These three annuals—plus Fantastic Four Annual #25, in which Captain America does not appear—comprise the “Citizen Kang” storyline, in which the master time manipulator puts the various heroes through their paces before bringing them together at the end for a grand showdown. (Sadly, he does not escape at the end on his time-sled Rosebud.) Most of our focus will be on Cap’s annual, which has particular literary focus, with a few panels from the Avengers annual at the end of the story (and one minor appearance in the Thor annual), and we will wrap up with a few back-ups stories from the Cap and Avengers annuals that are of some interest.
Our story begins in Cap’s annual, with our hero landing in a Wisconsin town named Timely—a wink and a nod to both Marvel Comics’ original name as well as Kang’s involvement—which, even for Cap, seems a little too “wholesome” to be true.
At first he has trouble even getting anyone’s attention—”hello, Living Legend of World War II here?”—and when he does, everyone treats him like just another neighbor (except the traffic cop).
Then he finds the townspeople completely unfamiliar with the Vision (in a comically naive way), whom Cap is looking for.
(Look how he hands back the infant in one hand while he looks the other way—yikes!)
After he finds out where the town’s one manufacturing plant is—in the one building with more than one story, naturally—he walks away suspicious of the entire place, while thinking back to what led to this expedition.
Cap was training in the Avengers gym one day, feeling his age, when who should stop by…
…but the aforementioned synthezoid, who went to Timely to investigate a part inside him that seems too modern—an anachronism, you might even say—and he hasn’t been seen since.
(I think the point is that Professor Horton didn’t get any part from Timely, but maybe Cap has reason to doubt Vision’s analysis.)
It turns out the one person at the factory who might have seen the Vision is not the one person there…
…which only adds to Cap’s suspicions. After some vaulting up the building that should reassure him he’s in fine shape, he finds a way in.
After “breaking and entering” the factory through the skylight, Cap is relieved he won’t have to break down the door—which isn’t necessary for a second incident of breaking-and-entering, but oh well. Even more interesting is what happens when he walks through the door.
Once through the looking-glass, so to speak, Cap sees a group of stone men beating a large fella, and jumps in to help.
If those stone men look familiar… they should!
Cap finally recognizes the guy he’s trying to protect (but who actually saved him)…
…it’s the Eternal and sometimes Avenger, Gilgamesh. But something’s off about him (other than his clothes).
Cap starts to put it together…
…and it’s time shenanigans, oh boy.
This is where we remember that Cap’s true superpower is literary—in this case, being very familiar with The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest known religious texts and heroic tales. (For more background than given below, see here.)
After Gilgamesh arranges a ride to find someone who may able to help, Cap congratulates himself on a surprising literary and historical discovery. (He’ll definitely get tenure now!) But his silent revelry is interrupted by concern for his future friend, and another clue about the person behind this whole episode.
They meet Utnapishtim and his young companion…
…and Cap puts together even more ancient literature with Marvel lore of the Eternals.
Because he did the assigned reading, Cap seems to remember what comes next…
…but when life doesn’t follow the script, our hero jumps in to help once again.
In the end, Gilgamesh fails to get the plant that grants eternal life, and Cap ponders the life of an Eternal who craves immortality while aware that he already has it.
Once Gilgamesh leaves, Cap’s mind returns to the Vision, but is once again interrupted, this time by the young girl who turns out to be someone else Cap will know in the future.
Cap makes Li’l Sersi his sidekick, and makes one final literary reference before the story ends, this one to a character who is constantly interrupted on his quest. (Appropriate!)
The story continues in the Thor Annual, but the only sight of Cap we get is a message he left the Avengers before he went to Timely to look for Vision.
Below he see Sersi—all grown up!—asking why Cap didn’t tell them about the Vision earlier, and the Black Knight chimes in with the perfect response.
Cap is not seen again until the Avengers Annual—after the Fantastic Four were brought into the fold in their own annual—when Kang reunites all the heroes he’s been toying with all this time to fight his Anachronauts, “the greatest warriors of the ages.” For his part, Cap wants information from them, but he has to restrain his colleagues if he has any hope of getting some.
