Tuesday

OMU: Black Panther -- Year Two

The Black Panther moves out into the wider Marvel Universe during the next twelve months, relocating to New York City as a member of the Avengers. He also meets his first love-interest, the American singer, social worker, and civil rights activist Monica Lynne. Additionally, since writer/editor Roy Thomas seemed to believe that all superheroes must have a secret identity, T’Challa started teaching high school under the alias “Luke Charles,” though the storyline was never developed and ultimately fizzled out. Though underutilized, the Black Panther is frequently seen giving the Avengers the benefit of his genius for mechanical engineering, which easily rivals Tony Stark’s, particularly with the introduction of the team’s signature aircraft, the Quinjet.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale). Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Now continuing… The True History of the Black Panther!


January–February 1964 – T’Challa, recently crowned monarch of the small African nation of Wakanda, continues his controversial modernizations efforts. He becomes increasingly frustrated with the limitations imposed on him by his role as king, wanting to have a greater direct impact on people’s lives both at home and abroad.

March 1964 – T’Challa takes some of his warriors to inspect an island in the Caribbean that he has purchased. Detecting intruders, T’Challa suits up as the Black Panther and goes to investigate. He finds three members of the royal family of the Inhumans: Black Bolt, Medusa, and Karnak. They are searching for the source of an unknown danger, and, learning they are friends of the Fantastic Four, T’Challa decides to offer them assistance. Using their uncanny abilities, the Inhumans discover a high-tech installation hidden under the ground, only to be attacked by three mercenaries with strange weapons. However, Live Wire, Shellshock, and Ivan Karlovich are quickly defeated by the Black Panther and the Inhumans. Moving deeper into the complex, T’Challa is glad when two more Inhumans, Triton and Lockjaw, teleport in with the Human Torch and the Thing. Triton confirms Black Bolt’s suspicion that the villain they are seeking, known as Psycho-Man, threatens the world with a sinister emotion-manipulating ray. When a nightmarish, many-tentacled monster attacks them, the Black Panther slips into an air duct and makes his way to the central control room. No sooner has he spotted Psycho-Man, though, than a large, panther-like monster appears in the duct and attacks him. Their brutal battle ends when the creature is disintegrated by a strange shockwave. The Black Panther races back to his friends and finds them, now joined by another Inhuman called Gorgon, writhing under their foe’s emotion-rays. T’Challa leaps out of the duct and tackles Psycho-Man, but the villain collapses like an empty suit. The others explain that Psycho-Man himself is microscopic, having come from the Microverse to conquer the Earth with his bizarre technology, and with his armor disabled, he no longer poses a threat. The Fantastic Four take possession of Psycho-Man’s armor and the emotion-ray generator he was carrying so Mister Fantastic can study them at the Baxter Building. T’Challa claims the villain’s base, as it is on his property, and sets about dismantling and examining the fully-operational, large-scale “mind-ray” device their foe was about to activate.

April 1964 – Back in Wakanda, T’Challa is informed that one of his border outposts has been destroyed by foreign mercenaries. Fearing that Klaw may be making another attempt to steal vibranium, the Black Panther goes to investigate. He finds the outpost’s personnel have all been killed and tracks the mercenaries into the jungle, where he attacks them. Unfortunately, the mercenaries overwhelm T’Challa with their high-tech weapons and give him a brutal beating. Nevertheless, he trails his foes back to their basecamp, where he is astonished to discover that their leader appears to be Baron Zemo, the infamous Nazi war criminal reported killed while battling Captain America last year. The Black Panther slips back to the palace to have his wounds treated, but soon a blistering energy beam from space carves a swath of destruction through the jungle. T’Challa’s military advisors report that the beam originates from an orbiting satellite that is protected by an impenetrable force field. Though he knows their only chance is to disable the satellite’s control center on the ground, T’Challa realizes he cannot take on Baron Zemo and his private army alone. Thus, he decides to call on the villain’s nemesis, Captain America, for help.

T’Challa sends an aero-car to New York City and is relieved when Captain America agrees to lend a hand. When the aero-car enters Wakandan airspace about an hour later, though, it is nearly destroyed by a blast from the orbiting satellite. T’Challa brings the ship in for a safe landing by remote control, then briefs the star-spangled hero on the situation. However, T’Challa withholds the identity of their foe, fearing Captain America would find it impossible to believe. Before they set out, Cap phones his teammates at Avengers Mansion and leaves a message on their answering service. The two heroes then track down the mercenaries and fight them in the jungle, only to be taken prisoner. In his underground bunker, Baron Zemo gives his enemies a beating while gloating about his plans to use his orbiting death-ray to destroy the United States. When Zemo’s agent, the notorious spy Irma Kruhl, arrives with a list of American military targets, T’Challa begins to worry that he and Cap have failed. Luckily, she proves to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in disguise and destroys Zemo’s satellite control panel with a flame-thrower concealed in her briefcase. As the trio fights its way through Zemo’s mercenaries, T’Challa realizes that S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent 13 is also Captain America’s girlfriend. Their escape is thwarted by a powerful robot, which delays them long enough for Zemo and his mercenaries to swarm in and hold the trio at gunpoint. However, Cap grabs Zemo and yanks off his facemask, revealing him to be an impostor. Cap recognizes the man as Zemo’s former pilot, Franz Gruber. Outraged by the deception, one of the mercenaries shoots the impostor dead. The Black Panther demands that the mercenaries surrender, as the warriors of Wakanda now have the bunker surrounded. Realizing they aren’t going to get paid, the mercenaries comply. As Zemo’s forces are taken into custody, Agent 13 deactivates the force field around the satellite, allowing S.H.I.E.L.D. to destroy it with a missile strike. Cap then takes T’Challa aside and explains that he’s taking a leave of absence from the Avengers and suggests that the Black Panther serve as his replacement. T’Challa realizes that this is the opportunity he’s been waiting for to make a difference in the world outside Wakanda. He accepts the offer, so Cap radios his teammates and arranges it. T’Challa then asks his friend M’Baku to serve as regent while he is in America with the Avengers. M’Baku agrees and appoints his ally N’Gamo to serve as his chancellor. Believing Wakanda is in good hands, T’Challa flies Captain America and Agent 13 back to the United States.

About an hour after landing in New York City, the Black Panther arrives at Avengers Mansion, only to find the building completely dark. He enters through a hatch in the ceiling that Captain America told him about and is shocked to discover Goliath, the Wasp, and Hawkeye apparently dead on the floor. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell finds the Black Panther there and places him under arrest. When the police arrive, Hawkeye’s girlfriend, Natasha Romanoff, enters as well and is distraught to find her friends dead. She tells Sitwell that she’s never heard the Avengers mention anyone called the Black Panther, which makes the authorities doubt T’Challa’s story. When the conference room access code given to him by Captain America fails to work, T’Challa realizes he’s being framed for the murders, so he does not resist when the police escort him to the local precinct. When they arrive, though, T’Challa realizes that the true killer must have been hiding in the conference room. Thus, while the police are trying to sort out whether he actually has diplomatic immunity, T’Challa escapes from custody and returns to the scene of the crime. His suspicions are confirmed when he sneaks inside and finds the Grim Reaper, a supervillain with a scythe-like weapon, ranting to himself about having avenged the death of his brother, Wonder Man. The Black Panther attacks him and in the ensuing battle learns that the Avengers are not truly dead—the Grim Reaper’s scythe merely induced a death-like state so the three heroes would either be buried alive or killed by the autopsy. Disgusted by such villainy, T’Challa fights even more savagely until the Grim Reaper accidentally stabs himself with his scythe. The Black Panther seizes the weapon and, leaving his foe writhing in pain, races to the hospital where the Avengers were taken. There, he uses the scythe to revive them, ignoring the injuries he sustained during the fight. The three grateful heroes clear things up with the police, then take T’Challa back to the mansion. Unfortunately, the Grim Reaper has made good his escape. Goliath, the Wasp, and Hawkeye vote unanimously to induct the Black Panther into their ranks.

In the days that follow, T’Challa meets the Avengers’ butler, Edwin Jarvis. Though Jarvis offers to prepare a room for T’Challa in the mansion, the king declines, preferring to purchase a townhouse on the Upper West Side. T’Challa then summons a small staff of domestic servants from Wakanda to manage the property for him. He is also interested to meet Goliath’s research partner, an African-American scientist named Bill Foster. However, T’Challa senses a thinly-veiled animosity from the Wasp’s chauffeur, Charles Matthews, and wonders what lies behind it. While recovering from the injuries he sustained fighting the Grim Reaper, T’Challa familiarizes himself with the Avengers’ files and reports.

May 1964 – The Black Panther and Goliath capture an intruder who turns out to be the Angel, a member of the X-Men. The Angel informs them that he can lead them to the island fortress of the infamous mutant terrorist Magneto, where Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, former members of the Avengers, are being held captive along with the other X-Men. Joined by the Wasp and Hawkeye, they take an aero-car out to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and storm Magneto’s complex. However, the Avengers find they must fight the other X-Men—Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, and the Beast—as Magneto has somehow brainwashed them. The Avengers overcome the X-Men and smash their way into Magneto’s command center. Unexpectedly, Magneto’s obsequious henchman, the Toad, activates a self-destruct mechanism, declaring that the entire island will be destroyed in less than a minute. The Avengers and the X-Men, now free of their foe’s influence, evacuate the fortress as Magneto and the Toad flee for their lives. Reaching the Avengers’ aero-car on the beach, the two teams see Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch escaping with the Toad in another airship. Magneto tries to join them, but the Toad kicks him away. Magneto falls into the ocean from a great height as a series of tremendous explosions obliterate the island. As the aero-car takes to the skies, the Avengers can only assume that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch want nothing more to do with them. Dejectedly, the Avengers drop the X-Men off in Manhattan on their way home. T’Challa, however, is proud that his first official mission with the Avengers was a success.

The Black Panther and Goliath work together to improve the security systems at Avengers Mansion. However, just hours after informing Jarvis about the new protocols, the mansion is invaded by a gang of supervillains known as the Masters of Evil, comprised of Klaw, the Melter, the Radioactive Man, and Whirlwind. Taken unawares, the Avengers are quickly captured by their enemies. The team is shocked when the new leader of the Masters of Evil, the Crimson Cowl, is revealed to be Edwin Jarvis himself. The Black Panther is then knocked unconscious, and when he wakes up, he finds himself trapped with his teammates inside a missile with an armed nuclear warhead. The Crimson Cowl appears on a closed-circuit TV monitor and taunts the Avengers by revealing Jarvis to be merely his hypnotized pawn. The real Crimson Cowl is in fact a robot calling itself Ultron-5. The missile is then launched, with the Avengers still aboard, but they are saved in mid-flight by the new Black Knight, who had tried to infiltrate the Masters of Evil by posing as his villainous predecessor. After a quick battle, the heroes capture Klaw, the Melter, and the Radioactive Man, but Whirlwind manages to escape. Once the missile’s hydrogen bomb has been disarmed, the Black Knight describes how Jarvis helped him to save the Avengers’ lives and explains that the butler betrayed the team because he needed money to pay for his mother’s chemotherapy treatments. Back at the mansion, Jarvis insists that he believed the Avengers would easily defeat the Masters of Evil and was desperate to help his ailing mother. However, he is unable to explain why he didn’t seek help from Tony Stark, or why he can’t remember where the hidden base of Ultron-5 is located. Nevertheless, the Avengers decide to give Jarvis a second chance, since he did risk his life to save theirs, but they remain somewhat wary of their butler in the weeks to follow.

June 1964 – T’Challa spends a quiet month exploring New York City and using the Avengers’ training facilities. Though he remains excited to be part of the world’s foremost superhero team, he realizes there is still something in the back of his mind that leaves him feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

July 1964 – At the beginning of the month, the Avengers convince T’Challa to take a turn as team chairman. He finds that such administrative duties come naturally to him. Then, a few days after hosting a Fourth-of-July picnic attended by the Fantastic Four, the Avengers receive a mysterious summons from Captain America which leads them to Doctor Doom’s abandoned castle in upstate New York. Having learned about the notorious supervillain’s time machine from Mister Fantastic, Cap is intent on using it to find out if there’s any way his old junior partner, Bucky, could have escaped his fiery death in 1945. Leaving the Wasp to operate the time machine’s control panel, the Black Panther, Captain America, Goliath, and Hawkeye journey back to the fateful day when Cap entered a state of suspended animation. Materializing as invisible, intangible phantoms, they watch Cap and Bucky’s encounter with Baron Zemo at a U.S. Army base on the British coast. However, when Zemo knocks his foes out and binds them to the drone plane he is about to launch, the Avengers unexpectedly materialize fully, allowing Cap to free his past self. After a brief struggle with Zemo’s android henchmen, the Avengers return to their previous wraith-like state. The heroes watch grimly as Bucky is engulfed in a fireball while trying to deactivate the drone plane and Cap’s past self plunges into the sea. The time machine then takes the Avengers back to Doctor Doom’s castle. The Wasp admits she momentarily dozed off at the controls, and Goliath speculates that that must have been what caused them to fully phase into the past. The team locks up the castle and jets back to Manhattan.

Out for a walk one evening, T’Challa ruminates on his discontentment, thinking he should be trying to help people in a more direct manner. When he stumbles upon a robbery in progress, he becomes the Black Panther and captures the crooks in spectacular fashion. A group of African-American children have witnessed the incident, he realizes, and when one boy says he could use a Black Panther up on his block, T’Challa decides he needs to focus his efforts on the city’s poor black neighborhoods. He is then summoned back to Avengers Mansion, where he joins Goliath, the Wasp, and Hawkeye in a laboratory where they are examining an inert android with red skin and a strange green-and-gold costume. T’Challa is intrigued when the others discuss a failed project by Goliath and Bill Foster to build a “synthezoid,” a unique synthesis of android and robot. Suddenly, the android revives and attacks them, and during the fight he adopts the name “The Vision” for himself, based on a comment the Wasp had made about him. Goliath realizes that the Vision possesses the power to control his own density and tries to reason with him. The android agrees to stop fighting as he attempts to remember where he came from and why he felt compelled to attack the Avengers. The Avengers are shocked when the Vision recalls that his creator was a robot called Ultron-5. He then agrees to lead the Avengers to Ultron-5’s headquarters, hidden beneath an abandoned tenement on New York’s Lower East Side. When they arrive, the Avengers come under fire from automated defensive systems, and Goliath is separated from his teammates. Before the other Avengers can decide what to do, the walls start closing in on them. Insisting that he was unaware such traps awaited them, the Vision phases through the wall and disappears. Several minutes later, the Vision frees them and leads them to the smoking wreck of Ultron-5’s body, where they are rejoined by Goliath. Grateful to the Vision for defeating Ultron-5, the Avengers invite him to accompany them back to the mansion. Goliath takes the wreckage of Ultron-5’s body for study but is unable to find the robot’s head. When they arrive at their headquarters, Hawkeye introduces the Vision to Jarvis, since the android will be staying at Avengers Mansion for the time being.

