As previewed at the end of the last issue as well as the covers above, these two issues of Avengers have Doctor Doom himself visiting the team, but this is no normal throw-down between capes, mainly owing to the purpose and motivation of Doom’s visit. If that weren’t enough, we get some minor Avengers appearances featuring Captain America in three other Marvel titles these months. (Not a lot of high-level ethical content here, folks, so we’re just going to have some fun—and show a lot of Doctor Doom.)
Avengers #332 opens with Doom’s favorite superhero team arriving for the social event of the season…
…and being greeted by Cap before joining many familiar faces from the cape set as well as government and royalty (and Stan Lee).
(Sue’s “collar” is miscolored, or just plain missing, here—which is no big deal, given the size and detail of the two-page spread—but it was done of the cover as well, which is strange.)
While the security team is carefully screening each arriving guest using voice, retinal, and physical scans, their cameras also pick up someone else casually walking about the headquarters… and behind Jarvis, just as he gets a call from the rest about the mysterious intruder.
(Nice portrait of Stan and Jack on the wall!)
Jarvis uses the codeword for “emergency” to Cap, who is very gentlemanly in excusing himself from Namorita—almost excessively so, which may have raised alarm bells, but I think she’s just flattered. (“Now I realize why you’re the only one my cousin likes!”)
When Cap gets to the security center, the support crew hails Tony Stark’s genius in designing the impenetrable security system that was just penetrated, but Cap reminds them that geniuses on Tony’s level are a dime a dozen among their foes. (Ouch.)
As Cap recruits Vision and Sandman to search the premises, Iron Man shows up unexpectedly and checks out the security system—and just happens to circumvent the scanning process, which may have been meant to guard his poorly-kept secret identity.
Elsewhere, Cap gets his first sighting of the good Doctor…
…but is fully aware it may not be Doom in the flesh (as it usually isn’t).
As Cap fights (a) Doctor Doom and Vision and Sandman also fight (a different) Doctor Doom, Black Widow and She-Hulk realize that Iron Man didn’t undergo the security scan, and the reason was indeed to hide his identity…
…but not his identity as Tony Stark.
Good thing Tony’s not actually here to see this!
In Avengers #333 (with “starkly” lesser-quality art, unfortunately), the third Doom (who may or may not be the real Doom, although he claims one of the three is) states his intent: He wants to know the Avengers’ secret to interdimensional travel, which Thor bragged about at the end of the last issue, so he can travel to hell to save his mother (a frequent mission of his, seen most prominently in the graphic novel Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment). And he is willing to hold the headquarters hostage and continue fighting Cap, Vision, and Sandman to get it—while negotiating, including talking like a Bond villain with Cap.
Doom both offers to reveal the flaws in the Avengers’ security—sorry, Tony—and reveals that the real Doom has a neutron bomb on his person, in case any hero becomes too violent. As Cap continues to fight with his Doom, though, he determines that he’s battling a Doombot…
…and Doom’s challenges do not shake his confidence in the least.
How’d he know? We learn that soon enough, but for now, one of the two remaining Dooms makes a case for his deal…
…but Cap asserts that they don’t make deals under threat. (I trust that he said principle, and whoever “wrote it down” for Marvel Comics misspelled it. Blame Tony if you want—I don’t think he’d notice at this point.)
Vision and Sandman reveal that their Doom was a Doombot as well, but Johnny Storm is more skeptical about how Cap knew, which gives Cap a chance to play Sherlock Holmes to Johnny’s Watson.
Once the real Doom has been isolated, Cap criticizes his approach, literally telling him he could have just asked them… not that they would have had an answer, and not that Doom would have accepted it. So it’s back to the bomb…
…the threat of which Cap defuses, with the help of Rage and one of his Granny Staples’ cupcakes.
After revealing this Doom was also a Doombot and destroying it, Rage explained his own reasoning, based on his and Doom’s shared love for their elders…
…as well as the punchline to a too-clever-by-half joke.
By the same logic, even though Doom said the real Doom had a bomb, he never said the Doombots didn’t have one, so Rage did risk annihilation when he destroyed the third Doombot. (Oops.)
Doom gets a last word remotely, claiming to be the true Doom, sitting outside in a Cadillac with the bomb, and paying final compliments to both Cap (whom he believes) and Rage (who recognized the depth of his dedication to his lost mother).
Why couldn’t the Avengers reach Thor, anyway? At this time, the God of Thunder has a lot on his Asgardian plate, including a change of identity: As of Thor #433, Eric Masterson now wields the power of Thor on his own, after Thor’s essence was banished by Odin for “killing” Loki. Eric’s worried people will notice he’s not the “real” Thor, especially those who know him best—including Captain America, who may have been calling him to help with Doom, but gets the brush-off instead.
Never one to dally, Eric will open up to Cap about his secret in the next issue of Thor. Meanwhile, Amazing Spider-Man #348 explores the reaction of that book’s cast to the news of Sandman joining the Avengers, eventually drawing in the entire team with Cap at the helm…
…and including a pre-Eric Masterson Thor, evidently.
After the crisis du jour is averted, Cap has a talk with Sandman about the team’s new limited jurisdiction as of Avengers #329, which we all knew was going to cause some problems, but Sandman is not sympathetic…
…giving his own, more colorful version of Cap’s “when things go south” speech from Captain America: Civil War, before storming off and reconsidering the hero lifestyle.
Finally, in X-Factor #66, the Avengers are called to what is a global threat: Apocalypse, or more accurately his ship (named Ship), which is attacking New York (in a storyline called “Endgame,” natch). Anyway, we see Cap in one panel, alongside Sersi, shielding a civilian from mechanical tentacles—although he seems to be holding her strangely, almost positioning her behind the shield rather than behind his body, which would seem more natural. (But this is the beginning of the “Image style” at Marvel, so I probably shouldn’t get too hung up on this stuff!)
Both collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: The Crossing Line.
Collected in: Thor Epic Collection: The Black Galaxy.
X-Factor (vol. 1) #66 (May 1991): Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio (plotters), Chris Claremont (script), Whilce Portacio (pencils), Art Thibert (inks), Glynis Oliver and Steve Buccellato (colors), Pat Brosseau (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in X-Man Epic Collection: Mutant Genesis.
NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #334-335 and Thor #434 (July-August 1991)