Things are a-changin’ as the Avengers roster turns over almost completely, leaving Captain America as the only member without a criminal record. But first, we get some resolution to Cap’s “hunger for revenge” against Baron Zemo.
As issue #15 begins, we see that Cap is once again having existential doubts about his meaning and purpose in life—as well as been self-sufficient financially—and so writes to his old buddy Nick Fury.
We’ll see how this turns out in his own feature in Tales of Suspense…
Yep, he’s back, and all his Scooby-Doo villain glory.
Zemo appreciates the classics, so in the spirit of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he kidnaps Rick Jones, always an effective way to get under Captain America’s skin.
After Hank stops Thor and Iron Man from being drawn in by Zemo’s tractor beam, he thinks of a way to strike at the villain, one that Cap, in his humility, is ready to support.
Sadly, it doesn’t work, and as predicted, Cap goes into a rage over Rick’s abduction.
Soon, Cap is on his way to the final confrontation with Zemo.
He finds Rick, frees him, and prepares to confront Zemo, armed with his shield and… justice. (I assume he also has courage and skill, compared to which “no weapons are greater,” as we saw in Avengers #12.)
As we soon see, Baron Zemo does meet his end, but fortunately not at Cap’s hand.
Even though Zemo died due to his own foolishness, Cap still feels Bucky has been avenged, and without him having to kill Zemo himself.
His comment that “no man can perpetrate evil without paying the price” certainly invokes retributive justice, by which wrongdoers deserve punishment as a matter of right, but in this case Zemo wasn’t brought to justice, by official means or otherwise. He “paid the price,” to be sure, but not at hands of anybody charged with imposing it. While Cap can rest easy that Zemo won’t hurt or kill anyone else in the future—at least not this Baron Zemo, wink wink—he can’t say that Zemo was truly brought to justice, which would have fully avenged Bucky. (As we’ll see, though, he comes to realize this fairly soon.)
The story continues in issue #16 as the rest of the Avengers battle the Masters of Evil while Cap and Rick lay Zemo to rest, and Cap realizes that the vengeful satisfaction he hoped for did not come to pass.
Unbeknownst to Cap and Rick, however, the other Avengers—minus Thor, who is dealing with affairs on Asgard—have thoughts of a life outside the team.
By the way, Cap and the gang make a brief appearance in the footnoted
Thor Journey into Mystery #116, where the Sentinel of Liberty urges the meeting to end—a man after my own heart—and he shows faith in his Asgardian teammate.
Anyway, back to the Avengers Three…
“While we have the chance”… sounds like Tony’s been waiting to say that!
As if on cue, a prospective replacement member appears, and he’s a known foe of Iron Man himself.
Once again, the Avengers are awfully quick to admit new members, as we saw in Avengers #9 with Wonder Man (who was a villain sent by Zemo to infiltrate the Avengers until he saw the light at the last minute) and in Avengers #11 with Spider-Man (actually a robot sent by Kang to… well, you know). Here we have a known villain who ties up poor Jarvis and plays William Tell with him, and Iron Man’s giving him the Avengers Manual.
But have no fear, Iron Man assures the public that Hawkeye was subject to extreme vetting.
Gee, while you’re at it, why not ring up a declared foe of all humanity.
Shucks, that’s too bad. (“He’d have made a great Avenger!” only tells us that this team has no standards whatsoever.)
Of course, once you open the door to villains, you never know who will try to walk in…
Yep, the two former members of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil are in. We’re all good now!
Just need an uncontrollable rage monster to give the team that extra edge.
In all seriousness, the devotion of the Avengers to encouraging the reformation of former villains is very much in line with the general thrust of the Marvel Universe towards human imperfection. Not only does each of the hero have his or her own flaw, but the villains are given a second chance to prove them to be heroes. (Even Spider-Man’s foe the Sandman becomes an Avenger at one point.) For more on this, see Daniel Molloy’s chapter “Forgivers Assemble” in my edited volume The Avengers and Philosophy.
Of course, Cap doesn’t know about any of this… yet.
HEY CAP… SOME THINGS HAVE CHANGED…
It’s strange that Rick is telling Cap that “you did it” in reference to Zemo’s death—and that Cap is deflecting the credit and praise, befitting his humility, but not correcting him outright.
The two return to a very crowded room at Stark’s place.
I hear Jimmy Stewart in my head: “Wh-wh-what’s goin’ on here, fellas?” (Admit it, you do too.)
After Hank bounces Cap for a bit, because that’s apparently what you do when you’re Giant Man…
…they fill Cap in, and Tony is careful to point out that they didn’t need Cap’s approval for the new members from the criminal underworld that they stuck him with in his absence.
The hits just keep comin’. “WHAT??!!” indeed, Cap, what indeed. (He’s probably wondering how long he was gone: “I don’t remember being frozen again!”)
And he’s very distraught—just look at that expression.
Rick’s several panels behind, but the boy catches up fast.
As he prepares the press corps to meet the new team, Tony graciously announces that Cap will be the “spokesman” for the group, based on his seniority (not on the fact that he’s, you know, the only proven hero among them).
Cap is gracious to Tony, who seems to be having second thoughts, and also tries to encourage Rick, who feels that he’ll never be a real
As the new group walks out into the press conference, we get a little taste of the resentment that Hawkeye will harbor for Cap in the upcoming issues (and for years to come after that).
And finally, this iconic panel, reproduced endless times since.
And with the end of this issue a new era of Avengers starts, one that highlights both Cap’s natural leadership as well as his struggles with it—especially faced with Hawkeye’s “personality.”
TWO FUNNY THINGS
I can’t remember exactly when Steve Rogers’ background as an artist was first established, but I wonder if it was inspired by use of an artist’s portfolio to disguise his shield in issue #15.
Thor did appear in issue #16… but framed so that his dialogue could be dubbed in later. (Think how much the producers of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers learned from this panel.)
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #13-14 (February-March 1965)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Tales of Suspense #64-65 (April-May 1964)
NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #17-18 (June-July 1965)