Soon after, T’Challa decides to become a high school teacher for at-risk inner-city kids. He contacts the New York City school system, using the “Luke Charles” identity that was created for him when he was a college student, and makes all the necessary arrangements.

August 1964 – The Black Panther joins Captain America, Goliath, the Wasp, Hawkeye, Thor, and Iron Man at Avengers Mansion to discuss the Vision’s petition for membership. Searching for clues as to the Vision’s origins, the Avengers head out to Goliath’s abandoned suburban laboratory in Cresskill, New Jersey. There, they discover that Goliath created Ultron back in January, though the evil robot erased his memory of it, and it then went on to evolve itself into Ultron-5. Seeking to destroy the Avengers, Ultron-5 created the Vision using recordings the team had made of Wonder Man’s brain patterns last year. The Avengers then return to their mansion and, after some deliberation, vote to accept the Vision into their ranks. T’Challa is surprised when the Vision appears to be overcome with emotion after hearing their decision.

September 1964 – T’Challa arrives early for a team meeting, since Goliath asked to discuss something with him beforehand. However, Goliath doesn’t show up, so T’Challa holds a training session with Hawkeye and the Vision instead. When the Wasp gets there, she becomes concerned about her partner’s absence. While they are all discussing it, a costumed man calling himself “Yellowjacket” appears and demands to be made a member of the Avengers. When the outraged heroes scoff at his overinflated ego, Yellowjacket claims to have killed Goliath. The Wasp nearly faints at this news. With the help of a swarm of wasps, Yellowjacket fights off the three male Avengers and kidnaps their female teammate. Later, the Wasp reactivates her emergency transponder signal, allowing the Black Panther, Hawkeye, and the Vision to track her to Cresskill City Hall in New Jersey. They are ready to fight with Yellowjacket when he and the Wasp emerge from the building, but she informs her confused teammates that she intends to marry Yellowjacket as soon as possible.

A couple of days later, the Black Panther, Hawkeye, and the Vision are joined by Captain America and Iron Man for the impromptu wedding ceremony. When the bride and groom arrive at the mansion, the Wasp angrily insists that the Avengers respect her decision. T’Challa then mingles with the other guests, including Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Thing, the Human Torch and his girlfriend Crystal, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Iceman, and the Beast, as well as the Black Knight. He also meets Daredevil, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and his girlfriend Clea, and Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Before the ceremony can begin, though, Cap, Iron Man, and Fury are called away on other business. The ceremony goes well, but when the Wasp and Yellowjacket are cutting the cake afterwards, a giant python bursts out of the cake and attacks them. The Avengers ask their guests to step out while they deal with the situation. Moments later, the team is attacked by the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime: Princess Python, the crafty Clown, Ernesto and Luigi Gambonno, and the Human Cannonball. While the Gambonno brothers keep the Black Panther busy, the giant python coils around the Wasp, who has been stunned by the Ringmaster. Yellowjacket leaps to her defense but is unable to reach her fast enough. Unexpectedly, Yellowjacket grows to giant-size, revealing himself to be Goliath in a different costume, and rescues his bride. The Circus of Crime is quickly defeated, and the police are called to take them into custody. The wedding guests return for the reception and are pleased to learn that “Yellowjacket” is really the Wasp’s old beau and not some stranger. When the party ends, the newlyweds depart for their honeymoon.

The following Monday, T’Challa starts teaching at Andrew Jackson High School in Harlem, using the alias “Luke Charles.” He finds the work to be highly rewarding and feels he’s having a positive impact on his students’ lives. Not long after, T’Challa is shocked when Iron Man informs the Avengers that Captain America has apparently been gunned down by HYDRA assassins on the waterfront. They try to learn more about the circumstances of Cap’s death from Rick Jones, who is dressed as Cap’s WWII-era partner Bucky, but the lad is too upset to discuss it. A funeral service is quickly arranged, attended also by Nick Fury and other agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., including Cap’s bereaved girlfriend Agent 13, who now introduces herself as Sharon Carter. During the eulogy, everyone present is suddenly knocked out by a powerful anesthetic gas. When the Black Panther comes to, he finds himself in a coffin about to be buried alive by HYDRA agents in a gloomy cemetery. However, Captain America reappears and, with Rick, pursues the fleeing HYDRA agents as the Avengers recover their senses. Relieved that Cap is not dead after all, they return to Avengers Mansion.

The Avengers are contacted by the astral form of Doctor Strange, who is seeking help to save the world. Recognizing him from the wedding, they agree at once, although only the Black Panther, Hawkeye, and the Vision are available. They follow the ectoplasmic Doctor Strange to a cemetery elsewhere in the city, flying in one of the new Quinjets that T’Challa has provided. There, they discover the comatose form of the Black Knight. Rejoining his physical body, Doctor Strange explains that the Black Knight was laid low by a magical crystal while they were investigating an evil cult called the Sons of Satannish. Determined to save the Black Knight, T’Challa carries him to the Quinjet and rushes him to the team’s medical facilities. There, Doctor Strange reluctantly performs a simple operation and the team’s ultra-rejuvenator device does the rest, enabling the Black Knight to make a quick recovery. The Vision reports to the others that bizarre natural phenomena have been reported worldwide, such as volcanoes erupting through the ice in Antarctica and snow falling in the jungles of central Africa. Time has run out, Doctor Strange reveals, and the world-threatening spell cast by the Sons of Satannish has done its work, bringing the Asgardian monsters Ymir and Surtur to Earth. And so, the Black Panther and the Vision fly the Quinjet to Wakanda to battle Ymir while Hawkeye and the Black Knight take on Surtur in Antarctica, all in order to give Doctor Strange time to gain mental control over the magical crystal so that he can use it to send the two creatures back from whence they came. Ymir wreaks havoc on Wakanda and destroys the Quinjet, but at the critical moment, the monster is teleported to Antarctica along with the two heroes. Ymir and Surtur inadvertently strike each other, causing a tremendous implosion. When the smoke clears, the astral form of Doctor Strange appears and congratulates the Avengers and the Black Knight on their victory.

Stopping in Wakanda on the way back to New York, the Black Panther, Hawkeye, the Vision, and the Black Knight discover that T’Challa’s regent, M’Baku, is scheming to seize the throne. After the other three have been imprisoned, T’Challa is attacked by M’Baku, who is dressed in the forbidden garb of the White Gorilla and calling himself the Man-Ape. As they fight, T’Challa is astonished by M’Baku’s newfound superhuman strength and suspects his treacherous accomplice, N’Gamo, had something to do with it. Their battle leads them through the technological jungle to the nuclear power plant beneath it. There, the Black Panther saves the Man-Ape from falling into a reactor, only to be jolted into unconsciousness when his ungrateful foe grabs a handful of live wires. When he comes to, T’Challa finds himself shackled to a stone slab at the base of the sacred panther totem. The Man-Ape tries to topple the totem over onto T’Challa, but instead it just crumbles and crushes the villain under tons of stone. Hawkeye, the Vision, and the Black Knight come running up, having finally freed themselves, and release the Black Panther from his bonds. Disillusioned by his friend’s betrayal, T’Challa reluctantly presses old N’Baza back into service as regent before returning to America. He is frustrated when N’Gamo somehow escapes with M’Baku’s body, worried that the Man-Ape will become a martyr to those dissatisfied with T’Challa’s rule. Taking a new Quinjet, the Avengers drop the Black Knight off in England on their way home.

When they arrive at Avengers Mansion, the three heroes are greeted by Yellowjacket and the Wasp, just back from their honeymoon. They explain that Yellowjacket has permanently abandoned his Goliath identity due to the ill-effects of constantly enlarging himself. Before he can destroy his growth serums, though, the Avengers receive an emergency message they believe to be from Nick Fury, which sends them on a wild goose chase to the Caribbean Islands in search of Natasha Romanoff. T’Challa uses his authority as team chairman to make Hawkeye stay behind, believing he’d be too emotionally involved in such a mission. When the four heroes return, however, they find that Hawkeye has disappeared. Soon after, they hear a message broadcast over hijacked radio and TV signals by a supervillain Yellowjacket identifies as his old enemy Egghead. The villain claims to be causing a string of blackouts across the nation and threatens to shut down the entire nation’s power grid if his demands are not met. While the Black Panther goes out in search of Hawkeye, Yellowjacket tries to determine where Egghead’s broadcast originated.

About a day later, the Avengers discover that Egghead is broadcasting from an orbiting space station. Unfortunately, the station is cloaked and they are unable to determine its precise coordinates. The villain ups the ante by revealing his powerful “death-ray,” which he demonstrates by obliterating an evacuated Midwestern town. Hawkeye finally returns, accompanied by Natasha, and reveals that he has given up archery to assume the Goliath identity. Yellowjacket agrees to give the new Goliath full use of his size-changing potions. Their meeting is interrupted when Jarvis escorts in the notorious racketeer Barney Barton, who has information on Egghead’s scheme. T’Challa is suspicious of the obvious personal connection between the gangster and Hawkeye/Goliath, but he agrees to allow Barton to accompany the team on their raid of Egghead’s space station. Using the orbital coordinates Barton provides, the Avengers reach the station aboard a Wakandan-built space rocket. There, they battle Egghead’s army of robots until they fall victim to a paralysis ray. Fortunately, Barney Barton sacrifices himself to save the Avengers. The Black Panther is stunned to learn that Barton was Hawkeye’s brother.

Since Egghead managed to escape, the Avengers return to their headquarters to discuss their plan of action. Goliath tells them a bit about when he was just a circus performer named Clint Barton and how Barney helped him survive after they’d been orphaned. Suddenly, the Swordsman invades their meeting room, though he is a bit confused about Hawkeye’s new identity. Goliath tries to prevent his teammates from interfering in what he considers to be a private fight, which allows the Swordsman to fire energy beams from his sword that blast the Black Panther, Yellowjacket, the Wasp, and the Vision into unconsciousness. When the Avengers revive, they find both Goliath and the Swordsman are gone, but before long reports come in that Goliath singlehandedly captured the Swordsman and Egghead and turned them over to the police. Soon after, the Avengers grow concerned when Captain America avoids them following a nearly fatal battle against HYDRA. Yellowjacket is certain Cap must have his reasons for his behavior, and Goliath reminds them that, despite recent setbacks, many active HYDRA cells remain. T’Challa is sure that if anyone can bring down HYDRA, it’s Captain America.

T’Challa is surprised when a Wakandan national named N’Jadaka visits him at Avengers Mansion and reveals that he was among those kidnapped by Ulysses Klaw’s men during their failed invasion eleven years ago. He eventually escaped from them, he explains, but lacked the means to return home. T’Challa is very sympathetic to N’Jadaka’s plight and promises to arrange for him to return to Wakanda. A few days later, T’Challa learns from his chief communications officer, Taku, that an army of mercenaries has attacked the country, apparently intent on freeing Zemo’s gang from their island prison. Deciding he’d better take charge of the situation, T’Challa steps down as Avengers chairman a bit early and hands the gavel off to the Vision. He then takes a Quinjet, stopping at the Harlem tenement where N’Jadaka has been living to pick him up. T’Challa is amused by the vast amount of luggage that N’Jadaka is bringing with him. When they land in Wakanda, T’Challa wishes N’Jadaka well as he heads back to his village in the western hill country. Turning his attention to the foreign incursion, T’Challa leads his warriors into battle to repel them. In the midst of an intense firefight, Taku informs T’Challa that the Avengers are requesting a sizable amount of vibranium to use against Ultron-6. After the necessary arrangements have been made, T’Challa returns to the battle, and the invaders are soon routed.

October 1964 – The Black Panther finds himself transported to the throne room of Kang the Conqueror at his fortress in the 41st century. Kang explains, one king to another, that he was challenged to a contest by a powerful alien called the Grandmaster. If Kang wins, his lover Ravonna, who hovers between life and death inside a nearby stasis tube, will be restored to full health. If Kang loses, though, the earth will be destroyed. As such, T’Challa agrees with Kang’s plan to bring the Avengers forward in time to serve as his champions. He is annoyed, though, when Kang lures the Avengers into his time-travel vortex by sending an android to kidnap Tony Stark from the hospital where he was about to undergo life-saving surgery. When explanations have been made, Captain America agrees on behalf of Yellowjacket, the Wasp, Goliath, the Vision, and Thor that they will cooperate for the sake of the planet, if not for Kang, on the condition that Kang return Stark to the hospital immediately. As Kang complies, the Grandmaster materializes in the room and teleports Captain America, Goliath, and Thor away for round one of their contest.

The Black Panther, Yellowjacket, the Wasp, and the Vision watch helplessly as the Grandmaster sets four supervillains of his own creation against Captain America, Goliath, Thor, and Iron Man, who materializes out of nowhere to join his teammates. On Liberty Island, Cap defeats Nighthawk. At the Taj Mahal, Iron Man defeats Doctor Spectrum. At the Giza Necropolis in Egypt, Thor defeats Hyperion. However, in London, England, Goliath only beats the Whizzer with the unexpected help of the Black Knight. The Grandmaster calls a foul, since the Black Knight is not a member of the Avengers, and recalls the four heroes to their base. Then, for round two of the contest, the Black Panther, Yellowjacket, and the Vision are transported to Nazi-occupied Paris, France, in February 1942, where they encounter the Invaders. Assuming the Avengers to be Nazis, the contemporary Captain America, Sub-Mariner, and Human Torch attack them. After a brief battle, the Vision overcomes his three opponents by partially phasing through their bodies, thus disrupting their nervous systems. With victory achieved, the Black Panther, Yellowjacket, and the Vision are transported back to Kang’s 41st-century fortress. There, they rejoin Captain America, the Wasp, Goliath, Thor, and Iron Man, as well as the Black Knight, who has followed the Avengers to the future by his own means. Immediately, the heroes storm into Kang’s throne room and battle the time-traveling despot, to the Grandmaster’s great amusement. Once Kang is defeated, the Grandmaster teleports the Avengers home. The Black Panther joins his teammates in extending a unanimous offer of membership to the Black Knight. He then drops the Black Knight off in England on his way back to Wakanda to finish up some affairs of state.

