Chapter 6 - Matrimony in Madripoor
When Viper next raised her head, it was to claim payment on a long forgotten debt. Years ago, when Viper was allegedly still a freelance mercenary, she provided assistance to Wolverine and his former lover, Seraph. Although Seraph died at the hands of Sabretooth during the ordeal, she extracted a promise from Logan that he would grant Viper whatever she asked for, as payment for the debt. Logan very reluctantly agreed. When Viper decided to cash in on the obligation, she did so in the vilest way possible. Viper kidnapped the women closest to Wolverine, including Phoenix, Shadowcat, Rogue, Jubilee, Psylocke, Tyger Tiger, Jessica Drew and Yukio, poisoning most of their minds and sending them out to kill Logan. Only after the women failed and broke free from her control did Viper tell Logan it was all to get his attention, and finally lay claim to his obligation. Her price? Logan’s hand in marriage. [Wolverine (2nd series) #125]
The recent death of Prince Baran of Madripoor left that island principality under the shaky control of several rival crimelords. A coalition of the Hand and HYDRA intended to lay claim to the island and its well-respected pirate resources. Viper, secretly representing the true HYDRA on behalf of Baron Strucker and the Kraken, wanted to prevent HYDRA’s lesser splinter factions from succeeding. She intended to claim the throne herself, ruling the island and its crimelords through fear. A marriage to the island’s local champion “Patch,” respected throughout Hightown and Lowtown alike, would cement her claim even further. Logan agreed to the marriage out of respect to his obligation, and reluctantly helped Viper consolidate her control over Madripoor against the Hand, HYDRA, and even Sabretooth. [Wolverine (2nd series) #126-128]
Married life was not easy for Viper and Wolverine, however. On one occasion, Viper attempted to manipulate Logan into retrieving a lethal alien virus for her from the Himalayan Mountains, but Logan outsmarted his blushing bride and destroyed the virus and its source. [Wolverine (2nd series) #131] Viper was also kidnapped at one point by Arnim Zola the Bio-Fanatic, and his protoid creation, Doughboy. Zola mentioned delivering Viper to an old acquaintance (likely his frequent collaborator the Red Skull), but the results of that “meeting” were never disclosed. Viper next appeared back in control in Madripoor, apparently no worse for the experience. [Wolverine (2nd series) #139]
Viper next saw Logan when he arrived in Madripoor for the annual Bloodsport Tournament, lured into competing by his enemy Mr. X, the tournament’s reigning champion. Viper tried her best to become a widow, even slipping Logan some poison during his bouts. In the final match, Mr. X defeated Logan but was unable to kill him, winning on a technicality. The stakes were raised when Logan’s old sensei Ogun returned as a wandering spirit, possessing the people of Madripoor and using their as puppets against his former pupil. Viper wanted Ogun out of her country so bad, she agreed to give Logan a divorce if he helped eliminate the ninja master. Viper ended up a pawn of Ogun herself when he possessed her body to use again Logan. Ogun outmaneuvered himself, though, when he isolated Viper and Logan on a deserted dock to possess Wolverine as the ultimate host for his essence. Logan’s fractured berserker mind was impossible for him to firmly grasp, leaving Ogun no sanctuary but Viper’s body. And if Ogun thought Logan would think twice about attacking his own wife, he grossly misread their relationship. With Viper gutted by Wolverine’s claws and Logan an untenable host, Ogun dispersed into the sky without a form of his own. Viper tried to reneg on their deal, since getting stabbed in the chest wasn’t part of their arrangement. Logan simply told Viper she would have to honor their divorce if she wanted him to get her medical treatment before she bled out. Left with little choice, Viper agreed to the deal. [Wolverine (2nd series) #167-169]
As reigning princess of Madripoor, Viper responded when activity erupted at an ancient temple on the island. Shaitan, the forward scout for an extra-dimensional invasion force, assembled a set of gemstones that would open the gateway for the soldiers of his master, Khan. Despite the arrival of the X-Men, the portal opened and Madripoor was encased in an impenetrable force field. An orbital tower began to materialize in Earth’s dimension on top of Madripoor, acting as a beach head for Khan and his invading troopers. Viper and the X-Men became unlikely allies, establishing a guerrilla force to oppose Khan’s scout parties. Viper’s methods did not sit well with the X-Men when, as ruler of Madripoor, she asserted her authority by killing unarmed prisoners after they surrendered. Storm of the X-Men personally struck her down, an insult Viper promised she would pay for. The opportunity came in battle with Shaitan, when Viper used her clawed gloves to slice open Storm’s spinal column, leaving her for dead. [X-Treme X-Men (1st series) #10-12]
Only Khan’s infatuation with Storm saved her, as he brought the X-Men’s leader back to his palatial tower to be tended to by his healers. The X-Men’s struggle against Khan’s forces proved successful, the gateway destroyed and his forces driven back to their own dimension. Viper came to congratulate the X-Men on their victory, presumably expecting Storm to forgive and forget her earlier attack. That was… unwise. After casually asking Viper if she was wearing armor, Storm shot her square in the chest before receiving an answer. Storm’s friend Sage then got in very close with a blade and made it very clear to Viper that attacking any of the X-Men was not a mistake she would be allowed to make a second time. [X-Treme X-Men (1st series) #17]
Chapter 7 - Reptilian Royalty
