Issue(s): Avengers #5, Avengers #6, Avengers Classic #5, Avengers Classic #6
Avengers Classic #5, Avengers Classic #6
...and review the destruction of their Mansion before Thor gets impatient and suggests they disband for the time being.
A few days (according to the 1987 Avengers Index, this is actually two months) later, each of the Avengers comes to know about a strange noise that has been causing destruction around the country. They re-band and head for the southwest. Meanwhile General Thunderbolt Ross is dealing with a mountain that is suddenly growing near a missile launch site. Banner staggers in, having disappeared from the army 'months ago'. He claims he's been ill.
The mountain is a "living rock" that has been expanding from pebble size due to "some sort of atomic upheaval from deep within the core of the earth". I originally suspected underground nuclear testing, but apparently not. It appeared in the Lava Men's portion of the vast underground world that exists beneath the surface of the earth in the Marvel Universe. The Lava Men look pretty cool. They remind me of the bad guys from the Crystar toy line (also a Marvel comic book, although i'm not sure if it's in continuity). Actually, looking back at pictures of the toys, the Lava Men are cooler, especially the king and the witch doctor. Especially the witch doctor.
The living rock is expanding in their kingdom so the Lava Men want to get rid of it, which they are doing by raising it to the surface. The Lava Man who had previously been beaten up by Thor (and whose name turns out to be Molto - didn't spend too much time on that, eh?), doesn't want to mess with the surface people anymore. Not sure what his alternate solution would be, since when this rock reaches critical mass it is going to explode and take out the Lava kingdom with it. This way, the surface people will be destroyed and the rest of the explosion will go harmlessly into space.
Well, the Avengers show up, and it's nice to see General Ross' reaction to them. It's very positive. "It's the Avengers! Now we'll get some results around here!" Not every super hero in the MU should be hated.
There's a little concern about the rock being radioactive, but Captain America uses his often-forgotten Detect Radioactivity power and it turns out to be ok.
But the rock it is still growing, so they dig under ground and find the Lava Man. Meanwhile, Ant-Man analyzes the rock and finds one exact place where it can be hit without exploding. They need Thor's hammer because man-made devices are too imprecise. Unfortunately, Thor is wrapped up in an epic battle with the Lava Men. It's all about Thor in these stories. He's basically unstoppable. The other guys basically help, but when the going gets tough he stops humoring them and takes on the toughest opponents alone.
Thor is a baaaad m@#%#$!er
Luckily, Banner turns into the Hulk...
...and the Avengers manage to use the Wasp as bait to get the Hulk to punch the stone's weak spot, destroying it.
Thor has whupped the Lava Men into submission, and the Hulk has turned back into Banner. Everything seems like it's going to be ok, but suddenly the Avengers get a "Condition Red" alert from the Teen Brigade.
The Avengers head back to NYC, but they stop in Chicago to refuel. While they are there, Cap tries out some enhancements that Iron Man made to his shield. They've somehow managed to actually open up Cap's shield and fill it with a bunch of electronic equipment that allows Cap to levitate the shield with devices on his gloves. This shield is never prominently used, and then will be abandoned. But when you play the Ultimate Alliance video game as Cap and use the power that lets you control the shield, you can pretend you're using this one.
The next scene has to be a flashback. It's not labeled as one, but the sequence only works if it is one, because if the events happen in the sequence shown here, the Teen Brigade are alerting the Avengers to a problem before one occurs. Also, this builds in time for the Black Knight to 'audition' for a lead role on the Masters of Evil in UTOS #13.
Anyway, as we saw in Thunderbolts -1, Zemo has been hiding in a South American jungle, where he has dominated the natives, since WWII.
He is brought a newspaper that shows that Captain America is back in action, and he sends a lackey to contact three other individuals. It is here that we learn that Zemo is responsible for Bucky's 'death'. In Avengers #4 we just saw a shadowy figure. In an earlier encounter, Zemo got covered in a special adhesive he created during a fight with Cap. At the time he was wearing a hood on his head because he was so hated even by the German people. Now he's got the hood permanently glued to his face.