T’Challa flies back to New York the following day to rejoin the Avengers. When he arrives at the mansion, he immediately rushes off to help a black woman being assaulted by the Sons of the Serpent, a hate group that’s been making headlines again recently. One of the attackers is accidentally shot dead by his compatriot, and the remaining two are electrocuted by remote control when they fail to overcome the Black Panther. When the police arrive on the scene, the woman identifies herself as Monica Lynne, then storms off after berating the cops for not showing up until after the danger was over. The Black Panther makes a statement to the police before heading back to the mansion, leaving the cops to deal with the dead bodies.

The next evening, a strange little man named Silas X. Cragg drops by Avengers Mansion looking for Captain America, whom he wants to invite to a charity benefit at the city orphanage. Yellowjacket phones Cap at the hotel where he’s staying and passes on the information. Later, the Avengers tune in to a late-night TV talk show hosted by notorious right-wing bigot Dan Dunn, who is arguing about civil rights with a controversial black agitator named Montague Hale. T’Challa is intrigued to see that Monica Lynne is also a guest on the program, and he learns that she is a popular local singer. Yellowjacket worries that the Sons of the Serpent may succeed in inciting a race war if something isn’t done. The Black Panther insists on having 24 hours to try to resolve the situation on his own. He heads out and goes to Monica Lynne’s apartment building, where he waits for her to return from the TV studio. When she arrives, he implores her not to appear on a follow-up broadcast tomorrow, as he intends to take down the Sons of the Serpent. The Black Panther then stalks the city until he finds some members of the hate group on the waterfront. He manages to infiltrate their group and thus gets a ride to their secret base submerged in the harbor. When they arrive, however, his deception is discovered and he is taken prisoner.

Throughout the next day, T’Challa is kept in chains and forced to watch TV coverage of a Black Panther impostor going on a lawless rampage. He realizes the Sons of the Serpent are trying to use the image of a militant black superhero to frighten white people into supporting their cause. Eventually, Dan Dunn’s show comes on again, and T’Challa sees that Monica Lynne has disregarded his advice and agreed to appear. A heated exchange between Dunn and Montague Hale about the Black Panther’s vigilantism nearly becomes a fistfight. The Sons of the Serpent then transport the bound T’Challa to an abandoned TV studio, where they plan to unmask him during a pirate broadcast. However, T’Challa begins to figure out what’s really going on when he realizes there are two different men dressed in the uniform of the Supreme Serpent. Thus, when the Avengers come to the rescue, T’Challa exposes the Black Panther impostor as a white man and reveals that the two Supreme Serpents are none other than Dunn and Hale, who staged their animosity to cover their subversive activities. Monica is disgusted that Hale has betrayed the civil rights movement and decides to put the fight for equality above her singing career. Impressed, T’Challa vows to do all he can for the cause as well.

The next day, T’Challa is doing business at a Manhattan bank when it is robbed by a gang called the Split-Second Squad. He manages to slip away and change into the Black Panther, but the crooks incapacitate him with a sedative gas and escape. A couple days later, the Black Panther joins Captain America, Goliath, and the Vision at a Brooklyn pier to see off Yellowjacket and the Wasp, who, along with their friend Bill Foster, are leaving to head up a government research project in Alaska. Once the ship has departed, the Avengers are suddenly accosted by Quicksilver, who tells them that the Scarlet Witch has been kidnapped by an extradimensional barbarian named Arkon, who has also kidnapped numerous nuclear physicists. Unable to breach the dimensional barrier on their own, the Avengers call in Thor and Iron Man for help. Using the power of Thor’s enchanted hammer, the Avengers travel to Arkon’s otherworldly realm of Polemachus and storm his fortress. When Arkon transports himself and the Scarlet Witch to Earth, the Black Panther, Goliath, Vision, and Quicksilver pursue them while the older Avengers remain behind to free the kidnapped scientists and solve the energy crisis that prompted Arkon’s incursion in the first place. With no further need for hostilities, Arkon departs peacefully and the Avengers regroup back at their headquarters. Cap introduces the Black Panther and the Vision to Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, who say they are ready to rejoin the team.

In the morning, the Avengers receive an urgent call for help from the Air Force’s Desert Base in New Mexico. The Black Panther, Goliath, Vision, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch take a Quinjet and fly out west. When they arrive, they meet with General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross, who informs them that the Hulk is moving westward through the Mole Man’s system of tunnels and must be stopped before he reaches the San Andreas Fault. Immediately, they head northwest in an Air Force VTOL cargo jet, which carries a massive device called a gammatron bombarder, hoping to intercept the Hulk before he can trigger an earthquake. They begin setting up the machinery in a remote clearing in a forest in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Soon they detect the Hulk directly below them, and the Vision passes down through the ground by using his power to alter his body’s density. Moments later, the Vision reappears with the Hulk in hot pursuit. The Avengers attack the green behemoth, trying to draw him between the two units of the gammatron bombarder. As soon as Goliath is able to lure the Hulk into position, the Black Panther switches on the gamma radiation. Unfortunately, instead of changing back into Bruce Banner as planned, the Hulk breaks free, destroys the device, and disappears into the distance before the astonished Avengers can react. Though they failed to capture the Hulk, the Avengers are satisfied that they prevented a major disaster. They return to Desert Base, pick up their Quinjet, and are soon back in New York.

Two days later, T’Challa is at Avengers Mansion when they receive a visit from Tony Stark, who is fighting off a hostile takeover by an unscrupulous businessman named Cornelius Van Lunt. Stark explains that the Avengers must raise $120,000 in back rent on the mansion immediately to help keep Stark Industries afloat during the crisis. T’Challa apologizes for being unable to open Wakanda’s coffers for such a purpose and regrets that he will not be able to participate in the team’s fundraising efforts due to his job as a teacher. The next evening, though, T’Challa does agree to help the Scarlet Witch remove a metal belt that Arkon had locked around her waist. Though the extradimensional alloy proves to be a challenge to his technical skills, T’Challa finally manages to cut it off without injuring her. The Scarlet Witch then rushes off to promote the Avengers’ cause on a nationally televised talk show. Two days after that, Quicksilver informs T’Challa that Van Lunt has offered to drop his attempt to bankrupt Stark if the Avengers would perform certain menial labors for him. However, he suspects that their next job, repairing a condemned tunnel under the East River, may be a death-trap. T’Challa agrees to have the Avengers’ submarine standing by near the tunnel. Quicksilver’s suspicions are borne out when, seconds after the team sneaks out of the tunnel, a series of explosive charges causes it to collapse. The Avengers are now convinced that Van Lunt is the mastermind behind the Split-Second Squad, and sure enough, they find the crooks attempting to steal a shipment of gold bars. Though they make short work of the Split-Second Squad, the Avengers are startled to discover their hooded leader is not Van Lunt after all, but a revenge-minded employee of his seeking to frame the tycoon. Disgusted by the whole affair, the Avengers return home.

After school, T’Challa stops in the Harlem office where Monica Lynne does her day job as a social worker. She’s tired and upset, and they argue. T’Challa then continues on to Avengers Mansion, where he is surprised to learn that Captain America was just attacked outside by the Man-Ape. He realizes N’Gamo must have healed M’Baku after he was seemingly crushed by the panther totem last month. Sure enough, M’Baku suddenly appears on their video monitor, revealing that he’s kidnapped Monica and challenging T’Challa to fight him. Over his teammates’ objections, the Black Panther sets out alone and tracks his foe to a large vessel hovering low in the night sky above Manhattan. Since the ship is not of Wakandan design, T’Challa wonders where M’Baku could have obtained it. Upon boarding the ship, the Black Panther is ambushed by the Man-Ape, whose superhuman strength seems even greater than before. Even so, T’Challa overcomes both M’Baku and N’Gamo, only to be caught off guard by an exploding mannequin disguised as Monica. When he regains consciousness, T’Challa finds he has been chained up and brought to an abandoned subway line, where he meets M’Baku’s new partners-in-crime: the Grim Reaper, the Swordsman, the Living Laser, and Power Man. This “Lethal Legion,” as they call themselves, then leaves T’Challa and Monica imprisoned overnight in a dark room.

In the morning, T’Challa overhears the Lethal Legion plotting their multi-pronged attack on the Avengers. After the villains have left, a rather convenient power failure enables T’Challa to escape. He contacts the Avengers to warn them of their foes’ plans but uses the code “Prometheus Priority” to alert them that it’s probably an elaborate trap. His suspicions are confirmed when the Grim Reaper reappears, bragging that he wanted T’Challa to send the Avengers scrambling all over town so their forces would be divided. The villain then recaptures T’Challa by gassing him into unconsciousness. When he comes to, the Black Panther finds himself with Captain America, Goliath, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch inside a giant hourglass filled with poison fumes. However, the Vision arrives, disguised as Power Man, and tricks the Grim Reaper into smashing the glass and freeing them. The Lethal Legion proves no match for the combined might of the Avengers, and they are quickly apprehended. Unexpectedly, the Vision announces that he is resigning from the Avengers, claiming that a synthetic man has no place among flesh-and-blood people. He departs immediately, leaving T’Challa perplexed by his sudden decision. The Avengers free Monica from a cell, and T’Challa escorts her home. He is relieved to learn later that the Vision had gone to Andrew Jackson High School first thing that morning to inform them that “Luke Charles” would be absent.

Over the next week, T’Challa becomes frustrated that the Avengers aren’t doing more to combat ordinary crime in New York City when they’re not dealing with costumed menaces. This leads to a discussion among the full team about the best way the Avengers can serve the greater good of society. T’Challa states his position, but Cap, Thor, Iron Man, and Quicksilver believe the team should focus on global threats like the international crime syndicate Zodiac. The Vision has just returned hoping the team will help the Native American hero Red Wolf avenge the murder of his parents, for which he blames Cornelius Van Lunt, and Goliath and the Scarlet Witch side with them. Unable to reach a consensus, the Avengers decide to split their forces, and each faction goes its own way. A little over a day later, though, Zodiac seals the island of Manhattan behind an impenetrable force field and invades the city with an army of mercenaries, intent on holding it for ransom. Prowling the rooftops, the Black Panther becomes worried when the syndicate’s leader, Aries, announces that Cap, Thor, Iron Man, and Quicksilver have been taken prisoner. To slow the mercenary army down, T’Challa sabotages a power station, causing a blackout. He then runs into Daredevil, and they team up to try to free the Avengers from the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue, only to find the captive heroes have already been moved to Madison Square Garden to face public execution. There, Daredevil puts on some loud clothes and infiltrates the crowd in the arena, where he manages to use his billy club to sabotage the units keeping the four Avengers sedated. Once they’re free, the six heroes make short work of Zodiac’s forces, and as soon as the force field is disabled, the National Guard pours into the city to round up the mercenaries. When Aries makes a hasty retreat by aircraft, Thor pursues him. To stop Aries from turning his mysterious weapon, the Zodiac Key, on innocent bystanders, Thor summons down a lightning strike that blows up the villain’s ship, killing him and his henchmen. The Avengers and Daredevil then spend the rest of the day helping to repair some of the damage caused to Manhattan’s bridges and tunnels by the invasion. Comparing notes at Avengers Mansion later, the heroes are surprised to learn that the separate cases they had pursued were all, in fact, connected.

Hearing rumors of a kidnapping plot involving Professor T.W. Erwin of Miskatonic University, who is also serving as the grand marshal of the 11th annual Rutland, Vermont Halloween Parade, the Black Panther, Goliath, the Vision, and Quicksilver head up to the small town to check it out. When they arrive, one of the parade’s organizers, Tom Fagan, asks them to ride on a special parade float. During the festivities, they spot Klaw, the Melter, the Radioactive Man, and Whirlwind attempting to grab Professor Erwin, and a destructive brawl breaks out. The Masters of Evil gain the upper hand, only for the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Widow, and Medusa to arrive and turn the tables. However, as soon as they have defeated the villains, the super-heroines attack the male Avengers and knock them out as well. When he comes to, T’Challa finds himself and his male teammates tied up in Professor Erwin’s laboratory, where the elderly scientist is explaining his parallel-time projector to a warrior woman called the Valkyrie. However, the Valkyrie soon reveals herself to be Thor’s old enemy, the Enchantress, in disguise. She hopes to use the parallel-time projector to return to Asgard, from which she has been banished. When she learned the Masters of Evil also planned to steal the device, she explains, she used her sorcery to make the four super-heroines her pawns. Luckily, the Scarlet Witch breaks free of the Enchantress’s spell and uses her mutant hex power to hurl the villainess into the parallel-time projector. There is a tremendous explosion, and when the smoke clears, the Avengers find nothing but a smoking crater in the floor. The other women are thus freed from the spells that ensorcelled them. Goliath’s snide remarks prompt the Scarlet Witch to complain that her male teammates could use a dose of feminist enlightenment. Unfortunately, the Masters of Evil have escaped, so the heroes return to New York, where the Wasp, the Black Widow, and Medusa go their separate ways. T’Challa is frustrated that Klaw has once again slipped through his fingers.

November 1964 – While stalking the streets late on election night, the Black Panther comes across a group of police officers searching for Daredevil. The newly-elected district attorney, Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, recruits the Black Panther to help find the missing hero, who is suffering from blood-poisoning. T’Challa tracks Daredevil to the apartment of Nelson’s law partner, Matt Murdock, where he finds Murdock’s girlfriend Karen Page being held at gunpoint by a roboticist called Starr Saxon. Daredevil knocks Saxon out, then Nelson arrives with the police and a doctor who checks Daredevil over. Apparently, a gash on his hand has allowed Daredevil to bleed off the contaminated blood, saving his life. To T’Challa’s surprise, Daredevil declines to incriminate Saxon and hesitates when Saxon makes a break for it, allowing him to escape. Ignoring Nelson’s demands for an explanation, Daredevil goes after Saxon. The Black Panther offers to help, but Daredevil asks him not to interfere. Concerned about Daredevil’s behavior, T’Challa decides to follow him discreetly. Observing a rooftop meeting of the two men, T’Challa learns that Saxon has discovered that Daredevil is Matt Murdock and is threatening to expose his secret identity. With no evidence to tie Saxon to the murder of mob boss “Biggie” Benson, Daredevil reluctantly lets him go. T’Challa notes that Daredevil seems very conflicted about the situation and decides not to confront him about it. Instead, he makes a surreptitious exit and goes home to watch the election returns. T’Challa is disappointed when Republican Senator Morris N. Richardson defeats President Lyndon B. Johnson after running a campaign laced with racial animus as well as inflammatory anti-mutant rhetoric. He worries that the tenor of public discourse in the United States seems to be turning uglier every day

A few days later, Matt Murdock is reported killed in an airplane crash, but when Daredevil continues to plague the criminal underworld, T’Challa realizes it must be a ruse to outmaneuver Saxon. Indeed, about a week later, Murdock turns up alive, whereupon Nelson claims that Murdock’s death was faked as part of a scheme to defeat the supervillain called Mister Fear. Nothing ever comes of Saxon’s threats. T’Challa wonders if Nelson is aware of Murdock’s dual identity.

