Avengers #281-285, Fantastic Four #306, and Mephisto Vs. #4 (July-November 1987)

This post mainly covers the last adventure Captain America joins the Avengers on in their regular title before the events of Captain America #332—a comic which, you should be warned, is slightly spoiled by the end of Avengers #285. Also, we see the Avengers’ installment in a curious little miniseries in which Mephisto tussles with various Marvel Universe teams, including the Fantastic Four, X-Factor, and the X-Men. (Like most Avengers tales of this period, Cap appears very sporadically in both of these, so to appreciate the full stories, be sure to check out the issues at the links at the end of the post.)

But first, let’s see Cap’s solo appearance alongside Sharon Ventura, aka Ms. Marvel, in Fantastic Four #306, because it follows up on our last post, on Captain America #331. (It wasn’t published until two months later, though, which explains its inclusion here rather than with issue #333 of his own title, by which time he… well… you’ll see.)

Cap has brought Sharon back in New York, but apparently forgot what he suspected in Captain America #331: that she had been sexually assaulted in the Power Broker’s lab (which is confirmed by her later in this issue).

His protective impulse is rejected as well, and instead he chooses to respect her agency (as he was so careful to do earlier).

Afterwards, Sharon reunites with her old friend Ben Grimm and joins the Fantastic Four (as you do), while Mr. Rogers goes to Washington in Captain America #332 (after a slight detour for West Coast Avengers Annual #2 and Avengers Annual #16).

But before that, Cap has two more adventures with the Avengers. First, in Mephisto Vs. #4, the Marvel Universe’s favorite analogue to the Prince of Darkness wants the souls of superheroes, including Thor, specifically to use in his ongoing tiff with Hela. After Mephisto abducts the Thunder God in a fiery display of devilry, the other Avengers rush to the scene.

Cap proves his value as unofficial emissary of the group, but has to keep mum about Thor’s secret (having recently been grievously injured by the Midgard Serpent in Thor #380, as he told the Captains America and Marvel in Avengers #282).

After Mephisto draws out Thor’s spirit (in his classic costume) from his armored body, Hela absconds with it, and the Avengers fear their colleague deceased, with Cap once again promising the vengeance he does not believe in.

In that spirit, Those Who Avenge attack Mephisto, with the demon playing a nice game of catch with Cap—who takes one for his team(mate) and earns the ridicule of Mephisto for doing so.

After Thor’s spirit manages to escape and rejoin his body, and Mephisto admits defeat to Hela and leaves, the Avengers are left alone with the Goddess of Death, whom Cap thinks he can make talk… so cute… until he forgets what he was going to ask anyway.

In our main attraction this post, a battle of Olympian proportions begins in Avengers #281, as the team reports to the hospital where Hercules was recuperating from the attack by the Masters of Evil back in issue #274, but he seems to have been abducted. Cap questions Nurse Richards about the kidnapper when, out of the blue, she sees whodunnit…

…the Mighty Thor. He denies it, and Cap supports him, but Nurse Richards is adamant.

Maybe Thor sees a squirrel… or more likely something that gives him a clue as to who abducted Hercules, and takes off after the vagrant, leaving his friends with a strong hint of his own.

In disguise thanks to Doctor Druid, the team discusses Thor’s behavior, with Cap putting it in context without defending him…

…while fingering Loki, Thor’s adopted brother (not step-brother) as a possible suspect. (He didn’t do it, but you can’t blame Cap for thinking of him first!) And he’s still inclined to defend his longtime teammate, despite Nurse Richards’ testimony.

Eventually, the team finds themselves where Thor went: Mount Olympus, home of the Greek gods, who attacked and brought the other Avengers back as well. And why, you ask?

Because Hercules’ dad is upset. (And you thought Odin could be intimidating.)

In Avengers #282, Neptune goes after Namor and brings him to Hades, but he escapes. A mysterious figure tells him that the Avengers are trapped there too, so Namor helps free them, starting with She-Hulk and Black Knight. Dane then tries to free Cap, but he tells him to free Captain Marvel first—perhaps out of kindness or chivalry, or because she’s one of the most powerful members of the team.

