The Serpent Society used to be a group of slither-themed lamers that Steve Rogers would pound on for months at a time. They were supervillains in the classic moustache-twirling mode. Today, they’re a lot more dangerous. In the latest issue, their leader name-drops his buddies at Bain Capital. It’s acerbically funny — and wince-inducing — stuff.
The newest Captain America series has drawn controversy for having a main character that takes political stances on the issues of the day. Sam Wilson’s storylines inserted him into situations focused on immigration and the surveillance state, resulting in a lot of fictional and real-world hate being directed at him for daring to state an opinion. His actions have seen him branded with the derisive nickname “Captain Communist”. This week, he’s fighting a thematic polar opposite, a Serpent Society that’s getting rich by doing dirty work for high-powered corporations.
Captain America: Sam Wilson #4 — written by Nick Spencer with art by Paul Renaud, Romulo Fjardo, and Joe Caramagna — finds its lead character looking a lot different than he usually does. This is the second issue where Sam has been trapped in a werewolf form, the results of a run-in with old Cap villain Karl Malus. Malus’ experiments with splicing human and animal DNA weren’t just garden-variety mad scientist shenanigans; they were R&D for the newest iteration of an old supervillain cadre called the Serpent Society. They’re calling themselves Serpent Solutions now and they’re serving as a metaphor for all the horrible things that happen in the name of turning a profit. Kidnapping people and turning them into giant iguanas? Just another regrettable but necessary fact-of-life decision in today’s business landscape, according to exec leader Viper:
The previous versions of the Serpent Society had slight resemblances to business organisations, with dues-payment memberships and schemes meant to funnel money into corrupt but legitimate corporations. But this version leans more closely on happenings from real-world conference rooms.
Let’s be clear: this evolution of the Serpent Society into Serpent Solutions is a broad caricature of the One Per Cent. Their cavalier assessment of the cost of human lives and the business-meeting-on-a-golf-course bluster and name-dropping might be easy to laugh at but it’s also a discomfiting reminder of the wealth gap and the extra-legal mechanisms that keep a certain class of people super-rich.
Aside from all the pointed political commentary, Spencer’s delivering a lot of comedy in this Captain America series so far. It’s a big change from how deadly serious the last few volumes of Steve Rogers-centric adventures were, but one that almost feels necessary given the uptick in political messaging Spencer is throwing in there. People will probably stay mad at this series’ shift in direction but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun read.