Stan Lee came up with the idea to retroactively introduce Zemo into Marvel history by having him appear in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #8, and that's a cool idea and a significant landmark for the concept of continuity. But it's interesting that he chose a random encounter with the Howlers as opposed to, say, depicting the scene above or the final battle where Bucky dies. It actually goes a way towards establishing that Zemo had a lot going on besides fighting Cap, but at the same time it means that these fairly significant scenes only exist in flashback.
The three people Zemo contacted were the Black Knight, the Melter, and the Radioactive Man. Together with Zemo they are the Masters of Evil.
The Melter's ray gun has been enhanced by Zemo to affect all metals. They are pretty badass, and the three of them do a good job of terrorizing the city, even though their main goal is spraying Adhesive X all over the place...
...which is a little hokey (although it's pretty cool seeing the Radioactive Man wielding a pair of pistols, even if they are just glue guns).
Each of the villains comes from the rogue gallery of one of the Avengers. It's a pretty standard way to build a super-villain team, i guess, but it feels a little too obvious. Nonetheless, everybody loves bad guys and this is a good group (although none of these guys stay A-list in the long run). The Avengers show up to stop their rampage...
...but Cap and Giant Man get stuck in the glue, and Iron Man has to bail them out.
Meanwhile Thor basically takes on the other three to cover their escape. The Wasp doesn't actually seem to participate in the battle, but you know what? She doesn't even have her Wasp's sting yet, or at least i haven't seen it used. She really is just a sidekick.
As the Avengers flee, Zemo thinks, "If anyone can find [a solution for Adhesive X], the Avengers can!" Why? Because they possess the technology of the telephone. They ring up the prison where Human Torch villain Paste Pot Pete is being kept, and they ask him for his super-dissolver in return for reduced prison time. You'd think this might give Pete the idea that maybe adhesives would be a more lucrative field for him than super-villainy, but i guess not.
The Avengers send the Teen Brigade to secretly replace Baron Zemo's Adhesive X with the Folgers Glue Dissolver. Cap has absolutely no problem sending children into battle. None at all. But it works, and the Masters of Evil are now inadvertently spraying the dissolver all over Manhattan, cleaning up the mess they made previously.
Meanwhile, Cap comes up with the good idea for the Avengers to switch up their opponents. So Thor takes out the Black Knight and Iron Man and Giant Man team up to fight the Radioactive Man. Oddly, right after beating Radioactive Man, the Melter shows up and Giant Man lets Iron Man fight him alone.
Zemo catches the Teen Brigade and hypnotizes them, but Cap shows up and gets to fight the man who killed Bucky hand to hand. Zemo, previously just a scientist, has been learning martial arts...
...but he's no match for Cap. However, Zemo's lackey starts shooting, giving Zemo time to get away. Zemo thinks he has a canister of Paste Pot Pete's dissolver solution, but in fact Cap had the Teen Brigade replace it with a canister of tear gas, so Zemo crashes. The Avengers let the police pick him up.
In the last few panels, Thor is riding around on the Black Knight's flying horse, which is pretty cool, but Thor states he can't keep it because it is still the Black Knight's property even though he is a prisoner.
Fun wacky stuff, and these issues even have a little something for the ladies.
The Classic Avengers back-ups for these issues are the first to not have Dwayne McDuffie as writer. Macon Blair is the new writer and will remain through issue #10. Michael Avon Oeming is still the artist for issue #6 (and he'll do #7) but Jorge Lucas fills-in for #5.
Issue #5's story shows a veteran at a veteran's hospital reacting to seeing Captain America on the news in the aftermath of the Lava Man battle. He then flashes back to when he was in Belgium in 1944. The soldier was at a massacre caused by a giant wolf. He's then found by Cap, Bucky, and some soldiers, who don't believe him.
But then the wolf attacks.
Thor shows up to claim what turns out to be the Fenris Wolf (let loose by Loki).
We definitely didn't need another pre-Avengers encounter between Cap and Thor. According to the MCP, this one takes place after the Invaders story, but there's no hint of recognition from Cap. Not that it would have worked better the other way, and of course we've now doubled the problem of Cap never mentioning having met Thor before during his early Avengers days (even taking his post-freeze amnesia into account, it's not like Cap brings up these unusual coincidences even later).
The second back-up shows the Wasp feeling neglected over her status of being more of a side-kick than a team member.
