Avengers Vol. 1 No. 3

AVENGERS Vol. 1 No. 3
January, 1964
"The Avengers Meet... Sub-Mariner!"

No credits are listed in this issue... I'm gonna take a wild stab and
say it's by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. ;-)

The Avengers are having their monthly meeting at Stark's mansion.
Since last issue, Iron Man has switched to a more streamlined suit of
red and gold armor. The Wasp's costume has been modified too... her
cowl is now rounded off instead of pointed on top (on the splash page,
we can see some of her hair sticking out of the back of the cowl, but
that's not the case anywhere else in the issue).

The heroes are discussing what to do about the Hulk, who quit the team
last issue. He's too dangerous to be running around loose, but they're
not sure where to start looking for him. Iron Man uses a large gizmo
called an Image Projector to beam an electronic image of himself to
various locations, in order to recruit some help. Unfortunately, all
the people he contacts -- the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the
X-Men -- all pretty much give him the brush-off.

Their next idea turns out to be a better one: they get in touch with
Rick Jones in the southwest via ham radio, and ask him to search for
the Hulk. Rick checks out the Hulk's usual stomping grounds, and sure
enough encounters him roaming the desert. He convinces the Hulk to go
back with him to a hidden lab, where Rick uses the Gamma Ray Machine
to change the Hulk back to Bruce Banner. Exhausted, Banner tries to
get some sleep, but apparently Rick didn't give him a strong enough
dose of gamma rays, and soon he changes back into the Hulk and bursts
out of the lab.

Rick contacts the Avengers, who head to New Mexico to confront the
Hulk. Iron Man arrives first, using an energy blast to hurl rocks at
the Green Goliath. The Hulk responds by squeezing a giant cactus,
causing the needles to shoot out towards Iron Man. At this point,
Ant-Man and the Wasp arrive, and command their insect allies to dam up
an underground stream. The water then rushes up to the surface,
causing the ground to collapse beneath the Hulk. The Hulk leaps free,
only to find himself being spun in circles by Iron Man's magnetic

Thor arrives, and Greenskin decides that discretion is the better part
of valor. He leaps up as if he were going to jump away, then reverses
direction and plunges underground instead, ending up in an abandoned
mine shaft. He resurfaces and grabs onto a passing train, but the
Avengers are hot on his heels. The Hulk hurls the caboose at the
pursuing heroes, then follows up by swinging a large crane at Iron Man
and wrapping Thor up with a spool of steel cable. Giant-Man is right
on top of him, but the Hulk stuffs sacks of flour into the train's
smokestack, creating a blinding smokescreen. Unable to see, Giant-Man
gets knocked off the train when it enters a tunnel.

Having ditched his pursuers, the Hulk gets off the train and hides in
the back of a dump truck. Then he dives into a nearby stream,
eventually coming out days later in the Atlantic Ocean. Near
exhaustion, the Hulk is picked up by a passing ship. But it turns out
that someone else has been keeping tabs on ol' Greenskin all along --
Namor the Sub-Mariner, avowed enemy of the surface world! When a
recovered Hulk leaves the ship and swims towards a deserted island,
Namor is there waiting for him. But the Hulk is in no mood for
company, and the two fight briefly. Namor observes that while the Hulk
is the strongest one on dry land, he is the mightiest one in the sea.
Taking the fight underwater, Namor manages to subdue the Hulk long
enough to propose an alliance. After all, they both hate the human
race. The Hulk thinks this is a great idea, though he plans to turn on
Namor once he doesn't need him anymore (Namor, of course, is thinking
the exact same thing).

Sometime later, the two menaces send a message to the Avengers,
announcing their alliance and challenging the heroes to a fight. The
Avengers travel to the island in their Deep-Sea Jet Bathyscaph to
confront Namor and the Hulk. The island was once a military base, and
Namor uses some of the leftover weapons to harrass the heroes: Firing
an old howitzer at them, and then paralyzing Iron Man's armor with an
emery dust pellet gun. Thor holds the two off with his hammer, while
Giant-Man uses an old air compressor to blow the dust out of
Shellhead's joints.

The Wasp flies after Namor and the Hulk to see what they're up to, but
when the Hulk smashes through a wall, the concussion waves knock her
for a loop. Stunned, she's nearly trampled by her own allies as they
run to the scene. After that, she decides she's better off just
staying on Giant-Man's shoulder.

Next, Namor plans to blast the heroes with a modified air raid siren,
but the Avengers confront him before he can set it off. The Hulk
decides to hold back and see what his new partner can do. Namor
quickly out-muscles Giant-Man, and damages Iron Man's life-preserving
chestplate with a single blow. But then Thor enters the fray, and the
Hulk jumps back in. Together, the Hulk and Namor seem to be a match
for the Thunder God, although the Hulk is unable to break Thor's grip
on his enchanted hammer.

Alas, we'll never know who would have won; at that moment, the Hulk
suddenly transforms back into Bob (sic) Banner, and flees the scene.
The Avengers gang up on the Sub-Mariner, who has been out of the water
for too long and is getting weaker by the second. It looks like
curtains for Namor, until he manages to crack the stone wall behind
him, releasing a stream of water that re-invigorates him. Smashing
through the walls, he flees back into the ocean, vowing that their
next battle will end differently. The Avengers take no joy in their
"victory", knowing that they'll have to face these foes again.

Another issue bursting to the seams with action, although after all
the sturm und drang, nothing is really resolved. I'm kind of surprised
they could get away with having Namor and the Hulk escape... didn't
the Comics Code have a rule that the villain always had to be
captured? Again you can see how Stan and Jack are trying to set this
series apart from the traditional (i.e., DC style) superhero book;
especially that odd and amusing sequence where every other hero in the
nascent Marvel Universe basically tells Iron Man to go away and stop
bothering them. Even Aquaman gets more respect than that! ;-)

Three issues in, and I'm pretty much sick of the Wasp. I haven't read
much of Ant-Man's solo series; was she this annoying and useless there
too? Literally all she does here is flirt with Thor and get in the way
of the rest of the team. Tsk, tsk.

You get the sense that Avengers haven't really gelled yet as a team.
It's almost as if they're lacking some vital ingredient... a strong
leader who can really pull them together and make them function as a
unit. I wonder where they could find such a person...?