This issue of West Coast Avengers (or Avengers West Coast, tom-ay-to tom-ah-to) is a done-in-one in the spirit of the recent Captain America #379 and Avengers #325, and is also a Captain America/Human Torch team-up book in spirit (if not execution). Any time Cap gets to interact with one of his fellow “Big Three” Invaders always makes for a happy day on this blog, especially the least seen of them, Jim Hammond, who was invited to join the West Coast team officially at the end of issue #63. Plus, we get to see a goofy Avengers team that was still relatively new at the time (and is still under-utilized today).
The issue opens with a horrific splash of Cap’s former partner Rick Jones being attacked by a monster, which Cap sees on his monitor on the next page. (Or else he’s reading this issue online!) After he learns that Rick’s transmission came from the West Coast Avengers’ headquarters…
…he rings them up and Jim answers, explaining to Cap that, although he is a vintage model synthezoid, he can push a button with the best of them.
The story never seems to say exactly where in the Midwest the signal came from—and there are a lot of amusement parks there, so Cap’s thought below doesn’t help much. (A chute-less jump from the Quinjet is always a welcome sight, though.)
He sneaks in a quick roller-coaster ride, again without a roller-coaster car… but who’s that funny looking guy at the entrance to the fun house?
As Cap walks into “The Killing Joke,” we see young Stevie Wojciehowicz in the middle panel: He’s the juvenile mastermind behind this whole escapade, who is in possession of the Mystic Ruby of Cyttorak, the gem wot gave the Juggernaut his powers.
Stevie unleashes a threat of crossover proportions on Cap (reminiscent of Captain America #249), but Cap is too focused on finding Rick to appreciate the meta gags.
Cap finds himself expelled from the fun house into a rampaging tunnel of love, and is grateful as ever for his trusty shield… until someone snatches it.
Cap chases the creature to the same building where the Torch—who has been tormented by Stevie with visions of multiple Torches as well Invaders past—is chasing Rick, and once inside they face…
…oh no, not Secret Wars III?!
Neither Cap nor the Torch is fooled by the fakes of their friends and enemies, even though they have some of their powers, but when they see the monster grabbing Rick again, each thinks the other is a fake as well, so they attack each other.
Whether it’s the skilled use of their powers, or the fact that they each know Rick, Cap and Torch figure out pretty quickly that the other is real, but it seems too late for Rick Jones.
The two Invaders manage to free each other, only to confront the greatest threat yet: the Great Lakes Avengers, who were introduced in issue #46 and appeared in issue #49 (but not in the panels we covered). And of course, they think Cap and Torch are fakes too.
After a comical battle—which includes the Torch killing Mr. Immortal but Cap reassuring him, with a grin on his face, that it’s OK, he’ll come back even better, “that’s his power”—Cap discovers that “Rick” was a fake as well.
When all is said and done, explanations are given, with Cap setting everybody’s minds at ease regarding the fate of the mighty shield (which Doorman unwittingly transported away for Stevie).
What was Stevie’s purpose for the shield? Show and tell at his school, where he tells his class he “helped” the Avengers at the amusement park, after which Cap gave him his shield—but when he takes the shield out to show it, the wax replica has begun to melt. The class laughs at him, and Stevie swears his revenge… but has never appeared again.