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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Fred W. Hill said

Even if Sin Kong was a "pocket kingdom" consisting of a few impoverished villages, if China wanted it and it was geographically next to China and was essentially indefensible, it would quickly have ceased to be a pocket kingdom and been entirely swallowed up by China, as was Tibet which was quite large when China took it over. 

Actually, such a place kind of did exist (at least in 1965).  It was the Kingdom of Sikkim which bordered China and (importantly) India.  It was absorbed into India in 1975.  I suspect that Stan did not have it in mind when he wrote Avengers #18, but a "pocket kingdom" mostly meeting the criteria did exist.

I found the map at the following website http://himalayan-homestays.com/sikkpages/sikindia.htm.

Ah, ok, thanks for the history lesson!  I think Stan was just Sin Cong as a stand-in for Viet Nam, with a sly reference to the Viet Cong.  At least that's my impression.  Odd since he did refer to the actual Viet Nam in the first Iron Man story, but I suppose Stan felt it would be too touchy to have the Avengers somehow resolve the Viet Nam War in the Marvel Universe when it was still going hot in the real world.  Just as in WWII era comics, no superhero, not Superman, Captain America, Captain Marvel, or anyone else, was depicted in the actual comics available on the racks capturing Hitler, Mussolini or Tojo and overthrowing their governments, although Siegel & Schuster did come up with a story in which Superman did overthrow the Nazi regime and published in a magazine and with 4th wall commentary by Superman in which he acknowledges that he is a fictional character and that is why he cannot conquer the Axis Powers although he could do it in fantasies.  It would be up to regular people, those in the military doing the fighting, the people building the weapons, etc., who would win the war. 

Ronald Morgan said:

Stan's still struggling to get a handle on how to write Cap at this time and it's clear he's best at it when Cap's with other heroes than by himself.

It’s been observed before that the main reason Cap’s solo stories were a problem was that he had no one with whom to interact. In the Avengers stories we didn’t spend as much time inside Cap’s head.

Fred W. Hill said:

I think Stan was just Sin Cong as a stand-in for Viet Nam, with a sly reference to the Viet Cong. At least that's my impression.

It’s refreshing to me that Stan didn’t attempt to use a real country. His “real” Asian countries are always wildly inaccurate. Better to use fake countries.

As for "postage stamp" size countries in Europe, San Marino is also one. It ironically makes most of its revenue from .....beautiful postage stamps!

I've read about San Marino before -- as the country with the oldest continuous republican form of government, having been founded in 301 CE and somehow retaining it's independence from Italy for over 1700 years now, and apparently without the Invaders having to save it from Mussolini during WWII or the Avengers saving it from the Commies during the Cold War, although it did have a democratically elected Communist government from 1945 to 1957.

Some of the names were very odd. What sort of people would choose to name their homeland Santa Diablo?

AVENGERS 19 (AUG 65)

"The Coming of ... The Swordsman!"

If you like this swashbuckling fantasy thriller as much as we expect you to, the credit goes to:

Stan Lee, writer

Don Heck, artist

Dick Ayers, inker

But if you're iconoclastic enough not to like it, we'll try to pin the blame on poor, innocent:

Artie Simek, letterer

(Cover by Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia, with insets by Don Heck)

WHAT THEY'RE UP TO

Thor continues his epic first battle with the Destroyer in Journey Into Mystery #119.

Iron Man has to deal with his crooked cousin Morgan Stark, Count Nefaria, and an alien invasion; and during WWII Captain America breaks free from the Red Skull's brainwashing and has to face a Nazi saboteur in Tales of Suspense #68.

Rick Jones takes a dying Bruce Banner to their old underground hideaway and uses Banner's gamma machine to transform him into the Hulk to try to save his life. The Hulk has Banner's intellect but cannot change back or the bullet in his brain will kill him. Also, the Leader sends a giant Humanoid to attack the military base and the Hulk gets involved, in Tales to Astonish #70. The Sub-Mariner replaces Giant-Man and the Wasp as the co-feature in Tales to Astonish. Hank and Jan will next appear in TTA #77 in Namor's feature, in their civilian identites.

