Avengers Vol. 1 No. 5

AVENGERS Vol. 1 No. 5
May, 1964
"The Invasion of the Lava Men!"
An epic tale, told with high drama and heroic dignity by: Stan Lee
Illustrated with deep sincerity and dazzling beauty: by Jack Kirby
Inked by: Paul Reinman
Lettered by: S. Rosen

The splash page shows the Avengers (Giant-Man, the Wasp, Iron Man,
Captain America, and Thor, plus hanger-on Rick Jones) grimly surveying
the damage done to their mansion headquarters (caused by the Hulk in
FANTASTIC FOUR #25-26). The members decide to go their separate ways
and attend to personal matters while the building is being repaired.

A few days later, workers at Tony Stark's Long Island weapons factory
are building a new artillery computer. Suddenly, a loud, piercing
sound is heard; it's so powerful that it tears the computer to pieces.
Stark is called with the news, and he decides to go investigate. But
first, he must charge up the mechanical chest-plate that keeps his
injured heart beating. He ponders that the many men who are jealous of
his wealth and good looks might think differently if they knew about
his handicap.

Meanwhile, Ant-Man and the Wasp are shrunken down inside an ant-hill,
performing a research project. They, too, get blasted by the
mysterious sound, which causes the ant-hill to come crashing down
around them. They manage to get out just in time, and start searching
for the source of the deadly noise.

Elsewhere, Dr. Don Blake sees a newspaper article about the strange
sound that is causing disasters all over the country. Striking his
cane to the ground, he transforms into the mighty Thor, and says that
it's time to summon the Avengers.

And the final member of the team, Captain America, is showing off some
acrobatic stunts to Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade pals. Thor
arrives, much to the kids' delight, but before Thor can explain the
reason for his visit, the terrible noise strikes again, causing a tree
to shatter into splinters. Thor, Cap, and Rick go to meet with the
other Avengers. Conferring in the basement of the headquarters (since
the upper floors are still under repairs), the heroes deduce that the
source of the sounds is somewhere in the southwest. Giant-Man wonders
if the Hulk is somehow involved, but Rick Jones is skeptical.

At a missile base in that self-same part of the country, a mound of
solid rock erupts from the ground. Before the soldiers can
investigate, the young scientist named Bruce Banner appears. The base
commander, General Ross, demands to know where Banner has been for the
past several months, but Banner merely claims to have been sick. What
Ross doesn't know is that Banner is secretly the rampaging monster
known as the Hulk.

Far below the surface, we see the cave-dwelling, stone-skinned
creatures known as the Lava Men. It is they who have caused the small
mountain to suddenly appear, using a mechanism to push the "living
rock" up towards the surface. The tribe's king and witch doctor are
both determined to see the rock pushed all the way out of their realm
and onto the surface, but a tribesman named Molto objects. He knows
that the surface humans are not evil, and don't deserve to have the
dangerous living rock forced upon them. But the witch doctor says that
Molto is simply afraid of the surface people, having been defeated by
Thor months ago.

Back up top, the Avengers have arrived at the missile base via
helicopter to investigate the growing rock. Iron Man flies towards the
rock and blasts a hole in it with his repulser transistors, trying to
determine what's causing it to expand so rapidly. The Lava Men
interpret this as an attack, and swarm all over the armored Avenger.
Using their power to generate heat, they try to broil Iron Man with
his own armor. But Iron Man is rescued by the timely arrival of Thor,
who uses his hammer to scatter the attacking Lava Men.

The thunder god sends Iron Man and Captain America back to the
surface, saying that only he can deal with the Lava Men. The creatures
are stunned when they see Thor walk into a pool of molten rock, and
rise up again unharmed. Thor confronts the king and the witch doctor,
who tell him that once he sees the mighty weapon they have, he will
know that the surface world is doomed. They show him the mechanism
that is pushing the Living Rock towards the surface. The rock is the
source of the deadly sounds that have been causing havoc.

Thor threatens to destroy the rock with a cosmic bolt from his hammer,
but the king stops him. He explains that the rock was first exposed
after a strange upheaval shook the underground realms. When one of the
Lava Men struck the small, strange rock with a hammer, the resulting
explosion destroyed an entire island. Since then, the rock has
continued to grow in power and size; if it were to explode underground
now, it might well tear the whole planet apart. The only solution,
they claim, is to push the rock completely onto the surface, where the
inevitable explosion will "only" destroy the surface world, leaving
the Lava Men's subterranean world intact.

