These three issues wrap up the tale of Hank Pym’s struggles since issue #212, and even if Captain America is only tangentially involved in this, we still see plenty of him, especially as he gives emotional support and encouragement to his fellow Avengers.
Here’s the opening splash page of issue #228, just to remind you what’s up with Mr. Pym.
While he isn’t needed in court, Cap is helping to train the team’s newest member, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau)
Even given her energy powers, Cap has a thing or two to teach her about hand-to-hand combat, but still finds aspects of her performance to praise as well as criticize.
As Cap leaves for his other appointment, Rambeau talks him up to She-Hulk…
…and goes on to remind her green colleague that Cap has stood up to her much angrier cousin on several occasions (as we know).
What was Cap’s urgent mission? To check in on an old friend, especially after their recent confrontation in issue #224.
As we see below, Tony is driving himself to the brink trying to help Hank…
…and Cap is very concerned. He is also likely not surprised at Tony’s explanation: guilt over betraying Hank by pursuing his ex-wife, Janet van Dyne/Wasp, while he was in prison (also seen in issue #224).
Check out a normal Joe’s reaction to hearing that Pym helped Egghead steal adamantium from the government.
Glad to see one hero’s still got his trust!
The next day, Egghead’s new Masters of Evil burst into the courthouse to abduct Hank, leaving the attendant Avengers to save the civilians from an unstable structure while engaging with the villains. (Note Cap’s internal acknowledgment of Jan’s confident leadership.)
Thanks to the Radioactive Man, Cap finds himself facing the strength of the mighty Mjolnir…
…and is very grateful for the special properties of the shield (yet to be explained, though we will eventually learn that the secret ingredient rhymes with fibranium).
When the Avengers subdue the Shocker, he says that Hank set up the entire “abduction,” which is later confirmed by a polygraph test—a fact that Egghead tells Hank to convince him to work with him on a project (which may or may not be an evil project, who can say?).
In issue #229, Cap is still concerned about Tony’s well-being, while Thor is concerned about Tony’s secret identity.
During this period in his own comic, Tony Stark is succumbing once again to his alcoholism, which we will see firsthand when Cap pays him a visit in July 1983’s Iron Man #172 (after Jim Rhodes has taken over as the Armored Avenger).
Cap and Thor are despondent over Tony and Hank, but also She-Hulk, who reverted to Jennifer Walters during the fight in the last issue and can’t seem to change back. After Jan comes to them with the “cerebral scanner helmet” that Scott Lang (the current Ant-Man) brought from Tony’s lab, Cap gets the sads even more… and Captain Marvel has had it.
Here, Captain Marvel plays Captain America’s usual role as inspirational substitute football coach.
(She could have just said “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose,” but I guess what she said works too.)
After Captain Marvel rallies the troops and suggest a plan of action—and Hawkeye aggravates Jen Walters enough for her to turn back into She-Hulk—the team uses Tony’s helmet on the Shocker, who leads them to Egghead’s hide-out, where Cap secures the cooperation of the local authorities.
Cap and the Wasp craft strategy…
…unaware that Hank has already double-crossed and defeated the villains inside, using the technology Egghead coerced him into developing. What’s more, he makes a rather inspirational speech himself (to an audience of just one, unfortunately).
This is more than just a broken man beginning to rebuild himself and reclaim his basic identity: For a good time, he will be known as simply Hank Pym when he works with Avengers (or, soon, the West Coast Avengers), until he started wearing costumes again. (I mean, seriously, wouldn’t you?)
When a frustrated Egghead becomes violent, even the brainiest of superheroes has to use his fists. Luckily, Hawkeye is watching…
…and is able to save Hank, although he accidentally kills Egghead in the process.
Issue #230 deals with the aftermath of this incident as well as Hank’s larger story. The Avengers wrap up the rest of the villains, who testify in court that Hank was set up, and the charges against him are dropped. Hawkeye also had his day in court, where he was found innocent of wrongdoing in Egghead’s death (“though he was threatened with contempt-of-court charges a number of times,” natch).
Nonetheless, the Avengers want to hold their own inquest into both Clint’s and Hank’s recent actions.
(Let me just interject quickly that the use of neuroscientific evidence in court is both fascinating and controversial. For a quick overview, see this article by Eryn Brown in Discover, and for an academic treatment, see A Primer on Criminal Law and Neuroscience, edited by Stephen J. Morse and Adina L. Roskies.)
We enjoy a bit of mindreading ourselves as the other Avengers react to Jan’s very professional composure in the face of tremendous emotional turmoil, as Cap recognizes (before worrying again about Tony).
“Cool,” says Hank, then apologizes for the implication that his actions were actually his (albeit very likely influenced by his mental illness) before offering to testify on Hawkeye’s behalf. This comes as a surprise to Hawkeye, who was apparently unaware that he was going to be investigated!
Too bad Cap can’t read Clint’s thoughts below.
This does seem rather beside the point, but Clint has a few words to say nonetheless.
Never mind what he might have meant by that last line… it would fit perfectly into the Megadeth song “Peace Sells,” right after the “what do you mean I couldn’t be the president of the United States of America” line. (But you knew that. Clint’s even got Dave Mustaine’s sneer down pat!)
Janet then asks Hank for his statement, and it should surprise no one that Hank speaks for Clint better than Clint does…
…before dropping the mic and walking out.
Hank’s fellow Avengers don’t let him off that easily, ganging up on him to wish him farewell, while Cap is contrite over how he handled the entire affair (which we saw in earlier issues).
Let’s just say you’re both right, guys, OK?
We’ll end with Hank and Janet’s uncomfortable goodbye that nonetheless offers some closure on their relationship…
…which isn’t really over, but for now, at least, it is. (I’m not crying, you’re crying!)
Avengers (vol. 1) #228, February 1983: Roger Stern (writer), Al Milgrom (pencils), Brett Breeding (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #229, March 1983: Roger Stern (writer), Al Milgrom (pencils), Joe Sinnott (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #230, April 1983: Roger Stern (writer), Al Milgrom (pencils), Joe Sinnott (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
All collected in: Avengers: The Trial of Yellowjacket.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #224-227, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, The Incredible Hulk #277-279, and Vision and Scarlet Witch #3 (October 1982-January 1983)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #278 and Marvel Two-in-One #96 (February 1983), Captain America #279 and Marvel Team-Up #127 (March 1983), The Incredible Hulk #281-282 (March-April 1983), Captain America #280 (April 1983), and Marvel Team-Up #128 (April 1983)
NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #231-232 (May-June 1983)
I really wish these three issues had been the end of Hank Pym’s problems. Unfortunately too many subsequent writers kept going back to this plotline over and over and over again. It feels like they read Avengers #212 but all of them missed this story that redeemed him. I understand from firsthand experience that depression and mental illness are difficult to treat and can take a long time to recover from. However, it sometimes seems that nearly every writer whose used the character in the past 40 years has immediately defaulted to “Hank Pym is a crazy, insecure wife beater!” It has gotten really old.
Agreed–there was real growth here that they could have built on if they had wanted to.
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In addition to Ben’s comments, I’d say that trying to get Hank back together with Jan has rarely been good for his character either — in fact, getting them together seems to result in some writer inflicting “mental problems, part 10” on Hank in order to break it up.
I love how Stern left them here, and I love how Englehart made them best friends in his WCA. The rest, less so.
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Yes, again I agree!