Marvel Comics The Avengers Issue 4 (1964)
By: Karl Stern (@wiwcool)
Today When It Was Cool is going back in time to the silver age of comic books and one of the all time classic Marvel Comics issues- The Avengers Issue 4 featuring the return of Captain America to the Marvel Universe after being frozen in ice since his apparent death in World War 2.
There had been a Captain America running around the Marvel Universe in the meantime but was ultimately retconned into being someone else. I won't get into all of that now but suffice to say that the one original true Steve Rogers returns in this issue.
The cover is a giant spoiler back in an era where that word didn't even exist in that context. Front and center of issue 4 is Captain America flanked by The Wasp, Giant Man, Iron Man, and Thor. We are also told in a superimposed photo that also in this sensational issue- Sub-Mariner (AKA: Namor)!
The very first page is a full page splash of The Avengers bringing Captain America into their ranks. We will have to read the full story to see how that happens. In typical Stan Lee hyperbolic style the page reads "A tale destined to become a magnificent milestone in the Marvel age of comics!" That would turn out to be true. Jack Kirby returns to draw the hero just as he once did in the golden age of comics.
The first page follows the Sub-Mariner who is fleeing the Avengers following their battle last issue. The Sub-Mariner begins searching for his home of Atlantis but, for whatever reason, he can't find it but comes upon a group of Eskimos worshiping a frozen figure in ice. The Sub-Mariner in a rage throws the block of ice into the ocean where it ultimately hits the Gulf Stream and melts.
The Avengers, whom I assume are tracking Namor and not just trolling around the Atlantic, come upon the thawed man and bring him aboard their vessel. They immediately recognize him by his famous uniform as Captain America.
Captain America's eyes flicker and he quickly springs to life, calling out for his partner Bucky. The Avengers soon calm him down but, in typical silver age style, he has to fight the Avengers to prove who he really is. Don't think about it too hard.
After besting the Avengers in combat, Captain America retails his last moments in battle as he and Bucky try to stop an enemy rocket but ultimately end up falling into the ocean. Bucky is presumed lost (although we discover decades later he was recovered by the Russians and turned into the Winter Soldier).
The Avengers return to New York where they are met by the press but in a sudden flash of light it appears all but Captain America have been turned into statues.
The press doesn't know what to think and Captain America isn't too sure either. Captain America appears to not give a thought about it and walks off to explore modern (well, 1964 era) New York.
Captain America ends up at a nearby hotel. I have no idea how he had money to get a room. He also appears to have zero cares about The Avengers whom I presume are still turned into stone in another part of the city. Rick Jones creeps into Caps room. Yes, it's as weird and unexplained as it sounds. Captain America wakes up from a sleep and thinks it's Bucky. Rick threatens to get his friend The Hulk to beat up Captain America if he... I guess does bad touch to him in this unpaided hotel room, I dunno. This is all for real, by the way, here's the scene.
Cap's afraid Rick Jones will think he's weird even though it was Jones who was creepin' on Captain America's hotel room. They look at some pictures and discover one of the people in the press who met the Avengers had some sort of weapon instead of a camera. Presumably, this is what turned the Avengers into stone.
Somehow they decide the best plan is to randomly walk around NEW YORK CITY and see if they can spot the man in the picture. Captain America peers through a random window and spots the man. I swear this is all true.
The gang in the room open fire on Captain America and that works out about like you'd expect. After Captain America kicks all their respective asses he, in true Scooby Doo fashion, unmasks a celery looking alien as the perpetrator.
The story gets even more preposterous as the alien gives Captain America his back story and apparently he is the basis for the Medusa legend in mythology due to his wiry, snake-like hair and his ray that turns people to stone.
Cap drags him back down to the docks where he turns the Avengers back to human form. We cut scene to visit Namor again walking the ocean floor looking for the lost Atlantis.
The Avengers then help Celery-man, or whatever, get his ship unstuck from the ocean floor so he can return home. This pisses Namor off again for some reason and he attacks the Avengers, in particular Iron Man, and they have a big fight. Somewhere or other, Namor has raised a small army of "under water men" to help him fight.
Of course, the Avengers beat the Sub-Mariner and he retreats to the sea. The Celery-headed Alien guy who served no real purpose in this story flies home and Captain America is offered a position in The Avengers for surviving this debacle of a story. The old days weren't necessarily better days folks.