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Avengers #4: Review

Mar 1964
Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Story Name:

Captain America Joins...The Avengers!

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers #4 Review by (February 15, 2010)
First Silver Age appearance of Captain America. First meeting of Cap with Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man, and Wasp. First account of Cap’s and Bucky’s fate at the end of World War 2. First appearance of Baron Heinrich Zemo (in flashback), though he is not clearly seen or named.

Avengers #4 Review by (August 10, 2011)
The drone plane flashback took place in Europe. This raised the question of how Cap's body ended up frozen in the Arctic. Don Glut (again with Roy Thomas as editor) explained that Cap was rescued from the English Channel by a villain called Lyle Dekker and taken to Newfoundland. Cap escapes by plane but is shot down into the Atlantic, where he freezes. It has usually been claimed that it was the Super-Soldier serum that enabled Cap to survive freezing in suspended animation. But the recent CA: Hail Hydra limited series suggests to me that being injected with a Lazarus immortality formula may have had something to do with it. Sub-Mariner is here reunited with some of his warriors. His people all abandoned him in Fantastic Four Annual #1 after he aborted their invasion of the surface world to rescue Invisible Woman. He won't find the rest of the Atlanteans until FF#33, in preparation for his own strip in Tales to Astonish from #70. Even the unnamed alien isn't forgotten about. His race is named the D'Bari when their home planet is destroyed by dark Phoenix in Uncanny X-Men #135. This particular D'Bari is allegedly the one later seen in Wolverine #136-137 (somehow surviving another planet's destruction by Galactus), who eventually gets revenge (sort of) for his planet's demise in UX#387. Rick Jones' fears about what Hulk will do when he finds out Cap has replaced him are borne out in the Avengers' next appearance in Fantastic Four #25-26. This is also the start of the next phase of Rick's career as a sidekick - from Hulk to Captain America and then to Captain Marvel, with lots of nipping back and forth until now he's back in Hulk's camp again. Cap doesn't get his face in the corner box until next issue.

The single page here depicting the last adventure of Captain America and Bucky in WWII may just have been designed to seamlessly bring Cap into the present without his partner. (For the uninitiated, the duo had their own Timely comic in the 40's and 50's.) But it has been the springboard for a hell of a lot of subsequent storylines. The death of Bucky was probably intended as a source of angst for Cap (as well as being a man out of time). But it will also spawn various false "Bucky returns" plotlines (the first in Tales of Suspense #88-89), culminating in the real Bucky returns as Winter Soldier and replacement Captain America sequence. The unnamed mastermind in the background of the flashback is revealed to be Baron Zemo in #6, now leader of the Masters of Evil. Cap will get revenge for Bucky's death in #15. But Zemo's son and successor will figure large in the future. Not least as founder of the Thunderbolts. This single page scene will be revisited and expanded many times, most significantly in #56. Here Cap will use a time machine to see if Bucky really died. (Mr Fantastic has told him he won't be able to change things, which doesn't fit with earlier time travel stories. A recent limited series CA: Man Out Of Time, based around #4-8, has Cap wanting to to use a time machine to prevent Bucky's death, and being ordered not to by the President.) The fact that there were Timely stories of Cap and Bucky after the war was a problem of continuity with this issue, which led to the idea of a sequence of heroes wearing the costumes. Steve Englehart (under Roy Thomas's editorship) invented a version of the 50's Cap and Bucky in CA#155, who eventually became the villainous Grand Director and the hero Nomad. Roy Thomas plugged the gap of the late 40's in What If #4 with a replacement Bucky named Fred Davis and Spirit of 76 as Cap, followed in turn by Patriot.

It seems to me that Stan Lee intended this issue to be read as all happening immediately after the last one. We start with a 2-panel repeat of the end of #3 as Sub-Mariner leaves the Avengers on Gibraltar. Then he sends frozen Captain America floating away from the Arctic. Then Avengers pick up Cap's body in their submarine, the same one they used to get to Gibraltar. However, ever since at least the original Avengers Index, it has been claimed that there is a large gap between #3 and the finding of Cap's body, during which the Avengers membership have other adventures. To some extent this is just the normal tactic of someone trying to build a chronology for the Marvel Universe. Comics tend to suggest that there is little or no gap between most issues of a series, so they have to be pried apart to make room for guest appearances elsewhere. In this case however there is some justification. Cap's body couldn't have drifted down from the Arctic in time to be found by Avengers returning from Gibraltar, no matter how hard Namor threw it. And once you've inserted a gap, you might as well make it a large one. It doesn't actually say in this issue that the Avengers are on the way back from Gibraltar. The original Index is quite clear that many weeks pass. It specifies which panels in which pages occurred when in the flow of Marvel stories. The online Marvel Chronology Project works at the same level of detail. The current Avengers Index isn't so precise, just says that certain other tales happen during the period covered by this one. The original Index claims Avengers were in the sub searching for Hulk, which isn't very sensible. Peter's synopsis follows the latest Index in saying they were looking for Sub-Mariner, which is at least more reasonable even if not very likely.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers #4 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro
Fleeing the Avengers after their confrontation last issue, the Sub-Mariner seeks refuge in the Arctic, where he finds a tribe of Eskimos worshipping a human figure frozen in a block of ice. Namor chases off the Eskimos and hurls their idol into the sea where it drifts into the warm Gulf Stream and starts to melt. The thawed figure is picked up by the Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Wasp, Giant-Man), who were searching for Namor in a submarine. They recognize their discovery as Captain America and are surprised to find he’s still alive. Cap awakens with a shock, and has to be subdued by the Avengers. When they doubt his identity, Cap demonstrates his superhuman agility and tells them his story: he and his partner Bucky Barnes were trying to stop a Nazi drone plane loaded with explosives, when the bomb went off, killing Bucky and hurling Cap into the ocean, where his body froze, keeping him alive and young to this day.

When they arrive at the New York docks, a mysterious flash turns the Avengers to stone, and Captain America, following shortly, does not know what happened to his rescuers. He wanders the streets marveling at the changes to the city, and a policeman directs him to a hotel, where Rick Jones finds him. Cap is stunned by Rick’s resemblance to the late Bucky, leading the junior Avenger to doubt Cap’s sanity. Investigating the Avengers’ disappearances leads to a mysterious photographer with an unusual camera who had been at the scene. Captain America bests the man’s henchmen and unmasks the photographer as an alien. This distant visitor reveals that his ship crashed into the depths of the ocean and that the Sub-Mariner would free it only if the alien would use his petrifying weapon against the Avengers. He then restores the Avengers to flesh-and-blood and they head to the ocean and free his ship. At this point, Namor and his followers attack and the heroes take action. Captain America stands back, though, to watch his new friends in action. When Rick is threatened, however, Cap leaps into the fray and rescues his new pal. The battle is interrupted by a massive underwater eruption and Namor, thinking it an earthquake, departs with his men, confident that the Avengers will not survive this disaster. The eruption though was the launching of the alien craft and all are safe.

The Avengers invite Cap to join the team and Cap accepts eagerly, but Rick Jones is concerned: how will the Hulk react when he learns he has been replaced?

Preview Pages
Click sample interior pages to enlarge them:

Jack Kirby
George Bell
Jack Kirby (Cover Penciler)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

(Hank Pym)

(Bruce Banner)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)


(Janet Van Dyne)

> Avengers: Book info and issue index

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