Captain America # 318 “War on Wheels” or “Justice is Served”
A villain on roller skates and Cap's got a sweet new motorcycle helmet. Let the war on fashion begin!
I don’t know the villain, “Blue Streak” and he looks a little goofy to me but I do like this cover. It’s very dynamic with the villain filling most of the foreground and Cap appearing to barely keep up. He looks like the kind of guy who would normally be easily handled by our titular hero but the cover shows how it could be competitive if Blue Streak focuses on escape. The arrow directing us to check out Cap’s great new helmet makes me laugh, I think it’s either intentionally funny or is the most significant thing in the story. Either way, I’m in. I love this cover.
Frankly, I’m sure the Blue Streak will be a great challenge and I’m curious about the details of “Cap’s great new headgear” but I’m really interested in something not advertised on the cover. The Serpent Society. Previous entries in the series have been developing the group and I have swallowed that hook.
First-page splash page, very intriguing image despite not containing Blue Streak, Captain America, a great new helmet, or even any wheels. Instead the title across the top reads “Justice is Served” and the image and narration filling the rest of the page describe a fascinating situation. It tells the brief story of a guy working overtime. Roland Burroughs, the mute mercenary known to us as Death Adder.
Before this page, I had not given Death Adder much thought. Because he’s mute he tends to be in the background if not actively attacking, consequently, I hadn’t focused much on him. The narration immediately makes him feel known to me though. He drew the short straw at work (the recently formed snake-themed union, The Serpent Society) and is now taking an unconscious former coworker Princess Python to the Circus of Crime to collect a ransom for The Serpent Society. Everyone else is taking the night off while Roland runs this errand. Death Adder is made so freakin human in this page. It’s even mentioned he has a best friend, another Society man, Anaconda. Anaconda had offered to ride along to keep Adder company but ended up getting a date to go see wrestling at “The Garden”. A date to go see wrestling at Madison Square Garden in New York City, 1986. It really is the working class in the eighties at it’s finest. I can’t help but think of the guy as just another squirrel trying to get a nut.
As typical as all of that is, by the end of the page we know that it is all just backdrop for Death Adder’s real problem. The company vehicle, in this case, is something called the “Serpent Saucer”. Some kind of custom, personal aircraft. Two seats in the cockpit, couch in the back with Princess Python sprawled out sleeping, unaware of the imminent danger. Turns out, the saucer has been hit in the thrusters by some unknown force and the ship is going down fast. The situation is so dire, we’re told the Death Adder would be screaming if he had vocal cords. A sharp contrast to the silent figure working controls as the ship tilts crazily toward the ground.
With that, the story continues, we see from outside the saucer crash deep into a building until it lay mangled on the ground among girders and stone collapsed around as the ship met its final destination. After a moment we see Death Adder emerge with his captive in a very heroic pose.
The narration quickly corrects this impression by pointing out that despite appearances the Death Adder is motivated by the ransom which he notes is a fraction of the value of the ship now exploding in the background. Now he has to figure out what to do, he’s got Python but the ship is wrecked and he’s still gotta get her all the way to Peoria! With no way to contact the union, Adder decides his captive will be knocked out long enough to stay safe, hidden away here while he makes his way back to the office to find out what to do. Resigned to the situation he steps out to the street and hails a cab. Throwing out the passenger, Death Adder jumps in the back and wraps his creepy long claws around the driver’s neck while gesturing for him to drive.
The act of intimidation seems to have worked as the cabbie begins to drive and Adder settles back. The driver begins to make idle chit chat as we see him pull a special looking gun from an attache on the seat. The mundane talk continues until shockingly concluding with a single shot to the unsuspecting mercenary who drew the short straw and had to work on his night off. From behind we see the “cabbie” leaving the car with a facemask behind as he exclaims to himself “Justice is served, Death Adder.” Where have we heard that before?
Cutting to a brighter scene, Cap is moving back to Avenger’s mansion. He’s got a costumed Hercules and Namor helping him carry stuff into his room. With Herc hurrying Namor to join him for a date with the Rockettes, the pair leave as Janet Van Dyne joins Cap in his quarters. She’s kind of his boss at the Avengers these days but, as an old friend, wants to welcome him back. Her boss hat gets put on quick as Cap tells her he plans to be traveling the country for a while and mostly just keeping his few belongings here. Janet, as The Wasp is Chairman of The Avengers. In that capacity she questions Steves’s ability to fulfill his commitments to the Avengers while working remotely “around the country”. Cap seems to have thought of everything though, pointing out that he will be attending the weekly meeting and he will never be more than a quick pickup by Quinjet away. With that, Cap excuses himself as Jarvis announces some Wakandan contractors are outside with a delivery for him.
