With these issues, Captain America returns to the Avengers for the first time since Operation: Galactic Storm ended, finding himself in the middle of a typical 90s Avengers story full of evil doppelgängers, evil space aliens, and evil jackets. (OK, maybe the jackets aren’t evil… but do we really know?) It’s an auspicious return for the classic Avenger, in which we see Cap easing his way back into the group dynamics, standing back while Black Widow leads the team and pitching in when needed.
Cap doesn’t appear in issue #360 until the very end, too late to stop a Vision from another timeline—a member of the Gatherers, led by a fella by the name of Proctor, who claims to be Sersi’s husband—from attacking Sersi, who thinks she is going mad after killing a man in the last issue. (The Swordsman seen below, whom the Avengers were curious about way back in issue #344, is also from a different timeline and used to be with the Gatherers.)
“Yes, it’s me!” Cap could have said, but that would have ruined his very dramatic entrance.
Also in this issue is a helpful recap feature in which, presumably before the events in the main story, Black Widow fills Cap in on the current status of the team members. (Notice she doesn’t even try to feign surprise when Cap appears above.) Usefully, we learn that Nat asked Cap to return, an invitation Cap humbly and graciously accepts.
Back to the action in issue #361, where Cap takes charge for the first and last time in this story—which is understandable, given the set-up he had.
This leads eventually to a vertical double-page spread—another increasingly frequent occurrence in the 90s—that welcomes three of Sersi’s fellow Eternals: Ikaris, Sprite, and Arex (making his first appearance here).
In case the panels in the upper-left corner are too small to read, below you can see Cap (literally) shielding his teammates from the Eternals’ explosive entrance.
Immediately after requesting Sersi to be brought to them, Ikaris stresses his lack of patience, which Cap dismisses out of hand, standing by his fellow Avenger (whether Eternal or not).
Of course, Ikaris is not one to listen.
Despite increasing tensions, the Eternals Three and the Avengers avoid coming to blows before Sersi emerges and announces that the Black Knight is her “Gann Josin,” meaning that they’re soulmates with a psychic bond. But Arex explains that Sersi has fallen victim to the “Mahd W’yry,” a uniquely Eternal madness due to their human minds not being able to keep up with their Eternal bodies, especially when a certain Eternal opened up the Uni-Mind to their cousins the Brethren (as Sersi did in issue #339).
And what do Eternals do when one of their own goes mad? Why, they kill them, of course (!!!). This arouses a predictable response from Captain America (Sersi’s sarcastic response notwithstanding), to which Crystal provides helpful context.
When Arek tries to take Sersi home, Hercules punches him, and hostilities threaten to escalate, especially when Ikaris—a tool, to be certain, but hardly the sharpest one in the shed—calls the Avengers “idiots,” and Cap stands aside his teammates in support of Sersi.
Ikaris and his two fellow Eternals leave, but not before doing something to the Black Knight to initiate the bonding process, which he resents—and then goes off and kisses Crystal—while in his hideaway, Proctor claims to be Sersi’s “true” Gann Josin anyway. (“And next time on Days of Our Lives…”)
Issue #362, with its starkly different art style, focuses on the imposter Vision, who seems to kill his fellow Gatherer the Swordsman before creeping up on a sleeping Crystal. After she awakens and attacks him, Hercules joins in, followed by Cap and Natasha (all in sleepwear, kind of).
After taking Hercules down, Vision turns to Cap, revealing how he felt about the Cap from his timeline—as well as how he dealt with him.
It takes Sersi to stop Alt-Vision by transforming him into a crystalline substance (ironically), after which the assembled Avengers promise to take the fight to the Gatherers, which they do in issue #363, after changing into their Winter Battle Suits™.
Yes, that’s the nasty Vision, who Sersi must have de-crystalized before their trip—although he might have been better off that way, as Cap notes, inviting a disturbing comment from the Black Knight.
Maybe he was referring to Avengers’ new rules of engagement, or maybe he meant the TOTALLY AWESOME HEADGEAR we see the team wearing below. (At least it allows Cap’s golden locks to flow for once.)
As we would expect, Cap is as interested in the well-being of his teammates as on winning the battle at hand.
Dane’s “psionic armor,” Sersi’s jackets… this is all so 90s it hurts.
Eventually Proctor shows his face, sees the sign of the Gann Josin-ness in the Black Knight’s eyes, and proclaims himself Sersi’s one-and-only… and reminds us that you always hurt the ones you love. When Dane (of all people) claims that Avengers do not kill, Proctor shows he’s done the reading, and when Cap offers a word of criticism…
…Dane lets his frustrations out.
Cap tries in vain to talk him down, defending himself while trying not to fight back, until the Black Widow steps in…
…which seems to bring Dane back to the land of reason, with Cap concerned rather than angry.
Proctor explains that Dane fell victim to Sersi’s madness through their psychic connection, stressing the danger she poses, which he knows from personal experience, given that the Sersi of his timeline destroyed that Earth. (The arrival of not one but two Watchers would seem to back up the urgency of matters.) In the end, Proctor forces Dane to “kill” him before his citadel crumbles around them… but the concern with Sersi’s state of mind remains.
Avengers (vol. 1) #360, March 1993:
“Alternate Visions”: Bob Harras (writer), Steve Epting (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks and colors), Bill Oakley (letters).
“Overviews”: Bob Harras (writer), Hector Collazo (pencils), Pat Garrahy, Suzanne Gaffney, and Gina Going (colors), Rick Parker (letters).
(More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #361, April 1993: Bob Harras (writer), Steve Epting (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks and colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #362, May 1993: Bob Harras (writer), Gordon Purcell (pencils), Steve Alexandrov and Fred Fredericks (inks), Gina Going (colors), Bill Oakley and Michael Higgins (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Avengers (vol. 1) #363, June 1993: Bob Harras (writer), Steve Epting (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks and colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: The Gatherers Strike!
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #347 and Thor #447 (May 1992)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #413 and Slapstick #4 (March 1993), Captain America #414-415 and Iron Man #292 (April-May 1993), Captain America Annual #12 (May 1993), Invaders #1-2 (May-June 1993), Captain America #416 and Mys-Tech Wars #4 (June 1993), The Incredible Hulk #406 (June 1993), and Infinity Crusade #1 (June 1993)
NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #364-367 and Sensational She-Hulk #55 (July-October 1993)
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