AVENGERS #15-16 (1965): Major lineup change

OK, these are an awesome pair of issues. First, Tony Stark lounges about in his armor UNDER his clothes.

Then, we get a huge battle.

The Masters of Evil attack The Avengers. They try to kidnap Wasp.

Black Knight thinks he can take Thor. Come on.

Meanwhile, Captain America is trying to find his place in the world. He starts by writing to Nick Fury. The letter reveals that they worked together during World War II.  This is the first time we learn that they knew each other back then in 616 continuity.

Cap writes that he doesn’t think Fury will remember him.  Yeah, because fighting alongside a guy in flag-colored underwear armed only with a shield isn’t the kind of thing most people remember.

But more importantly, Cap kills in this issue.

Now, arguably, this was an accident. Cap warned Zemo that he’d intentionally created a rockslide to block Zemo off from getting reinforcements. But he stands over the corpse speaking about how he did this to avenge Bucky’s death, which speaks to his state of mind. Sure looks like homicide.

This is the first time in publication chronology that Stan Lee shows cap killing an enemy. In later comics, we’d see him use firearms during wartime.

The next issue begins with an iconic cover:

“Avengers Assemble!” The first time we’ve seen Cap make the battle cry, and it’s the first time that it feels like their official slogan. This is a tremendously important issue for Marvel Comics and for the Avengers.

First of all, it’s the most “continuity heavy” book I’ve read so far. In addition to being the second part of a story that began in Avengers #15, there are specific references to three other issues by number, and then a general reference to the X-Men, all in little yellow editor boxes at the bottom of a panel, like footnotes.

There have been a few of these in other issues before, but never so many in one—this marks the beginning of a trend in Marvel publishing that would continue well into the 1980s. It was how Stan Lee elevated his comics into something that felt important—miss one issue, any issue, of any Marvel comic, and you were likely to fall behind. Catch every issue, and you could read those boxes and say, “Yeah! I knew that!”

I’d argue that it also started the comic nerd hunger for memorizing issue numbers and stories, and being able to recite them at will. This has since petered out, when Marvel reinvented itself after the disastrous 1990s, and when overprinting and the speculator market had essentially ruined the collectability of comics.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_1788.jpg

But that’s not all! We also get confirmation that Zemo is dead from last issue when Captain America digs a grave for him, with his own hands, and then gives him a nice Christian marker.

This is also the issue where Hawkeye moves from D-list villain to C-list hero.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tumblr_m33gd3lh5I1ruyouho1_500.jpg

And he starts right at the top–looking to join The Avengers. Remember, he was a villain. Now he wants to be a hero.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_1790.jpg

He proves himself by knocking out Jarvis, tying him up, and then freeing him with some fancy archery.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_1795.jpg

Which kinds of leads to a conclusion that the Avengers are dicks. I mean, they let Jarvis stand there all tied up while Hawkeye tells them all his life story and why he’s ready to switch sides and become a good guy.  Plus, Giant-Man tosses Cap around like a rag doll.

And there’s still more! This issue is jam-packed!

The Avengers hold their first press conference, in which they tell the world they’ll be disbanding. Wasp is tired of being in danger all the time. She’s so annoying in these early issues—Stan’s biggest writing weakness is clearly women.

Anyhow, it turns out, they don’t disband.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tumblr_m33gp7eL3F1ruyouho1_500.jpg

Iron Man quits and gives the mantle of leadership to Captain America. Giant-Man and Wasp leave to have fun/do science. Or whatever. And Thor is busy with the war in Asgard, so he’s not even around.

In the last frame, we get the new lineup, which looks an awful lot like a Thunderbolts-style lineup. Because, oh yeah, one MORE thing that happened was Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch wanting to rehabilitate themselves, too.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_1799-1.jpg

The villains don’t approve of the new lineup.

Kang and Immortus are the same person, but they appear in this panel together.

Lineup changes would become an Avengers tradition, as would covers like the one to this issue, showing a wide array of characters and letting readers guess who’d actually join the team.

An absolutely perfect comic book tale.

Leave a Comment