SYNOPSIS

A costumed man calling himself the Swordsman wants to join the Avengers, thinking to himself that with an Avengers ID card, he can can get away with anything, and that "those costumed do-gooders would be fools" to reject him. He breaks into Avengers headquarters while Wanda and Pietro are on monitor duty. When an alarm sounds Pietro confronts him and they have a brief fight. Wanda joins the fray and the Swordsman begs off, stating there's no need to fight as he was just testing them. He tells them he wants to join the team, but wanted to see if they were as good as he had heard. The siblings let their guard down, and the Swordsman smashes Pietro with the flat of his blade. This enrages Wanda, and when the Swordsman taunts her, she attacks him. She says he will never be an Avenger because he lacks honor. When he says "Don't force me to defend myself against you!", she responds "there is no defense against the Scarlet Witch's hex!" and knocks him out with one hex bolt.

Captain America arrives on the scene as Pietro is recovering. Wanda brings him up to speed, and Cap investigates him to see if he has any sort of record. The results reveal the Swordsman is a dangerous wanted criminal, and has been exiled from over a dozen European countries. The Swordsman recovers, and realizing the Avengers aren't paying attention to him, uses his sword to kill the lights. The heroes get their emergency backup lights on but the Swordsman is now gone. Wanda and Pietro want to seach for him, and Cap sends them on their way. He starts working out to keep his mind off of Nick Fury not responding to his letter, asking to join Fury's new spy agency, but he's clearly quite frustrated by the situation. Hawkeye arrives and Cap updates him on what's been happening. It turns out Hawkeye knows the Swordsman. When he was a kid, he was an orphan and spent his time hanging around carnivals, which is where met the Swordsman, who was a circus star at the time. The Swordsman took the youngster under his wing and told him they would be a great team. Hawkeye idolized him, and stated he would one day be as good with his arrows as his mentor was with his sword.. However, the Swordsman was stealing from the circus, which Hawkeye accidentally discovered. The Swordsman told him that he had to become his partner in crime, but Hawkeye ran away, with his now former hero in pursuit. To try and get away, Hawkeye scaled a ladder onto a tightrope, but the Swordsman was too close to him, and after a brief arrows vs swords battle, the Swordsman cut the rope. He left Hawkeye for dead, but the archer survived.

In Washington, D.C., a couple of HYDRA agents are watching Nick Fury's old office from a high rise across the street. The office has been deserted for days, but using their technology they can see a letter on the desk. It's Cap's letter to Fury. They retrieve the letter and read it, but feel it has no use to them, and so they throw it out the window., where a passerby picks it up. Later, some crooks are playing cards, and one mentions the Swordsman is offering $1000 to anyone who can help him trap an Avenger. One of the other crooks is the man who picked up the letter, and he meets up with the Swordsman. He gives him the letter, and is told he'll get the money if the trap works.

The next day, Cap receives a letter he thinks is from Nick Fury, accepting Cap's offer to join his spy outfit. Pietro and Hawkeye are unhappy at first, but then each think if Cap leaves, they could become team leader. Later, Hawkeye breaks up a robbery, and one of the crooks turns out to be the same man who gave Cap's letter to the Swordsman. Thinking Hawkeye somehow knows about it, he blurts out that he didn't mean to help the Swordsman set a trap for Cap, and Hawkeye realizes the letter was a phony. He goes back to Avengers HQ, and brings Wanda and Pietro up to speed.

In another part of town, Cap enters an old warehouse, and figures this can't be Fury's office. He's right, of course, as he is greeted by the Swordsman, who gloats that Cap walked into a trap. He says with Cap as his hostage, the Avengers will have no choice but to accept him as leader. Cap is enraged and attacks him, and a fierce battle ensues, with the Swordsman quickly realizing Cap is a dangerous opponent. Back at Avengers HQ, the others have tried to contact Cap with no luck. Hawkeye remembers a device Tony Stark had made for them called a tracer beam, which zeroes in on a hidden disc in Cap's belt, and the search is on.

