These three issues start with the assemblage of a new Avengers line-up (as well as a change in the status of the West Coast Avengers) before turning to a fight against the Lava Men (first seen here way back in Avengers #5).
Issue #305 starts with Captain America welcoming almost all current and former members of any Avengers team to Avengers Island. (Hey, where’s U.S. Agent? I guess his invite got lost in the mail, darn it.)
After thanking them all for making the trip, Cap suggests a more inclusive conception of the Avengers, in which everyone who has ever been an Avenger is always an Avenger, whether active or not, East Coast or West Coast. (Maybe even U.S. Agent.)
As of next month’s issue #47, the logo on the cover of West Coast Avengers would change to Avengers West Coast to reflect this change (and to keep both Avengers titles side-by-side on alphabetically-ordered newsstands, along with Avengers Spotlight, formerly known as Solo Avengers).
75% of the Fantastic Four (seen here after the events of issue #333 of their own book, if you know what happens there) chime in, with Reed and Sue actually answering the call later in his post…
But all is not so friendly, as the former Cat confronts the current Hellcat, whose history was explained in issue #144…
…and Cap has to remind them of the Avengers standards for settling disputes. (Pistols at dawn, perhaps?)
Before Hawkeye starts venting about having left the West Coast Avengers for the Great Lakes Avengers, let’s skip ahead a few pages, after most of the gathered heroes have left and only the active team remains, which includes Black Panther, to Cap’s delight.
Time for a training session! Cap tries to teach Gilgamesh a lesson, but I don’t think he got the point… though he did get the shield, which offends Thor.
A bit later, after T’Challa has reclaimed the shield, Thor tries to toss Mjolnir at the Eternal, and Quasar interferes, prompting yet another Avenger to wield the shield…
…and strike the classic “deflect a mighty blow” pose with it.
Cap lets Quasar know what he did wrong and offers to give him extra help after class. But he is too kind: I’m sure SHIELD didn’t train him to mess with Thor like that (although, on second thought, Nick Fury might have).
The team is soon alarmed when Avengers Island begins to tremble and then rise, being pushed upwards by Lava Men, who then invaded the island itself. They fight for a few pages before the Lava Men surround the new Avengers team, at which Black Panther proposes a last-ditch strategy, which Cap has to explain to SHIELD-trained Quasar. (Maybe he lied on his resume?)
The Lava Men form themselves into a solid ball of rock around the team, but Cap still refuses to give up hope…
…even when the ball rolls off the edge of the island and into the harbor below.
In issue #306, Namor’s dolphin friends let him know—vocally, not telepathically, like a weirdo—about the Avengers’ difficulties, and he rushes to the scene, becoming trapped in a rock ball himself. He managed to break into the Avengers’ own ball before succumbing to dehydration. All the Avengers are dealing with the intense heat as well, each in their own way, with Cap refusing to worry about himself while one of his oldest friends needs his attention.
Thor works his way through the living rock wall, refusing to give up, inspiring doubt among some of the team, but not Cap, who knows his teammate very well.
Thor finally breaks out and frees his comrades, who find themselves in an underground cavern… but apparently with enough atmosphere for the God of Thunder to summon a storm to save Namor…
…who has to be calmed down, and there’s only one person who can do it.
“Jinkies!” shouted Velma, “it’s Jinku!” (If Velma were here. But she’s not, of course, because this is an Avengers comic, silly.)
Jinku explains that the Avengers killed their lord, the demon Cha’sa’dra, in the recent “Inferno” event, dooming many of the Lava Men to solid rock, in response to which Cap offers the worst excuse ever—and he does it with a smile, which makes it even worse, I think.
“No big loss, Jinku—your guy was a loser anyway! So, are we good?” (The heat must have gotten to him.)
Amazingly, Jinku is not mollified, and he unleashes an enormous lava creature, his dead master’s “avenging avatar,” on the team, with whom they join in battle in issue #307. The demon seals Gilgamesh in fast-cooling lava, and while Cap tries in vain to free him, the Eternal does it himself, only to be criticized for it by Cap. (Did he smile when he said it? No way to tell.)
Eventually Thor brings about another storm…
…only to raise Cap’s ire too. (“Methinks we can do naught right this day, Captain!”)
But Thor has a point about the others beginning to fall, not just Quasar above but also the Black Panther below…
…although Cap clearly is not aware of the Heart-Shaped Herb that is the Wakandan version of the super-soldier serum, giving Black Panthers their powers.
After the demon nearly kills Gilgamesh, Jinku stops the fight when his fellow Lava Man whom he thought trapped in rock forever are revealed to be not only alive but reborn. “My bad,” Jinku basically says, and the Avengers take Gilgamesh home, wondering just what Eternal means in the first place. (We’ll see more about him in issue #308.)
Before we finish, let’s take a quick look at the Invisible Woman from earlier in issue #307, showing once again why she is widely considered the strongest member of the Fantastic Four as she and Reed try to save Avengers Island.
I’m not surprised new Avengers writer John Byrne gave Sue the spotlight here, considering how much he elevated her character during his legendary run on Fantastic Four.
Not yet collected (but should eventually be included in volume 19 of the Avengers Epic Collection).