This two-parter introducing the Swordsman highlights the internal friction among the group, as perceptions of Captain America’s grandstanding further Quicksilver’s and Hawkeye’s desires to take over as team leader. Just to give you a little heads up: most of the relevant material in these issues takes place in between the scenes with the Swordsman, so for the real action, you’ll have the read the original issues.
As issue #19 opens, we see the Swordsman invading Avengers Mansion and attacking Wanda and Pietro, saying he wants to prove his worth as an Avengers by defeating them—hey, it sorta worked for Hawkeye in issue #16—but he only wants to be an Avengers to take advantage of the perks. By the time Cap arrives on the scene, his two colleagues have beaten the Swordsman, and when he looks him up on Facebook in the Avengers’ micro-tape identity file, he discovers the fiend is a wanted criminal across Europe.
Unfortunately he escapes, and Cap goes back to training… and moping over the fact that he’s yet to hear from Nick Fury in response to his letter asking to join S.H.I.E.L.D. (as we saw in issue #15).
Note also the comment in the top panel about having “no special natural powers,” which again reflects his state of human perfection, not possessing the superhuman strength we see him with in later years. (Also, remind me when Hawkeye got special powers?)
After Cap tells Hawkeye about the Swordsman, and Hawkeye reveals that he was the villain’s protégé in the circus until Clint caught him stealing, we see Cap’s letter unopened on Nick Fury’s desk—and several Hydra agents do as well, and steal the letter hoping for S.H.I.E.L.D. secrets. When they don’t find them, they toss the letter out the window, where eventually it finds itself in the hands of the Swordsman, who replies to it to set a trap for Cap.
Do you think he’s excited to get the letter?
He’s also a bit of a jerk about it, which is not only out of character but even more uncalled for from the team leader. It’s easy to understand his reasoning, given his ennui of late, but his irritability given the constant needling from Clint and Pietro, but still… not cool, Cap. (And of course, this behavior only encourages Clint and Pietro to think of leadership themselves, which Wanda clearly sees.)
His glee is short-lived, however, once he goes to the address in the letter and picks up on the ruse. (Presumably he doesn’t know about Nick’s disguised safehouses around the world, but nonetheless, he ain’t wrong.)
Again, it worked for Hawkeye… great precedent to set there, people.
Cap and the Swordsman fight for a few pages until Cap is knocked out by some falling crates—and when the rest of the Avengers find them, Cap is in quite a sticky wicket indeed.
On the final page of the issue, Captain America’s selfless heroism shines…
…as does the admirable degree of trust he has in his teammates!
Issue #20 begins as the Avengers scramble to save their falling leader.
As team-building trust exercises go, this one’s a doozy!
It’s nice to see a true team effort to save Cap, and hopefully this lead to a more harmonious Avengers going forward. (For a few minutes, at least.)
As soon as they confront the Sworsdman, the old divisions and grudges re-emerge, especially after Cap takes charge yet again.
And… we’re back to the Kranky Quartet, which continues after they return to Avengers Mansion.
It’s nice to see Cap staying cool this time, deciding to let Pietro and Clint get it out of their system—on each other—rather than try to impose himself on them both.
While Hawkeye and Quicksilver try to one-up each other, the Swordsman has been transported to the secret lair of the Mandarin, Iron Man’s arch foe, who wants him to try to infiltrate the Avengers again as a way to get to ol’ Shellhead. As the first part of this plan, the Mandarin sends a “projecto-image” of Iron Man into Avengers Mansion, where once again the Avengers bend over backwards to be gullible.
I’ve talked before about how Cap’s inclination to trust can be taken too far, and this is yet another example. (He shows a little more suspicion later in the story, though.)
Not only is the word of “Iron Man” good enough for Cap—which, like his earlier odes to their friendship, always gets a chuckle out of me—but it even makes Hawkeye reconsider his behavior, which never worked for Cap! But not even that lasts long, as Hawkeye is soon back to normal.
When the Swordsman reappears, the Avengers are all too quick to accept him—as they did Wonder Man in issue #9 and the fake Spider-Man in issue #11—although both Hawkeye and Cap have their doubts.
The Mandarin has the Swordsman plant a bomb in Avengers Mansion to kill Iron Man when he returns, but then gets impatient and orders him to detonate it immediately. Similar to Wonder Man earlier, the Swordsman develops a bit of a conscience and deactivates the bomb—not that Cap and Hawkeye noticed that part.
OK, Cap, OK.
Even after the other two Avengers join the fight, the Swordsman manages to escape, and reflects on how much he liked being an Avenger, even under false pretenses and for a very short time. (And it looks like the Mandarin harbors a grudge as well.)
Will the Swordsman become yet another member of the Reformed Avengers? You’ll see—in about 80 issues.
Avengers (vol. 1) #19, August 1965: Stan Lee (writer), Don Heck (pencils), Dick Ayers (inks), Stan Goldberg (colors), Artie Simek (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #20, September 1965: Stan Lee (writer), Don Heck (pencils), Wally Wood (inks), Stan Goldberg (colors), Artie Simek (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Both collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers Volume Two
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #17-18 (June-July 1965)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Tales of Suspense #68-69 (August-September 1965)
NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #21-24 (October 1965-January 1966)
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