Captain Marvel explains to Namor what happened after Zeus’ outburst, including Cap showing him the same defiance he has also shown Odin (but more respectfully).

The Avengers fight against Pluto’s guards, who are impressed—especially by Cap, who is relived to see his old friend from World War II fighting alongside them again.

They eventually find themselves fighting Pluto himself, but Thor warns that he is almost as powerful as Zeus, so Captain Marvel orders them to retreat—which Namor does not like, prompting Cap to remind him it is often a strategic necessity.

The battle in Hades continues in Avengers #283, with both Namor and Cap starting to feel their oats and inspiring the rest of the team.

The Avengers make it back to Olympus and Hephaestus’ workshop, where he unleashes automatons on the team. Cap figures out that their mechanical design does not match their programming, and uses this to his advantage. (Ha, “figures” out.)

After the heroes save the assembled Olympians from a cracked cauldron of molten metal, they listen to the Avengers’ explanation and then agree to confront Zeus together. (In the meantime, Zeus has also had the Wasp brought to him, as the one who “ordered my son around like a galley slave” and “abandoned him to defeat.”)

Zeus is not so easily convinced, however, and unleashes a Kirbyesque blast that stuns most of the Avengers and smashes both of Cap’s legs while leaving his spirit untouched, shown by his command to tend to other injured teammates first.

Thor and the Mobile Avengers launch an attack against Zeus, which starts in earnest in Avengers #284. Cap does what he can from the ground, much to the admiration of Namor (which, if you know Namor, really means something).

Cap finds himself spirited away by Hermes and tended to by Prometheus, who was also the stranger who helped Namor find his teammates back in issue #282.

When Janet finally sees Cap’s condition, he won’t let her feel sorry for him, continuing to inspire his teammates to victory, and this time earning the praise of Doctor Druid. (Cap’s bingo card is filling up quick.)

Cap shows he understand Prometheus’ motivation to help them, thanks to spending his youth among the pages.

Prometheus heals Hercules, but he didn’t come back right.

Gee, I wonder where he gets that from?

In Avengers #285, the Wasp tries to reason with Hercules to no avail, and even Cap tries, grabbing the Olympian by the leg and reminding him who he is.

Eventually they get through to Hercules, who helps the other Avengers in their fight against Zeus, with father and son fighting each other until coming to their senses.

Afterwards, they all relax by the Olympic swimming pool—the original one—and before long, Cap emerges like new, thanks to the god of healing.

Never mind, Monica, he’s right there below. Anyway, once back on Earth the team split for the day, with Cap pondering something Prometheus told him.

Nah, it’s probably nothing, nothing at all. <exaggerated wink>

SPOILERS BELOW FOR CAPTAIN AMERICA #332

Go figure: After a week, the Sentinel of Liberty is nowhere to be found… but Captain Marvel knows something.

Aside from issue #290, Cap will not be seen again in Avengers regularly until issue #298… and I have absolutely no idea why, honest!


ISSUE DETAILS

Fantastic Four (vol. 1) #306, September 1987: Steve Englehart (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Joe Sinnott (inks), Glynis Wein (colors), John Workman (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Collected in: Fantastic Four Epic Collection: All in the Family

Mephisto Vs. #4, July 1987: Al Milgrom (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Bob Wiacek (inks), George Roussos (colors), Rick Parker (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Collected in: Mephisto Vs.

Avengers (vol. 1) #281, July 1987: Roger Stern (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), John Wellington (colors), L. P. Gregory (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Avengers (vol. 1) #282, August 1987: Roger Stern (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Avengers (vol. 1) #283, September 1987: Roger Stern (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Avengers (vol. 1) #284, October 1987: Roger Stern (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Avengers (vol. 1) #285, November 1987: Roger Stern (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

All collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: Judgment Day and Avengers: Assault on Olympus


PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #278-280 (April-June 1987)

ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #331 (July 1987), Avengers Annual #16 and West Coast Avengers Annual #2 (September-October 1987), Captain America #332 (August 1987), and Captain America #333-335 (September-November 1987)

NEXT ISSUE: Avengers #290 (April 1988)

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