Avengers Vol. 1 No. 13

Avengers Vol. 1 No. 13
February, 1965
"Trapped in... The Castle of Count Nefaria!"
Rather exceptional story by: Stan Lee
Somewhat distinctive art by: Don Heck
Fairly compelling inking by: Dick Ayers
Moderately clear lettering by: Artie Simek

On the cover, we see a sinister figure -- the titular Count Nefaria
himself -- working an elaborate control panel like a concert pianist.
Green waves of energy stream forth from the machine, holding the
mighty Avengers at bay.

The splash page shows the Avengers -- Captain America, Giant-Man,
Thor, The Wasp, and Iron Man -- under attack by unseen forces. On a
telephone pole nearby, a poster declares that the Avengers are wanted
for treason, dead or alive! A caption assures us that we are about to
learn how this came about...

As the story opens, a group of thieves are making off with a truck
full of stolen furs. But their crime is interrupted by the arrival of
Iron Man and Thor, who quickly apprehend them. Word of the aborted
robbery soon reaches the members of the international crime
organization known as the Maggia, and they're not pleased. The
interference of the Avengers has been cutting deeply into their profits.

Suddenly, a device on the wrist of one of the gangsters begins to
glow; he is being summoned by their leader, Count Nefaria. Nervously,
the mobster places his hands on the "Sensitized Electro-Disc" mounted
on the wall, and his image is projected halfway across the world to
Nefaria's castle. Nefaria chews out the gang leader for his repeated
failures, and tells him to prepare for punishment. As his image
disappears, Nefaria ponders that he has been banished from the Maggia,
and will have "no place to go -- none to turn to!" (I have to wonder
if the "punishment" wasn't originally intended to be a bit more fatal,
and either the Comics Code objected, or Stan had second thoughts.) He
then begins to formulate a plan for dealing with the Avengers. Since
the public only knows him as a respectable European nobleman, no one
will suspect his true intentions.

Days later, the papers carry the news that Nefaria is moving his
castle stone by stone from Europe to the New Jersey Palisades. The
castle will be open to the public, with the profits going to charity
(Sounds like he's going to be competing with the Palisades Amusement
Park that was always being advertised in DC Comics!). Moreover, the
Count sends a letter to the Avengers, inviting them to the grand
opening. The heroes take him up on the offer, and soon arrive at the
castle. Even Thor is impressed by the Count's fancy digs (while the
Wasp seems quite taken with the Count himself). The Avengers are lead
to individual guest rooms, where they can "freshen up" before the
opening ceremonies.

But Nefaria has other plans. The Avengers soon fall victim to the
"Time Transcender Beams" hidden in the lights of each room. Time seems
to stand still for them, as the Count carries out his evil scheme.
Rather than harm the Avengers directly, he plans to let others do his
dirty work for him. He uses his scientific equipment to creates
3-dimensional images of each of the heroes, which he then beams into
the Pentagon. The phony Avengers declare that they are taking over the
country, and anyone who opposes them will be destroyed! The response
is immediate -- the Avengers are declared traitors, to be shot on
sight, and the military makes plans to hunt them down.

Back at the castle, Rick Jones and his pals in the Teen Brigade are
wondering why the Avengers haven't reappeared. They decide to snoop
around, but as they approach Nefaria's control room, they are spotted
and captured by Maggia guards. While the kids cool their heels in the
dungeon, Nefaria releases the Avengers, who don't realize that they've
been unconscious for hours. Nefaria spins a yarn about having to
postpone the opening ceremonies, and sends the heroes on their way --
right into the path of the U.S. military! Though they don't understand
why they're being attacked, the Avengers fight back. Thor and Iron Man
take out the tanks and planes, while Cap and Giant-Man hold the troops
at bay to cover their escape, being careful not to injure anyone. The
Avengers retreat to their secondary emergency headquarters, and learn
of the charges against them. They realize that someone must have
impersonated them, and suspect that Nefaria is somehow involved.

Across town at the famous Baxter Building, Reed Richards declares that
if the Avengers have gone rogue, the Fantastic Four will have to help
apprehend them. The Thing actually relishes the chance to match his
strength against Thor, but a government agent arrives and instructs
them to stay put. With the public so riled up against the Avengers,
it's feared that any "super-powered celebrity" who shows their face
will be attacked. So the government is warning them all to keep a low
profile while they handle matters.

In Nefaria's dungeon, Rick tries to contact Iron Man with his
miniature transmitter. Unfortunately, Iron Man's receiver was damaged
in the fight with the army, and he doesn't get their message. But
Nefaria detects the radio beam, and decides to punish the Teen Brigade
by moving them to a different dungeon. Their new prison has
transparent walls studded with suction cups coated with a strange
substance. Nefaria warns them that one touch of the substance will put
them into "perpetual suspended animation", and then causes the walls
to close in on them until they are almost touching. The Count boasts
that once again he has not harmed them directly -- they'll be safe as
long as they stand perfectly still.

The Avengers are closing in on the castle, but run afoul of the
Count's booby-traps; Thor, Giant-Man, the Wasp, and Iron Man are all
paralyzed by a powerful chemical as soon as they come in contact with
the building. Captain America manages to jump through an open window
without actually touching the walls, and enters safely. He is attacked
by Maggia goons, but makes short work of them, and soon finds Rick and
his friends in the dungeon. Once they're all free, they split up in
order to avoid Nefaria's men. Looking outside, Cap sees a navy
destroyer travelling up the Hudson River; using his shield to catch
the sun's rays, he flashes a signal to them.

Nefaria spots Captain America on his monitor screen, and zaps him with
a paralyzing ray. When Cap wakes up, he is in chains, and Nefaria
brags that he will be a hero when he turns Cap over to the
authorities. Just then, Iron Man comes crashing through the wall.
While Cap was distracting the Count, the Teen Brigade was able to find
and free the Avengers. The heroes make quick work of the Maggia thugs,
and close in on the Count himself. Panicking, Nefaria admits that he
is the one who send the electronic images of the Avengers to the
Pentagon, and tries to pass it off as a mere "prank". A general steps
out from hiding and says that he's heard enough to exonerate the
Avengers (presumably he came in response to Cap's signal, although
this isn't stated). Count Nefaria will be deported, and no doubt
punished by his Maggia superiors. All's well that ends well -- until
Giant-Man notices that the Wasp isn't around, and then sees her
unconscious body cradled in Rick's arms. A grief-stricken Rick says
that she was hit by a stray bullet during the fight, and the issue
ends on this cliffhanger.


Another solid, action-packed issue. While Count Nefaria is essentially
just another mad scientist (in the same vein as Zemo or Kang), making
him a European nobleman and the head of a Mafia-type cartel is a
somewhat different spin on things. In a few of his close-ups, the
Count resembles horror star Vincent Price. Nefaria went on to fight
both the original and "all-new" X-Men teams, before making a memorable
return in AVENGERS 164-166.

Captain America always seems to be "last man standing" in these
stories, and his teammates are starting to look a little dumb by
comparison; even the Teen Brigade comes off better than Thor and Iron
Man this issue!

Wasp Watch: Not much glory for Jan this time out. She's not a factor
in any of the battles, and her only contribution to the plot is
getting shot at the end.

The Mighty Marvel Checklist features Fantastic Four #36, Spider-Man
#22, Daredevil #6, Thor #113, Strange Tales #130, Suspense #63,
Astonish #65, and Sgt. Fury #15.

- JKC -