As usual with Avengers around this time, these are great team stories with only occasional ethically interesting Captain America content, so we’ll discuss these three issues together (plus a page from another Avenger’s first solo title). Personal note: Avengers Annual #12 was the first Marvel comic I ever bought, a purchase from a hospital gift shop (with a spinner rack!) to keep me occupied while my parents were visiting a sick relative. It didn’t sell me on Marvel at the time—that would come much later—but it was a great introduction for me nonetheless, as it featured the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the Inhumans.
The regular issues of Avengers comprise a two-part story guest-starring Spider-Man, but as issue #236 begins, we see various team members going about their business, with one in particular standing silent vigil over another, showing that the role of a hero is not always to fight, but also to support.
Suddenly the alarms sound—while She-Hulk was in the bath, of course—and the team finds a spider in their house, desperate for income and trying the same gambit that failed with the Fantastic Four in The Amazing Spider-Man #1.
Spidey does have reason to propose joining the team (thanks a lot, Thor), and Cap takes it seriously—as we might expect, given their successful recent team-ups in Captain America #265 and #266 and Marvel Team-Up #128.
Spidey balks at the suggestion that he needs training, but before they can discuss the issue, the team receives an emergency alert from Project Pegasus and boots him out—but he stows away under the Quinjet as the team rushes to the crisis, with Cap reminiscing on his experiences there (seen in Marvel Two-in-One #42 and, more recently, Captain America Annual #7).
When Cap discovers a man-sized websack (eww) under their ship, his shock quickly turns to disapproval, which is of a particularly officious nature.
A sudden explosion serves two purposes: It reveals Spider-Man’s spidey-sense to the team, and it gives Captain America the opportunity to demonstrate his rock-solid “Cap-stance.”
Cap vouches for Spidey to Project Pegasus (which Spidey had actually helped save once, in Marvel Team-Up Annual #5), but when they bust into the locked facility, they find its security forces defeated. Cap thinks he knows by whom, from a loooong time ago, and has to defend the level of their threat to an immaturely incredulous wall-crawler.
That last line above reminds me of—well, this, of course—but also of a great moment from November 2011’s Fear Itself #6 (by Matt Fraction, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger), when Cap defiantly stands up to Odin the All-Father, whose help he needs to defeat the Serpent (also known as Odin’s brother Cul).
Back in 1983, the Lava Men re-emerge, and Cap takes charge in the absence of Avengers chairperson Wasp (who normally concedes to Cap’s leadership in the field anyway).
Cap also gives instructions to Spider-Man, who goes off-script, earning quite a rebuke.
That had to hurt.
Just when the Lava Men have made it to the nuclear research dome, the rest of the team shows up, one of whom has the surprising ability to entrance the enemy—who, it turns out, were only defending their home, for which Cap quickly apologizes and promises restitution.
In Avengers #237, after the Lava Men return underground, the Wasp scolds Spidey for his “interference,” especially tagging along on the Quinjet in the first place, but then surprises him by offering him a trainee position nonetheless… and when he again questions this probationary status, Cap gives him a little reminder why.
While the Avengers were dealing with the Lava Men, a handful of B-list villains were escaping from the very same Project Pegasus compound, and now they take this chance to ambush the heroes. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well for them, but it provides an opportunity for Cap to demonstrate the point he made to Spider-Man about working as a team.
He’s also taken by surprise by the Scarlet Witch, who uses her powers in a nicely subtle way, but one that strikes Cap as excessive until she explains it…
…although I imagine it still has him a little shook. (At least she didn’t say “no more Electro.”)
Finally, the Wasp and Cap check in with the National Security Council to get official approval for Spidey—and if you thought Cap was hard on him…
I suppose it’s a sign of his faith in the Wasp that Cap would consider spending political capital on getting Spidey approved, because I don’t think it was the webhead’s performance in the field that inspired him!
Spider-Man doesn’t appear in Avengers Annual #12, but plenty of other Marvel heroes do, as the Avengers find out when they’re summoned to the United Nations…
…to discover the Fantastic Four themselves are on “trial.”
It turns out the powers-that-be discovered the Inhumans living on the Blue Area of the Moon (complete with air, which is good for the breathing). The U.N. Security Council considers the Inhumans to be a hostile foreign power that the Fantastic Four is responsible for hiding away, and they want the Avengers to investigate.
Although they haven’t known the Inhumans as long as the Fantastic Four have, the Avengers do have a history with them as well, and once in their city of Attilan on the moon, they renew these ties, introducing new members…
..and meeting new family members, including the daughter of former Avenger Quicksilver and Crystal, princess of the Inhumans (and former Fantastic Four member), who were married in Fantastic Four #150.
As the collected heroes relax in each other’s company, Cap walks by Black Bolt, the Inhuman king, who has never been a party animal but who seems particularly withdrawn now.
Vision is partially right but mostly wrong: Not only is Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus the Mad, not dead, we soon find out that he has switched bodies with his brother, and “brooding king” is just the acting prompt he’s using to pull off his subterfuge unless he can hatch his evil plan…
…which is to launch the very attack on Earth that the U.N. Security Council was worried about.
While Thor flies into space to destroy the moon rocks shot toward Earth, hostilities break out between the Avengers and the Inhumans, which “Black Bolt” only inflames by ordering the execution of their guests. As the fight begins, She-Hulk makes a comparison that Cap takes exception to, not only for historical inaccuracy but also out of fairness to their friends (however precarious that friendship may seem at this point in time).
Lockjaw knows something is up with his king, so I suspect he was just trying to get Cap’s attention. It doesn’t work very well, but the effect is comical!
Eventually, Lockjaw tosses Cap into a fellow Inhuman, presumably to prevent the Avengers from being defeated and possibly killed on their false king’s orders. (Good boy, Lockjaw!)
Eventually the Inhumans become suspicious of “Black Bolt,” and all it takes is a threat of a punch from She-Hulk to make him speak—which, if he had been the real Black Bolt, would have destroyed all of Attilan, and therefore exposes his deception. Once the real Black Bolt is freed from Maximus the Mad’s tomb, he helps dismantle the rest of his brother’s plans, and all is good between the Earth and its moon again… or is it?
An apt quote for this blog, courtesy of Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise (albeit from 1670, not 1607), emphasizing that peace is the result of intent and effort, and should never be taken for granted.
Finally, in Hawkeye #3, Clint and Mockingbird—a.k.a. Bobbi Morse, former agent of SHIELD with a PhD in biology—are on an adventure together when they’re hassled by a some weirdo on the New York City subway.
Hey, that’s no weirdo—that’s Cap!
He offers his help, but Clint’s a little too proud to accept it… especially with Bobbi right there, on whom he’s sweet.
The following issue is pivotal in Clint’s life for two reasons: He loses some of his hearing, which is an important aspect of his character (when writers remember it), and he and Bobbi become an item and elope, which they announce to their friends when they next appear in Avengers #239 (in which Cap does not appear, alas, but he’ll find out soon enough).
Collected in: Avengers: Absolute Vision Book One.
Collected in: Avengers: Hawkeye.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #235 (September 1983)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America #286-287 (October-November 1983)