What hath The Baron wrought?

With his "Baron Re-Reads the JSA" thread, he has inspired us all. Currently John Dunbar is writing a "Dunbar Re-Reads Thor" thread, which calls out for an accompanying "Avengers" thread, at least while Thor is part of that team. So here goes:

AVENGERS #1 (Sep 63)

"The Coming of The Avengers!"

Written by Stan Lee

Drawn by Jack Kirby

Inked by Dick Ayers

Lettered by Sam Rosen

What They're Up To: Ant-Man and The Wasp fight Trago, "The Man with the Magic Trumpet!", in Tales to Astonish #47. Iron Man stars in "The Icy Fingers of Jack Frost!" in Tales of Suspense #45. Thor battles the guy who will become Maha Yogi in "Mad Merlin!" in Journey into Mystery #96.

Synopsis: The story opens on the Isle of Silence in Asgard, where an exiled Loki plots revenge on Thor for his recent defeats at The Thunderer's hand (see Dunbar Re-Reads Thor). By means of "thought projection" Loki peeks in on Thor's civilian identity, Don Blake, doing good on Earth. But defeating Blake would be a "hollow victory" and only defeating Thor will make Loki happy. So he scours the Earth for a threat to force the Thunder God to respond -- and discovers the Hulk. "A huge human figure ... flying through the air! How is that possible?"

Determining that the figure is the Hulk -- apparently Loki keeps up with current events, and recognizes ol' Greenskin -- the Asgardian projects an illusion of TNT on a railroad track, so that the Hulk will accidentally destroy the track and be blamed for a train wreck. This "diabolical scheme" -- yes, Loki calls it that -- works, because even though the Hulk manages to save the train, word goes out that the Hulk is on a rampage.

Rick Jones, Hulk sidekick and leader of The Teen Brigade (formed in Incredible Hulk #6, May 63), decides that "if the Hulk is innocent, he needs help, fast! And if he's guilty, it'll take more than an army to stop 'im!" The solution: Call the Fantastic Four! But Loki diverts the call -- so that it comes out of Don Blake's radio! "Strange," muses Blake. "Sounds like a call for Thor!"

Of course it is! All radio messages that begin "Calling the Fantastic Four" are a call for Thor!

But others have received the message, too, probably because Loki is the God of Evil, not the God of Paying Attention to Detail. Ant-Man and the Wasp have somehow heard it, and Tony "Iron Man" Stark happened to be on the right frequency. The Fantastic Four actually got the message, too -- they're busy, but Reed says his "calculations" say the Teen Brigade will have company soon.

Mighty smart guy, that Reed Richards, because Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man and Wasp show up at Teen Brigade HQ. "It would seem the gang's all here, eh, lads?" quips that the ever-urbane Tony Stark. But while everybody's doing "Wassup!" Loki projects another illusion in Thor's field of vision, of the Hulk bounding by. Thor gives chase, and when he determines it's an illusion, sees his half-brother's yellow-gauntleted hand in the matter. He hies himself off to Asgard, to give Loki such a noogie.

Undeterred by Thor's disappearance, Iron Man says they'll carry on, and Ant-Man's ants report an incredibly strong guy at a nearby circus. It's the Hulk, dressed as a clown! (Let me repeat that: It's the Hulk, dressed as a clown!) The circus owners think he's an incredibly powerful robot that they just happened to stumble across, because ... well, we can only assume they are as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Ant-Man attacks! He has ants dig a hole that the Hulk falls into! Oh, the indignity! He has ants drop a barrel on the Hulk! Oh,the irritation! Then The Wasp attacks, by flying around Hulk in an annoying fashion! Oh, the humanity! But Hulk prevails, by smashing, except for The Wasp, whom he defeats with a fireplace bellows, which happens to be lying there at the circus. (Well, he can't just smash a girl, can he? It's 1963!)

And in defense of The Wasp's battle tactics, she was actually trying to draw Hulk under a net, that Ant-Man's ants have set up. And it works, in that the Hulk gets under the net, and runs into it while trying to leap away. Of course, it barely slows him down, but hey, it's Ant-Man! What do you want, repulsor rays?