The Black Panther spots an intruder breaking into Avengers Mansion and attacks him from behind, only to discover that it’s Hercules, a former member of the team. Hercules is ready to fight, but Goliath, the Vision, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch turn up and defuse the situation. Hercules then reports that an all-pervasive terror has been induced in him as a punishment by his angry father, Zeus. He is being pursued by a sinister entity known as the Huntsman, who is the instrument of his father’s wrath. The Avengers offer to help, but Hercules insists it’s too dangerous. Suddenly, the Huntsman appears and uses his magic staff to render the Avengers helpless. In a mad panic, Hercules smashes his way out of the mansion and disappears into the night as the Huntsman sets off after him.

When Andrew Jackson High School closes for a four-day weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving, T’Challa decides to return to Wakanda to see how things are going there. N’Baza seems weak but insists he has everything under control. Even so, T’Challa faces mounting pressure to come home to stay. Chafing against the demands placed on him, T’Challa returns to New York to be ready to teach school on Monday morning.

December 1964 – One evening, the Black Panther is prowling the neighborhood near Andrew Jackson High School when he hears an argument on the playground. He finds one of his students, Lonnie Carver, and his older brother, Billy Carver, being pressured to join the Thunderbolts street gang. Unwilling to take no for an answer, the gang’s leader assaults Billy, who refuses to fight back, saying he’s had his fill of violence after serving in Vietnam. Impressed, the Black Panther intervenes and drives off the gang. When the Black Panther complements Billy, he notices Lonnie’s eyes light up—he knows how excited the boy has been for his brother to come home from the war. Thus, it comes as a surprise about a week later when Lonnie’s attitude toward school takes a sudden turn for the worse. He loses interest in the course material and increasingly becomes a discipline problem. Concerned, T’Challa decides to keep an eye on Lonnie for the time being.

When the Scarlet Witch has a dream about the Black Knight being killed by Arkon, the Black Panther, Goliath, the Vision, and Quicksilver decide to try to contact the Britain-based Avenger. They become concerned when they are unable to reach him and decide to investigate. Realizing they’ll need the power of Thor’s enchanted hammer to get to the extradimensional realm of Polemachus, T’Challa volunteers to go out and find the thunder god. He soon succeeds, but as they approach Avengers Mansion, the entire building suddenly vanishes. An image of the Enchantress appears in the sky and taunts Thor, so he uses his hammer to create a spacetime vortex that carries him and the Black Panther to Arkon’s capital city. As Thor launches a blistering attack on Arkon’s troops, the Black Panther tracks down the rest of the Avengers and frees them from a dungeon. Hopelessly outnumbered, the Avengers are on the verge of defeat when the Enchantress loses her hold on the Black Knight while distracted by the Scarlet Witch. The Black Knight immediately switches sides, and the Enchantress, realizing the Avengers have turned the tide, teleports away to safety. When he sees that the sorceress has abandoned him, Arkon declares an end to the fighting. Thor then generates a spacetime vortex large enough to carry Avengers Mansion back to Earth, calling on Odin for assistance. However, while the Black Knight is returned to England and Thor and the Black Panther materialize with the mansion in New York, there is no sign of their other four teammates.

Before they can mount a search, the Black Panther and Thor remember they are due to participate in a Toys-for-Tots program sponsored by the United States Marine Corps. For the next few hours, they join Captain America and Spider-Man in distributing toys to underprivileged children. Later, Thor uses the energies of his hammer to power an interdimensional scanner that Iron Man has brought over from Stark Industries to search for their missing teammates. After many hours, Goliath, the Vision, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch are located and brought home. They relate how they had somehow been diverted to a parallel world, where they saved the earth alongside heroic versions of the Squadron Sinister called the Squadron Supreme. As the team heads upstairs for some refreshments, T’Challa receives an urgent call from Taku in Wakanda. Taku reports that N’Baza has died, leaving T’Challa stunned by the news. Realizing he may have to give up both his place in the Avengers and his teaching job, T’Challa joins his teammates in the mansion’s living room. He regales them with the tale of how he became the Black Panther and exposed B’Tumba’s treachery before announcing his bad news. T’Challa then goes out to be alone among the rooftops of the city to ponder his future. Once again, he realizes, the throne feels more like a prison than a privilege.

The Black Panther attends a meeting of the Avengers with Captain America, Goliath, Thor, Iron Man, the Vision, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch. Afterwards, Goliath, Thor, and Iron Man head to the Caribbean to protect an experimental weather-control station for the United Nations while T’Challa and the others make a television appearance for charity. When the trio returns, they report that they battled the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, and the Sub-Mariner until some Atlantean scientists convinced them the project needed to be shut down. The Avengers then hold their third annual Christmas charity benefit, at which Cap introduces his new partner, the Falcon, to his teammates. T’Challa admits to a bit of jealousy toward the Falcon, as his students in Harlem seem to be bigger fans of their homegrown hero than they are of the Black Panther. The two men hit it off and enjoy discussing their different approaches to the issues facing the Harlem community. Then, over the next week, T’Challa begins making arrangements to return to Wakanda, planning to leave New York by the middle of January.


Notes:

March 1964 – The Black Panther teams up with the Inhumans and half the Fantastic Four to battle the microscopic menace of Psycho-Man in Fantastic Four Annual #5. The shockwave that ended T’Challa’s fight with the illusory panther-monster was generated by Gorgon stamping his hooves.

April 1964 – The Black Panther and Captain America join forces against the phony Baron Zemo in Tales of Suspense #97–99 and Captain America #100. The title change occurred due to favorable business conditions that allowed Marvel to move away from double-feature books. The story also weaves in and out of Avengers #51, which occurs simultaneously. T’Challa is then inducted into the Avengers and appears in Avengers #52 and following. T’Challa credits himself as one of the world’s richest men, so it seems unlikely to me that he would room at Avengers Mansion and eat Jarvis’s cooking when he could have his own place, though the evidence is inconclusive. The Wasp’s chauffeur, “Charles Matthews,” is secretly the supervillain Whirlwind.

May 1964 – The Avengers’ assault on Magneto’s island fortress detours briefly into Uncanny X-Men #45.

July 1964 – The Fourth-of-July picnic at Avengers Mansion occurs behind the scenes and is suggested by the date. Due to the machinations of the Scarlet Centurion, the Avengers do not travel back into their own past but into the parallel universe now known as Earth-689, which, incidentally, is the same world depicted in Avengers Annual #2 and What If? #4. However, Captain America does not remember the events of that night clearly enough (partly from the trauma itself and partly because of his post-cryogenic amnesia) to realize it, despite there being significant differences in how the events played out. The most important difference is that the Captain America of Earth-689 is killed by the same explosion that kills Bucky. The Avengers then travel to the 1964 of Earth-689 in Avengers Annual #2, where they battle the Scarlet Centurion and their own counterparts. As the Avengers finally return to their own reality, though, the Watcher erases their memories of this adventure, since the Scarlet Centurion, Pharaoh Rama-Tut, Kang the Conqueror, and Immortus are all the same person. Later, the Black Panther looks on as Jarvis meets the Vision in one of the many flashbacks in Avengers #280.

September 1964 – Captain America’s premature funeral is held in Captain America #113. The battle in Drearcliff Cemetery continues in the flashback in Avengers #106. In addition to M’Baku and N’Gamo, Avengers #62 also introduces T’Challa’s ally W’Kabi. The white gorillas of the Wakandan highlands must have been mutated by vibranium exposure, just like the heart-shaped herb that gives the Black Panther his powers, so that by consuming their flesh and blood M’Baku gains superhuman strength. This is doubtless why the cult of the white gorilla has long been suppressed. The Black Panther has a cameo in Sub-Mariner #14 in a montage of heroes listening to Egghead’s broadcast, then appears briefly at the beginning of Captain America #114, when the Avengers talk about Cap behind his back. T’Challa’s meeting with N’Jadaka, who will return in a few years as Erik Killmonger, is depicted in flashbacks in Jungle Action #7 and #16. T’Challa is unaware that Killmonger’s snake-loving henchman Horatio Walters, a.k.a. Venomm, has stowed away aboard the Quinjet and is thereby smuggled into Wakanda. The nature and intent of the foreign incursion seen in Avengers #68 is not clearly explained in the story, but this scenario makes the most sense to me. This is also the issue that introduces Taku.

October 1964 – The Invaders’ battle with the Black Panther, Yellowjacket, and the Vision is revisited, with a few extra details added, in Invaders Annual #1. Silas X. Cragg drops by Avengers Mansion in Captain America #121. The Avengers attempt to capture the Hulk in Hulk #128. T’Challa helps the Scarlet Witch with her metal belt behind the scenes during Avengers #77. For more information, see OMU: Scarlet Witch – Part Three. When the Black Panther and Daredevil team up against the forces of Zodiac, T’Challa has not yet learned the Man Without Fear’s secret identity, so they probably meet on the rooftops of the city after the Black Panther has caused the blackout to slow the invasion down. Also, though they mention battling the Thunderbolts gang, that doesn’t actually happen until next January.

November 1964 – The Black Panther guest-stars in Daredevil #52. Yellowjacket’s appearance in this issue is an error, as he’s off in Alaska. T’Challa was probably actually speaking with the Vision. Daredevil’s scheme to prevent Starr Saxon from exposing his secret identity plays out over the next couple of issues. The presidential election occurs behind the scenes. For more on Morris N. Richardson, see OMU: POTUS – Part Three. Hercules returns to the mansion briefly in a bizarre little story published in Ka-Zar Quarterly #1. I assume T’Challa went home to Wakanda over the Thanksgiving break since he was not present in that flashback in Avengers #280.

December 1964 – The Carver brothers come to T’Challa’s attention in the flashback in Daredevil #69. He is unaware that meeting the Black Panther inspires Billy Carver to secretly contact District Attorney Nelson and volunteer to infiltrate the Thunderbolts gang, which triggers the change in Lonnie’s attitude. T’Challa’s reminiscences about his origins following news of N’Baza’s death bring us up to Avengers #87. The Black Panther then has a brief cameo in Sub-Mariner #35. The Avengers’ Christmas party—and the Black Panther’s first meeting with the Falcon—occurs behind the scenes. T’Challa’s students expressed their preference for the Falcon back in Avengers #77.


Jump Back: The Black Panther – Year One

Next Issue: The Black Panther – Year Three


Sunday

OMU: Black Panther -- Year One

The Black Panther is credited as being the first black superhero, certainly the first from a major comic book publisher, and was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at the peak of their landmark run on Fantastic Four in 1966. As he was initially intended as a supporting character, information about T’Challa’s background and history emerged slowly, with major elements of his origin story not being revealed until five years later. Little was seen of his kingdom of Wakanda at first, and we met few other Wakandan characters until the Black Panther finally received a solo feature in 1973. Still, he paved the way for a long line of black heroes and heroines to follow.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale). Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Now on the prowl with… The True History of the Black Panther!


June 1963 – T’Challa, heir to the throne of the small African nation of Wakanda, graduates from a university in the United States, where he has been pursuing an advanced degree under the pseudonym “Luke Charles.” Along with his constant companion, a cousin named B’Tumba, T’Challa then returns to Wakanda, which has been ruled in his stead by a regent, his uncle N’Baza. T’Challa has long harbored suspicions that N’Baza means to keep the throne for himself and has been scheming to get rid of T’Challa ever since he left the country to attend college following the death of his father, King T’Chaka. However, since B’Tumba is N’Baza’s son, T’Challa has kept his suspicions to himself.

Arriving outside the royal palace in Wakanda’s central village, T’Challa and B’Tumba are greeted by N’Baza with much pomp and circumstance. N’Baza announces that T’Challa must face two final challenges before becoming king, the first of which is the traditional ritual combat. For the match, N’Baza dons the sacred garb of the Black Panther, and T’Challa likewise wears a ritual mask. As numerous drummers beat out a martial rhythm, T’Challa and N’Baza each best a number of challengers before facing off in single combat. To the amazement of the crowd, T’Challa quickly defeats N’Baza and claims the title of Black Panther. When T’Challa removes his mask, the Wakandans cheer his victory, thrilled that the son of King T’Chaka has passed the first test.

After passing a night of vigil in the temple of the Panther God, T’Challa is ready to face the second challenge, which is to climb the mountain where the mysterious heart-shaped herb grows. When ingested, the herb will imbue him with the powers of the Panther God and thereby grant him the divine right to rule Wakanda. Retrieving the sacred garb of the Black Panther from the base of a large panther totem, T’Challa puts it on and heads out into the jungle alone. Having learned that B’Tumba was sent away during the night, T’Challa assumes that N’Baza is planning some treachery and wants the prince to be without his greatest ally. Fighting off various wild animals as he goes, T’Challa crosses the jungle and makes the dangerous ascent to find the heart-shaped herb. Once he has consumed it, he feels his strength and agility rapidly increasing and realizes he has truly become the Black Panther at last.