This is a good thing to address, since it was definitely something that she would have been dealing with. But that's basically all that we get. The Wasp is interrupted when she encounters a criminal couple who is on the run from the police. The boyfriend has already been shot and is dying. The Wasp tries to convince the girlfriend to turn herself in so that the boyfriend can get medical attention. But the girlfriend is unpersuaded. The Wasp shrinks herself to wasp size and flies into the boyfriend to cauterize his wounds from the inside, but while she's doing that, the girlfriend is shot dead by the police. And that's the end of it; the Wasp doesn't seem to draw any lessons from it.
I guess even just showing that the Wasp was privately frustrated adds to the character's depth, but it's a pretty weak story. Some of the back-ups for this reprint series are better than they ought to be, but these two fail to justify their existence.
Quality Rating: C
Historical Significance Rating: 9 - first Masters of Evil. First published Baron Zemo.
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #5 starts off with the Avengers inspecting their Mansion after it was wrecked by the Hulk in FF #26. Captain America gets his transistorized shield. As i note above, according to the Marvel Index, a span of two months occurs between pages of issue #5, during which Tales of Astonish #54-56 and Tales of Suspense #52-53 occur. Olshevsky doesn't provide any particular reasoning for the insertion and for now i'm ignoring it, preferring to keep the transition from FF #25 through Avengers #6 uninterrupted. In Avengers#6, Iron Man has a new faceplate, even though he was last seen with the old one at the end of Avengers #5. The new mask is first seen in Tales of Suspense in issue #54, but i'm going with the idea that Iron Man adjusted his mask at the same time he was tinkering with Cap's shield.
The back-up in issue #5 takes place during issue #5. Issue's #6's back-up can take place after the main story.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Avengers King-Size Special #4, Avengers: First to Last TPB
Inbound References (21): show
I like these issues. But Zemo--they never call him a "Baron" in the Silver Age, best I can recall--is a pretty weak character.
To begin with, his "power" is that he's a super-scientist, in a time when there are about a million super-scientists running around, from the Wingless Wizard to Egghead.
Also, Zemo doesn't really push the Nazi angle very hard, so his agenda isn't all that different from Doctor Doom, Magneto, or any of those other guys who want to rule the world. The one "good" thing about a Nazi villain is that we all have a vivid picture of what the world would look like under their rule. The Red Skull sells this very well; Zemo does not.
But most importantly, Zemo has a terrible origin. He gets his face soaked in super-spooge, therefore he's hellbent on revenge. He comes across as a hapless loser, wiling away those South American nights reminiscing about the time he killed a teenager.
Posted by: James Nostack | September 17, 2011 12:05 PM
The weird thing about Zemo's Baron title is that it was first used in a backup feature in Daredevil Annual 1 (from 1967)- it's a gag about how Stan is planning to kill off Daredevil in a battle with Zemo and replace him with Foggy. But that became Zemo's official supervillain name.
Posted by: Michael | September 17, 2011 2:59 PM
Posted by: Guido | December 15, 2012 3:28 AM
Marvelmania #5(8/70) stated that Iron Man put a false back on Cap's shield and stuck the improvements in the gap.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 3, 2013 6:14 PM
Crystar is indeed in continuity. Nightcrawler and later half of Alpha Flight appeared in the series. It seems that most licensed properties of that time were in continuity - Conan, Micronauts, Rom, Shogun Warriors, Godzilla*(!). That seems to have stopped shortly after Spider-Man appeared in Transformers.
* Too bad, as a monster from the sea, we never got a Godzilla vs Sub-Mariner (& possibly Giganto) battle.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | June 30, 2013 12:07 AM
Marvel Comics actually owns the rights to Crystar. Even though the toys were released first, Marvel designed Crystar specifically to sell as a toy-line, with their own comics to follow and fill in back-story for the toys.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | June 30, 2013 12:16 AM
Thanks guys. I see Doctor Strange appears, too. I'll add Crystar to my What's Missing page.
It's funny. I had a few of the toys and even a couple of the comics when i was a kid but never realized they were at all related to the Marvel Universe. I would have kept them if i knew!
Posted by: fnord12 | June 30, 2013 9:04 AM
I recently read these issues in the Avengers Omnibus and I was surprised by several things.
1 - Those things on Cap's hand to attract his shield don't hardly ever seem to be shown again.
