Chapter 4 - Crazy like a Snake
Under unknown but apparently severe circumstances, Viper and the Silver Samurai eventually terminated their partnership. Harada remarked shortly after that Viper was “as one dead to him”, but the details of their falling out have never been revealed. When she next raised her head, Viper instituted a plan to take control of the Serpent Society, a trade union of serpent-based super-villains that evolved out of her earlier Serpent Squad concept. She first arranged for several serpent operatives loyal to her to gain admittance to the Society as new members. Once they were in place, Viper tracked their signal beacon and teleported into the Serpent Society’s headquarters. She personally poisoned the Society’s leader Sidewinder while her agents began securing the rest of the organization. [Captain America (1st series) #341]
With Sidewinder out of the picture, many of the Serpent Society joined up with the Viper simply for the promise of work. Viper’s old ally Cobra joined mostly out of fear. Some of the Serpent Society remained loyal to Sidewinder even under torture, though, and Diamondback managed to escape the base with Sidewinder and summon help from her occasional ally, Captain America. The Captain’s sudden arrival forced Viper to flee in a Serpent Saucer, and she was captured by her old nemesis after a short pursuit. [Captain America (1st series) #342-343]
Despite this setback, however, the Serpent Society was already putting Viper’s plan into motion. Using a mutagenic compound derived from Viper’s servant Slither, the Society poisoned the water supply of Washington, D.C., causing anyone who drank the water to begin mutating into a humanoid serpent. Mass rioting and chaos began breaking out in the streets, and Viper managed to escape from the Captain’s allies to join in on the fracas. She made her way to the White House and blasted her way inside, with the intent of killing the president personally. Cap anticipated her goals and made his way to the White House as well, only to get into a fistfight with the crazed and serpentized president. Viper enjoyed the show until the Secret Service arrived and chased her from the building. She was caught off-guard and subdued outside by Cobra, who recognized how crazy (and unprofitable) her scheme was, and wanted the Serpent Society out of her clutches. Cobra turned Viper over to the Captain before escaping himself. [Captain America (1st series) #344]
Some months later, Viper was recruited from prison by “Dr. Tyrone,” an alias of the immortal deposed Roman emperor Tyrannus. The armies of water-breathing Lemuria and Deviant Lemuria had joined forces under the command of Ghaur and Llyra to resurrect the Elder God known as Set through the use of the Serpent Crown. Because of her past association with the Crown and unique skill set, the agents of Set had Tyrannus recruit Viper for their plot. Even before the Celestials visited Earth, Set had enjoyed the occasional use of “Serpent Men” as his agents on Earth when he could not appear himself. Viper’s recent scheme in Washington D.C. offered him the means to recreate his favorite henchmen during his rise to power. Under the alias of Leona Hiss, Viper and “Dr. Tyrone” funded a homeless outreach program call Save Our Society. It doubled as a drug treatment clinic, and SOS began injecting the poor and addicted with the serpent serum. In small doses, the serum initially cleansed the system of other poisons, allowing Set’s forces to attract converts with the promise of a cure from their addictions. Punisher and Moon Knight discovered the Serpent Men while tracking a former drug dealer, though, forcing Viper to roll back her activities.