Hearing foreign voices nearby, T’Challa goes to investigate and discovers a small refinery containing highly advanced technology. It is staffed by men in strange yellow “beekeeper” uniforms who reveal themselves to be agents of an organization called Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.), though T’Challa has never heard of it. Still, it is clear they are attempting to steal a supply of vibranium, the extraterrestrial ore that is the kingdom’s most fiercely guarded secret—a crime they could not commit without the help of a Wakandan traitor. Enraged, the Black Panther attacks them, only to be defeated by a sonic cannon. He is then marched at gunpoint into the refinery, convinced that N’Baza has betrayed their people. However, T’Challa quickly learns that it is B’Tumba who has sold the secret of vibranium, having been recruited into A.I.M. when they were both in college. Tired of living in T’Challa’s shadow, B’Tumba now seeks to seize the throne for himself. Luckily, when the moment comes to murder his childhood friend, B’Tumba is unable to bring himself to do it. Instead, he frees T’Challa, intent on making A.I.M. pay for turning his youthful jealousy into mad ambition and base treachery. In the ensuing battle, the Black Panther defeats all the A.I.M. agents, but B’Tumba is mortally wounded. Dying, he declares that N’Baza was always loyal and begs T’Challa not to tell his father of his treason. Feeling ashamed of himself for suspecting N’Baza for so long, T’Challa finds it in his heart to forgive B’Tumba. The A.I.M. agents are then taken into custody to face Wakandan justice and the stolen vibranium is recovered.

Settling into his reign, T’Challa gets to know some of his royal advisors, such as N’Gassi, Taku, and Zatama. He also strikes up a friendship with W’Kabi, captain of the palace guard. The royal physician Mendinao administers the extracts of the heart-shaped herb that maintain T’Challa’s panther-powers and becomes a trusted friend. T’Challa is also reunited with his estranged half-brother Jakarra, who is an officer in the military serving under Wakanda’s foremost warrior, M’Baku. T’Challa’s other cousins, Khanata, Ishanta, Zuni, and Joshua Itobo, are busy with their own affairs and have little interest in royal matters. The new king immediately orders construction begun on a modern hospital facility near the palace and introduces other modernization initiatives, some of which are considered controversial.

July 1963 – T’Challa begins building what he refers to as a “technological jungle” in the vicinity of the royal palace, a complex of fantastic machinery of his own design. He becomes concerned late in the month when the entire sky is suddenly engulfed in flames. Though his people are terrified, T’Challa determines that the fire poses no immediate danger. When the flames vanish as mysteriously as they appeared, T’Challa suspects they may have been illusory. Other strange aerial phenomena appear in the following days, but T’Challa’s sensor scans remain inconclusive.

August 1963 – T’Challa continues to monitor the situation as a curtain of space debris circles the globe for a few days, darkening the skies with asteroids. The phenomenon ends abruptly when a gigantic alien appears in New York City and is driven off by the Fantastic Four. T’Challa is very impressed with the heroic quartet, realizing that they have just averted a global apocalypse.

October 1963 – Learning from intelligence reports that the unscrupulous Dutch scientist Ulysses Klaw is planning to make a second attempt to invade Wakanda and steal its vibranium, T’Challa remembers the disastrous events of ten years before. His father, King T’Chaka, had only just initiated him into the secrets of the sacred vibranium mound when Klaw and his army of mercenaries crossed their borders. T’Chaka led a party of warriors out to halt the invaders’ advance, only to be cut down by machine guns. Hearing the gunfire, T’Challa, then a scrawny lad of 16, slipped out of the main village as Klaw’s men stormed in and made his way to where his father’s body lay. Swearing vengeance, T’Challa ambushed a mercenary carrying a strange weapon and turned it on the invaders, discovering that it unleashed devastating sonic blasts. With their machine guns shattering under the sonic barrage, Klaw’s men fled, though they had already put the village to the torch. When Klaw tried to disarm the young prince, T’Challa fired the weapon at him, shattering his foe’s pistol and his right hand with it. Even so, before retreating into the jungle, Klaw vowed to one day return and seize control of the vibranium mound to power even more deadly sonic weapons. Now that that day has finally come, T’Challa decides to test his mettle against none other than the Fantastic Four.

Thus, he sends an emissary to deliver a specially-designed aero-car to the team’s Baxter Building headquarters in New York City. The emissary soon reports back that the Fantastic Four were duly impressed and have accepted the invitation to Wakanda. When the aero-car returns with the team aboard, T’Challa guides it to a gentle landing inside his technological jungle. He notes that the Fantastic Four have brought along a friend, college student Wyatt Wingfoot, but thinks it unlikely to upset his plans. Dressed in his sacred garb, the Black Panther then pits himself against Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Human Torch, and the Thing. He is relieved to see Wingfoot fleeing the scene, not wanting any harm to come to the youth. The Black Panther quickly incapacitates the Human Torch and the Invisible Girl, then tricks the Thing into refreshing himself with a special fluid that saps his great strength. Leaving the Thing stunned by a blast from a cryogenic device, the Black Panther shuts off the lights for his duel with Mister Fantastic. No sooner has he captured his last opponent, though, than the Black Panther is attacked by the Human Torch again. T’Challa realizes that Wingfoot, whom he dismissed as a threat, has helped the Fantastic Four get free and regroup. Impressed, T’Challa unmasks and introduces himself to his guests, inviting them to an elaborate feast in the royal palace.

After the banquet, T’Challa explains to his guests about the nature of vibranium and Klaw’s plans to steal it. Mister Fantastic immediately grasps the implications of such a substance falling into the wrong hands, but the Thing merely grumbles about everything, clearly annoyed at having been brought to the country under false pretenses. Suddenly, an alarm sounds, indicating that Klaw has made his move. Learning that a defensive outpost has been destroyed, the Fantastic Four race off to investigate, only to be attacked by giant animal constructs made of solid sound. Realizing that Klaw would need a large complex of machinery to create such monsters, T’Challa decides to check out Wakanda’s largest cave system. Sure enough, the Black Panther discovers Klaw’s secret lair and confronts the villain. Klaw reveals that he now wears a sonic weapon as a prosthesis over his crippled right hand and uses it to keep the Black Panther at bay. Activating his massive sonic converter, Klaw creates a gigantic panther construct and unleashes it on T’Challa, but the king is able to outfight it with his superhuman strength and agility. Frustrated, Klaw diverts all power to the weapon on his arm, but the Black Panther causes the master control panel to overload, starting a chain reaction of explosions. Leaving Klaw trapped, the Black Panther races from the caverns as the entire hill is blown to bits by the unharnessed sonic energy. Watching the cave system collapse under tons of rubble, T’Challa is satisfied that his father’s murder has at last been avenged.

After the Fantastic Four treat the Wakandans to an exhibition of baseball, T’Challa hosts a relaxing dinner at the palace, where they are entertained by a world-renowned concert pianist. The young king also showers his guests with all manner of fabulous gifts, from the latest Paris fashions to high-tech exercise equipment. Noticing that the Human Torch has been brooding about something all day, T’Challa asks if there’s anything he can do to help. The Torch explains that his girlfriend Crystal and her people, the Inhumans, are trapped in their hidden refuge in the Himalayas by an impenetrable force field. He means to return to the site to make another attempt to free them, and when Wyatt Wingfoot volunteers to accompany the Torch on his quest, T’Challa offers them his Gyro-Cruiser, a vehicle of fantastic design. Shocked by such incredible generosity, the two young men board the Gyro-Cruiser and set off on their journey, heading north towards the Sahara Desert. Soon after, Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, and the Thing take the aero-car and fly it back to New York City. Gratified to have made such wonderful friends and allies, T’Challa turns his attention back to affairs of state.

Not long after, T’Challa receives a desperate radio message from Mister Fantastic, who reveals that Klaw escaped from the cave-in, apparently by converting himself into a being composed of solid sound, and has attacked the Baxter Building. He requests that a pair of “vibranium knuckles” be sent at once, so T’Challa has the items delivered to Mister Fantastic in a matter of minutes using a high-speed mini-missile. Shortly, Mister Fantastic contacts T’Challa again to report that Klaw has been captured and the Thing has crushed his sonic weapon. T’Challa agrees to construct a special vibranium holding cell and have it shipped to New York as soon as possible, as it seems unlikely that an ordinary jail could hold Klaw for long in his new form.

November 1963 – When the notorious supervillain Doctor Doom gains cosmic powers and goes on a worldwide rampage, T’Challa sends the Fantastic Four his fastest aircraft. He then contacts them en route to Doom’s kingdom of Latveria and advises them on the ship’s capabilities. Unfortunately, Doom utterly destroys the ship as soon as it reaches him. Luckily, as T’Challa learns afterwards, the Fantastic Four were able to bail out and defeat Doctor Doom despite his new powers, which were then stripped from him. T’Challa knows that, once again, Wakanda—and, indeed, the world—owes its survival to his friends, the Fantastic Four. This starts him thinking that there must be a way for the Black Panther to be of greater service to humanity than merely reigning over a small, isolated kingdom. He decides to watch for the next few months to see if such an opportunity presents itself.


Notes:

June 1963 – We get a couple glimpses of T’Challa during his college days in flashbacks in Avengers #77 and #87. The latter issue also features extended flashbacks of T’Challa’s return to Wakanda with B’Tumba and his discovery that his old friend is an agent of A.I.M. This occurs several months before the world discovers that A.I.M. is a subversive organization in Strange Tales #149. The ritual combat with N’Baza, who is dressed as the Black Panther, is depicted in a flashback in Black Panther #8. The other Wakandans will be introduced in subsequent stories. The Panther God worshiped in Wakanda is a composite figure of the goddess Bast and her son Mahes, descendants of the primal god Thoth and therefore members of the Egyptian pantheon.

July–August 1963 – The strange aerial phenomena are created by the Watcher in an attempt to hide Earth from Galactus, as seen in Fantastic Four #48–50.

October 1963 – The Black Panther is introduced in Fantastic Four #52–54 when he draws the team into his conflict with Ulysses Klaw. Mister Fantastic then contacts T’Challa to request help against Klaw in Fantastic Four #56.

November 1963 – T’Challa again lends aid to the Fantastic Four when Doctor Doom steals the Silver Surfer’s cosmic powers in Fantastic Four #60. It is shortly after this that T’Challa would have learned of the assassination of American president John F. Kennedy, which satisfies my initial research question as far as the Black Panther is concerned.


OMU Note: The final canonical appearance of the Black Panther is in Avengers #339.


Next Issue: The Black Panther – Year Two


Thursday

OMU: Captain America -- Year Five

Captain America reaches a turning point during the next twelve months of his life, when everything he believes in is suddenly called into question. Up to that fateful moment, he’s having a pretty good year for a superhero, actively involved with the Avengers and maintaining his crimefighting partnership with the Falcon despite the racially charged atmosphere. Then everything goes off the rails at the climax of the epic storyline that Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema concocted as a response to the infamous Watergate scandal. The resolution of the story, clearly a bit of dark wish-fulfilment on the part of the creators, sets up the extended dissection of Steve Rogers’ character that will follow.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Continuing on with... The True History of Captain America!


January 1966 – On the first day of the year, Captain America is at Avengers Mansion with Thor and Iron Man. They discuss news reports of an upcoming grudge match at Shea Stadium between the Thing and a mystery woman called Thundra. Having heard that Thundra kidnapped the Thing’s girlfriend, Alicia Masters, last night as the Fantastic Four watched helplessly, Cap wonders if the Thing will be able to win the fight. Three days later, the match ends inconclusively when the Thing unexpectedly reverts to his human form. Alicia is released unharmed shortly afterwards, and the public considers the much-hyped “battle of the sexes” to be rather anticlimactic.

Several days later, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision look on as Iron Man spars with the Black Panther in the Avengers’ combat-simulation room. Suddenly, Thor enters and summons the Scarlet Witch to the communications room, promising her tidings of great joy. The Avengers are pleased to find Quicksilver calling from the Great Refuge of the Inhumans. Standing next to him on the large viewscreen is Crystal, the Human Torch’s ex-girlfriend and a member of the Inhumans’ royal family. The Scarlet Witch is visibly relieved to learn that her twin brother is alive and well, and is thrilled to hear that Quicksilver and Crystal have fallen in love after she saved him from the Sentinels’ Australian base last October. However, when the Scarlet Witch reveals that she, too, has fallen in love—with the Vision—Quicksilver objects angrily, leading to an argument that makes the rest of the Avengers rather uncomfortable. After Quicksilver hangs up on her, the Scarlet Witch starts to cry and the Vision moves in to comfort her. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and the Black Panther move to the other end of the room to give the couple some space. Iron Man feels the team may be a bit shorthanded now that they’ve lost both Quicksilver and Hawkeye, but Thor dismisses his concerns. The discussion is cut short when the team receives a transmission from the X-Men’s secret headquarters, which has been trashed in a battle. The mutants’ leader, Professor Charles Xavier, speaks defiantly to the villain who is filming him, but then the screen goes dark. The Avengers agree to seek out the X-Men’s mansion and do what they can to help their fellow superheroes.

When they arrive at the secluded estate in Westchester County, the Avengers quickly discover Professor X, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Iceman in the wreckage, all of whom appear to be comatose. Iron Man carries out a winged man they assume to be the Angel, only to face four rampaging dinosaurs that are under the control of a sort of Pied Piper figure who emerges from the woods. After defeating the dinosaurs, the Avengers try to capture the Piper, but are stopped by Magneto, who is wearing the Angel’s black-and-white costume and laughing about how he fooled Iron Man with a pair of false wings. Announcing that he is abducting the X-Men, Magneto grabs the Scarlet Witch and uses his powers to send Iron Man crashing into Captain America, knocking them both out. When he regains consciousness later in the villain’s lair, Cap realizes Magneto has him and the others under some form of magnetically-induced mind control. Fortunately, however, Thor, the Black Panther, and the Vision seem to have escaped capture, and Cap remains confident that they will soon come to the rescue. Nevertheless, Cap is unable to resist when Magneto orders his new slaves aboard an airship and then flies them to another remote mansion where a meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission is being held. After easily defeating the Secret Service agents on the scene, the entranced heroes march the commissioners to the airship. Thor, the Black Panther, and the Vision charge in, accompanied by the Black Widow and Daredevil, but they fail to prevent Magneto from kidnapping the commissioners. Thor pursues Magneto’s airship but is forced to disengage when Iron Man dangles Cap out of the hatch. Cap is frustrated at being used like a puppet, but, try as he might, he cannot break free of Magneto’s control.