Speaking which, now it's Iron Man's turn! So the Hulk hits him in the chest! And then ... OK, then Iron Man falls down. "Can't go after him until I repair my battery," thinks Iron Man. But as the Hulk flees, Iron Man pleads with him, "Hulk ... wait! I want to help you! You can't remain a fugitive forever! Come back!!"

This is called foreshadowing.

Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Thor pleads with Odin to let him have a little chinwag with Loki. Odin approves but says he cannot interfere, as he loves both his sons equally. (Honestly, he may be the All-Father, but he'll never win Parent of the Year.) Anyway, so be it!

Thor takes a dragon-prowed skiff -- he IS a Viking, after all -- to the Isle of Silence. Loki attacks with animated trees, which Thor buzzes through by spinning his hammer like a buzzsaw. Loki attacks with "volcanic gas globules," which Thor avoids by diving underwater. He whips up a waterspout to carry  him to Loki, and he throws his hammer, which Loki deflects by freezing the air. But then Loki springs his REAL trap: Trolls! The "Silent Ones" for whom the island is named! One grabs Thor, and Loki crows that nothing can break the grip of a troll -- it the troll that gave rise to the "Old Man of the Sea" legend of Sinbad fame!

But as Thor is dragged underground, he pounds the handle of his hammer on the ground, summoning lightning, which blinds the underground-living troll. Loki uses multiple images to fool the Thunder God, who blows them all away by spinning his hammer. Then he uses his hammer to soak up "the magnetic currents that give life to the trolls below!' Which somehow magnetizes Loki to his hammer, and off they go to Earth, because Loki "has much to atone for!"

Meanwhile, Iron Man has chased Hulk to an auto factory -- I had no idea Detroit had a suburb in the Southwest, but whatever -- and throws tires at the Hulk. The Hulk fashions a metal bow and arrow, but Iron Man catches the arrow and turns it into a big grapple, and pins the Hulk! But the Hulk pushes through the wall! "I never expected that!" exclaims Iron Man, who evidently has not been paying attention.

But just as the Invincible One and the Incredible One are squaring off for another round -- Stark has decided the Hulk is too dangerous to run around loose -- Thor arrives with Loki, and rats his half-brother out. "Let me at 'im!" roars the Hulk, but Loki has one more ace up his sleeve -- he turns radioactive! (Which shouldn't bother the Hulk, but it does!)

Fortunately, Ant-Man orders some ants to open a convenient trap door under Loki, who slides down a convenient tunnel into a convenient lead-lined tank! Thor helpfully explains "This is where the trucks that carry radioactive wastes from atomic tests dump their loads for eventual disposal in the ocean!"

There are only four panels left, but you know what happens next. Ant-Man and Wasp suggest they team up in a regular fashion, and everybody decides that's a swell idea, even the Hulk, who is "sick of bein' hunted and hounded!" Hey, maybe Iron Man's speech did some good! Oh, and The Wasp suggests the name Avengers, even though it doesn't make much sense (who are they avenging?), but nobody argues with the cute chick, and a legend is born.


My ranking: 9/10.

OK, I admit that synopsis probably took longer to read than the comic book did. But I wanted to mention every salient element in this book, surely among the most important in the series, if not Marvel history.

There's a story going around that Avengers came to be because Bill Everett was really late on Daredevil #1, which was supposed to come out on Sep 63 instead. That apparently is true! It seems to arise from this Spring.Me post by Marvel uber-editor Tom Brevoort:

"Martin Goodman, Marvel's publisher at the time, was famous for flooding the market with anything that worked. So in early 1963, after the first bunch of Marvel super hero releases started to hit, he told Stan, 'Give me another Spider-Man and another Fantastic Four.' In other words, new characters who were very much like those characters, and would appeal to the same audience. So two books were started: X-Men, which was the Fantastic Four-style book (and even says so on the first two covers) with a team of heroes in identical blue costumes fighting a guy who resembles Doctor Doom on the cover; and Daredevil, which was the Spider-Man book (and says so on the first cover as well), the quippy urban adventurer. Now, Stan was smart enough to do more with these characters and concepts that simply knocking off his earlier characters, but that's where they started. But Bill Everett, with whom Stan co-created Daredevil, had both a day job and a drinking problem. And so production on DAREDEVIL #1 fell way behind. In those days, you booked print time way ahead of time -- and if your book wasn't ready, you paid for the printing time anyway. So it was vital to get something to press on time. But Bill Everett was a favorite of Martin Goodman, stemming back to the '40s when he created the Sub-Mariner. Regardless, there was suddenly a hole in the schedule, with no book where a book should be. In trying to solve this problem, Stan hit on the notion of doing a strip that brought all of the heroes together JLA style -- that would be a book that wouldn't require any ramp-up time, because the characters (and even the villain) all existed already. So he and Jack Kirby brainstormed the first issue, Kirby drew it up hastily, Dick Ayers inked it in what looks like no time flat, and it came out the same month as X-MEN #1. (DAREDEVIL #1 followed around six months later -- with Steve Ditko pitching in to help finish it up, and with a different artist on it beginning with #2.)"

How about that? I've been reading Avengers for 51 years, and didn't know that until this month.

But even though it appears Avengers was thrown together at the last minute, I have to give it high marks for being a blisteringly paced action story that nevertheless worked in tons of exposition about the nascent Marvel Universe and a lot of personality bits.

On personality:

* We see Rick Jones' loyalty to the Hulk.

* We see Wasp making flighty comments about everyone, from "dreamy" Thor  to "hideous" Iron Man.

* We see Ant-Man being a tightass.

* We see Reed Richards being really smart.

* We see Thing be cranky, and Sue scold him.

* Loki could kill Blake any time, but wants to fight -- and beat -- Thor at full power.

Great fun! As to powers:

* Thor makes sure we know he can't fly, but instead follows Hulk " ... by hurling my mighty hammer and holding onto its unbreakable thong!"

* Thor using Mjolnir to gather magnetic currents is the New Hammer Power for this issue.

* We see Tony Stark lounging in his chestplate .. because he can't take it off. We also see that Iron Man can't battle if his "battery" is damaged. (Say, maybe this guy isn't really invincible!)

* We see Ant-Man's mode of travel, and a myriad use of ants. We did NOT see him at full size, which is odd, but I guess we'll more than make up for that next issue!

Other observations:

* No matter how hard Lee works at it, Ant-Man is fundamentally superfluous in this issue. His attacks are weak, and his strategies usually require tremendous coincidence to function, although they fail anyway. I'm guessing it was Lee struggling through this issue that made him re-think this whole Ant-Man business, resulting in Giant-Man (with the next issue).

* Iron Man may be strong, but he's really vulnerable. I mean, punch him in the chest and he goes down.

* In fact, none of them are a match for the Hulk, individually or together. That, like Ant-Man's uselessness, becomes apparent pretty early on, as all they're doing is slowing the Hulk down as he tries to run away. God help them if he turns to fight.

* It's conventional wisdom that Stan Lee thought the perfect number for a team was four, and this grouping of Avengers is pretty much four. Yes, there's The Wasp, but she's written as a flighty ornament -- at best, a distraction for the bad guy while the menfolk figure out a plan. This is really a four-man -- and I emphasize "man" -- team. This is before women's lib, after all, and is written by a guy who grew up in the '40s.

* We have never seen trolls like the ones here, or powers like the ones they exhibit here, and we never will again.

Now for some speculation.

Why these four guys? Well, for one thing, they were pretty much the bulk of the Marvel Universe in September, 1963. The X-Men came out the same month, so none of them were available, even if Stan was inclined to use one (which I doubt). Dr. Strange had debuted the month before, but in a throwaway five-pager in the back of Strange Tales -- not a world-beater yet. The presumed break-out star of the Fantastic Four already had a solo series, so the Human Torch (and the rest of his team) were out. Stan Lee has consistently said for 50 years that he was afraid to put Spider-Man in the Avengers, for fear it would ruin his cool "outsider" status -- and I believe him.

