These six issues—only one of which even has Cap on the cover—have very little ethically interesting Captain America content, but they do include the Falcon leaving the Avengers, the new Ant-Man meeting the team for the first time, the introduction of the Taskmaster, a badly beaten Man without Fear, and Cap confronting a new and frightening threat: being flirted with.
In Avengers #192, a man desperately seeks the Avengers’ help that, frankly, seems more up Matt Murdock’s alley, and in the process triggers the mansion’s security measures, a primary concern of government liaison Henry Gyrich, as we saw in the last post.
Cap tries to give the guy the bad news gently… before Vision the Friendly Ghost drives him away in fear, and Gyrich leaves satisfied that the mansion’s new security system can catch even the least of threats.
In Avengers #193, the team rescues passengers from an overturned and flaming trolley car, with Cap quickly and bravely jumping into the fire.
When the Avengers catch up with the mastermind behind the issue’s calamity, they save him from the hothead that set the train aflame, and then Cap reminds us that good superheroes hand criminal suspects over to the police (although not always wrapped in webbing).
Avengers #194—featuring the return of George Pérez on pencils—starts out as a “day in the life” issue, beginning with Sam’s quitting the band, partly out of unresolved discomfort with being made to feel like a token, and partly out of a preference for working alone. His resignation obviously comes as a surprise to Cap…
…although he understands, as he tells Ms. Marvel outside. Talking with her, Cap transitions from Sam’s resignation into the nature of the team itself…
…finding the Avengers held together by more pragmatic reasons that other teams, whose members are linked together by more essential aspects of their identity. All this, and casually battling fearsome enemies at the same time!
So cool, calm, and collected, until Carol reveals Cap’s weakness: flattery. (We philosophers rarely get a chance to get accustomed to it.)
Later in this issue, we see the beginning of the next storyline continuing through the next two (and the rest of this post): An escapee named Selbe from an asylum shows up at the mansion, begging the Wasp for help…
…but the rest of the team are less sympathetic, especially when the men in white coats show up with the appropriate paperwork, which satisfied Cap and Iron Man. (Gyrich would be so proud!)
After the man is taken away, Cap and Tony do share some reservations, and later Cap explains to the rest of the group why it’s so important to be careful, at last for a while, with matters regarding authority and the law.
But as we see above, the Wasp’s disappearance seems to give him all the reason he needs to investigate the suspicious asylum, which is where we find the team (now joined by Jocasta and Yellowjacket) as Avengers #195 opens.
Soon they are joined by Scott Lang, whom we met first in Avengers #181, but who now meets the team as the new Ant-Man… and is immediately and unquestioningly acknowledged by Cap. (Let’s not tell Gyrich about that part.)
Most of the action takes place between the insect-based heroes inside the asylum while the rest of the team waits outside… with coffee. (And resignation, a lot of resignation.)
Inside, the final page of the issue introduces the Taskmaster, a fascinating villain with “photographic reflexes” who has since become a significant presence in the Marvel Universe (and appears in the Black Widow film, albeit with a subdued appearance).
In Avengers #196, the rest of the team eventually comes to the rescue of the Three Insectos, with Cap using his best defiant tone.
Battle ensues between the Avengers and Taskmaster’s goons, with the man himself facing off against several heroes himself, showing why he’s so formidable, having mastered the fighting styles of all of them, including using the shield and bow-and-arrow…
…but he’s also practical, so he leaves before risking defeat.
In the end, Taskmaster is defeated by Jocasta, about whom he knows nothing and for whom he is unprepared, but escapes using a magnesium flare before he can be taken in. But more important, the team acknowledges Jocasta’s contribution, and Cap sorta welcomes her to the team (although it never seems to be made official).
Meanwhile, Ant-Man just waits (although his day will come… in 2003).
Finally, in Daredevil #164, Cap offers the Black Widow a supporting hand and word as the Avengers sit with her at Daredevil’s side while he recovers from a title bout with the Incredible Hulk. (I didn’t think they were even in the same weight class!)
All collected in: Avengers: Heart of Stone and Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers Volume Nineteen. (Avengers #194-196 are also collected in Avengers Visionaries: George Pérez and Avengers #195-196 are also collected in Ant-Man: Scott Lang and Taskmaster: Anything You Can Do.)
Collected in: Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson Volume 1.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #190-191 (December 1979-January 1980)
NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #197-199 and Fantastic Four #220 (July-September 1980)