Thor is momentarily stymied; he dare not strike the rock, but neither
can he allow it to be pushed to the surface. The king takes this as
his cue to order his army to attack, and the Lava Men start rushing
towards the surface. At the mouth of the tunnel, they are blocked by
Captain America, who uses his ricocheting shield to keep them at bay.
But the Lava Men strike back, heating the air around Cap and trapping
him in a cocoon of unbreakable cinders. Rick Jones tries to get Cap
free, while Iron Man steps up to confront the invaders.

Meanwhile, Ant-Man and the Wasp have been carefully examining every
inch of the living rock, and found one spot that is not pulsating and
growing; a sufficiently powerful blow at that point could destroy the
rock with causing an explosion. Switching to Giant-Man form, he and
the Wasp go down the tunnel to look for Thor. Iron Man explains that
there's a whole army of Lava Men between them and the thunder god, and
they've almost melted through the boulder he used to block the tunnel.
Grabbing the Avengers' helicopter, Giant-Man turns the blades sideways
to serve as a giant fan, knocking the Lava Men for a loop. The
invaders retreat, and Iron Man is able to blast Captain America free
from the cinders holding him. The heroes continue down the tunnel and
meet up with Thor, who tells them they have their work cut out for them.

Back up on the surface, Bruce Banner has deduced the nature of the
living rock. But before he can ponder further, he suddenly feels
himself transforming... and soon the Hulk is on the rampage once more.
Hearing the Avengers below, he leaps in to attack them. Thor beings
whirling his hammer in preparation to attack, but the Lava Men's witch
doctor intervenes with an atomic blast from his radioactive rod.
Somehow, the blast causes Thor to be turned back into Dr. Blake. The
transformation frightens the superstitious witch doctor, and he flees.

Meanwhile, the other Avengers struggle with the Hulk on top of the
living rock, which has nearly reached critical mass. Captain America
has devised a plan, but the timing is critical. Giant-Man repeatedly
grows and shrinks, confusing the Hulk and manuvering him into
position. Then the Wasp flies between the Hulk and the one vulnerable
point of the rock. The Hulk strikes out with all his might, and
suddenly the living rock glows, shimmers... and then implodes,
collapsing in on itself harmlessly.

Down below, Blake turns back into Thor and tells the demoralized Lava
Men to go back to their realm and never threaten the surface again,
lest they face the might of the Avengers. Back above, General Ross
orders his men to stand down, while his daughter Betty worries about
where Bruce Banner could have gone. At the site where the living rock
stood, the force of the explosion has transformed the ground into a
sheet of glass. The worn-out Avengers pick themselves up, and explain
to Thor how they manuvered the Hulk into striking the critical spot on
the living rock. Thor ponders that the Hulk's arrival must have been
fate, and Giant-Man praises the Wasp for her role in the plan.

Not far away, Betty Ross finds the battered form of Bruce Banner. She
asks him if the Hulk was responsible for injuring him, and he tells
her that was the case, more or less. But, he assures her, the Hulk is
gone... at least for now.

The Avengers head back to their helicopter to go back to New York,
only to receive a radio message from the Teen Brigade. A "Condition
Red" Emergency! To be continued...

With a solid membership in place, and a genuine world-threatening
menace to fight, this is perhaps the most "traditional" issue to date,
with a plot that could have easily been in an issue of JLA. But, as is
typical of Lee/Kirby, the "villains" aren't purely evil for the sake
of evil. While the king and witch doctor are shown to be all-too-eager
for an excuse to invade the surface world, they're also acting out of
self-preservation. The convenient arrival of the Hulk is a bit of a
deus ex machina, but at least it's set up fairly early on, and is
consistent with his appearances in previous issues. The ongoing
sub-plot of the Hulk's desire for revenge on the Avengers pretty much
peters out here, though, and he eventually transitions into a solo

(And, I'm happy to note, the Wasp actually makes a worthwhile
contribution this issue. Finally!)

This issue also features the debut of the letters page, "All About The
Avengers". Morton Hughes of Ohio wants to know who's stronger, the
Hulk or Thor (Stan is typically non-committal). Roger Gilman of
Massachusettes thinks that the Hulk should fight the X-Men and have a
romance with Marvel Girl (???). And future comics artist Alan Weiss of
Nevada thinks that the Sub-Mariner should turn from villain to hero
(which indeed came to pass).