These five comics are, to put it lightly, a mixed bag. The first two are partially reprinted panels and pages from throughout Avengers history, stretched out over two issues because writer Steve Englehart quit in the middle. Then an old friend returns to the fold, the team takes a trip to New Orleans, and then another old friend comes back… with problematic kids. There are a number of storylines woven through this period of the book, and the ethical content related to Cap is sparse, most of it showing up in the Annual at the end of the post. There is an incidental theme throughout these issues of Cap and Iron Man’s friendship, though, which may be reassuring or offsetting, depending on how you feel about their later ideological conflicts.
Issues #150 and 151 review the history of the team while putting together a new line-up, nicely highlighting each potential member, with beautiful George Pérez art interspersed (in issue #150) with reprinted Jack Kirby panels from old issues. In issue #150, we see many of the most significant Avengers together, and the most important topic raised: that of Iron Man’s nose, or lack thereof. (Whew.)
After Thor announces that he’s leaving, Tony turns to you-know-who, in what is definitely their most confrontational scene together in these issues.
Before we hear his answer, though, we get a quick recap… a reCap, I guess… of his defrosting in Avengers #4.
Cap doesn’t actually give is answer until issue #151, in which he makes reference to his recent absences from the team (chiefly during the Secret Empire/Nomad period in his own book) before reaffirming his dedication to the Avengers as his “home.”
“Old buddy.” See what I mean? (I’m not crying… you’re crying.)
By the end of issue #151, the new line-up is settled, and the new Avengers raise an average of one arm each in celebration.
Issue #152 opens with the final scene of the previous issue, in which the zombie-fied Simon Williams, a.k.a. Wonder Man—his mental state the result of a botched attempt at reviving the deceased villain-turned-hero—returns to face the Vision, whose brain patterns were based off of Simon’s.
When Cap tries to help him, a reporter intrudes and Cap reacts politely but forcefully, which Tony puts into context, demonstrating the sensitive understanding he is so well known for. (“Old buddy,” remember.)
As the team tries to figure out what happened to Simon, Cap silently expresses his usual compassion, having sympathy for a tragic figure with heroic potential.
The Scarlet Witch uses her powers to determine that Simon was last in New Orleans where he was transformed by voodoo priests into a zuvembie, a term used by Marvel at the time because the Comics Code banned the word zombie. (That worked well!) Then the team members share their experiences with the supernatural, Cap’s drawn from Invaders #7 (even though the editor’s note says issue #6), his first encounter with Baron Blood.
After they get to the bayou to seek help for Simon, Cap takes a chance to be pedantic. (Save it til later, Cap.)
They find and fight the Black Talon, who was responsible for sending Simon to New York, but not for reviving him, so that mystery remains.
Starting in issue #153 we see the return of the Whizzer, the mongoose-blood-powered speedster whom Cap met briefly during the war and reunited with more recently (at least in his time) in Giant-Size Avengers #1. The Whizzer seems out of sorts, though, and when Cap tries to calm him down, he has to assure his “old buddy” Tony that he knows what he’s doing with his trusty shield.
Avengers Annual #6 picks up the Whizzer storyline and others, but before it really gets going, Cap gives a little support and advice to Tony, who finds that heavy is the head that wears the crown and the helmet.
Actually, the rest of the relevant material in this chapter deals with Cap and Iron Man together as they search for the Serpent Crown, which we last saw in issue #149 but Wanda now says was stolen.
Below, we see what may be a first crack in the great “Captony” bromance, as Tony reveals he hasn’t been completely honest with his old buddy. (Get used to it, Cap.)
“We got this, pal.” (Dammit, there’s something in my eye again.)
Below, we see Cap and Tony cooperate against none other than the U.S. military, always an uncomfortable confrontation for the Star-Spangled Avenger…
…but perhaps made slightly less so by the fact that they fired first. (And Iron Man with the save… or maybe the assist?)
Below, Tony gets reflective about his past as a military contractor, and Cap decides he’s had enough of fighting his own guys.
As you may have guessed, the military above are under the control of the Serpent Crown, currently being worn by the Living Laser, whom you might remember from such Avengers classics as issue #34 and issue #79. The Laser has captured the Whizzer’s radioactive son Nuklo (the Whizzer’s son, from Giant-Size Avengers #1) and plans to use him to… win the love of the winsome Wasp, with whom he became entranced in issue #34. (He also used his powers to make the Whizzer attack the Avengers in issue #153.)
As Nuklo begins to grow, Cap and Iron Man give us a fantastic reaction shot.
Now that the band is back together, Cap goes into leader mode, subbing for Iron Chairman while he tackles the Nuklo problem.
When Tony tells the other Avengers to leave before Nuklo explodes, Cap reacts as you would expect…
…but in the end, a blast from the past comes to the rescue, and Cap gets biblical (literally).
Avengers (vol. 1) #150, August 1976: Steve Englehart and Stan Lee (writers), George Pérez and Jack Kirby (pencils), John Tartaglione, Duffy Vohland, and Dick Ayers (inks), Irene Vartanoff (colors), Denise Wohl and Artie Simek (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #151, September 1976: Gerry Conway, Jim Shooter, and Steve Englehart (writers), George Pérez (pencils), John Tartaglione (inks), Don Warfield (colors), Irving Watanabe (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #152, October 1976: Gerry Conway (writer), Steve Englehart (plotter), John Buscema (pencils), Joe Sinnott (inks), Petra Goldberg (colors), John Costanza (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) Annual #6, 1976: Gerry Conway (writer), George Pérez (pencils), Mike Esposito, John Tartag, and Duffy Vohland (inks), Petra Goldberg (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
All collected in: Avengers: The Private War of Dr. Doom, Avengers Epic Collection: The Final Threat, and Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers Volume Sixteen. (Avengers Annual #6 is also collected in Avengers Visionaries: George Pérez.)
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #147-149 (May-July 1976)