Once again, this batch of six comics contains only patchy Captain America content—much less ethically interesting content—so I’m doing them all in one post.
The three Avengers issues comprise a single story pencilled by John Byrne, who would soon begin his legendary run on The Uncanny X-Men with writer Chris Claremont, later to return to Avengers as penciller and writer (on different runs), as well as pencil a short but seminal run on Captain America with writer Roger Stern.
Issue #164 sees the most Cap “action,” starting with a battle with the Lethal Legion.
Again we see the inexplicable vertical shield throw, while Yellowjacket and the Wasp communicate their readiness to team leader
Iron Man Cap. (And just look at that the second panel—Byrne drew such an nobly authoritative Cap.)
That guy, by the way, is Power Man—not Luke Cage, but the other one, introduced in Avengers #21, who would go on to become a villainous Goliath and eventually Atlas of the Thunderbolts.
The battle doesn’t entirely go well for the Avengers, as Cap finds himself playing catcher and revising his strategy on the field.
Luckily for him the Scarlet Witch intervenes with the Living Laser…
…and Cap makes yet another battlefield adjustment, while acknowledging the Avengers have not been themselves of late. (No kidding… struggling against the Lethal Legion, really?) The exposition in the final panel is indicative of what is to come, and not only from Cap, when the team next gathers (on a more peaceful occasion).
(For Jarvis’s sake, I hope Cap wiped his boots when he came in.)
As he did in issue #161, Cap takes issue with the Beast’s clowning. I don’t think Cap has a problem with kidding around, but rather that the Beast’s boisterous banter just happens to come at the wrong time… all the time.
Unfortunately, their discussion of the Irresponsible Iron Man gets cut short by… guess who… the Lethal Legion. Again, Cap launches directly into planning mode (and chooses to ignore the Beast, who just needs to shut the fur up).
Things don’t start well for team after Wonder Man hesitates in battle… and Cap makes a odd promise to Yellowjacket that would seem to defy optimal strategy for vengeful purposes. (Perhaps he’s just being sensitive to Hank after his recent breakdown in issue #161.)
The battle eventually ends in the Avengers’ favor, but their celebration is cut short by yet another threat…
…Count Nefaria, who’s spent his time fighting the X-Men since being introduced in Avengers #13.
As the battle begins in issue #165, we see Cap and the Beast engage in the strangest shield toss ever (even compared to the vertical one). There couldn’t be any spin with both of them throwing it from opposite sides, but without spin, how could it fly straight… oh, never mind.
You ask me, they deserved to have it caught, throwing it like that. (And it’s been a while since the unique nature of Cap’s shield has been hinted at, though it has yet to be revealed.)
After he drops a building on the Avengers, Nefaria escapes, leaving a returning Iron Man to sift through the ruins and find some peeved teammates within.
(I seem to remember Jim Shooter writing a similar scenario in Secret Wars a few years later, with the Hulk playing the Wonder Man role.)
Now Tony’s in for it, and Cap leads the charge, playing the “old man” card, while Wanda paraphrases Tom Petty lyrics over a decade before they were written.
Unfortunately, their discussion is cut short again by the return of Nefaria, who manages to take out the entire team, only to face Thor, who again shows up in the nick of time (as he did in issue #162).
In issue #166, while Thor, soon joined by Vision, battles Nefaria, the rest of the Avengers eventually come to, but unfortunately—at least for us—Cap is out of action for the most of the rest of the issue.
Cap valiantly tries to get on his feet to join the fight, and learns that sometimes he can not do this all day…
…but he does still contribute by lending his mighty shield to someone who can use it.
After they—and by “they” I mean the Vision—defeat Nefaria, Iron Man calls out Thor on his intermittent participation, which leads Cap to call out Tony on his hypocrisy (given that they never finished their discussion in the last issue).
But once again, they don’t have a chance to finish their discussion, and Tony escapes with his armor intact once more. (The rascal!)
Around this time, the Avengers also appeared in Super-Villain Team-Up #14, where they find themselves in the middle of a disagreement between Doctor Doom and Magneto, who shows up at Avengers Mansion seeking help but has a bit of a problem getting that across. Even Cap jumps to the wrong conclusion…
…but he is the first is realize that all may not be as they thought.
Finally, the Avengers played a small role in yet another cosmic adventure by Jim Starlin with Captain Marvel and Thanos, this time in a two-part tale crossing over between Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2.
In the Avengers Annual, we start with a slice-of-life scene, in which Cap does not seem to want to let go of his shield.
After Captain Marvel, Moondragon, and Adam Warlock show up to warn of Thanos’s latest hijinks and they all head into space to confront him, we see each Avenger’s thoughts, with Cap’s reflecting his military training as he bemoans their lack of information and admits his suspicions about who may have more.
Once they confront Thanos’s armada, Cap launches into leadership mode—whether or not Iron Man is chairman—which is a role he is clearly comfortable with (and for good reason).
This continues after the Avengers board Thanos’s flagship to destroy his weapon…
…and Cap allows himself a private admission that their chances are slim.
Over in the Marvel Two-in-One Annual starring the Thing and Spider-Man (and merely “featuring” the Avengers), Thanos and his forces manage to subdue our team of heroes, and displays them in his den like action figures (albeit out of their original packaging).
Spidey manages to disable the mechanism holding the Avengers captive—by using his own body as a battering ram—and Cap lets the others do the rallying cries for a change.
Cap does engage in some of his patented inspiring leadership as the battle begins…
…although Tony presses his luck by criticizing him for it.
At the end, the Mad Titan is turned to stone by the soul of Adam Warlock (don’t ask), and and after Thanos’s forces quickly surrender to the heroes, Cap helpfully puts the scene into historical context.
Not that Cap was in Berlin in May 1945, having “died” in April 1945, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless!
Avengers (vol. 1) #166, December 1977: Jim Shooter and John Byrne (writers), John Byrne (pencils), Pablo Marcos (inks), Phil Rachelson (colors), Denise Wohl (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Super-Villain Team-Up #14, October 1977: Bill Mantlo (writer), Bob Hall (pencils), Don Perlin and Duffy Vohland (inks), Don Warfield (colors), Irving Watanabe (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Super-Villains Unite: The Complete Super-Villain Team-Up,
Both collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: The Final Threat, Warlock by Jim Starlin: The Complete Collection, Avengers vs. Thanos, Marvel Masterworks: Captain Marvel Volume Five, Marvel Masterworks: Warlock Volume Two, and Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers Volume Seventeen.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #157-162 and Captain Marvel #50-51 (March-August 1977)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #214 (October 1977), Captain America #215 (November 1977), Invaders #21-22 (October-November 1977), Captain America #216 (December 1977), and Invaders #23 (December 1977)
NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #167-169 (January-March 1978)