Outside of those characters, the only headliners left were Thor, Iron Man and Ant-Man.

So why the Hulk? Lee says in various books that it was to cause friction in the group, to put in a testy guy as a story launcher. That may be true. But I also think it was to give Hulk a regular spotlight after losing his book, because Lee had faith in him ... and because *I think* Lee was peeved that Martin Goodman had canceled Incredible Hulk to make room for a Two-Gun Kid revival. That last part is pure speculation on my part, but if I were Lee I'd have been peeved, and determined to make the Hulk a success. Your mileage may vary.

In summary, I give this book high marks because it is a great example of what was so cool about Marvel in the early '60s. Lots of action. Lots of personality. The story racing along so breathlessly that you don't have time to stop and notice the flaws. Plus, everybody not getting along. I mean, the bulk of the book is Hulk vs. the rest of the team! Can you imagine, for example, the Justice League forming because everyone ganged up on Martian Manhunter, while Superman fought solo with Lex Luthor on another planet? That sort of thing just wasn't done at Silver Age DC, but Lee & Kirby plowed through a dozen comic-book writer's "thou shalt nots" with this one issue, and it was great fun.

Then and now, Avengers #1 is a hoot!

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I'm with CK, honestly -- I don't really care where Cap was when he got frozen, or what kind of geographical hi-jinks were necessary to get him in proximity to the Avengers. We know what we need to know, and I feel like I'm nit-picking when I point out some of the location issues. All can be explained away by saying things like "was constituted the E.T.O." and "where the Gulf Stream flows" are slightly different on Earth-Marvel, and voila. And the Capsicle was on a polar ice floe because the Inuits dragged him there, because it was a sacred spot or something. Done! [wipes hands]

There are more details in Avengers #54 and Avengers Annual #2, which I haven't read in years. Maybe those issues provide a more detailed location.

But I do recall that in that issue Zemo grew two giants out of a briefcase (explaining Cap's remark to Giant-Man that he's fought bigger foes), and I wondered at the time that if Zemo could do THAT, what did he need to steal a drone plane for? In fact, why did Germany even need an Army? They could win the war with giants grown from briefcases! That's pretty awesome technology for 1945!

Avengers #54 also explained why Cap was in his Army uniform, a detail that apparently bugged Roy Thomas enough that he felt the need to provide a reason.

Was Sub-Mariner ever made aware of his role in Cap's revival? Or was Cap made aware of it, for that matter? And if so, how?

Seems to my recall Lee or Thomas used a bit of dialogue that indicated that Cap knew he had been in a block of ice which Namor threw into the sea, thus thawing out the ice in time for the Avengers to find him. I don't think anyone ever depicted exactly how Cap figured that out or when Namor figured out that was Cap in that block of ice.  Might make for an amusing lost scene if someone hasn't already done it.  Also almost seems odd that Thomas never had Cap as a guest star in Sub-Mariner when he was writing that series. 

Seems to me that Tony Stark recalled the Cap/Namor connection in that Kirby 'Album Issue' that popped up in the midst of Steranko's run of Cap. I just don't know how any of these characters could have learned the circumstances.

I never read that particular issue, which turned out to be Kirby's last issue of Cap before his big comeback in issue 193.  But based on the way the events were depicted in Avengers #4, there's no way any of the Avengers could have known without Namor having described to them (or to anyone else who subsequently got the word to them) that in a fit of pique he threw a block of ice with a blonde guy in it into the sea in the same region and same time that the Avengers were trying to track him down.  Something Subby might have reflectively admitted during the period when he was an Avenger himself but doesn't seem likely he would have brought it up in the Silver Age when he was 2nd only to the Hulk as the "superhoer" most likely to lose his temper and get into a fight with another superhero.

AVENGERS #5 (May 64)

"The Invasion of the Lava Men!"

