These three annuals include the beginning, middle, and end of the five-part crossover story “Subterranean Wars,” in which the Deviants attack other underground races (such as the Lava Men and the Moloids), a battle that draws in the Avengers and other heroes across the Marvel Universe. Captain America’s involvement in this “event” is very slight—he was apparently excused to take part in “The Von Strucker Gambit” instead—but he does appear in two other stories in Namor’s annual (kind of), so we have a little more to talk about in this post.
In the Avengers annual, Sersi and Hercules stumble upon some of the battle breaking through to the surface, and are trying to piece together what’s going on when some friends show up…
…led by Captain America (who has to reprimand the whiny trainees Sandman and Rage), and also featuring a Black Widow now in white.
That’s our Cap, always seeing the good in his teammates!
After Quasar either did or did not drive the Moloids and Lava Men back underground, Cap wants to get in the bottom of this…
…and “to the bottom” they go.
Eventually, the team encounters the three leaders of the subterranean races—Mole Man, Tyrannus, and Grotesk—and Rage takes offense at the last one’s name for some petty reason until Vision and Cap settle him down.
When the three leaders detail the Deviant threat and predict that they won’t stop when they conquer the underground kingdoms, Cap sensibly defers to Sersi, who as an Eternal has battled the Deviants for millennia.
Cap offers to help in exchange for a small favor, but apparently not small enough for the Mole Man (who’s only been trying to conquer the surface world since Fantastic Four #1).
After Cap explains to Natasha why they are the ones to go above ground…
…neither is seen again until the last installment of the story in the West Coast Avengers annual.
In the “Subterranean Wars” installment in the Namor annual, Cap is seen merely in a flashback with the Invaders as they find a concentration camp…
…and Cap has to stop Namor from killing the Nazis in charge, arguing that they need to face justice in a court of law if the rule of law is to mean anything. (Namor’s later reflection can be read as a comment on many Americans’ hesitance to join the war effort until it reached their own shores, as we see in The Adventures of Captain America #1.)
We finally see Cap and Black Widow again in the West Coast Avengers annual… apparently they had been ambushed by someone, whatever. (At least they put Natasha back in her grey outfit, or did it just get really dirty?)
Cap gets a brief chance to reconnect with John Walker, in one of their more civil interactions.
And we end with a pair of group shots, tiny but still impressive.
Also in the Namor annual, we have a very confusing story of the Invaders—really just Captain America and Namor—set in 1945, which introduces a Golden Age Red Guardian, Aleksey Lebedev.
But this is not Steve Rogers, as is made evident by his ardent anti-communism, which would suggest William Burnside (the 1950s Cap) but based on the timeframe is actually William Naslund, the former Spirit of ’76 and Rogers’ first replacement, who would die the following year and will be replaced by Jeff Mace, aka the Patriot (who would go on to fight this Red Guardian in Captain America: Patriot #2).
Namor calls Naslund “a trifle zealous” below, but this is news to me (again, applying more to Burnside than either of the Caps in the second half of the 1940s).
(We will learn more about this Red Guardian’s background in 1994’s Captain America Annual #13.)
Finally, in the last story in the Namor annual, we see a very dapper Sub-Mariner in the current day, having his forward progress impeded by a familiar shield…
…wielded by a very sinister-looking Cap alongside a depowered Jim Hammond and a “reyouthened” Spitfire (both since Namor the Sub-Mariner #12), all seemingly hellbent on capturing their fellow Invader.
(I’m sure he never liked that jacket or shirt anyway.)
Namor wraps things up and coolly walks away, leaving Cap and the rest to call in some reinforcements…
…which, as you can guess from the last panel above, are the Fantastic Four, followed by the original Defenders and other heroes Namor has worked with, culminating in the ultimate showdown below.
The Marvel heroes really know how to throw a surprise party!
Avengers (vol. 1) Annual #20, September 1991, “Of Moles and Mutates”: Roy Thomas and Dann Thomas (writers), Kevin West (pencils), Fred Fredericks (inks), Renée Witterstaetter (colors), Janice Chiang (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
West Coast Avengers (vol. 2) Annual #6, September 1991, “Storm in Subterranea”: Roy Thomas and Dann Thomas (writers), George Freeman (pencils), Danny Bulanadi, Bob Wiacek, and Andrew Pepoy (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Both collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: The Collection Obsession and Avengers: Subterranean Wars (ebook).
Namor the Sub-Mariner Annual #1, September 1991:
“Never Again”: Scott Lobdell (writer), James Fry (pencils), Erik Larsen (inks), Mike Thomas (colors), Dave Sharpe (letters).
“The Potsdam Objective”: Dana Moreshead and Mike Thomas (writers), Phil Hester (pencils), Don Hudson (inks), Kevin Tinsley (colors), John Morelli (letters).
“Day of Reckoning”: Chris Cooper (writer), S. Clarke Hawbaker and Dave Hoover (pencils), Ian Akin and Brian Garvey (inks), Justin F. Gabrie (colors), Diana Albers (letters).
More details at Marvel Database.
Not yet collected (except first story, which appears in Avengers Epic Collection: The Collection Obsession and Avengers: Subterranean Wars ebook).
ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America #391-392, Infinity Gauntlet #3, Adventures of Captain America #1, Avengers #337 and Alpha Flight #100, Avengers #338, Thor #436, and Damage Control #4, and Avengers: Death Trap — The Vault (September 1991)