In his subterranean headquarters, Magneto rants and raves to the commissioners about his plan to inundate the world with radiation, thereby killing off 92% of the human race and turning the few survivors into mutants that he can rule. As the villain concentrates on taking over the minds of the commissioners, Cap is relieved when Thor, the Black Panther, the Black Widow, and Daredevil come crashing into the installation, though he and his fellow captives are forced to attack them. Magneto merely seems to find the battle amusing, and when he easily brings the Black Widow under his control, Cap gets worried. However, the Piper calmly walks up behind Magneto and knocks him out with a karate chop to the back of the neck. To Cap’s surprise, the Vision then phases out of the Piper’s body, explaining that he used his ability to alter his density to affect his own form of mind control. Professor X then places Magneto into a telepathically induced coma, freeing Cap and the others from the villain’s mental domination. The Professor is concerned when Iron Man notes that they found no trace of the Angel in the wrecked mansion, as his disappearance remains unexplained. The X-Men then take the unconscious Magneto and Piper back to their nearby headquarters. Captain America conveys the Avengers’ thanks to Daredevil and the Black Widow and offers them full membership on the team. Daredevil declines but the Black Widow accepts, causing a rift between them. Daredevil leaves in a huff, and later the Black Panther arranges for a Quinjet to take him back to San Francisco.

Soon after, a mob of African-American militants pounds on the front door of Avengers Mansion, demanding that the Black Panther come outside. Before the Avengers can react, the mob breaks down the door and opens fire with rifles. Cap deflects the bullets with his shield as Iron Man and the Scarlet Witch drive the mob back, but they continue to chant that the Black Panther must return to Africa, where his people need him. As the situation escalates, a man in a trenchcoat emerges from the crowd and forces the Black Panther to worship him. The man suddenly transforms into a gigantic armored demon who calls himself the “Lion God,” then teleports away with the Black Panther, leaving the mob disoriented and confused. As the crowd disperses, the frustrated Avengers realize the people had been entranced by the Lion God just as the Black Panther was. As the other Avengers head to their conference room for a strategy session, Cap leaves to consult with S.H.I.E.L.D. as to the identity of the kidnapper. Unfortunately, the spy agency is not able to shed any light on the matter. Later, Cap returns to Avengers Mansion and learns that the Lion God attacked his teammates shortly after he left, but Thor apparently disintegrated him with a lightning bolt. The Black Widow also tells Cap that she’s decided to return to San Francisco to work with Daredevil, preferring their partnership to being a member of a large group.

Captain America and the Falcon finally capture the last remnants of the Cowled Commander’s crime syndicate. But when Cap’s newfound super-strength makes him feel like a fifth wheel, Falcon storms off in a rage. However, Cap is distracted by reports of a supervillain terrorizing the New York Stock Exchange. He races to the scene and finds a man calling himself “Solarr” killing bystanders with heat rays from his body. During the ensuing fight, Cap realizes that Solarr needs to be in direct sunlight for his powers to work effectively. Thus, Cap quickly defeats him by dumping a gallon of all-weather exterior paint on his head and turns him over to the police. Spotting the Falcon swinging away from the scene on his grappling hook, Cap sets off after him, hoping to salvage their partnership. Unfortunately, the Falcon gives him the slip, and so, after a night of fruitless searching, Cap stops at Sharon Carter’s apartment. He feels bad that they have not reconciled since their spat late last month and decides to make amends. However, all he finds is a note from Sharon saying she will never see him again. Shocked, Cap returns to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and demands to know if they have any information as to her whereabouts. Nick Fury merely reminds him that Sharon resigned from the agency a few months ago. Frustrated, Cap heads back to Harlem, where he happens upon the Falcon and his girlfriend, Leila Taylor, being harassed by a street gang. Cap decides to hang back and let the Falcon deal with the situation on his own. After the Falcon has knocked out all the gang members, Cap offers his congratulations and patches things up with his partner, over Leila’s objections. Learning of Sharon’s abrupt disappearance, Falcon agrees to help search for her. By evening, they have determined that Sharon rented a car for a one-way trip to Connecticut and head up there to find her. En route, they are ambushed by a gang of armed mercenaries and beaten into unconsciousness.

When he comes to at dawn, Cap is surprised to find himself apparently in a bombed-out Parisian street, with the Falcon and Sharon nearby, both dressed in World War II era clothing. They are attacked by men in Gestapo uniforms, and during the battle Cap and Sharon kiss and make up. When one of their foes starts yelling in an obviously fake German accent, Cap realizes they’re fighting the same men who ambushed them on the highway. Suddenly, the conflict is interrupted by a woman’s blood-curdling scream, though Cap can’t see where it came from. He charges for the nearest building, only to be knocked out again by energy beams from a hidden source. He, Sharon, and the Falcon wake up later in a dungeon, where they are menaced by illusions, but they quickly break out and sneak through the darkened corridors of the building above. In a locked room they discover Sharon’s elderly parents, Harrison and Amanda Carter, who reveal that they were imprisoned by Doctor Faustus, confirming Cap’s suspicions. The Carters explain that Doctor Faustus lured them there by promising to cure their daughter of her mental disorder. Cap, naturally, assumes they mean Sharon, but she clarifies that they’re actually talking about her older sister, Peggy Carter—the woman Cap fell in love with during the liberation of Paris in 1944. Cap is thunderstruck by this revelation.

Sharon relates how Peggy was suffering from amnesia when she finally made it home from France after the war ended, but still called out for Captain America in her sleep. Eventually, her memory began to return, but then she was devastated by reports that Cap had been killed in action. She started dressing in black and wearing a veil over her face as a sign of mourning. After being further traumatized by news of another man posing as Captain America in the late ‘40s, Peggy retreated into a fugue state. Thus, on the advice of Peggy’s doctors, the family concealed from her the career of the impostor Captain America of the mid-1950s, and since he had been exposed as a fraud and sent to prison, they decided not to risk telling her of Cap’s return a little over three years ago. Having become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, though, Sharon set out to meet this “new” Captain America to find out more about him, only to fall in love with him in spite of herself. Feeling she had betrayed her sister, Sharon explains, she felt conflicted and often tried to distance herself from Cap, even though she believed Peggy would never know of their love affair. But when her parents told her a new doctor had promised to cure Peggy, Sharon felt she had no choice but to break off their relationship once and for all. His mind churning with conflicting emotions, Cap races outside and scales the tower where Peggy is being held, entering her dimly-lit room through the window. He finds her sitting quietly by the fireplace and approaches, calling her name. He gently lifts the veil from her face, and Peggy, having emerged from her near-catatonic state, recognizes him with tears welling in her eyes. Cap recognizes her as well, even though she’s now 40 years old, thin, and pale. Calling her by her old codename, “Mademoiselle,” the only name he’s ever known her by, Cap kisses her tenderly on the cheek.

Their reunion is interrupted when the gang of mercenaries comes charging up the stairs. Cap attacks them with his super-strength as they’re about to enter the room. When the henchmen have been defeated, Doctor Faustus appears and zaps Cap with the same directed-energy weapon he used against him earlier, but Peggy throws a heavy candlestick at Faustus and hits him in the face. The villain’s flunky charges up the stairs brandishing a knife, but Peggy drops him as well with a karate chop to the neck. Cap is impressed, then beats Faustus into unconsciousness and locks him and all his accomplices in one of the facility’s padded cells to await the police. Cap then leads Peggy to a reunion with her family in a nearby sitting room. Despite his criminal methods, Doctor Faustus has succeeded in bringing Peggy out of her fugue state, but the Carters are grateful to Cap for freeing her (and them) from the villain’s clutches. Peggy asks if Cap and the Falcon would be willing to stay with her for a little while, to help reintroduce her to the modern world, and the two superheroes say they would be glad to. Thus, Cap and the Falcon accompany the Carters back to their large estate in Virginia. When they arrive, Cap and Peggy go for a walk, and he tells her of how he spent 18 years after his disappearance frozen in ice until being revived by a team of modern-day superheroes called the Avengers, of which he is currently a member. He feels somewhat awkward, as he and Sharon have not yet told Peggy of their relationship, but before he can decide how to broach the subject, Peggy is taken aback by her reflection in a pond, saying she keeps forgetting that she’s now some 20 years older than her mental image of herself. They then come upon one of the Carters’ neighbors, Dave Cox, whose right arm has been amputated. Cox explains that he lost his arm fighting in Vietnam, where he was held as a P.O.W. until recently. The experience, he adds, has led him to become a strict pacifist. Cap is sympathetic but notes that Peggy seems put off by Cox’s attitudes.

The following day, Cap and the Falcon tell Peggy about the conflict in Vietnam, the overarching Cold War with the Soviet Union, and the ongoing Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Peggy seems genuinely pleased to learn that black people have made progress toward equality, to the Falcon’s relief. Even so, he decides to head back to Harlem to spend time with Leila. However, he changes his mind when the Cobra, the Eel, and the Viper suddenly crash through a bay window and attack them. The battle wrecks the Carters’ living room, and Cap’s hands are badly burned when he tries to grab the Eel’s electrified costume. Even so, the three men decide to retreat when Sharon comes charging into the room, knowing she’s a highly-trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. After putting out the couch-fire their foes started to cover their escape, Falcon goes out to search for them. Meanwhile, Peggy treats Cap’s burns and fusses over him, clearly making Sharon uncomfortable. She and Cap agree, though, not to say anything that might jeopardize Peggy’s mental state. Falcon returns late in the evening, and he and Cap agree that their foes are likely to strike again.

In the morning, Cap goes out to help the Falcon resume the search for the villainous trio, but quickly realizes his partner has taken it as a lack of faith in his abilities. Cap assures the Falcon that his injured hands will prevent him from doing any fighting and he just wants to help him cover a wider area. About an hour later, Peggy catches up to Cap, wanting to lend a hand, and he’s glad to have some company. By late afternoon, they find themselves at Dave Cox’s house, and he invites them in for coffee. The Cobra, the Eel, and the Viper soon attack, blowing a hole in the side of Cox’s house. Peggy implores Cox to use the rifle over his mantle to hold the villains off and accuses him of cowardice when he refuses. She’s ready to use the gun herself, but Cox reveals that he doesn’t have any ammunition for it—it’s merely a symbol to remind him of his pacifist convictions. Seeing the villains approaching, Cap yells at them to stop arguing and leaps into the rafters, telling Cox to keep the trio distracted until they are positioned directly below him. Bravely, Cox stands his ground when their foes break down the door, even though the Cobra shoots him with an energy weapon that causes intense pain. Cap then drops into the villains’ midst and manages to defeat the Cobra and the Viper before the Falcon arrives and captures the fleeing Eel. Peggy is impressed that Cox never cracked under pressure, and Cap tells her that Cox is no coward but a man who stands firm on his principles. The police soon arrive and take the Cobra, the Eel, and the Viper into custody. The Falcon goes back to Harlem the next day, but Cap agrees to stay on in Virginia to help Peggy with her recovery. A few days later, Cap phones Nick Fury and informs him of the situation with Sharon and her family.

February 1966 – In the middle of the month, Captain America returns to New York when he learns that Quicksilver has arrived at Avengers Mansion intending to talk his sister out of her love affair with the Vision. As expected, the discussion proves to be very contentious. The team’s butler, Edwin Jarvis, is serving Sunday brunch to Cap, Thor, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision when the entire building is suddenly transported to the 23rd century by Kang the Conqueror. With the element of surprise, Kang is able to knock out everyone in the mansion. Cap awakens sometime later to find himself and his teammates in the shattered remains of a bank of stasis tubes in Kang’s fortress. Iron Man is now among them, obviously having been captured as well. They have been freed by Black Bolt, Gorgon, Karnak, and Triton of the Inhumans, while Kang lies defeated under some rubble nearby. Spider-Man then enters, having captured Thor’s old foe Zarrko the Tomorrow Man. However, as Spider-Man hustles everyone out of the citadel for transport back to the 20th century, they discover that Kang tricked them with a robot double and made good his escape. The voice of the real Kang then mocks them over the loudspeaker. As Zarrko is turned over to the local authorities, Spider-Man explains how he and the Human Torch tracked down and destroyed three chronal-displacement bombs that Zarrko sent back to the 20th century to destroy civilization, after which Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus the Mad, was able to convert one of the bombs into a crude but effective time machine. Suddenly, with a blinding flash of light, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, Spider-Man, and Jarvis find themselves back on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, standing outside Avengers Mansion. Assuming the Inhumans returned directly to their Great Refuge in the Himalayas, Thor notes that the team owes them a profound debt of gratitude. Feeling slighted, Spider-Man makes a wise-ass remark and swings away. Entering their headquarters, the Avengers find they’ve been gone for two days. Realizing that his arguments are falling on deaf ears, Quicksilver returns to the Inhumans’ hidden city.

Cap, Thor, Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision respond when the Avengers are called in by the city to make repairs to the Statue of Liberty, which was heavily damaged by a giant monster a few months ago. A mishap causes the statue’s right hand to break off and plummet toward the Scarlet Witch. The Vision swoops in to rescue her as their teammates deal with the falling debris. To the shock of the crowds watching from below, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch embrace and kiss. By the time the heroes return to Avengers Mansion, news of the romance between the mutant woman and the android man has spread like wildfire. The next day, they receive mountains of mail expressing all manner of views on the relationship, much of it negative. Cap is shocked and offended by some of the rhetoric of religious fundamentalists who see the match as the work of the devil. Some of New York’s more obnoxious residents appear at the mansion’s front door, but Iron Man and the Black Panther send them away. After a few days, the hubbub dies down.

March 1966 – Still splitting his time between New York and Virginia, Captain America joins Thor, Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision when they go out to stop a gang of neo-Nazis that is beating up Jews in the street. The Avengers make short work of the neo-Nazis, but suddenly they are rushed by a suicide bomber who detonates the explosives strapped to her chest and seriously damages the Vision. Cradling the Vision in his arms, Iron Man flies at once to the Long Island laboratories of Stark Industries. Thor announces that he will fetch the surgeon Donald Blake and departs. Cap and the Black Panther escort the distraught Scarlet Witch to the factory complex, where the Black Panther disappears into the operating theater with Stark and Blake. Cap is annoyed with Thor and Iron Man for not sticking around and wonders what they’re doing. Suddenly, more suicide bombers burst in and attack them, clearly intent on finishing off the Vision. Cap holds them off while the Scarlet Witch goes to warn the others. A minute or so later, Iron Man arrives and carries one of the bombers into the sky, where he blows himself up. Iron Man does not return, but Thor and the Black Panther soon join the fray until the last of the bombers detonate their explosives and kill themselves. The Avengers are shocked by such reckless fanaticism. A few minutes later, Tony Stark emerges from the laboratory to announce that the Vision should make a full recovery. Cap is startled when the Scarlet Witch reacts with indignant rage, ranting about the way the Vision has been treated—even by her own brother—despite his many heroic acts. Cap is disturbed by the way she complains about “humans,” apparently oblivious to her own bigotry. With all the suicide bombers dead, the Avengers are unable to learn anything more about their motives.

Recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. to help guard the government’s new guided-missile telemetry system, Captain America fights several agents of Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) when they show up to steal it. Spider-Man unexpectedly swings through a broken window and joins the fight. Cap does not object, and the villains are quickly defeated. However, when Cap calls in S.H.I.E.L.D. for the mopping-up operation, Nick Fury brings both superheroes aboard the Helicarrier for a briefing. Fury reveals that A.I.M.’s mission was to steal any one of three copies of the new system, and though Spider-Man helped Captain America safeguard one copy and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at Cape Kennedy protected another, the third was successfully stolen from an installation in the Midwest. A tracking device hidden inside the system shows that it has been brought to Queens and appears to be currently located beneath the Science Pavilion on the grounds of the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park. Fury convinces Spider-Man to help Cap recover the stolen device, so the two heroes break into A.I.M.’s underground complex, where they find the subversive organization is working with the Grey Gargoyle to launch a weapon into orbit. Badly outnumbered, both heroes are quickly knocked out and turned to stone by the Grey Gargoyle’s petrifying touch. Luckily, the chemicals in Cap’s body giving him super-strength cause the effect to wear off much sooner than usual, and Spider-Man, too, quickly shrugs off the transformation. Thus, the two heroes are able to break free before being launched into space. As A.I.M.’s missile takes off, one of the chains used to bind Cap and Spider-Man gets tangled around the Grey Gargoyle’s ankle and he is hauled away into the sky. Without their super-powered ally, the A.I.M. agents are quickly defeated. Seeing that Cap has the situation under control, Spider-Man says goodnight and swings off into the darkness. Cap guards their defeated foes until S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives to take them into custody.

April 1966 – After taking over as Avengers chairman from Iron Man, Captain America certifies the Vision as fit for active duty after a series of tests in the mansion’s combat-simulation room. Afterwards, Cap is annoyed when the Scarlet Witch allows their old enemy the Swordsman to enter their headquarters with his girlfriend, a Vietnamese woman called Mantis. The Swordsman insists that he’s reformed and petitions to join the team (legitimately this time) as Hawkeye’s replacement. Cap tells the former supervillain to keep dreaming, but the Scarlet Witch objects, accusing Cap of being ruled by his prejudices. Iron Man is forced to concur, pointing out that the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Hawkeye, and the Black Widow were all considered “villains” before getting a shot at redemption. When Thor volunteers to take full responsibility for the Swordsman’s behavior during a probationary period, Cap grudgingly bows to the will of the majority. Iron Man asks Mantis if she wants to join the team too, but she insists she is merely the Swordsman’s companion. Glad to have another woman to talk to, the Scarlet Witch assures Mantis that she’s welcome there. After a week of working closely together, Thor recommends that the Swordsman be granted all the privileges of Avengers membership. Despite Cap’s reservations, the team votes to induct him into their ranks and all agree to trust that the Swordsman really has reformed.

When the Falcon receives a disturbing letter from a childhood friend who is incarcerated at Grimrock Prison in Maryland, Cap agrees to help him investigate the matter. They ride there from the Carters’ estate on their motorcycles, arriving shortly before dawn. They then split up and enter the apparently deserted prison from opposite sides. Upon finding a blood-stained mask like his own, Cap is suddenly attacked by about twenty werewolves, though he manages to fight them off. Then, a teenaged African American in a skimpy black leather outfit saunters in, introduces herself as “Deadly Nightshade,” and claims to be the “queen of werewolves.” She brags about her scheme to lure Cap and the Falcon to the prison, admitting to having dressed one of the convicts up as Captain America so her werewolves could practice killing him. Her prancing around and provocative posing convinces Cap that she’s just a mixed-up kid pretending to be a super-villainess, but he realizes her immaturity makes her even more dangerous. She leads Cap to another room where the Falcon is chained up and locks them in together. Falcon reveals that he’s been injected with some kind of serum and then suddenly transforms into a werewolf. Breaking free of his chains, the Falcon savagely attacks Cap, who maneuvers him into smashing down the door. They fight for several minutes before Cap is able to put his monstrous partner down with a nerve-jab to the neck. When several of the other werewolves charge past them, Cap follows, hoping they’ll lead him to Deadly Nightshade. Sure enough, he soon finds the distraught girl on the roof of the prison, ranting about having failed the Yellow Claw and exhorting her werewolves to follow her in a death-plunge. Before Cap can stop her, Deadly Nightshade throws herself off the roof, followed by dozens of her werewolves, and they plummet into a stream that runs along the wall of the building. The Falcon tries to follow as well, but Cap manages to hold him back until the first rays of dawn reverse his transformation. Nick Fury and a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents then arrive, on the trail of the Yellow Claw, and are not happy to find Captain America and the Falcon interfering with their mission. Falcon reveals that he learned from Deadly Nightshade that his friend was the man she dressed as Cap and had killed. Frustrated and depressed, he just wants to hand things off to S.H.I.E.L.D. and go home to Harlem. Cap, however, declares that, since Deadly Nightshade was obviously working for the Yellow Claw, the fight against the Chinese criminal mastermind has just become personal. Leaving Fury and his men to clean up the bodies, Cap and the Falcon go their separate ways.

Back in Virginia, Cap tells Sharon and Peggy that he’ll need to be spending more time in New York City now that he’s serving as Avengers chairman. Peggy is concerned about a media campaign calling Cap a reckless vigilante and questioning his motives. Cap blows it off, confident that the public is unlikely to turn against him. He then rides his motorcycle back to Manhattan, reviewing everything he knows about the Yellow Claw on the way. When he arrives, he finds dozens of giant spiders swarming out of the sewers and helps the police try to contain the monsters. A signal broadcast over the city’s airwaves causes the spiders to retreat as a small plane overhead skywrites a threat from the Yellow Claw. Cap pursues the spiders to the Yellow Claw’s subterranean lair and fights with him. When the villain is knocked out, though, Cap is horrified to discover he was actually battling Nick Fury. Cap rushes the injured spymaster to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, where the agency’s medics take over. Contessa Valentina Allegra de La Fontaine is upset and accuses Cap of hurting Fury intentionally, but Dum Dum Dugan orders her to back off since they need to focus on hunting down the Yellow Claw. Wanting to get some rest, Cap changes into Steve Rogers and heads back to his old rooms at the Corinth Hotel near Gramercy Park, only to find he’s been evicted by his unscrupulous landlord. Since the apartment has already been rented to someone else, Steve makes his way to Harlem, hoping to crash on the Falcon’s couch. When he arrives, though, Falcon meets him outside and tells him Peggy showed up a few minutes ago, having followed him like a lovesick schoolgirl. Steve is frustrated, wishing he and Sharon could just be honest with Peggy about their relationship. He’s almost relieved when they overhear a radio news bulletin reporting that the Yellow Claw has been spotted outside the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West. Steve quickly changes back into Captain America and they set out for the museum at once, leaving Peggy upstairs with Leila.

Inside the museum, Cap and the Falcon fight their way past some reanimated mummies and discover the Yellow Claw in the Egyptology wing performing some kind of magical rite. The villain succeeds in bonding the spirit of the ancient Egyptian princess Fan-Le-Tamen with the body of his own grand-niece, Suwan. Knocked unconscious by their foe’s zombie-like bodyguards, Cap and the Falcon revive in time to escape from a diabolical death-trap. Unable to locate the Yellow Claw or his grand-niece, though, the heroes return to the Falcon’s apartment. They are joined there by Sharon, who has come looking for her sister. Cap tries to let Peggy down easy and convinces her to go back to Virginia with Sharon. Cap and the Falcon then pay a visit to Nick Fury, who becomes lucid long enough to warn them that the Yellow Claw plans to steal some robots from the Helicarrier. Joined by Dugan and the Contessa, the two superheroes head immediately to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying fortress, only to succumb to the Yellow Claw’s potent knock-out gas. However, the Yellow Claw revives them with an antidote after the possessed Suwan betrays him. They stop Suwan and her henchmen from stealing her robot doppelgänger, which was impounded by S.H.I.E.L.D. two years ago. Unfortunately, in all the confusion, the Yellow Claw manages to kill Suwan and escape with the robot. Finding themselves unwelcome on the Helicarrier, Cap and the Falcon return to Harlem.

Seeing a news report of Hawkeye and the Hulk on the waterfront battling a giant creature made of electricity, the Avengers discuss the fact that the archer has returned to New York without contacting them, indicating that he really does intend to go his own way from now on. Suddenly, the Lion God smashes into the chamber, apparently abetted by the Swordsman and Mantis. Cap is furious, believing his suspicions have been confirmed, and is astonished when Mantis takes out Thor with her martial arts skills. The Lion God then blasts Iron Man into unconsciousness with searing energy rays from his hunting spear. As the Vision falls to the Swordsman, Mantis knocks Cap out with a nerve-pinch. When he regains consciousness, Cap learns that, with the help of the Swordsman and Mantis, Iron Man was able to trap the Lion God within an adamantium cylinder until Thor could banish him to another dimension. Mantis explains that she had sensed a malignant force lurking around the mansion and worked with the Swordsman to lure it out into the open. They then pretended to cooperate with the Lion God, planning all the while to turn the tables on him at the crucial moment. Impressed by the couple’s daring, Thor expresses the team’s profound gratitude. Even so, Cap is unwilling to discount the possibility that the whole thing was an elaborate scheme to earn the Avengers’ trust to leave them vulnerable to a later betrayal, but since he isn’t sure, he keeps his suspicions to himself.

May 1966 – Realizing that no one’s heard from the Black Knight in several months, the Avengers decide to return to Garrett Castle in England to check up on him. As soon as their Quinjet enters British airspace, though, they are harassed by S.H.I.E.L.D., which objects to the Swordsman and Mantis, both of whom have criminal records, entering the United Kingdom. Fortunately, the Avengers are able to clear the matter up and soon touch down in a meadow outside the castle. However, they are surprised to discover the entire structure is surrounded by an invisible force field which they are unable to penetrate. Mantis performs some kind of mystic probe and determines that the barrier was erected by Doctor Strange. Suddenly, a large group of ragged, primitive-looking men with medieval weapons streams out of camouflaged holes in the ground and attacks the heroes, knocking them out with crude bombs that release a potent toxic gas. When he comes to, Captain America finds he and his teammates being held prisoner in a network of caverns, presumably beneath the Black Knight’s estate. The primitives are upset because the force field is preventing them from looting the castle’s storehouses, which is how they’ve sustained themselves since retreating underground to escape persecution hundreds of years ago. Cap realizes that generations of inbreeding have caused the cave-dwellers to become savage barbarians, but their toxic gas prevents him and most of his teammates from fighting back. Luckily, Thor, the Vision, and Mantis seem immune to its effects, and they hold off a giant insectoid monster long enough for the Black Panther to force their captors to surrender. The Avengers march the defeated barbarians back to the surface, where they call in medical and government aid for the lost tribe. The barbarian king informs the Avengers that the Black Knight was taken away by people in weird costumes before the castle was sealed off by the invisible wall. The heroes decide to head at once to Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum back in New York to ask him about it.

However, when the Avengers reach the sorcerer’s home in Greenwich Village, they are repelled by a mysterious force. Thor smashes down the front door with his hammer and forces his way inside, where Mantis roughs up Doctor Strange’s butler. They catch of glimpse of the Black Knight in an interior room, having apparently been turned to stone, and assume that Doctor Strange is responsible. Before they can react, though, the Avengers are ejected from the building by hurricane-force winds. Thor rages at the unseen sorcerer, saying they will return when they’ve figured out how to overcome his magic, and then the Avengers go back to their headquarters, seething with indignation. Shortly afterwards, a psychic projection of Loki materializes in the mansion to warn the Avengers that Doctor Strange is leading a cabal of super-powered misfits on a quest to obtain the six segments of the legendary weapon known as the Evil Eye of Avalon, which has the power to destroy the world. Joining the mysterious master of black magic is the bestial Hulk, whose hatred for humanity is well known; the savage Sub-Mariner, who has long warred against the human race; the Silver Surfer, the bitter alien imprisoned on Earth; the Valkyrie, who desires revenge for her defeat at the hands of the Avengers a couple years ago; and even their former teammate Hawkeye, who wants to strike back at those he believes betrayed him. Though Thor is not inclined to believe anything his adopted brother says, the other Avengers convince him that they should check it out.

Thus, Cap flies to Osaka, Japan, while his teammates cover the other five locations provided by Loki. En route, he receives a transmission from the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, reporting that they were attacked in Polynesia by the Silver Surfer, who made off with a segment of the Evil Eye. With Loki’s tale apparently confirmed, Cap commences his search. After landing in Osaka, Cap is met by an unusually hostile mob, but they are driven off when the Sub-Mariner appears, already holding a segment of the Evil Eye, and attacks him. Namor insists that he won their last battle three-and-a-half years ago and mocks Cap’s recently acquired super-strength. Their fight carries them into the harbor, where Sunfire suddenly swoops down and snatches the mysterious weapon. The Sub-Mariner flies off after him, with Cap clinging to his ankle. As they argue in mid-air, Namor disabuses Cap of the idea that Doctor Strange turned the Black Knight to stone, explaining that the deed was done by the Enchantress and that Strange has worked tirelessly to break the spell since then. The Evil Eye is their last chance to save their mutual friend, he insists, and with that, Namor shakes Cap loose, sending him plunging into the ocean below. As he swims back to shore, Cap realizes that he believes Namor’s story and that both groups must have been duped by Loki’s lies. Thus, Cap helps Namor retrieve the Evil Eye from Sunfire. After the Japanese mutant has been defeated, Cap and the Sub-Mariner board the Quinjet, determined to find out what’s really going on.