An epic tale told with high drama and heroic dignity by Stan Lee

Illustrated with deep sincerity and dazzling beauty by Jack Kirby

Inked by Paul Reinman

Lettered by Sam Rosen

What They're Up To: Thor fights Skagg the Storm Giant in Journey into Mystery #104. Giant-Man battles the Human Top again in Tales to Astonish #55. Iron Man battles the Black Widow for the second time in Tales of Suspense #53. The Hulk and the Avengers guest star in Fantastic Four #26.

Synopsis: The issue opens in the aftermath of Fantastic Four #26 ("The Avengers Take Over!"), in the ruins of Tony Stark's Midtown Manhattan townhouse, wrecked by the Hulk. The gang all return to their civilian lives, and Lee & Kirby give each character a few panels to re-acquaint the reader with who each of them are.

But! Tony Stark's Long Island factory (which is specified as in Flushing, a fact I didn't now before), is damaged by a "strange, piercing sound' that is not only "piercing," but makes the panel turn pink! Coincidentally, the same noise -- and pink panels -- strike an ant-hill where Ant-Man and Wasp are conducting scientific experiments! And then the Mighty Thor ...

Well, he reads about it in the newspaper as Don Blake. (Whew! Blake's office turning pink would have been one too many coincidences!)

Anyway, Blake decides it's time for the Avengers to investigate, and he brings the gang together. (Which is not a frequent occurrence, if you think about it.) The Avengers gather in the undamaged basement of the townhouse, and Iron Man somehow determines that the source of the strange noise is the American Southwest.

Which is a perfect segue to the American Southwest, where Gen. "Thunderbolt" Ross is baffled by a strange green mountain growing out of the ground. Bruce Banner shows up -- he's been missing for a while, as usual -- and after the requisite belittling from Ross ("What my daughter can see in a weak-kneed, lily-livered milksop like you ... ") all assembled turn their attention to the strange growing mountain. Well, all except Banner, who indulges in a six-panel reverie about the origin, powers and problems of the Hulk, effectively catching up the slow readers on who HE is.

Now we take a look underground, and who should we see? I'ts our old friend the Lava Man from Journey into Mystery #97! John's summary didn't mention if he had a name (and I sure don't remember), but he does here: He's Molto, and he is arguing with his king to not push the green mountain up to the surface. Some quick expository dialogue lets us know that the strange green material is growing, and explodes when hit too hard, and will explode anyway when it gets big enough, so the king is shoving it up to the surface so only surface-men will die -- and the Lava Men will inherit the earth! He is goaded into this by an evil witch doctor ... because there is always an evil witch doctor, isn't there?

Why is Molto arguing? Evidently his adventure on the surface convinced him that we aren't evil and don't deserve genocide. Also, that the surface men are powerful and will fight back.

Now, here comes an awesome fact! Face front, true believers, this is it!!!

Because a helicopter arrives above Ross and his crew, and at first Ross says this area is off limits and he'll "have their hides!!" But lo, in the very next panel he says, "No, wait!! Captain, don't you recognize that ship? It has priority A-1 clearance to land anywhere!!"

Hoo-hah! The very first mention of the A-1 Avengers Priority! To find out how they get it, you have to read Joe Casey's miniseries Avengers: The Origin (which I considered integrating with this thread, but decided retcons have no place here).

Meanwhile, back to the action:

Iron Man tells the others to stay back, because the rock may be radioactive. He tries his repulsors, which are ineffective. He blasts around the rock, discovers tunnels below, and investigates, running into a mess of Lava Men! He holds his own for a few panels, but the heat begins to get to him. But BOOM Thor arrives and tells the others that only he can stand the heat. The others retreat, but Thor marches deeper, and as the Lave Men melt the ground below him, he walks through -- and sinks into -- molten lava!

"It's Thor!" shouts Molto. "The one who defeated me months ago ... who mercifully returned me to my people! Save him!"

But Thor needs no saving, because -- New Hammer Power alert! -- Mjolnir can "generate enough cosmic power to harden the molten lava and lift me up again!" Thor confronts the witch doctor and the king, who finish off the expository dialogue so that Thor knows he can't just smash the green rock. Meanwhile, the witch doctor orders an attack!

