Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Comic School Review: Avengers #4 (1964). Captain America Joins the Avengers. Hilarity Ensues.

If you enjoyed my recent review of Stan the Man Lee and Jack the King Kirby's insanely entertaining ant-filled Avengers #1 from 1963 then you would be an absolute moron to miss Avengers #4 from 1964, which is the first issue to add Captain America to the team! If you want to read along with me then you can purchase this one, like I did, for a mere $1.99 from Comixology right HERE.

Aren't you dying to know if this version of the story matches up with the modern films? Have you ever wondered how Cap officially joined up with the team? Are you amazed by the way in which we continue to shamelessly milk the Avengers franchise? How do you milk a Hulk? Probably very carefully.

In this issue the Avengers will face all sorts of challenges that can't be solved by a convenient trapdoor. To find out how they cope... join me after the jump!

If you carefully study that cover you'll realise that in a mere few issues a lot has changed. Hulk has vanished, no longer part of the team, Ant-Man is now the massive Giant-Man and makes no mention of his astute and suspicious ant brethren, and Iron Man's clunky gold suit is gone, replaced by a slightly more familiar red and gold one. Except he has inexplicably decided to fashion his mask to resemble a grimacing cat. How drunk is Tony Stark? I bet that when no one's around, he licks his hands and rubs them all over his face.

So our story opens with the Avengers wrapping up a battle with a new (old) foe, Namor, the Submariner. Think a surlier, more naked Aquaman with hair like Spock. This turns out to be a surprisingly homoerotic outing so it's only fitting that Namor gets the ball(s) rolling...

Note that he lives in the ocean but has wings on his feet. Awkward. Why not give Angel from the X-Men flippers and gills!

So Namor gets pwned (naturally) and is forced to take a dive (literally). Muttering incoherently about his hatred for humanity he seeks solace in the ice, only to be inadvertently confronted by a bunch of bastard Eskimos! They are worshipping a mysterious figure encased in a giant block of ice, so dickbag Namor crashes their party, hurling their "idol" into the ocean for no other reason that to flip his middle finger at Eskimo life. I'm beginning to like this guy already.

The iceblock drifts and thaws and reveals a rock-jawed blonde gentleman who I guess is about to drown, but no, the Avengers just happen to be joyriding past in their sudden submarine and spy the hapless fellow. They bring him in and he looks awfully familiar. Is this the famous Captain America from the 1940's? It has to be, right? And here's why:

You can't fake a captial 'A', right Iron Cat? What else could that proud 'A' stand for? Asshole?

This is where it genuinely gets good though and gives the old heartstrings a bit of a tug. Cap wakes in a panic thinking that his boy companion Bucky is about to be blown up and he freaks out and Iron Man and Thor have to hold him down. Cap calms down and realises what has happened and it's actually quite an emotional moment until the drunken Iron Man blurts out, "If this is some kind of trick, mister, you'll live to regret it!" and then everyone frigging attacks him!

So Cap is dodging hammers and fists during his Welcome to the Future beatdown and only stops when the Wasp gets up in his grill and he realises he can't hit a woman. The shapely figure of the Wasp makes everybody chill and Cap retells the story of how Bucky got blown up by an explosive-filled drone plane and Cap ended up eating shit in the ocean.

The Avengers return to the city and are greeted by paparazzi. Everyone gets out of the submarine except for Cap and one of the photographers has substituted his camera for a ray gun and with a blinding flash he turns them all to stone! No shit!

Slowpoke Cap finally rises up to the surface (it must have taken hours because the photographers have all cleared, assuming the grimacing, agonised Avengers are a stunt to avoid being photographed) and Cap is greeted by his conquered "friends". Look at how little he cares and how easily he gets distracted:

Yep! Cap's like, "My new companions have been replaced by grotesque statues. Oh well. Whatever. How's the pussy in this place?"

He pokes around, gawking at buildings and cars and he even makes a police officer cry.

It's just so... inspiring.. isn't it?

Still unperturbed by the missing Avengers, Cap checks into a hotel and goes to sleep. But a shadowy figure enters his room. "Bucky! Is that you!?" Oh noes... it's our old pal Rick Jones from the Teen Brigade! He's tracked Cap across town and he demands some answers!

More like: "Look fella, I barely know ya' so how about takin' a coupla' paces back and getting yer meathooks offa' me?" Cap is so intense. And he sleeps in his uniform.

Cap soon charms Rick into helping him though and they discover that one of the photographer took photos of the other photographers (must have been his first day on the job) and they see the guy with the ray gun hiding in the crowd. There's no ants this time to track him down, but Rick has something even better up his sleeve. Teenagers!

The omnipresent teenagers don't take long to finger the culprit. Cap exercises his right as a proud American citizen to crash through the window and beat up everyone in the room. He finds the faux photographer, digs in his patriotic fingers and rips his face clean off. Only to find... an asparagus?




Okay... so he is an alien that crashed in the ocean many many years ago and, in self-defence, turned a lot of Spartans into statues, thereby creating the Medusa myth, and then made a pact with Namor to turn the Avengers into stone in return for freeing his crashed ship from the ocean. Why wasn't this in the movies?!

So, Cap drags the alien back to the statues and he reverses the polarity and frees the Avengers. Now they have to free his ship. Lucky they have Thor who can just use his Godly strength to tear that spacecraft out of the sand. Right? Well... kind of...

 Uh... yeah. Thor hooks up a closed circuit TV camera so he can watch the spacecraft 10 meters below him, and then the rest of the team spend four hours building a platform for him to stand on, and then using the camera as a guide Thor slowly rotates his hammer creating "an irresistible torrent of cosmic magnetic rays" which wrench the ship from the ocean. This takes an entire page. I was waiting for Iron Man to go, "Wait... THAT'S what you were going to do? Jesus, I can get you a magnet on a crane."

All seems well but then Namor reappears and sends his minions to attack everybody for messing up his plans. The fight is talky and convoluted but the dialogue is pretty stunning, like this classic from Giant Man:

Never whoop it up in a bully boy gangbang.

The fight rages for pages with everyone getting involved except for Cap who hangs back UNTIL he realises that the hateful Namor has Rick Jones hostage. THEN he joins the fight which is interrupted by the alien spacecraft taking off, thereby allowing Namor's escape (again).

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Just what are you insinuating there, Iron Man?

Does Iron Man mean to suggest that perhaps some kind of strange relationship is building between the mighty Captain America and leader of the Teen Brigade, Rick Jones? Surely not!


After Cap officially joins the team, it seems that Rick Jones is struggling with conflicting feelings of his own:

That two-timing son of a bitch!

Oh yeah... and where was the Wasp during all this?

Hahahahaha! Action scenes sure give that girl the explosive shits!

I cannot stress enough what great fun these early books are, with insane writing from Stan and stellar art from Jack. Do check them out if you get the chance. I cannot get enough of them!

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