The two parts of this crossover between the two Avengers teams in their 1986 annuals are very different, as reflected in the covers: The Avengers annual focuses more on the big fight with a team of apparent ne’er-do-wells, while the West Coast Avengers annual is much more character-based and tied closely to the mystery figure’s struggles, which was an ongoing storyline in a number of titles around this time.
The Avengers annual is also notable for featuring breakdowns (also known as layouts or rough pencils) by none other than Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, with finished art by Klaus Janson (who did the same for Frank Miller in much of his legendary initial run on Daredevil as well as The Dark Knight Returns). They make for a very interesting combination, as we see below in a very dramatic splash page with our favorite archer,
Oliver Clint Barton.
What is Hawkeye so incensed about? Why, baseball, of course!
Who would have thought that Captain America would ever throw a curveball? So sneaky…
But naturally, he’s cautioning against overconfidence…
…while proving that he does pay some attention to current music.
Unfortunately, the game has to be called on account of—villainy? Not exactly… though they do arrive with bad news.
Very bad news, as it turns out, and they’re not forthcoming with answers.
Below we see all the assembled Avengers’ reactions about cooperating with apparently valid legal warrants delivered by former villains (a description that fits many of the heroes as well), with Cap, understandably, being the most conflicted of them all.
The conflict is resolved in favor of resistance when Hercules throws the pitcher’s cart at the former villains, after which the expected battle begins—a battle that Cap joins, while still torn (though perhaps giving too much credit to the Freedom Force being “federal agents” worthy of such concern).
As the rest of his teammates are losing the fight, Cap is making a phone call to Washington, DC, explaining his confusion to an unnamed cabinet secretary (which department, I wonder… State? Defense? Justice?). He makes it clear he’s not happy with the way this was carried out—”we have procedures for a reason, you know!”—before complying with the warrant (but not without giving a rather maniacal look).
In a chamber inside one of the Rocky Mountains—where all legitimate government hearings are held, you know—the Avengers come face to face with their former government liaison Henry Peter Gyrich, as well as his successor Raymond Sikorsky (who is more sympathetic to the team than Gyrich is) and Valerie Cooper (who offered the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants the deal that turned them into Freedom Force). The Wasp and Cap are defiant from the start, the latter demanding answers…
…to which Cooper responds by raising two incidents: the Vision’s takeover of the world’s computer systems (the government’s dismay over which was addressed in Avengers #255-258) and the Grey Gargoyle’s interruption of the Senate hearing investigating the team in Avengers #190-191, which they suspect was a set-up by the Avengers to emphasize their heroism.
The real kicker is that their evidence comes from one of the current or former members of the team, leading Hawkeye to accuse the government agents of being suckered, which doesn’t go over well. Cooper and Gyrich stress the gravity of the chargers, Sikorsky tries to make sure the heroes’ good works don’t go unforgotten, and Cap is very suspicious about the entire situation…
…leading to the outburst below, pointing out the numerous irregularities with the proceedings.
We expect this from Cap, but we may not expect the delayed reaction from his colleagues, who usually rib him about his penchant from making grand speeches (especially Clint).
The heroes are then put in specially designed holding cells, until Spider-Woman thinks better of following questionable orders and helps the Wasp break out. When Janet does the same for Cap, he expresses continued ambivalence about resisting the government, and she has to remind him of the virtue of justified civil disobedience (which Cap normally knows well).
Once all the Avengers are freed, they abscond to a nearby cave, where they set their plan for the next issue, and swear to act on their team name (which none of them really believes in literally, but oh well).
In the West Coast Avengers annual, Hawkeye silently admits the same Cap-confusion this blog has suffered from at times, before the elder Cap has to console him for guilt over their present circumstance.
After surveying their current and former teammates and their whereabouts—including copious editorial footnotes pointing to their latest appearances in other Marvel titles—they manage to whittle down the list to ten unaccounted for, who they then split up to talk to. (Note Cap’s pride and surprise at Clint’s effective leadership.)
Of course, we’re mainly interested in Cap’s particular “assignment,” which is predictable—but it’s hard to tell if Sam welcomes the visit, given the expression on his face and his crack about “derelicts” (which may single a bit of frustration in his day job as well!).
We’ll check in with Wonder Man too, checking on his “brother” Vision, Scarlet Witch, and their newborn twins Tommy and Billy… not because either Avenger is really a suspect, but as they themselves predict, someone related to them is.
In the end, all but one Avenger is accounted for… which is all for naught as the guilty party comes forward and confesses. (And he, for one, takes vengeance seriously.)
Quicksilver spends a page detailing the highlights of his miserable life, including his disapproval of his sister marrying a synthezoid (and the other Avengers’ support of them over him), what he sees as the team’s abandonment of him after suffering injuries fighting Sentinels, and his life of isolation with the Inhumans and his failed marriage with their princess, Crystal. But Cap tries to remind him of the good times.
I always get a kick out of seeing the term “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” used in-story, such as by a news reporter surveying the history of the team in Avengers #151, but this may be the first time Cap (or any other member) has used it.
Pietro has a back-up plan to destroy the team if Gyrich’s Tricky Trio don’t do it, and if involves his new pals, Zodiac 2.0, who fight smaller groups of the Avengers in three locations around the world. This does provide us with the one good Cap fight scene in the issue…
…in which our hero gets to wax poetic about underdogs and strength of will.
After all the Avengers gather at the final location (having settled the matter with Gyrich off-panel, no big deal), it takes the Vision confronting Pietro with holographic images of his twin nephews to calm the speedster and drive him away to reconsider his actions. The crisis averted, Hawkeye tries to steer his colleagues’ attention back to what’s truly important.
They are not amused.
What was up with Pietro, anyway? In the next year’s X-Factor Annual #2, it’s revealed that Maximus the Mad, upstart brother of the Inhumans’ king Black Bolt, has been controlling Quicksilver as part of his latest plan for conquest. (I didn’t say it was a good explanation.)
Avengers (vol. 1) Annual #15, October 1986: Danny Fingeroth (writer), Steve Ditko (layouts), Klaus Janson (finishes), Elaine Lee (colors), L. Lois Buhalis and Kenny Lopez (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
West Coast Avengers (vol. 1) Annual #1, October 1986: Steve Englehart (plot and script), Mark Bright (plot and pencils), Geof Isherwood (inks), Petra Scotese (colors), Tom Orzechowski (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
(Fingeroth and Englehart both have joke credits in each other’s issue, as “The Fing” and “Kibitzer,” respectively.)
Both collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: Under Siege and Avengers West Coast Epic Collection: Lost in Space-Time