The Lava Men first confront Captain America, who holds them off impressively for several panels until they immobilize him with bonds of cinders. Rick Jones works to free Cap while Iron Man holds off the Lava Men. Meanwhile, Ant-Man has been examing the rock up close finds the exact spot that isn't pulsing, so a blow there would destroy the rock without causing an explosion. (And how he knows about the explosion business, since he wasn't underground with Thor ... well, he's a scientist, I guess.) Anyway, they rush to deliver the news and discover Iron Man, Rick and Cap in extremis, so Ant-Man becomes Giant-Man, grabs their helicopter, and blows the Lava Men back down the tunnel, and then Iron Man can free Cap.

The gang rushes down the tunnel and regroup with Thor, who is on his way up, and they explain that he needs to hit the rock with his hammer in just the right spot. But, just then up above, Banner gets too excited and becomes the Hulk! He hears the voices of the Avengers, steals into the tunnel, and attacks! "We've got to get rid of him!" shouts Giant-Man. "The living stone may detonate at any minute!" While they tussle, the witch doctor steals up behind Thor with his "radioactive rod" and shoots -- which, in a "freak, one-in-a-million plot twist combination of molecules" changes Thor to Blake, who passes out! (The witch doctor runs away, because Thor's magic was mightier -- he changed into another being!)

The Avengers didn't see what happened to Thor (natch), but they have no time to look for him, because the rock might explode! Quickly, Captain America comes up with a plan, which Hank and Jan execute: Hank uses his size-changing power to lure the Hulk onto the right spot of the rock, growing and shrinking to confuse the brute (and avoid getting mashed). Then, The Wasp flies right in front of the Hulk, tricking him into swinging -- and hitting the rock at exactly the right spot!

BOOM! The rock implodes, and everything's swell. The Hulk has disappeared, although Betty Ross finds an unconscious Banner nearby, and the Hulk is blamed for his injuries. Still below ground, Thor recovers and reads the Lava Men the riot act, finishing with "now return to your normal lives! For our mercy is the equal of our strength!" He reunites with the other Avengers, and they exchange notes. But just then, Rick arrives with a message -- the Teen Brigade has sent a "condition red" emergency message!

"Well, what are we waiting for?" says Cap! "Let's go!" chimes in Iron Man! That leads to the next issue blurb!


My rating: 8/10. Another issue set entirely on fast-forward, and not only would a new reader know all about each of the Avengers, he'd get to see each of them in action individually. I swear, Stan Lee could make exposition virtually painless. The "one-in-a-million" chance that benched Thor at the climax is pretty hard to swallow, but what the heck -- it gave Cap, Giant-Man and Wasp a chance to shine.

Some notes:

* Hey, it's the Hulk again! That's three issues in a row he's made an appearance after quitting in issue #2! It's the last time  for a while -- I don't remember another major Hulk appearance in this title until issue #100 -- but it's interesting how Stan kept Hulk as a member of the cast for six more months (Avengers was bi-monthly) after he was no longer a member of the team. That's another half-year ol' Greenskin got some exposure, in addition to the many guest spots he's doing at the same time. Clever.

* This is the second issue out of five where the Avengers face a foe who first appeared in Journey into Mystery. Perhaps only Thor foes, at this stage of the Marvel Universe, were strong enough to give the whole team a fight.

* The Hulk has hair on his chest in this one. Sometimes Kirby drew him that way, sometimes without chest hair. Let's chalk it up to those craaaaaazzy gamma rays.

* As a boy, I wanted to see all the Avengers gang up together beat the snot out of the bad guys, but it always seemed like they fought solo or in pairs. Now, as an adult, I realize the writing imperatives for that. But as a boy it was frustrating!

* Reinman's inking seems to be improving. It doesn't look as rough and blotchy, and Iron Man actually looks sleek now and then. He's still no Ayers or Heck over Kirby, but he's not as bad as he was in issue #2.

* As noted, we got to see the A-1 Priority appear and we learn where Tony Stark's factory is. Cool!

