These three issues of Avengers are great action-packed superhero comics, but not ones with a lot of ethically interesting Captain America content, except for demonstrating his strong leadership. (These issues are perhaps better known for setting up the extremely controversial issue #200, as we’ll see near the end of the post.) As an added bonus, you get a panel from Fantastic Four #220 at no extra charge!
Avengers #198 begins, as did issue #194, with “a day in the life” content that occasionally glances at the threat the team will face in the next two issues (as well as one coming in issue #200). For instance, below we see Cap having what appears to be the most casual workout ever. “Whew” indeed—good thing Iron Man and Jocasta interrupted before he let out a yawn, to follow up on Cap’s suggestion from the end of the last issue.
(Although this never happens officially, she does work with the team, on and off, for years to come.)
Below, Cap gives Iron Man the highest praise possible…
…before settling into a short but friendly discussion about Tony’s desire to step down from the Avengers. I appreciate Cap’s self-implicating reaction, which seems sincere rather than perfunctory, although I really don’t understand the “blast it” at the end.
At the meeting later, Cap takes care of business and then gives the team a weekend pass. Shore leave for everybody!
Seriously, though: It’s a good leader (even a temporary one) who encourages his people to relax when they can… especially when, come Avengers #198, they will face Red Ronin, a giant robot built by S.H.I.E.L.D. and Stark International to fight Godzilla (really). As it happens, Red Ronin was stolen by a fella that just wants to start World War III to unite the world and bring about world peace. (No, it’s not him.)
Note that Cap is riding the sky-cycle most often associated with Hawkeye, and more notably refers to his shield as “alloy,” hinting at the eventual revelation of its composition (yet to be established).
As I mentioned earlier, Cap’s leadership shines during this mission…
…including giving Nick Fury an idea (which, to his credit, he welcomes).
The plan involves trying to electrocute Red Ronin while it’s standing in the water, using Iron Man as a conduit for the power in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Behemoth aircraft, but it doesn’t work quite as well as Cap hoped (not that he dwells on the failure of his plan).
“I guess it’s Spider-Man’s problem now!” Cap says with relief, and the Avengers go home…. just kidding. There’s actually another Avenger in Queens at the moment (probably wondering where his sky-cycle is).
Cap greets his old pal in Avengers #199…
…and you can almost forget how they were at each other’s throats when Clint first joined the Avengers back in issue #16.
I show the strategy session below to highlight how Tony Stark thinks about the possible loss of teammates’ lives—accepting them as a necessary risk—versus how Cap would think about it (likely refusing to accept the risk and insisting on finding another solution).
This is not to say, of course, that Tony doesn’t make a valid point—it simply shows that his thinking is more utilitarian than Cap’s. (This may be the first explicit mention of this ideological difference between the two, which will be seen much more in later years, as described in my book on Cap as well as my one on Civil War.)
The next plan of attack is inspired by Dr. Takiguchi, one of the designers of Red Ronin, and it requires Cap and the gang to trick the robot—now gone rogue since being disconnected from its operator—into tossing its cookie…
…which ends up tossing Cap for a loop as well.
Not his most acrobatic or elegant moment… but as Chuck Yeager said, any landing you walk away from is a good landing.
So how do the Avengers finally take down the Red Ronin? Leave it to a Ph.D., of course… to pull the plug.
Once the team returns to the mansion, they discover what readers have known since issue #197 but not shown here: Carol Danvers, whom other Avengers do not recognize as Ms. Marvel because of the itty-bitty mask she normally wears, is pregnant, but with no knowledge of how, and is rapidly approaching birth.
This storyline will be covered in Avengers #200 (and in the post on the issue), and is one of the more controversial issues published by Marvel… so much so that a different writer tried to “fix” it a year later, partly in response to reader outrage.
But for now, they’re just relaxing, drinking their cocoa, and Cap has his head in a book, all waiting for the blessed event.
Finally, in Fantastic Four #220, perhaps on the same call above to warn them about the Taskmaster, Tony also mentions a worldwide power outage, and while he threatens to make Reed’s head even bigger, Cap is just relieved that no lives were lost (which seems pretty important too).
Avengers (vol. 1) #197, July 1980: David Michelinie (writer), Carmine Infantino (pencils), Brett Breeding, Al Milgrom, and Vince Colletta (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), John Costanza (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #198, August 1980: David Michelinie (writer), George Pérez (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Carl Gafford and Ben Sean (colors), John Costanza (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #199, September 1980: David Michelinie (writer), George Pérez (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Ben Sean (colors), John Costanza (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
All collected in: Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers Volume Nineteen.
Fantastic Four (vol. 1) #220, July 1980: John Byrne (writer and pencils), Joe Sinnott (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Jim Novak and Irv Watanabe (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne, Volume 0 and Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four Volume Twenty
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #192-196 and Daredevil #164 (February-June 1980)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #247 (July 1980), Captain America #248 (August 1980), and Captain America #249 (September 1980)
NEXT ISSUE: Avengers #200 (October 1980)
>This storyline will be covered in Avengers #200 (and in the post on the issue), and is one of the more controversial issues published by Marvel…
…In the way Plan 9 from Outer Space is “one the more controversial films ever made.” 🙂
I mean, nobody defends the artistic merits of Avengers #200, including the mooks who created it. It’s inspired a ton of commentary, but I have never seen a defense of that story.
Nor will you see one here. But I will briefly cover the responses to it.