watching the rig while he settles his score with the Serpent Squad. He promised to turn Warlord Krang over to Sub-Mariner after the battle.
While Namor observes from the waters around the oil rig, Nomad fights all the villains, defeating Krang, Princess Python and the Eel. Before the battle can go further, armed men arrive in helicopters, opening fire on the still-standing Viper and Cobra.
Viper takes the Serpent Crown, then she and Cobra flee the arriving troops in Krang’s flying ship. The craft has just enough power to reach America’s west coast so that’s where they head. Sub-Mariner makes no move to stop them, since they aren’t HIS enemies.
Nomad turns Krang over to Namor, who departs with his prisoner. Nomad then learns from the armed men that they are part of Hugh Jones’ private army of mercenaries which he maintains because Roxxon Oil has interests all over the world, often in unstable regions. As soon as they got word about unauthorized activity by this oil rig they figured it must be where the Serpent Squad and Jones were.
The mercenaries take away the defeated Eel and Princess Python while Nomad resolves to track down and capture the escaped Viper and Cobra.
NOTE: Hugh Jones’ mercenary army will play a very unexpected part in next week’s installment.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #182 (February 1975)
Villains: Viper and Cobra
Synopsis: A few days later, as Nomad arrives in Seattle, Washington, we readers learn that he is there because Viper and Cobra landed and abandoned their now-powerless aircraft near Seattle. The Seattle police then investigated (the craft was recognized from news reports) and trailed Viper and Cobra to an empty house in a suburb of the city.
In the long hours since then, it’s been a siege and a firefight between the dozens of police surrounding the house and the villains inside. Viper and Cobra are using the machine guns and ammunition she had stored in this safehouse when she was still Madame Hydra.
Nomad approaches the cops and tells them he will go in and take down the two supervillains. He doesn’t have the Avengers’ authority that he had as Captain America, and the cops refuse to let him. While they restrain Nomad, we join Viper and Cobra inside the house.
Like a scene from a vintage gangster movie, they are firing out windows at the surrounding police, while dodging the incoming bullets amid the increasingly bullet-riddled furniture and walls. Viper defiantly tells the world that she is prepared to die and she encourages everyone who can to take up her cause and try to bring down the existing order.
Cobra argues with her, reminding her he became a supervillain for money and power, not martyrdom. Viper orders him to keep firing while she consults the intelligence within the Serpent Crown by placing it on her own head.
Outside, without letting Nomad in on their plans, several police officers rush the house, only to be cut down mercilessly by gunfire from Cobra and Viper, who has since taken off the Crown. Nomad/ Steve is horrified by the slaughter, realizing that those men would not have died if “Nomad” had the long reputation that Cap had, since he could have convinced the cops to let him go in after the villains.
Cut to the Carter Estate in Virginia. Sharon Carter has been watching the live coverage of the ongoing standoff in Seattle and recognizes Nomad as Steve. Still disenchanted that he has gone back to that kind of life despite her pleas to him, she goes for a walk.
While on that walk, she runs into Dave Cox, the one-armed Vietnam War veteran who lives in the area and was seriously injured by the original Serpent Squad when Captain America and the Falcon fought them in Virginia. The two decide to walk together and the narration gives us a hint at what’s likely in store by saying “An innocent enough encounter …”
Back in Seattle, Nomad decides to stop going along with what the cops want and makes his way to another side of the besieged house, where he agilely breaks in through a basement window. Meanwhile, the police shoot tear gas grenades into the house, with one of them accidentally exploding close to a gas line, starting a fire.
Cobra panics and he and Viper begin another heated argument, but then Nomad leaps into the room and attacks them. He disarms Viper and is exchanging punches and kicks with Cobra, when Viper regains her machine gun and orders Nomad to stop fighting Cobra.
Again she goes into her rant about being a martyr and hopefully inspiring many more to rise up and strike out at the established order. Cobra takes the opportunity to try to run outside and surrender to the police but Viper won’t allow it. She turns and machine-guns Cobra in the back.
The house begins collapsing from the spreading fire. Viper seems to die in the collapse and the flames, while Nomad gets himself and Cobra out safely. (Cobra’s super-strength and altered physiology kept him alive, of course.) Unseen by anyone, the Serpent Crown is washed into the sewers by the gushing water from the firemens’ hoses being used on the burned-out building.
While the captured Cobra gets medical attention, Nomad regards the burning wreckage and the firefighters’ efforts to fight the flames. He ponders if Viper will get her wish of having “disciples” rise in her wake to inflict more violence and bloodshed.
Back in New York City, we join Roscoe Simons in his Captain America costume, recklessly roaming the nighttime rooftops of the city like other superheroes do. The Falcon surprises him and says that, since he obviously can’t talk him out of trying to be the new Cap, he agrees to train him.
Roscoe/ Cap thanks him and the two go on patrol together, with the Falcon thinking to himself that he’ll do this just long enough to show Roscoe how dangerous this life is and convince him to quit. While they make their way around the night-darkened city the Falcon spots Gabe Jones and Peggy Carter out on a date.
He reflects on that until he and Roscoe/ Cap come across masked men with ray-guns breaking into a bank and carrying suitcases. The pair figure a bank robbery is in process and attack the high-tech gang.
As the fight goes on, the Falcon jokes to himself that Roscoe may turn out to be a “boy wonder.” But that thought makes him think about the World War Two Bucky, who ended up dead.
NOTE: For decades it was Marvel canon that Bucky WAS dead, until they retconned it that he had secretly survived as the Winter Soldier.
After Falc and “Cap” knock out all the masked gang members they inspect their suitcases and see that they are filled with money. Since it makes no sense to covertly bring money INTO a bank rather than rob it, it must be counterfeit cash to replace the real money that the gang members would steal, leaving no one the wiser that the switch had been made and therefore putting a lot of counterfeit money into circulation.
So engrossed are Falcon and Roscoe-Cap in figuring that out, that they fail to notice a very stealthy man in a trench coat enter the bank from behind them.
The man shoots them down with stun-blasts from his own high-tech gun and then does a villain rant.
We readers are not shown who it is yet as he says “So! Never in my wildest imaginings did I dare hope I would capture my two greatest foes in so short a time. Then there is no longer a need for disguise. You must know you face (and we get the reveal) THE RED SKULL!”
As the Red Skull stands triumphantly over the fallen but conscious heroes, Roscoe-Cap whispers “Oh my Lord!” and the Falcon fears for both their lives.
This cliffhanger ending, with the reemergence of Cap’s greatest enemy after a several year absence, features a blurb for next issue which says “You knew we had to do it … But it’s for sure you don’t know HOW!” And the next issue’s title is hyped as – “The Return of Captain America.”
Yep, we will wrap all this up next week with a four-part Red Skull story. For that final part click HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO MY REVIEW OF SPIDER-MAN 1970s CLASSICS CLICK HERE.
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.