Not only does this issue feature the first adventure of the new line-up of the Avengers introduced in the last issue, but it also launches a long arc dealing with Hank Pym’s breakdown—not his first, but the most eventful, for his own legacy and also for his wife, Janet van Dyne (the Wasp), and the rest of the Avengers. Even though Captain America is not the focus of many of these issues, there is a lot of significant ethical content involving him, as he struggles with his responsibilities as both team leader and friend to both Hank and Janet. (As a bonus, we all also look at an issue of What If? that considers a wild alternate ending to the issue.)
The issue begins with some “day in the life” content, including Hank losing his temper at Janet, Don Blake getting hit on by his nurse (not Jane Foster), and Tony Stark waking up in a strange woman’s bed. Of course, Steve Rogers wakes up alone and, as all good people do, without an alarm. (Not all good people do cartwheels out of bed, though.)
The song, if you don’t know, is “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”
As he bounds out the window towards Avengers Mansion, Cap reflects on the events of the last issue, and expresses concern about Tigra, their newest and most unproven member, for whom he feels responsible (and whom he calls a “girl” for what is not the last time).
Hank and Janet are the last to show up to the meeting, and Cap tries his hand at humor—not his strong suit—before the team turns to the first order of business.
Hank objects—not unreasonably, except for the fact that he and Janet were late (although the meeting seems to have just started)—but doesn’t stop there, and Janet silently worries about him.
After the Avengers are alerted to a crisis in Washington, DC, they begin to gear up, but Hank has a problem with a sonomodulator circuit—it’s always the #$%& sonomodulator circuit, right?—but he does not like Janet stepping up to solve it.
The Pyms’ squabbles may seem petty and melodramatic now—enough to trouble Cap, Thor, and Tony, but not enough to do anything, even when it interferes with team functioning (hello, Mr. Chairman, I’m looking at you)—in the next issue they’ll definitely go to another level entirely.
When the team arrives in DC, they find the ancient Elf-Queen Linnea in a rage after her lover Gorn was killed by policemen after he threatened them. (Linnea and Gorn have issues paralleling those of Hank and Janet, including stubborn pride on the men’s part.)
After Linnea easily deals with Iron Man and Thor, and while Yellowjacket still can’t get his disruptor to work, Cap takes his shot, trying to figure exactly who or what his foe is and finding a possible common bond in being “out of time.”
Cap impresses Linnea with his peaceful approach, which is for naught once Hank gets his weapon to work and strikes Linnea in the back, leading her to disbelieve Cap and attack Hank…
…who has to be saved by the last person he wants to save him.
Whether or not it is due to Cap’s plea, Linnea does calm down once she remembers that her love is gone. Cap shares his condolences and, despite the language barrier, the grieving widow understands his tone.
The Avengers will address Hank’s reckless actions against Linnea in the next issue, in a story that could only be titled “Court-Martial.” (And that’s not even the most controversial thing that happens, although I wish it were.)
WHAT IF… ?
In What If? #35 (October 1982), we see what might have happened had Janet not gotten to the scene quickly enough to save Hank from the truck, as was the case on Earth-82101, where he died as a consequence.
Janet blames Cap for warning the Elf-Queen of Hank’s sneak attack and spins a false narrative in the press casting Hank as the tragic hero of the situation, to which Cap vigorously disagrees.
“Jan’s in a state.” The Tony Stark of Earth-82101 is a real winner, as we’ll see more of below.
When Janet suggests that the team changes how they report the case to the media, Cap takes the suggestion one step farther, interpreting it as a betrayal of their duty to be truthful to the government. Janet takes it another direction entirely, accusing Cap of being a bleeding heart too concerned with the rights of criminals… to which Tony adds the most clueless but accurate “accusation” of all.
“Fairness and justice is cool and all, Cap, but can you just give it a rest for once?”
Janet shows she definitely does not care for the rights of criminals as she transforms into a vigilante, calling herself the Black Wasp.
Her vengeance spree triggers an Avengers meeting during which Cap has a chance to go on about that fairness and justice stuff again. (So there, Tony.)
I would have highlighted Jan’s spiteful invocation of Cap’s “high-flying ideals,” but I’m afraid I can’t get past Tony’s pearl-clutching “Jan, it’s almost grounds for assault charges!” (Who knew that Hank Pym’s early death could make so many Marvel heroes go wacky?)
And for the record…
What If? (vol. 1) #35, October 1982, “What If Yellowjacket Had Died?”: Alan Zelenetz (writer), Greg LaRocque (pencils), Mike Esposito and Sal Trapani (inks), Don Warfield (colors), Janice Chiang (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in What If? Classic: The Complete Collection, Vol. 3.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #210-211 and Defenders #98 (August-September 1981)
NEXT ISSUE: Avengers #213 (November 1981)