2 - The original Masters of Evil were a great group and these should be major villains and just aren't. Radioactive Man is incredibly powerful but rarely used and the rest are dead, with the Melter one of the highest level villains killed by Scourge.
3 - How does Zemo eat?
4 - I love the shot of Cap and Giant Man stuck to the ground being pulled away by the truck. That made me laugh out loud when I read it.
5 - The Avengers, of course, was the first Marvel book to really bring characters together. It's great to see them pulling villains together, even Paste Pot Pete, who isn't an Avengers villain. That's an even better use of the shared universe.
6 - Seriously, how does Zemo eat?
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 21, 2014 12:49 PM
The Official Handbook claims that Zemo took nutrition intravenously.
Posted by: Michael | December 21, 2014 1:06 PM
At the time, the Masters of Evil were the group of important bad guys. It is strange how so many of them retreated into obscurity afterwards. The Radioactive Man, Black Knight, and the Melter all had potential to retain their status. Probably the point against them is that they were created too early in the Marvel Universe before the bad guys had much personality, and therefore there was less drama in their return except for the gimmicks of their power.
I assume Zemo has created a special nutritional fluid which he imbibes through the hood into his mouth. Where is my No-Prize?
Posted by: Chris | December 21, 2014 1:10 PM
With the original MoE, it is rather sad seeing the fate of this quartet. Zemo ends up dying and replaced by his more interesting son, Black Knight dies and is ultimately replaced by Dane Whitman, and Melter is killed by Scourge. Radioactive Man is probably the longest lasting of them and he actually was the potential of a Chinese supervillain who wasn't another stereotype like the Yellow Claw/Mandarins of the world...but he for the most part sort of got stuck too despite being a radioactive man who can walk through security at an airport! (then again he was radioactive but not a gamma mutant; I guess his fate is that he never became a Hulk rival sooner)
Posted by: Ataru320 | December 21, 2014 4:30 PM
Paste Pot Pete's physical appearance changes quite a bit; he seems crazily unkempt in his early appearances as Paste-Pot--here, probably due to prison diet and grooming laws, he seems thin and almost suave. If I recall, when he becomes the Trapster in Fantastic Four, he adopts the Kirby-esque look of a really round face and somewhat stocky body (with no mustache). He actually looks a lot like the Wizard here.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | August 28, 2015 11:38 AM
Yes, it really looks like Kirby drew the Wizard here, but when it came time for Stan to script, Stan may have felt it made more sense storywise for PPP to be the one providing expertise about adhesives (and he may have forgotten about PPP's usual appearance). This sequence would have worked just as well with the Wizard since he's one of the MU's brainiacs and presumably would have known about this kind of stuff.
Posted by: Shar | August 28, 2015 12:43 PM
My favorite part of this story is the Thor/Black Knight battle, where Thor gets fed up with the Knight's gimmicks and charges at him...and the next time we see them, Thor has the horse and the Knight is out. It's like Kirby and Lee decided, "Everyone knows how this one ends. It's a guy who fights Giant-Man against Thor."
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 16, 2015 11:30 PM
I liked the Masters of Evil storyline and disagree with Baron Zemo being a lame character. What I don't understand is that Arnim Zola originally worked for Zemo and later cloned both Hitler and the Red Skull. So why didn't he clone Zemo? I mean the Green Goblin was brought back after being dead for years to why not Zemo?
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 28, 2016 9:50 PM
Bobby, you might want to check out Spider-Man: Fear Itself. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | October 29, 2016 11:51 AM
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 29, 2016 3:30 PM
I used to think Kirby drew the Wizard in #5 too. But the Wizard didn't have a thin moustache in his early appearances, and usually had a goatee. The version of Pete on the cover of STRANGE TALES #104 looks just the version here: apparently thin, with a thin moustache.
If Zemo was 30-40 at the time of the events of SGT. FURY #8 he must be 50-60 here.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | February 17, 2017 11:56 AM
Looking at the pics of Pete before and after this, I sort of wonder if somehow Kirby confused the Wizard with Pete and thus we get this weird composite Wizard/Pete hybrid that happens to be called "Paste Pot Pete". (it doesn't help that the next appearance he has no facial hair and is stocky again)
Posted by: Ataru320 | February 17, 2017 1:09 PM
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