Avengers Vol. 1 No. 4

AVENGERS Vol. 1 No. 4
March, 1964
"Captain America Joins...The Avengers!"
Gloriously written by Stan Lee
Grandly illustrated by Jack Kirby
Gallantly lettered by Art Simek

The splash page shows legendary WWII hero Captain America being
welcomed into the ranks of the Avengers. A caption reminds us that
both Jack Kirby and Stan Lee worked on Cap's adventures back in the
Golden Age of comics (Joe Simon's name is conspicuously absent). It's
interesting to note that the term "Golden Age" had already caught on
as a label for the comics of the 1940s by this time. Anyone know who
first coined it?

The story proper picks up directly from last issue, with Namor the
Sub-Mariner narrowly escaping our heroes. Angry and frustrated, Namor
searches the oceans for some sign of his lost race, the Atlanteans.
Hours later, he reaches the North Sea, where he spots a tribe of
eskimos gathered on an ice floe. They are worshipping a strange
figure, frozen in a block of ice. Spoiling for a fight, Namor hurls
the frozen idol in the sea, and begins smashing apart the ice floe, as
the eskimos flee in terror.

Unnoticed, the frozen figure is carried away by the currents until it
reaches the warm water of the Gulf Stream and begins to thaw out. By
chance, the Avengers' submarine is passing nearby. They spot the body
floating in the sea and bring it aboard. With the ice completely
melted, we see that the figure is a blond-haired man in tattered
clothes. But beneath those clothes is a distinctive red-white-and-blue
uniform, which the Wasp recognizes as the costume of the legendary
Captain America. Moreover, a closer examination reveals that he is
still breathing!

Suddenly, the Captain sits upright, yelling about someone named
"Bucky". Seeing the Avengers, he leaps to attack them. The heroes
manage to restrain him, and soon Captain America calms down. The
Avengers express doubt that he could really be the famous hero of
World War II, and the Captain suggests that they put him to the test.
He easily dodges Thor's hammer, and even manages to throw Giant-Man
for a loop, but is stymied when the Wasp appears before him; he
doesn't want to hit a girl. Still, he's proven he is who he claims to
be, and the Avengers wonder how he came to be here, and why he hasn't

Somberly, Cap tells the tale of his final mission of the war. He and
teen sidekick Bucky were guarding a new type of drone plane when it
was stolen by a Nazi spy. Chasing the plane on a motorcycle, they
drove up a ramp and tried to jump onto the plane. Bucky made the jump,
but Cap fell short. Cap warned Bucky not to try and turn the plane
around himself, because the controls might be booby-trapped. But it
was too late; an explosion threw Cap into the ocean off the coast of
Newfoundland, and ended the life of the brave boy named Bucky. A fluke
of chance caused Cap to be frozen in ice, which kept him in suspended
animation for all those years.

Soon, the submarine arrives in New York, and the Avengers are greeted
by a mob of reporters, anxious to hear the results of their battle
with the Hulk. Iron Man comments that they'll be disappointed to hear
that the battle was inconclusive. Thor points out that there's an even
bigger story -- Captain America -- waiting below decks. But before the
heroes can announce the identity of their passenger, there is a
blinding flash of light. When it fades, the Avengers have vanished,
replaced by stone statues. The reporters assume that this is some
trick the heroes pulled in order to avoid the press, and leave the
scene (not exactly a bunch of Woodwards and Bernsteins -- or even Lois
Lanes -- are they?).

At this point, Captain America (who had been resting below) finally
climbs out of the submarine. He too wonders where the Avengers have
gone, and why those statues are sculpted in such odd poses, but he
shrugs it off (Hey, he's got an excuse for being oblivious -- he's
been asleep for 20 years!). Cap goes for a walk to see what the world
is like these days, observing the changes in fashions and automobiles.
A policeman recognizes the Captain and gets a bit choked up; it's as
if Cap had returned just when America needed him the most.

But as he settles down in a hotel room, Cap isn't so sure. He broods
over Bucky's death, and wonders if there's any place for him in this
strange modern world. Just then, a figure appears at the door. Cap
thinks it's Bucky at first, but it turns out to be Rick Jones, the
teen who has palled around with both the Hulk and the Avengers. Rick
knows that Captain America was the last person to see the Avengers
before they vanished, and demands to know what happened to them.

Seeing Rick, and hearing about the Avengers' plight, seems to
re-energize Cap; perhaps he has a part to play in this era after all.
He tells Rick to get copies of all the photos that were taken of the
Avengers at the docks. Examining enlargements of the pictures, Cap
spots a strange man hidden among the reporters, carrying what appears
to be some kind of hi-tech gun. He has Rick rally all his teenage
friends to canvas the city, looking for that man.

Captain America finally spots the culprit in a hotel room. He charges
in, only to be attacked by a mob of gun-wielding thugs. He uses his
shield to slice apart their weapons, then subdues the gang with his
acrobatic combat moves. Soon only the leader with the ray-gun is left.
Cap realizes that such a strange weapon couldn't have come from Earth.
He pulls the mask from the man's face, revealing a green-skinned,
spiky-haired alien.

