Captain America’s second issue back from the frozen deep is fairly light on explicit demonstrations or descriptions of his virtues, but nonetheless there are interesting (or at least funny) things to note. And as a bonus, the Avengers appeared in the same month’s Fantastic Four #26, so I will describe them together. (Twice the value for your “money”!)
CAPTAIN AMERICA AND IRON MAN, STILL PALS… FOR NOW
This issue starts off right where the last ended after Captain America agreed to join the Avengers, with an encouraging handshake between Cap and Iron Man. (We also see yet another sign that Cap is considering training Rick Jones to be his partner, if not the new Bucky.)
Another touching moment between Iron Man and Cap comes later in the issue when Cap admonishes Rick not to question Iron Man’s orders.
Somehow I doubt Cap said “Iron Man must have his reasons” with a straight face later in their tempestuous partnership! As we’ll see in many future posts—and as discussed at length in my books The Virtues of Captain America and A Philosopher Reads Marvel Comics’ Civil War—Cap and Tony butt heads on many occasions due to the different ways they express their heroism in term of ethics. But for now, at least, they are BFFs.
TRAINING THE NEXT GENERATION IN THE VIRTUES OF FITNESS AND GREAT NUTRITION
In this issue we also see Cap “giving an acrobatic exhibition” to the Teen Brigade, stressing fitness and good nutrition as well as balance, coordination, and focus over “mere strength.” He also promises to give them lessons in judo and karate (which Cap picked up where, exactly—East Asian martial arts weren’t adopted by the US military until the 1950s, as far as I know).
Seeing these earnest lessons to the lads, I can’t help but think of the high school “Rappin’ with Cap” videos in Spider-Man: Homecoming. (He does wear earnest well, though, doesn’t he?)
RESILIENCE IN THE FACE OF PAIN (AND SOLIDIFED HEATED AIR)
Perhaps the most straightforwardly impressive feat Cap pulls off in this issue – other than some fancy shieldwork, after which he says he’s “glad I’m not too rusty after all these years” – is his endurance under pain. After being trapped in solidified “heated air” by the Lava Men, a race of subterranean would-be conquerors (apparently from a different town than Mole Man), Cap is freed after Iron Man uses his repulsors to blast away what looks like hardened lava (which, of course, is really… solidified air), and privately marvels at Cap’s fortitude (“like a man,” recalling Thor’s comment from the last issue). Notably, however, Cap does admit to pain, even if he managed to endure it, which can be seen as a sign of his humility or lack of pride.
ONE FUNNY THING
I guess Cap invented the game of “the floor is lava”!
Meanwhile, in the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine the same month, the Avengers intervene in the Fantastic Four’s battle with the Hulk, who is actually trying to find the Avengers… so it all worked out, nice! (The events in this issue occurred before Avengers #5, where we see the Hulk revisiting them in his mind.)
After the Hulk dispatches with Ben and Johnny (while Sue is tending to a very feverous Reed in the hospital), the Green Goliath finds the Avengers…
…and lunges at Rick Jones, who he thinks deserted him for Cap and the others, bringing all the Avengers to the boy’s defense.
Cap teaches the Hulk a lesson about clean living while using his speed to evade the giant’s crushing blows…
…before the Fantastic Four return, the two teams getting in each other’s way and allowing the Hulk to escape with Rick.
Once our heroes find King Kong and Fay Wray atop an in-construction skyscraper, they wisely coordinate their efforts to battle the Hulk and rescue his captive. After the Hulk traps the Thing in hardening cement, Cap joins the fray, referring to the idol o’ millions as valiant (reflecting his own habit of highlighting the virtues of others more than his own).
The Hulk recognizes Cap as Rick’s new friend, and Cap hails his determination (though perhaps sarcastically) while he gives the giant a judo lesson in strength verses leverage (one of his favorite topics, as we saw above).
Finally, Rick gives the Hulk a pill to counter the gamma ray and turn him back into Bruce Banner, and the Hulk escapes into the river (Hudson or East, I don’t know) before the transformation. (Gee, too bad Hawkeye didn’t have one of those pills during Civil War II, huh?)
After the two teams regroup, Cap expresses sympathy for the Hulk, based on his own experiences.
This reflects Cap’s recognition of the shared humanity between himself and the Hulk, despite his awesome transformation, and also his acknowledgment that the Hulk is not evil or villainous, in need of help rather than justice.
And thus ends the first meeting between the Avengers and the Fantastic Four—with Thor’s hope that his team can live up to the “unsullied record” of the other.
At the very least, the Avengers have had better movies (so far)!
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Avengers #4 (March 1964)
NEXT ISSUE: Avengers #6 (July 1964)