Needless to say, Viper responded to the unmistakable threat on her life by planning another attack on the X-Men. She caught up with Storm’s team in London months later and purchased a second-hand Murderworld from Arcade to run them through their paces. Viper blamed Sage for humiliating her in their last encounter, and attempted to get her revenge by shooting the woman through the head. Unfortunately for Viper, Wolverine caught her scent earlier that day while she spied on the team, and reasoned out her plans. Logan used an image inducer to replace Sage in the team, and survived the blast to the skull. Viper went on to keep the X-Men busy by attaching a baby nuke to the London Eye while she attended to her secondary goal: a paid assassination on Courtney Ross of Fraser’s Bank. Courtney made Viper a better offer, however, and they joined forces with Sebastian Shaw to recreate the Hellfire Club as a force to be reckoned with. [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #448-449]
In exchange for access to Fraser’s and the Hellfire Club’s resources, Viper assumed the role of Warrior White Princess in alliance with Ross’s new position as White Queen. By working with Shaw, they infiltrated a mutant slavery ring to bring down the auctioneers and establish themselves as major players on the world stage once again. Although Ross and Viper succeeded in their endeavor, they lost their controlling interest in the Hellfire Club. Sebastian Shaw intended to establish himself as Lord Imperial of the Club as it reopened, but Sage manipulated him out of position so that the X-Men’s ally Roberto Dacosta became Lord Imperial instead, leaving Shaw as a mere Black King and the Club at least somewhat hampered by the X-Men’s mortality. [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #452-454]
Despite this setback, Viper and Ross continued conspiring for their own mutual benefit. Viper orchestrated an invasion of the small African nation of Zanzibar with the help of Scimitar and the mercenary Weaponeers. The intent was to conquer Zanzibar and use it as a beach head to eventually assume control of the nearby Genosha as well. The Weaponeers turned against Viper during the assault, however, and she actually found herself working alongside Archangel, Callisto, and several other mutant heroes in defense of Zanzibar so that she could claim her revenge. What no one realized was that the invasion’s failure was an acceptable back-up plan for the Hellfire Club. Courtney Ross stepped in on behalf of Fraser’s Bank to provide grants and loans for Zanzibar to rebuild after the attack, netting herself and Viper a foothold into the region anyway. [Excalibur (3rd series) #11-13]
Meanwhile, Viper’s accumulated resources through the Hellfire Club and control of Madripoor gave her the necessary backing to reclaim control of a splinter HYDRA faction. While working with HYDRA, she occasionally referred to herself as Madame Hydra once more. Viper also detected a change within HYDRA, the result of the Skrulls’ infiltration efforts on Earth (although she wasn’t aware of that at the time). While seeking to maintain control of a “true” HYDRA faction in opposition to the corrupted factions, Viper began making alliances with various parties. She linked her HYDRA with part of the Hand, and also tried to reunite with Kenuichio Harada to bring the Hand, HYDRA and Clan Yashida of the Japanese underworld together under one banner. Viper also used HYDRA in an effort to put Jessica Drew under her thumb, restoring Spider-Woman’s fading powers in exchange for making her a triple agent within SHIELD and the Avengers. Unbeknownst to Viper, “Jessica Drew” was actually the Skrull Queen Veranke, who masterminded the infiltration and invasion of Earth’s power bases. In fact, Viper’s own HYDRA faction wanted “Drew” to assassinate her and become the new Madame Hydra. The only reason she survived was because Veranke chose not to follow through on HYDRA’s plot for her. [New Avengers (1st series) #3, 11-13, 23]
Eventually, Viper’s control over Madripoor became a threat to global security that S.H.I.E.L.D. could no longer ignore. As Viper continued using Madripoor as a staging ground for HYDRA terrorist attacks throughout the world, the newly elected director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Tony Stark, decided it was time for a regime change. Unable to overthrow or sanction Viper openly without a United Nations resolution because of her sovereign status, Stark instead placed an operative in Madripoor to look for candidates from within the people of Madripoor to lead an insurrection.
Stark attempted to enter Madripoor and meet with his covert operative by hiding in plain sight, using his cover as a “billionaire playboy” to arrive as just another member of the jet-setting idle rich visiting Hightown. Viper was not deceived, but publicly welcomed him to the island in an effort to maintain international appearances. Her first attempt to kiss him hello with her toxic lipstick failed, and so she arranged for assassins to go after Stark that night. When Stark visited Lowtown to make contact with his spy, Agent Huang, a brawl broke out at the Princess Bar. As the dust settled, Viper arrived with her entourage and publically announced her men had located the man responsible for attacking Tony Stark in the Bar: Agent Huang. Conveniently, she even found witnesses willing to identify Huang as the instigator. Ignoring Stark’s protests, Viper used this as an excuse to execute Huang publically, and handicap Stark’s efforts against her.
Despite Huang’s death, Stark located and made contact with Tyger Tiger, the local crimelord Huang identified as the most likely candidate to overthrow Viper. Stark openly confronted Viper at the royal palace, and used his technological abilities to trick Viper into admitting on a live video feed that the people of Madripoor were nothing but chattel to her. Tyger Tiger used this admission as an excuse to rally the people of Madripoor behind her rule, and S.H.I.E.L.D. got its insurrection. Viper was overthrown as princess of Madripoor and Iron Man helped the Tiger’s new government shut down HYDRA operations on the island. [Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Annual #1]