These two issues of Avengers continue the storyline about Wanda and Pietro’s past, while our interest is mainly in Captain America’s leadership of the Avengers in Iron Man’s absence—about which more in the Iron Man issue that precedes them—as well as continued tensions with government liaison Henry Gyrich. Although the Cap content in the two Avengers issues is scant, you should check out them for the main story, which leads to the revelation of the Maximoff twins’ true father. (Believe it or not, it was never the Whizzer.)
Let’s talk abouty Iron Man #125 first, because it will explain a detail in the Avengers issues to follow. At this point in Tony’s story, his armor was co-opted to kill a man, so he has had to relinquish it to the government for the time being. (And he has started drinking big time, which has also been seen in recent issues of Avengers; in fact, this issue of Iron Man is part of the classic “Demon in a Bottle” storyline.)
Without armor to help him find the real killer, he needs to get him some skills… and it just so happens the fella he wants to ask for help is discussing his situation when he arrives, as well as assuming leadership of the team in Tony’s absence (and openly admitting less than total confidence in the Armored Avenger’s innocence, or at least his ability to prove it).
Of course, Tony just had to walk in at that very moment, and is admirably gracious about Cap’s candidness. Remember that Tony’s secret identity is known only to Thor at this point, so to the rest of the Avengers he’s just the guy who keep the lights on and signs the checks.
Tony comes up with a very credible reason why he needs training, and Cap is happy to oblige, having given many “lessons” in his first days out of the ice, as we saw in early issues of Avengers and Tales of Suspense.
It seems Cap enjoyed that a little too much. (Is he giggling in the last panel above?)
But Cap gets serious, and ends up being impressed with how quickly the playboy engineer CEO picks it up.
This scene was revisited almost 30 years later (in our time) in the Civil War tie-in Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War, in which Cap and Tony remembered their history of conflict while they fought in the then-destroyed Avengers Mansion, which was set against scenes from the training session above.
Afterwards, Tony goes off and recruits Scott Lang (the new Ant-Man we met in the last post) to help clear his name, while Cap’s story continues in Avengers #186. After most of the issue deals with Wanda and Pietro, in the last five pages we drop in on an Avengers dinner—
Sorry, just a minute—
Samuel Thomas Wilson you stop rocking back in your chair this instant!
Ahem… where was I… oh right, we see Cap assuming the chair because of the events we saw in Iron Man (both titles at the same time sharing a writer, David Michelinie, working with others).
When Vision bursts in—by which I mean he phased through the wall—to tell the other Avengers about Pietro’s call about Wanda, Henry Gyrich has a thing or two to say about it, and Cap has had enough. (After all, as we know from a similar scene in a certain film, if he sees a situation pointed south, he can’t ignore it.)
Captain America claiming to be “as patriotic as the next man” always gets me—I don’t think anyone would doubt that, Cap! But seriously, this isn’t a matter of patriotism so much as one of blindly following orders, and Cap shows he realizes this when he makes a call to someone significantly above Gyrich’s pay grade.
I like to think Cap felt free to ignore that “order” too.
I particularly like this scene because it shows Cap not simply resisting authority (which he does do when warranted), but appealing to a higher one, using the system rather than fighting it. Also, it emphasizes the sway and pull that Cap enjoys among the highest ranks of government, as well as his restored comfort contacting them after the “Secret Empire” and “Nomad” episodes from Captain America #169 through Captain America #186 that saw him fighting corrupt figures in Washington and then abandoning the Cap persona out of disgust.
Gyrich gonna Gyrich, though, so he angers another Avenger who does not operate as calmly as Cap did, despite his reputation otherwise, and it is up to Cap to cool him down with pragmatic considerations.
In Avengers #187, the team heads out on their “goodwill tour,” and Cap finds his leadership tested when Wonder Man—yes, Wonder Man—makes a good point. (And I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the Beast’s concern for the innocent people below.)
Wonder Man attaches his rocket belt to a stubborn Beast and throws him out of the plane, then crash-lands… with a FWAWHOOMP. Cap makes the hard decision to trust Simon is OK…
…then sets his focus on the mission at hand, only to interrupted by Modred, the mystic who trapped the Scarlet Witch and arranged for the demon Chthon to possess her body. (See what we miss when we focus only on Cap?)
Always heartening to see Cap’s defiance even in the face of much more powerful adversaries, in both his words above and his sly actions below.
Nonetheless, Modred prevails in the end—that is, except for one final blow from the Wasp, who is then taken out by Chthon-Wanda, who hangs the Avengers out to dry.
When the Beast returns in knight’s armor (as you can see below), he distracts the demon long enough for the Avengers to get free, and they manage to defeat both Modred and Chthon and return Wanda to her own body.
Afterwards, Wanda and Pietro bury their adoptive father, Django Maximoff, and we also meet Bova, an “evolved cow” who was the midwife to Wanda and Pietro’s mother and who gave the babies to the Maximoffs after offering them to the Whizzer and his wife, Miss America, after their own baby was stillborn. (They refused, but this nicely keeps the Whizzer in the story nonetheless.)
Who is Wanda and Pietro’s real father, then? Oh boy, is that a long story…
Avengers (vol. 1) #186, August 1979: Mark Gruenwald and Steven Grant (plot), David Michelinie (plot and script), John Byrne (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Roger Slifer (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #187, September 1979: Mark Gruenwald and Steven Grant (plot), David Michelinie (plot and script), John Byrne (pencils), Dan Green (inks), George Roussos (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #181-185 and Doctor Strange #35 (March-July 1979)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #236 and Marvel Premiere #49 (August 1979) and Captain America #237 (September 1979)