* I didn't mention it in the synopsis, but we see Cap coaching Rick and the Teen Brigade in combat gymnastics. THIS is the Cap I loved as a lad -- the ultra-competent older brother who not only wouldn't mind you hanging around, he'd teach you how to do cool stuff! Later writers who wrote Cap as some sort of stern father figure missed his appeal completely.

* The Wasp still has flighty dialogue, but she no longer is constantly commenting on the relative attractiveness of the men around her, and her courage cannot be disputed. Clearly, the flightiness is a pose, or just her wacky sense of humor.

* On a personal note, this was the first issue of Avengers I ever read. And, believe me, I loved it.

Possibly Hank kept in touch with what was happening below ground using ants.

I think a helicopter rotor doesn't produces a powerful upwash from the rotor, so Giant-Man's helicopter trick wouldn't work.

Another great review, Captain.  Almost seems like Lee & Kirby decided to give the Hulk a more positive sendoff by having him in this mag to help, albeit inadvertantly, save the day. A coda to the events since Hulk left in a huff in issue #2, including  FF 25 & 26. 

Of the first version of the team, which is already history by this point, the only new villain they faced was the rather lackluster Space Phantom, who wouldn't appear again for over 100 issues.  As far as I'm aware, the Lava Men never showed up again, certainly not in the Avengers during the Silver/Bronze ages and Loki wouldn't appear again in the Avengers until the clash with the Defenders, while Subby would only face off against the Avengers only one more time in the Silver Age (although he did take on a certain Golden Avenger in Tales of Suspense).  So, thus far, the Avengers as a team don't have any signature foes, although that would change with the very next installment.

Captain Comics said:

Now we take a look underground, and who should we see? I'ts our old friend the Lava Man from Journey into Mystery #97! John's summary didn't mention if he had a name (and I sure don't remember), but he does here: He's Molto, and he is arguing with his king to not push the green mountain up to the surface. Some quick expository dialogue lets us know that the strange green material is growing, and explodes when hit too hard, and will explode anyway when it gets big enough, so the king is shoving it up to the surface so only surface-men will die -- and the Lava Men will inherit the earth! He is goaded into this by an evil witch doctor ... because there is always an evil witch doctor, isn't there?

He was just called the Lava Man in JIM 97, and he was the only one we saw, although he makes references to being one of an entire race of Lava Men.

"It's Thor!" shouts Molto. "The one who defeated me months ago ... who mercifully returned me to my people! Save him!"

 Merciful, sure.  Thor just sent him into space with his hammer, and then dropped him in a volcano, which he covered with tons of rock, 'cuz he's a nice guy like that.

Definitely sounds fast paced. I think I first read the Lava men when they showed up in a Marvel Team up book.

2 months after this, he appears in Amazing Spider-Man 14, which was also the debut of the Green Goblin.  2 months after that, he fights Giant-Man in Tales to Astonish 59, then his own feature begins in TTA 60.  I would say more build-up then sendoff.  He shows up in 9 comics within a year before getting his own strip, which was a lot of exposure back then.  The last issue of his first series (Incredible Hulk 6) and his guest appearance in FF 12 have the same cover date of March '63, and then he doesn't appear anywhere until Avengers 1.

Fred W. Hill said:

Another great review, Captain.  Almost seems like Lee & Kirby decided to give the Hulk a more positive sendoff by having him in this mag to help, albeit inadvertantly, save the day. A coda to the events since Hulk left in a huff in issue #2, including  FF 25 & 26. 

 .. running into a mess of Lava Men!

Is that the collective plural of Lava Man?

* As a boy, I wanted to see all the Avengers gang up together beat the snot out of the bad guys, but it always seemed like they fought solo or in pairs. Now, as an adult, I realize the writing imperatives for that. But as a boy it was frustrating!

Don't worry, L'il Cap.  Kang is just around the corner.

I'm loving these re-reads and reviews, Cap.  I'm thinking about pointing Action Lad over here, since he knows these stories by heart, and will appreciate seeing actual grown-ups talk about them.

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