Back at the warehouse, Cap has Swordsman on his heels. The villain retreats and then finds a forklift, and uses it to attack Cap. The star spangled Avenger evades him and jumps on top of the forklift. Cap is on the verge of winning the fight, until the vehicle crashes into several large, heavy crates. Swordsman is protected in the cab of the forklift, but Cap is knocked out. He grabs cap and heads for the roof. Hawkeye, Wanda, and pietro arrive and see that a donnybrook took place. They spot Cap high above, tied up and at the edge of a plank jutting out from the next building, with the Swordsman behind him, his blade at Cap's back. Swordsman orders them not to move, and threatens to kill Cap, giving them ten seconds to make him the new team leader or he'll do it. Cap tells them not to surrender but the new Avengers are about to do it to save his life. Only a few seconds remain and the others are about to give in, when Cap jumps to save them from having to surrender. However, it looks like Cap is headed for certain death!

COMMENTARY

In my opinion, this is the first great issue of the Cap's Kooky Quartet era. We get Hawkeye's origin, a one on one battle that shows Cap at his fighting best, and even the twins fare well at the beginning when Swordsman invades Avengers HQ. Pietro nearly overcomes Swordsman by himself and Wanda's hexes serve up the villain's first setback, with the only wonkiness being the first hex bolt also affected Pietro, a sign she doesn't have full control over her powers. It is nice that she doesn't faint after casting two bolts.

This may have been the Swordsman's finest hour as a villain, and he's still a bit of a loser. He's lucky the twins were inexperienced and a bit naive, otherwise this story would have ended on page three. Pietro nearly beat him and Wanda knocked him out; what in the world made him think he was Cap's equal? He was very lucky to win his fight with Cap - really, it was a fluke. Little wonder he would be a lackey or a member of a villain team in subsequent reappearances.

The story does have a flaw in it. Usually, I would applaud the cross continuity of having HYDRA agents appear here, allowing this Avengers story to tie in with the new S.H.I.E.L.D.series in Strange Tales. However, the whole sequence was too convoluted for my liking - couldn't these guys have just broken into what they knew was an empty office to grab Cap's letter to Fury? It just felt padded out. Plus, this scene took place in Washington, DC, and it's pretty well established the Avengers are in New York. I can buy a crook in Washington reaching out to the Swordsman, but having the same crook be in New York a short time later and get caught by Hawkeye is a coincidence almost too big to swallow.

On the plus side, I think Heck and Ayers did a decent job on the art. The pacing of the story was done well, and this may have been the best cliffhanger in the series thus far.

It was the cliffhanger that had a massive effect on me and illustrated the power of comics - literally waiting with bated breath for the next issue (and loving the teamwork that saves the day).

Totally agree that this really got the Kooky Quartet moving and that the Swordsman rarely worked better - as villain or hero.

Just adore this era.

John Dunbar said:

The siblings let their guard down, and the Swordsman smashes Pietro with the flat of his blade. This enrages Wanda, and when the Swordsman taunts her, she attacks him. She says he will never be an Avenger because he lacks honor.

From her lips to Stan’s ears. It never made sense to me to make him an Avenger in this or any other story.

Hawkeye idolized him, and stated he would one day be as good with his arrows as his mentor was with his sword.

Responding to that statement, the Swordsman told him that “wouldn’t be healthy.” An early warning for Hawkeye that he’s not a nice guy.

In Washington, D.C., a couple of HYDRA agents are watching Nick Fury's old office from a high rise across the street. The office has been deserted for days, but using their technology they can see a letter on the desk. It's Cap's letter to Fury.

This is an early use of Hydra agents. As the footnote reminded me, SHIELD and Hydra only debuted the previous month.