Just some buds helping Cap move
Outside, we find that Cap has bought a Chevy van and sent it to the Wakandans to be souped-up and customized. The details are left to our imagination for the time being. The scene with the Wakandans is very interesting to me for a few reasons. In the dialogue, responding to a compliment on the speed of the job, one of the contractors mentioned they were well motivated at the urging of their King. Another costumed hero, T’challa, The Black Panther. A good friend of Cap’s, T’challa has directed these subjects, who happen to be advanced vehicle manufacturers, to focus on this project. The same outfit who designed and built the aforementioned Avengers Quinjet, a team T’Challa is a member of himself. Captain America passes no judgment on this subversion of the free market going on in Wakanda. He just wants to get some quick training in his new vans operation and hit the road. With that, we leave Cap to his travel for the time being as we shift our view to a place we’re told is several states away.
We are introduced to a secret hangout for costumed villains, a place known only as “The bar with no name”. Nice. Inside, we’re finally introduced to an out of costume Blue Streak, here to meet a man with an offer. The man introduces himself as Gary Gilbert, the former Iron Man villain, Firebrand. Gary has a warning for Blue streak. Displaying a collection of newspaper clippings, he explains somebody has been murdering B-grade villains. B-grade villains, just. Like. them.
A disturbing picture is taking shape.
Blue Streak is unmoved and laughs it off getting up to leave even as Firebrand tries to explain that he’s getting together some guys like them to find the killer and protect each other. Streak is full of hubris and contempt as he refuses to join and exits the booth. The impression he’s the next victim in a horror movie is strong.
We rejoin Steve, lost in thought travelling through the Appalachian mountains. The narrator tells us he happens to be no more than 20 miles away from the bad guy bar. As Steve drives, he reflects on a conversation with his friend the falcon. Falcon questioned why Cap would drive when he could fly. Why not use a Quinjet and really get around. Cap’s answer is easy to understand for anyone with an appreciation for authenticity. He doesn’t want to literally be above all the people of the country, he wants to be with them, travelling the way they do.
After testing his new van's ability to change color on the fly, Steve is interrupted from his reverie by a mysterious figure overtaking him and zooming away “at about 125 miles an hour!”. Shortly after, a patrol car in pursuit. Curious, Cap turns on his police scanner, hearing a report of a roadblock set to stop a man on roller skates who held up an armored car. Just two miles up the road cap finds the cruiser that passed him now wrecked and on fire on the side of the road.
Helping the injured out of the car and using his own radio to call for help, Cap gets back on the road hoping to catch up to the escaping bandit. Before long, Cap approaches a rest stop and decides to use the facilities. After he parks and steps out, a scene worthy of Tarantino occurs. An out of costume Steve Rogers is walking toward the restrooms as another man is exiting. Steve immediately recognizes the stranger as a man he’s encountered before, the villain Blue Streak.
Cap does have kind of a Terminator vibe, Streak out!
After trying to push past and getting called out as Blue Streak, the villain throws a futile punch, thinking he’s being confronted by a shield agent. Without identifying himself, Steve brings the guy down and holds him while considering his response. Now Streak is a little nervous, realizing this may be the killer he was warned about earlier. Snatching a weapon from his duffel, Blue Streak makes a hail mary escape, blowing up his own getaway car in the process. Taking the moment of distraction to suit up, he jumps out to confront the still unknown assailant only to find Captain America also suited up and ready to fight. Quickly recognizing how outmatched he is, Blue Streak throws a few quick attacks to cover his escape and takes off.
With this, we get what we came for, from the rear of the van, Cap flies out on his American Motorbike sporting some great new headgear. It’s not long before Cap catches up to the escaping skater. The chase quickly makes its way into the mountains as the two speed their way up the narrow cliffside roads. The only hope Streak has is a number of tricks he attempts before attempting an ambush. Seemingly exhausting his options, Blue Streak again focuses on speed as Cap loses sight of him. After the next bend, Cap notices a damaged guard rail. Fearing the worst, the hero pulls over, seeing a lonely skate at the edge. Looking over the side, the villain's helmet is caught in a branch below. The Captain immediately shifts to rescue, beginning to climb down the cliff.
The reason for the season
Several minutes later, back at the road, we see a partially uncostumed Blue Streak retrieving his skate. Laughing at his own cunning, Streak opts not to steal Caps bike. Knowing his skates won’t be working after the damage they’ve taken and hoping to leave his own fate a mystery, Blue Streak starts to slowly skate down the highway under his own power. As an eighteen wheeler bears down, Streak takes the opportunity to wave it down and make some miles. Picking him up, the truck rolls on. From the outside we hear Streak ask the driver if he’s wondering about the strange costume. “Not at all.” A single, distinctive gunshot explodes. “Justice is served, Blue Streak. “