Streets of Poison is — by a gross margin — my favorite Captain America story of all-time. Yes: more than Winter Soldier, more than the 9-11 terror attack-centric books from Marvel Knights, more than anything else. And what’s sad is it’s kind-of been forgotten. Everybody still talks about Born Again from Daredevil or Kraven’s Last Hunt from Spider-Man, but here was this epic story from Captain America, by Mark Gruenwald no less, that nobody really talks about anymore.
The plot is relatively simple: it’s Captain America versus the drug trade, and the Kingpin / Red Skull’s involvement in that drug trade in specific. Sounds simple enough, but in grand Marvel fashion: there’s a lot more to it than that. The main issue being that the drug in question — a Marvel-Universe clone of cocaine called “ice” — gets inhaled into Captain America’s system during an explosion at a warehouse he was performing a sting operation on, latches onto the super-soldier serum, and gives him a permanent and erratic high.
So yes, this is a book where for 90% of it, Captain America is high out of his mind on cocaine.
That’s not as messed up as it sounds, because its not readily apparent from the get-go what’s going on. He’s not acting out-of-character in an obvious, Leo-from-That-70s-Show kind-of way, its more subdued. he’s looser, doing thing he normally would not: like using extreme force to bring down drug traffickers, making out with female partners, and even (hilariously) interrupting the Kingpin’s dinner with his girlfriend.
Yeah, just go watch the Daredevil Netflix series and see how much you think Kingpin would have appreciated that. But here Cap just strolls in, sits down, takes a plate, and stuffs his face full of food and drink while telling the Kingpin –politely mind you — right where he can shove it if he doesn’t move the drug trade operation out of New York. It is possibly the most badass thing I’ve ever seen.
And all of these things — again — could have been done by a non-drug influenced hero. I can see Daredevil acting like that just on any other day. But Captain America wouldn’t, and this is the point of the story: what makes him Captain America? Because in the end, fellow Avenger Hank Pym can remove the cocaine from his body… only by filtering out the super-soldier serum as well. So Cap is faced with this question: does the serum make him Cap, or does he? He has to prove it to himself in a knock-down, drag-out, bare knuckle fight with Crossbones before he can be sure.
This needs to be made into a movie, and it makes me sad that it may never be.