Beaten, the alien tells his story. His spaceship landed on Earth
centuries ago, crashing into the sea. He tried to make contact with
the humans, in order to get their help retrieving his ship. But his
appearance frightened them, and he was forced to use his ray-gun in
self-defence, turning people to stone. Cap realizes that he must have
been the inspiration for the legend of the snake-haired medusa.

Recently, the Sub-Mariner found the alien, and agreed to free his ship
from the ocean floor if he would use his petrifying weapon on the
Avengers. Cap tells him that he will take care of the ship, if the
alien will change the Avengers back to normal. The green-skinned
creature agrees, and soon the Avengers are hale and hearty once more.

Observing the scene on his undersea scanner, the Sub-Mariner knows
that his plan has failed. But in a stroke of luck, he encounters a
troop of Atlantean soldiers who are still loyal to him. Perhaps he can
still defeat the Avengers after all...

The next day, the Avengers, the alien, and Rick Jones all travel to a
remote island, near the crash site of the alien's ship. The spacecraft
is buried in the ocean floor, with only the tail section visible; even
Giant-Man's mighty muscles can't budge it. But Thor's hammer does the
trick, generating powerful magnetic waves that pull the ship free of
the muck. The alien quickly goes inside to effect repairs, while the
Avengers wait topside.

At that moment, the Sub-Mariner and his troops attack, causing an
explosion that scatters the heroes. Iron Man goes to confront Namor,
using his magnetic repulsers at full power to knock his foe for a
loop. But this depletes his energy supply, and while he's waiting for
his weapons to recharge, Namor closes in and threatens to crush him.
The Wasp flies circles around Namor's head, distracting him momentarily.

Then Namor hears his troops calling for help; Thor is making mincemeat
of them with his spinning hammer. Even their energy-blasts are being
reflected back at them. But Namor is not so easily thwarted, and he
closes in to battle Thor hand-to-hand.

Meanwhile, Giant-Man is trapped underwater, having been snared in a
net by the Atlantean troops. He quickly changes to ant-size, which
enables him to slip through the loops of the net, and then resurfaces
again in giant form. He sees Iron Man surrounded by more of the
undersea soldiers, and leaps into battle, scattering them in all
directions. Iron Man says he can finish off the rest, and Giant-Man
goes over to help Thor subdue Namor.

Captain America has been holding back all this time, in order to watch
the Avengers in action. He's definitely impressed, and likewise amazed
at the power of the Sub-Mariner. He wonders what it would have been
like if such men had existed in his era. (Apparently, Cap's memory is
still a bit fuzzy, since the Sub-Mariner WAS around in the '40s. And
of course, later stories would establish that he and Namor were
teammates in the wartime group The Invaders.)

With the Avengers closing in on him, Namor pulls out his ace in the
hole: His troops have taken Rick Jones hostage. This is the last straw
for Cap; he springs into action, smashing into the trooper holding
Rick prisoner. The Sub-Mariner grabs hold of Cap, ready to demolish
this new intruder (though Cap is confident he can counter his foe's
enormous strength).

But before the battle can continue, the island is rocked by a huge
shockwave, which causes the land to start breaking apart. Namor orders
his troops to retreat, confident that this sudden earthquake will
finish off the Avengers for him. But his prediction is premature; the
shockwave was caused by the alien's spaceship emerging from the sea.
Once the ship flies off, the quake subsides, and the Avengers are safe.

With the immediate threat over, the Avengers turn to more pleasant
business. They offer Captain America membership in the Avengers, and
the living legend gratefully accepts. Everyone is all smiles, except
for Rick Jones. He wonders what the Hulk will think when he finds out
that Captain America has replaced him, both in the Avengers and as
Rick's mentor. (And we'll soon find out, albeit in the pages of

In some ways this issue is a rehash of #3, being another inconclusive
skirmish with the Sub-Mariner. But the presence of the stranded alien
adds an interesting twist, and of course the main attraction here is
the much-ballyhooed return of Captain America. Resurrecting "Golden
Age" heroes was something DC Comics had been having great success
with, and Marvel's own Sub-Mariner was turning out to be a popular
anti-hero/villain, so bringing back their flagship character from the
1940s must've been a no-brainer. But Stan and Jack realized that such
a simplistically patriotic figure might not fly in a more complex era,
and actually incorporated that ambiguity into the character. Cap's
feelings of alienation, and his guilt over the death of Bucky, added a
layer of nuance to his personality and set the tone for his portrayal
for decades to come.

With Captain America in place, the preliminaries are finally over, and
the Avengers really start to feel like a genuine team (The
aforementioned crossover with the Fantastic Four, in FF #25 & 26, also
goes a long way towards establishing the team's credentials). Of
course, once they've settled into something of a comfortable groove,
Stan & Jack start looking for ways to shake things up again. But
that's still a few issues down the line...