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Avengers Issue 3 (Marvel Comics: 1963)
In this When It Was Cool retro review we travel back to the silver age of comics and the early days of the super hero age of Marvel Comics and look at issue 3 of the original Avengers run. To bring you up to speed, the Incredible Hulk has just quit the Avengers after learning last issue that the team didn’t think very highly of him. This issue, that moral judgement may come back to haunt them.
The Jack Kirby cover features a pretty simply drawn Iron Man, Thor, and Giant Man facing off through a hole in a wall against the Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner. The hyperbolic cover splash warns “This is the issue you’ve been waiting for!! The Hulk and Sub-Mariner vs. the Avengers! One of the greatest battles of all time.” I really miss those old attention grabbing comic book covers.
The first page is a full page splash and I absolutely love the captions. You would never see captions like this these days. The arrow pointing to Namor reads “He doesn’t come in till page 15 but when he does... wow!” Now I know I shouldn't be in too big of a hurry to see Namor. A great Jack Kirby Hulk takes up the center of the page surrounding by the floating heads of Thor, Giant-Man, The Wasp, and Iron Man. I like comics better when you established who the people were without having to guess your way through. Now that the principles have been named, on with the show.
The story begins as many silver age team comics did with a “monthly meeting” scene which gives the excuse for all the heroes to be gathered together in one place. DC’s Justice League also used this same approach. Immediately, Iron Man reveals a great silver age science gadget that allows him to project his image anywhere he wishes in an effort to find the Hulk who quit last issue. The first place he visits is the Baxter Building in New York which gives us an excuse to have a cameo by the Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four are busy with their own projects so next Iron Man visits Spider-Man who is likewise busy. Then Iron Man visits the last of the big Marvel groups, the X-Men and drops in on Professor X training The Beast, The Angel, Cyclops, Iceman, and Jean Grey. The X-Men agree to contact Iron Man if they hear about the Hulk. The entire sequence is meaningless and serves only as a way to get all the Marvel big stars in cameos.
Iron Man returns to the meeting to inform the other Avengers that they are on their own. We cut scene to Rick Jones who has located the Hulk fishing an Army Jeep out of a lake. Rick Jones conveniences the Hulk to hide and soon the Hulk reverts back to Bruce Banner and Rick Jones literally tucks him in bed.
Bruce Banner can’t sleep and quickly transforms back into the Hulk who breaks through a wall to continue on his rampage. Rick Jones sends out a trouble alert to which the Avengers respond and we get a full page of each of the heroes transforming into their super powered identities.
Iron Man is the first to confront the Hulk and uses his various gadgets to battle the Hulk. Iron Man’s armor and weapons were much less sophisticated back in this era. I should also note that since last issue Iron Man has upgraded to the first red and yellow armor which, with a few tweaks along the way, becomes his most iconic. Giant Man (AKA: Ant Man) and Wasp join the battle but do nothing except hide. Thor arrives and he and Iron Man drive the Hulk into retreat. The Hulk also throws a train car at them. Yes, a train car.
Like any good Western, the battle continues on top of the train for a couple pages with the Hulk fighting back both Iron Man and Thor and Giant Man gets involved again only to fail within three panels.
The Hulk escapes by swimming away until being pulled onto a ship which, of course, now gives us the opportunity to introduce the Sub-Mariner. The Sub-Mariner and the Hulk don’t make friends and spend a couple of pages slugging it out until they finally decide to be tag team partners against their common foes, The Avengers.
The Avengers talk about it for several very wordy panels until Namor and the Hulk fire an artillery shell at them which Iron Man deflects. The Sub-Mariner then produces a gun which, I swear to God, fires an emery dust bullet which drops Iron Man like a log. Like I said, Iron Man wasn’t as sophisticated as he is now.
A lot of talking happens as both sides try to out gadget the other with ridiculous silver age technology which Jack Kirby was infamous for. The Avengers manage to get their hands on the Sub-Mariner and toss him around a bit before the Hulk shows up to help. Out of the blue (or green I suppose) the Hulk just randomly changes back into Bruce Banner and runs away leaving Namor to get his butt kicked by the Avengers until he too decides to run away.
Thus ends the Avengers issue 3 but the Sub-Mariner would return the very next issue to help re-introduce one the most iconic Marvel Comics characters of all time- Captain America in issue 4.
It’s hard to rate these old gold and silver age comics because they were a totally different animal than modern comics. This issue was silly fun but a little too wordy and the battles between the Avengers and the Sub-Mariner or the Hulk weren’t really very epic. This is also among the forgettable three pre-Captain America Avengers issues from Marvel so, at best, I’d give this one a When It Was Cool rating of C+.