Seeking shelter at Dr. Tyrone’s commune, Viper was unnerved by how the Serpent Men seemed almost reverent of Tyrone. Indeed, Tyrannus intended to circumvent Ghaur and Llyra’s plans, turning the Serpent Men into his own personal entourage. Tyrannus believed he could beat their employers to resurrecting Set, and thus steal from them the ultimate power Set promised his worshippers. Tyrannus used his will-sapping powers to take control of Viper, and force her into acting as the sacrifice for his ritual summoning of Set. Viper was left mesmerized and helpless before the demon Tyrannus summoned, until Doctor Strange and Daredevil burst onto the scene. Tyrannus redirected his powers to dominate the creature he summoned, and therefore failed to focus on keeping the strong willed Viper under control. A vindictive Viper flung Tyrannus into the pentagram before her, leaving him at the mercy of the demon. Although the demon was not truly Set, it was just as unpleasant and Tyrannus vanished beneath the demon’s fury. [Atlantis Attacks]
Chapter 5 - Unfortunate Alliances
Viper continued with her terrorist activities, and eventually wound up back in federal custody. She was eventually rescued by the Sweat Shop on behalf of the Red Skull. The Skull had become tired of normal super-villainy, and was seeking new evils to inspire him. He saw Viper as a kindred spirit, and offered to fund her activities for his own personal amusement. Initially hostile to the idea of being a “kept woman,” Viper came to appreciate the Red Skull’s resources and his personal interest in her. They spent several months together plotting new schemes in his Rocky Mountain retreat. [Captain America (1st series) #394-397]
While Viper played the long game, preparing the Red Skull’s resources for one major strike, she kept her Pit-Viper doppelgangers publically active in her place. The Pit-Vipers continued on in Viper’s name with acts of assassination, kidnapping and forays into organized crime. One Pit-Viper in particular manipulated the Punisher into attacking several of her rivals at a Las Vegas gathering to carve up the deposed Kingpin’s territory. [Dead Man’s Hand] This Pit-Viper failed to achieve much, however, and even ended up feeding information to S.H.I.E.L.D. about the real Viper’s activities, nearly getting her captured by Nick Fury while running a nuclear arms theft in Russia. [Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2nd series) #45]
With the Skull’s resources, Viper finalized her latest scheme to spread anarchy. She concocted a transmission signal that would be broadcast to every television set in America, blinding anyone in view of the monitors. Unfortunately for Viper, this scheme did not meet with the Red Skull approval, as it would jeopardize his own long term plans for the country. When Viper cut ties to the Skull and ceased informing him of her activities, he surreptitiously hired Silver Sable to capture Viper and deliver her to him. Sable’s Wild Pack shut down multiple Pit-Viper operations while trying to locate the real Viper, as the doppelgangers were out in force to distract the authorities from the real Viper’s plans.
While waiting for the final preparations to be made, Viper indulged herself by personally seeking out the rogue Pit-Viper who fed information to S.H.I.E.L.D. She executed the Pit-Viper, but ended up a captive of the Wild Pack and their ally, Captain America. Cap informed Silver Sable she was unwittingly working for the Red Skull, and they conceived a plan to use Viper to draw out the Skull. They deposited a bugged Viper at the rendezvous point indicated by Sable’s “mystery employer.” The Red Skull dispatched his agent, the Iron Monger, to retrieve and interrogate Viper. When she refused to disclose the details of her blindness plan, the Iron Monger shattered the bones in her leg with his boot.
Before further interrogation could continue, the Viper’s hand-picked team of mercenaries, the Fangs, arrived and executed the Monger. Captain America and Silver Sable tracked Viper and the Fangs back to the transmission center for her attack. Viper’s broken leg kept her out of the fight, and the Wild Pack succeeded in destroying her transmitter array moments before the signal went out to blind all of America. Back in SHIELD custody, Viper attempted to gain some measure of revenge on the Red Skull by alerting Nick Fury to his Rocky Mountain hideaway, but the Skull was already gone by the time SHIELD forces raided the chalet. [Silver Sable & the Wild Pack #15, Captain America (1st series) #419-420]
Still recovering from her broken leg, Viper next turned up free and in control of a Secret Empire installation in the Canadian Rockies. She took control of the genetic experimentation research being performed there, and severed ties with the Empire’s Council of Ten. Her plans were ultimately scuttled by the Avenger named Hawkeye and one of the escaped test subjects, however. [Hawkeye (2nd series) #1-4] Next, Viper forged a brief alliance with the time-dancer Spiral. She hired the Body Shop’s mistress to warp Leong and Nga Coy Manh into super-powered adult slaves as a small measure of revenge against their criminal uncle General Nguyen Coy for past slights. Her games were undone by the twins’ sister Karma and the X-Men Beast and Cannonball. [Beast #1-3]
[Note: Viper claimed her revenge against General Coy arose from an incident where she confronted his organization on behalf of HYDRA, only to be forcibly enslaved into his harem for weeks thanks to Karma’s late twin, Tran. She further claimed she only escaped with Tran’s death. Those facts place the incident sometime shortly after her assault on the Helicarrier, a point in Viper’s career long after she abandoned HYDRA and where her champion the Silver Samurai would not have allowed her several weeks’ absence to go unanswered for. These anomalies suggest, but do not confirm, that the Viper in this adventure was a Pit-Viper, acting on false information or avenging a wrong that she suffered but the real Viper did not.]