Later, Hawkeye breaks up a robbery, and one of the crooks turns out to be the same man who gave Cap's letter to the Swordsman.

One too many coincidences?

Thinking Hawkeye somehow knows about it, he blurts out that he didn't mean to help the Swordsman set a trap for Cap, and Hawkeye realizes the letter was a phony. He goes back to Avengers HQ, and brings Wanda and Pietro up to speed.

Here Hawkeye considers letting Cap fall into the trap before deciding to help. Still a half-hearted hero at this point.

Hawkeye remembers a device Tony Stark had made for them called a tracer beam, which zeroes in on a hidden disc in Cap's belt, and the search is on.

Here there is a single panel on page 17 showing a cool car that the Avengers are using to go to Cap’s location. Did we see it before of since?

In my opinion, this is the first great issue of the Cap's Kooky Quartet era. We get Hawkeye's origin, a one on one battle that shows Cap at his fighting best, and even the twins fare well at the beginning when Swordsman invades Avengers HQ. Pietro nearly overcomes Swordsman by himself and Wanda's hexes serve up the villain's first setback, with the only wonkiness being the first hex bolt also affected Pietro, a sign she doesn't have full control over her powers. It is nice that she doesn't faint after casting two bolts.

I agree that this is the first high point for the Kooky Quartet. The story packs in a lot of believable action while giving us background on Hawkeye. Often either action or information crowd out the other. They even squeezed in a promo for the then-new SHIELD series.

I can buy a crook in Washington reaching out to the Swordsman, but having the same crook be in New York a short time later and get caught by Hawkeye is a coincidence almost too big to swallow.

I knew it was a big coincidence, but I overlooked the fact that the action was in two different cities over 200 miles apart. They should have just had Fury’s old office in New York.

Escaped my 11 year old self's notice too when I first read this story in MTA about that Marvelous coincidence although it's not too implausible that the crook was based in NYC but had some crooked business in Washington DC that just happened to result in him passing by Fury's old office just as Hydra tossed that letter out.  There have certainly been far more bizarre coincidences in comics!  I'm also curious if Lee or Heck or maybe even Kirby had this main plot in mind all along from the point when Cap first sent that letter back in issue #15.  After a couple of lackluster done-in-ones with the new crew, now Lee & Heck are initiating a series of more interesting two-parters while many other Marvel series have already started into multi-issue epics.  It'll be a while yet before any of those start up in the Avengers.

As much as I love the Swordsman and his Bronze Age saga of redemption, rejection and revival, he is an outdated character from the point of his inception. A guy with a sword, though a master, cannot beat an expert archer (ask Boromir), let alone armed policemen. He's hardly a "super"-villain, more like a criminal with delusions of grandeur. And, there were other Marvel "sword-people" like Fandral the Dashing (who belonged to a culture where blades ruled), the third Black Knight and the Valkyrie (both using magic swords) but despite him gaining tech the next issue, the Swordsman always was one step away from being a running gag! 

Plus there's the fact that swords were designed for one purpose: killing people.

All too true, Phillip.  Swords made sense for characters like Conan set in an archaic culture in which the sword-bearing characters used the weapon the way it was meant to be used - to kill or seriously maim their opponents, not to whack them with the flat of the blade, as was too typical of the sword wielders of the modern era, at least while the CCA was in effect!  Swordsy at least made for a decent tragic hero, trying to make up for all his previous bad deeds and impress a pretty lady and not really succeeding until just after his last gasp under Englehart.  Of course, there were at least a couple of incidents in the Avengers & Defenders of the mid-70s wherein the Swordsman and Valkyrie did use their swords to do some serious damage to scoundrels they encountered.

As I recall (faulty memory here), didn't he kill someone during the Avengers-Defenders war? I want to say it was self-defense, but still it surprised me.

Fred W. Hill said:

Of course, there were at least a couple of incidents in the Avengers & Defenders of the mid-70s wherein the Swordsman and Valkyrie did use their swords to do some serious damage to scoundrels they encountered.

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