The issue opens with Viper delivering a monologue to a board room about how they're the ones that give Americans what they want: "more, more, more" for less. He acknowledges that the public likes to demonize them, but he tells them that they're actually heroes for doing the dirty work. In fact, Serpent Solutions' entire pitch is that they'll take the really dirty work off their hands. At this point, the Senior Vice President for Public Relations and Communications expresses his outrage, reminding the room that Viper is a criminal. When no one seems to care, he resigns, only for King Cobra to kill him on the board-room table before he can leave the room. It's hard to explain how perfect this entire sequence is. Spencer captures exactly the narrative that Wall Street believes of the financial crisis, with Viper stressing that it wasn't their fault that people bought houses that they couldn't afford or maxed out their credit cards. In fact, Viper is so convincing that you start believing his pitch yourself. I forgot that I was reading a comic-book character delivering this monologue: the entire scene really jumped off the page.
Meanwhile, at Cap HQ, the Whisperer is discussing the video of this incident with Sam (who's still stuck as Cap-Wolf). He confirms that the Serpent Society has turned themselves into Foxconn, but warns Sam to be careful in opposing them, since Wall Street really runs America. Cap visits a doctor friend of Misty's, and she assures him that the effects of Malus' experiment are fading. However, they aren't fading for Joaquin. After Baron Blood bit Redwing, he's been vampiric, though we learn that vampirism has fewer negative side-effects for birds than it does for humans. (Whew.) But, Malus created Joaquin from Redwing, so he inherited some these side effects, including regenerative abilities. As such, any treatment will fail, since he'll just grow back whatever the surgery removed. Sam is worried about Joaquin's mental state, but we learn that he's coping better than expected, partially because he realized that he can fly. (In a hilarious sequence, Misty is trying, unsuccessfully, to get him to return to bed so he can rest, so she opens fire on him, muttering to herself that she didn't have kids for a reason. For reals, Mist.)
Later, Sam visits Diamondback, and we learn that she's now a stripper. Honestly, this entire conversation was riveting and, again, I forgot that I was reading a comic book, Spencer writes it so well. Rachel describes how the world doesn't really need that many good-guy mercenaries, so, after B.A.D. Girls disbanded, she was little more than a woman without a high-school degree in a bad economy. Since a lot of people don't need a woman that can throw diamond-tipped daggers really well, she did what she knew. They discuss Viper, and she warns Sam to be careful: she heard that he had returned from Hell without his soul and reminds him that he's going to be more dangerous on his own turf. (He was previously in advertising.) Sam tries to get Rachel to join him (and leave stripping), but their conversation is interrupted when three members of Serpent Solutions attack. (Earlier, Viper learned on the golf course that one of his clients wasn't signing a contract because of his Captain America "problem," and he pledged to address it.) One of them stabs Rachel since she's rusty, and an enraged Cap-Wolf goes wild. He rushes to Rachel's side, only to have her stab him in a betrayal that I legitimately didn't see coming, telling him that she's doing what she needs to do to survive. He awakens tied to a chair in the Serpent Solutions boardroom. Dun-dun-DUN!
Honestly, this issue was thrilling to read, from the amazing characterization to the well conceived and executed plot. It's one of the best Cap stories that I've ever read, and I can't wait to see where Spencer takes us.
***** (five of five stars)