Meanwhile, Kang and Ravonna, his sometimes lover sometimes enemy, are fighting each other, and only Cap and Thor appreciate the danger of this. Surprisingly it’s Thor (Eric Masterson, remember, not the Odinson) who thinks of a solution.
And it works… if a little too easily.
Ravonna leaves with the apparently dead Kang—wink wink, as Cap knows, which explains why he let Ravonna go with his body. (And at least one Avengers resents Cap quick assertion of leadership!)
He even issues the battle cry… or maybe it’s the moving-out cry? (Billy Joel will want royalties—too bad Anthony Stark isn’t around to sing his song.)
Before we finish, let’s check out a couple added features, first from the Captain America Annual, in which Steve Rogers and Rachel Leighton—freed from her “current” captivity at the hands of Crossbones, apparently—enjoy an aftershow drink, and Rachel naturally asks her beau about his worse enemies. (Each of these four annuals included a “top ten villains” feature, so she didn’t really have a choice.)
His choices are not surprising, but some of his incidental comments are. For example, the first foes he mentions are Rachel’s old crew the Serpent Society, but he finds a silver lining in their encounters.
Next he cites Flag-Smasher and Doctor Faustus, the latter prompting another memory, this time of someone rarely mentioned (at the time), which he shares rather bluntly with Rachel.
Next comes Viper, then Batroc, whose own unique code of honor Cap graciously acknowledges.
After mentioning Arnim Zola and the lesser members of the Skeleton Crew, Steve gets to the last two, the first of whom Rachel knows all too well—as readers know from the recent back-ups stories, mostly not covered here—and the Big Red Käse himself, noting their ideological opposition. Steve wraps up the overview of his rogues’ gallery by mourning those who haven’t survived, but Rachel isn’t worried.
We also get a full-page handbook-style features on Cap’s new plane, Freedom Flight, and the mighty shield. Regarding the latter, most details are consistent with past write-ups and stories, except that it is three inches thick (which seems like a lot) and it’s put on a little weight (12 lbs 3.2 oz, compared to the traditional 12 lbs).
The Falcon also gets a short story, in which he gets his new outfit (also seen in this month’s Captain America #408) from Desmond Burrell at Stark Enterprises.
Finally, the “ten fiercest foes” in the Avengers’ annual is framed in the context of the Black Knight choosing an opponent for a training simulation—but Cap wants to play on the advanced setting.
“Citizen Kang: Part One”: Roy Thomas (writer), Larry Alexander (pencils), Kathryn Bolinger (inks), Max Scheele and John Kalisz (colors), Steve Dutro (letters).
“Captain America’s Top Ten Villains”: George Caragonne (writer), Larry Alexander (pencils and inks), Renee Witterstaetter (colors), Jon Babcock (letters).
“Test Flight”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), James Brock (pencils), Charles Barnett (inks), Max Scheele (colors), Dave Sharpe (letters).
(More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Arena of Death.
Thor (vol. 1) Annual #17, October 1992: “The Hammer, the Cross, and the Eye”: Roy Thomas (writer), Geof Isherwood (pencils), Fred Fredericks (inks), Tom Smith (colors), Rick Parker (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Thor Epic Collection: The Thor War.
“Kang’s World”: Roy Thomas (writer), Herb Trimpe (pencils), Charles Barnett and Brad Vancata (inks), Gina Going (colors), Steve Dutro (letters).
“The Avengers’ Top Ten Villains”: George Caragonne (writer), Karl Altstaetter (pencils and inks), Nel Yomtov (colors), Dave Sharpe (letters).
(More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: Fear the Reaper (which also includes the main “Citizen Kang” stories from the other annuals).
All four annuals were also collected (complete with back-ups) in Avengers: Citizen Kang.
ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America #408, Infinity War #5, Fantastic Four #369, Quasar #39, and Wonder Man #14, Ghost Rider – Captain America: Fear, and Punisher – Captain America: Blood and Glory #1 (October 1992).