After picking up Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis, the Quinjet flies to Greenwich Village, where the Sub-Mariner leads the Avengers into the Sanctum Sanctorum without incident. In a well-appointed sitting room, they find Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer, the Valkyrie, and Hawkeye, who are shocked and enraged by the intrusion. Cap notices the petrified form of the Black Knight standing in a corner of the room. The Sub-Mariner informs his teammates that Loki told the Avengers that their team, which they call the Defenders, was out to conquer the world. The Valkyrie explains to the Avengers the real reason they sought out the Evil Eye. Cap is a bit confused, since he’d been told that the Valkyrie was merely an illusion the Enchantress used to disguise herself, but such matters are explained as the two teams get to know each other better over the next half hour. Finally, Iron Man realizes that Thor and the Hulk are still out on the battlefield and could be laying waste to Los Angeles at that very moment. Thus, Doctor Strange weaves a spell that teleports everyone out to California.

There, they find Thor and the Hulk locked in a stalemate, each one’s super-strong muscles straining against the other’s as they grapple, but Doctor Strange convinces them to stand down. The Avengers and the Defenders then compare notes and realize that Thor was fighting Loki in Rutland, Vermont, last Halloween at the same time that the Defenders were battling Dormammu there. They speculate that the two arch-villains must have teamed-up. Their suspicions are confirmed when the six segments of the Evil Eye are suddenly stolen by Dormammu’s servant Asti the All-Seeing. Despite the best efforts of the assembled heroes, Asti escapes with the segments into another dimension. Almost immediately, the city around them begins to transform into a nightmarish world of horror, the people metamorphosing into monstrous demons. An image of Dormammu’s flaming head appears in the sky, announcing that he is using the Evil Eye to bring Earth into his Dark Dimension, thereby enabling him to conquer the planet without violating his oath to never invade our universe. The Avengers and the Defenders vow to prevent this at any cost. However, the transformed bystanders begin to attack the heroes, forcing them to fight back. Captain America helps keep the monsters at bay while Doctor Strange casts a spell to prevent any of the 14 superheroes present from changing into monsters themselves. The sorcerer then tries to convince Cap that both teams need to take the fight directly to Dormammu in the Dark Dimension. Cap is reluctant to abandon the earth in such a time of crisis but relents when Nick Fury and the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D. arrive on the scene. Leaving Fury and his agents to deal with the monsters, Doctor Strange casts a spell to transport the Avengers and the Defenders into Dormammu’s realm.

In the weird landscape of the Dark Dimension, Doctor Strange yells at the headstrong Avengers to keep them from blundering to their doom, prompting Thor to order his teammates to defer to the sorcerer’s expertise. Then, after beating off the numberless hordes of the Mindless Ones, the heroes find Dormammu, brandishing the Evil Eye, with Loki imprisoned in a cage of flames. To everyone’s surprise, the Watcher is also present, looking on enigmatically. Doctor Strange manages to breach the mystic barrier separating them, but with one wave of his hand, Dormammu’s augmented magic instantly renders the six Defenders unconscious. Undaunted, Thor leads the Avengers in a desperate charge, but Dormammu turns the ground under their feet into quicksand. Iron Man, Thor, and the Scarlet Witch avoid the trap and press onward, but the two men quickly fall to Dormammu’s power. However, Loki suddenly frees himself from the flaming cage and grapples with Dormammu, enabling the Scarlet Witch to cast a hex bolt at them. There is a flash of light and then Dormammu is gone, leaving Loki gibbering like a madman. The Avengers and the Defenders regroup, and the Watcher congratulates the 14 heroes on their great victory. He explains that the hex caused the Evil Eye to malfunction, whereupon it disintegrated Dormammu, absorbed his mystical energies, and blasted them out again straight through Loki’s brain. The Asgardian god’s mind has been shattered, leaving him with the intellect of an infant. And though Dormammu’s corporeal form has been destroyed, the Watcher warns, he will eventually reintegrate himself with the aid of his many black-hearted worshipers. Doctor Strange then retrieves the Evil Eye and casts a spell that returns the two teams to Los Angeles.

The Avengers and the Defenders materialize on the same street in L.A. to find the crisis is over. The people who had been transformed into monsters have reverted to normal and are wandering around the rubble-strewn streets in a daze. Nick Fury offers the two teams his congratulations on their victory. However, wishing to keep the existence of the Defenders a secret, Doctor Strange removes all memory of their involvement from Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as any bystanders who witnessed their presence earlier in the day. Furthermore, he combines the power of the Evil Eye with his own sorcerous might to undo all damage and destruction the world over caused by Dormammu’s scheme, leaving everyone believing they had just suffered a mass hallucination. Finally, after bidding farewell to the Avengers, Strange teleports his team back to his Sanctum Sanctorum to attend to the Black Knight. The Avengers borrow a jet from S.H.I.E.L.D. and return to New York as well. Unfortunately, since they do not arrive in a Quinjet, the Avengers are unable to deactivate their mansion’s rooftop security systems ahead of time. Luckily, the Black Panther is able to do it manually. The Scarlet Witch complains again about “humans,” but Cap dismisses it as a case of post-battle nerves. Leaving the others to deal with the nearly catatonic Loki, Cap heads back to Harlem.

Cap and the Falcon are attacked one night by a costumed gunman who calls himself “the Phoenix” and claims to be out for revenge, though neither hero can guess who he might be. When his laser-rifle runs out of power, the villain retreats, disappearing into the darkness. The next day, however, the Phoenix manages to capture Cap with some knock-out gas. When he comes to, Cap finds himself in a warehouse, bolted to a steel slab and suspended over a large vat of bubbling chemicals. Removing his mask, the Phoenix reveals that he is Helmut Zemo, the son of Baron Heinrich Zemo, who died battling Captain America three years ago. He blames Cap for destroying his father’s life and legacy and reveals that the vat contains Adhesive X, Baron Zemo’s greatest invention. Before Cap can be lowered into the chemical brew, though, the Falcon crashes through a window and beats up their foe. Seizing his chance, Cap breaks free of his bonds using his super-strength. However, he stops the fight, announcing that he’d rather try to make the Phoenix see reason rather than just throwing him in jail to stew in his hatred. Unfortunately, the Phoenix tries to use Cap’s shield against him and ends up knocking himself into the vat of Adhesive X. Cap is about to dive in to try to save him, but the Falcon stops him, insisting that it’s too late. Cap then calls in S.H.I.E.L.D. to dispose of all the Adhesive X, but Helmut Zemo’s body is not found. The heroes assume the body was completely dissolved by the boiling chemicals.

June 1966 – Captain America is with Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision at Avengers Mansion when Rick Jones’s girlfriend, Lou-Ann Savannah, shows up on the verge of exhaustion and babbling about someone called “Thanos.” The young woman passes out and, while examining her, Iron Man tells Cap about his recent encounter with Thanos, an alien despot out to conquer the earth. Iron Man then discovers one of the Controller’s slave-discs attached to the nape of Lou-Ann’s neck. Realizing his old foe has returned, Iron Man places her under a device intended to partially inhibit the disc’s operation. She is still there a little while later when Captain Marvel arrives at the mansion. He quickly switches interdimensional places with Rick Jones, who informs the Avengers that he, Lou-Ann, and Captain Marvel have indeed gotten mixed up with Thanos, who sees conquering Earth merely as a stepping-stone to galactic domination. Rick trades places with Captain Marvel again as they head to the Avengers’ conference room for a full briefing. The Kree hero informs the team that Thanos has come to Earth in search of the Cosmic Cube, which the Avengers know could make him invincible. The meeting is interrupted by the Controller, who has broken into the mansion. Captain America is knocked out in the fight and, when he awakens, he discovers that part of their headquarters has been completely demolished and he and his teammates are buried in the wreckage. As they dig themselves out, the heroes are frustrated to learn that the Controller kidnapped Lou-Ann and escaped. The Avengers notice that Captain Marvel’s hair has changed from silver to blond, but he says only that he’s had a strange experience that’s given him a new perspective. Work on reconstructing Avengers Mansion begins immediately, coordinated by the various charitable foundations Tony Stark has set up for such emergencies. Captain Marvel soon defeats the Controller and rescues Lou-Ann.

July 1966 – Captain America steps down as Avengers chairman and hands the gavel off to the Black Panther. Soon after, chaos erupts in the Middle East when a group of super-powered terrorists dubbed the Elementals seals off the Egyptian capital, Cairo, behind an impenetrable force-field. The United Nations requests that the Avengers mobilize when the terrorists launch attacks on neighboring countries like Israel and the Sudan, but is reluctant to send the team in for fear of making international tensions in the region worse. Ultimately, freedom fighters within Cairo manage to liberate the city and defeat the Elementals, though details remain sketchy.

As the relentless smear campaign against him continues in radio and newspaper ads, Cap is forced to admit that public opinion is being swayed, and he’s no longer sure he enjoys the full support of the people. He is distracted, though, when Peggy insists on moving in with Sharon at her Park Avenue townhouse, saying she feels “smothered” at their parents’ estate in Virginia. Cap is glad that Sharon is back in town, but remains frustrated about hiding their romance from Peggy.

October 1966 – On Halloween, Mantis senses mystic emanations that portend great danger in Rutland, Vermont. Remembering the events of previous years, the Avengers decide they’d better check it out. When they arrive, Tom Fagan, one of the parade’s organizers, asks them to ride on one of the floats. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and the Black Panther agree, hoping to draw out the source of the unknown danger, but the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis decide not to participate and wander off into the crowd. Two hours later, as the parade is winding down, Cap is frustrated that nothing has happened. Fagan then leads the four heroes through the woods toward his house, only to suddenly reveal that he is the villain in disguise. Catching the Avengers off guard with some magic pellets, he knocks them out and takes them prisoner. When he comes to, Cap discovers that they have been captured by the Collector, but the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis have come to the rescue. The Collector activates two magic stones that produce a swarm of vampire bats that threaten the entire town, hoping to barter for his freedom. However, Mantis kicks the villain in the face and knocks him out, then uses the magic stones to make the bats vanish again. The real Tom Fagan thanks the Avengers for saving the city and offers them any further assistance he can provide. Thor asks Fagan if he would be willing to take over caring for Loki, feeling that Rutland would be a more appropriate setting for his near-catatonic brother. Fagan agrees, so the Avengers return to their Quinjet and fly back to New York. Unfortunately, the Collector escapes as soon as he regains consciousness.

November 1966 – In the morning, Captain America and Thor fly Loki up to Rutland, Vermont, and meet Tom Fagan at his new house. As Loki wanders around enjoying the scenic vistas, Fagan assures Thor that his brother will be well looked after, as he’s enlisted the help of numerous townspeople. Satisfied that they’ve found the ideal solution, Cap and Thor return to New York. A week or so later, Cap holds a strategy session in which the team reviews their clash in the spring with the Defenders and how they all worked together to defeat the combined might of Loki and Dormammu. Cap is pleased with the way things have been going for the Avengers overall and has even begun to soften his stance toward the Swordsman and Mantis.

Cap intervenes one evening when he finds the Falcon brawling with some local mob enforcers, but the criminals immediately run away, not wanting to face a foe with super-strength. Falcon uses it as an opportunity to address the power imbalance between them, insisting that he can’t be an equal partner if he’s just a costumed athlete. Cap suggests that either Tony Stark or Hank Pym might be able to come up with something, but Falcon says he’d be more comfortable working with the Black Panther rather than asking for help from a white man. Cap is understanding and immediately sets off for Avengers Mansion. Along the way, Cap sees in a store window that the smear campaign against him has now moved to television. Cap is horrified to see how the ad has twisted the facts to portray him in the most negative way possible and realizes these TV spots could do serious damage to his public image. Noting that the ad was paid for by an organization called the Committee to Regain America’s Principles, Cap decides the time has come to confront them. Now boiling mad, he continues on to Avengers Mansion, where he discusses the Falcon’s situation with the Black Panther, who says he would be delighted to help.

Thus, the next morning, the Black Panther picks up the Falcon and Leila in one of his airships and flies them to Wakanda. Cap heads over to the Madison Avenue offices of the advertising firm behind the campaign to discredit him and angrily confronts one of its senior partners, Quentin Harderman. The smarmy executive plays it cool and says he would reconsider his view of Captain America if the hero were to agree to participate in a charity boxing exhibition that he’s promoting. Cap is outraged, since he’s already done numerous exhibitions of that sort and it was hardly necessary to orchestrate an elaborate mudslinging campaign to get him to agree to another. After accepting Harderman’s proposal, Cap storms out and starts to wish he had just ignored the negative ads, as was his first instinct. He is distracted when he stumbles upon the Tumbler, a small-time crook he encountered three years ago, robbing a liquor store. Cap tries to apprehend the Tumbler, but he’s so distracted by his anger at Harderman that the thief is able to escape. Disgusted with himself, Cap heads over to Sharon’s apartment, where he finds her at her wit’s end because Peggy has decided to join S.H.I.E.L.D., thinking the agency can provide her the training she’ll need to fight at Cap’s side like it’s still World War II. They agree that it’s past time they revealed the true nature of their relationship to Peggy. Cap then rides over to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, intending to convince Fury to turn down Peggy’s application, but when he gets there, the Contessa tells him to get lost.

When he arrives at the exhibition hall where the boxing match is supposed to take place, Cap is confused to find a car show going on instead. Quentin Harderman appears and introduces Cap to a man named John Robert Keane, whom he immediately recognizes as the Tumbler. Cap tries to apprehend Keane and roughs him up when he attempts to flee. However, Keane suddenly drops dead. Cap is shocked and the crowd is horrified. Harderman loudly accuses Cap of murder, and two policemen move in to arrest him. Though conflicted about resisting arrest, Cap fears that the policemen are involved in this conspiracy against him and decides to make a run for it. Down the street, however, Cap regrets his rash action and realizes he has to turn himself in. Unfortunately, he is then attacked by a super-powered, armored man calling himself Moonstone. The battle is brief, and Cap is quickly knocked out by a blast of energy from Moonstone’s hands. When he comes to, Cap finds himself in jail. Outside his cell, several reporters are interviewing Moonstone, for whom Harderman appears to be acting as a publicity agent. Moonstone is telling the reporters about how he got his superpowers from a mysterious moon rock on display at a university where he worked as a janitor. Knowing that with great power comes great responsibility, he claims, he sought out the Committee to Regain America’s Principles for guidance, and with their help was able to bring the criminal Captain America to justice. Cap objects angrily, but the reporters have been swayed by Harderman’s slick Madison Avenue salesmanship.

Later that night, a group of men with high-tech weaponry stages a jailbreak, claiming to be Cap’s supporters. When Cap is reluctant to go with them, they gas him into unconsciousness. He revives sooner than they expected, though, and overhears them plotting to further discredit him with anonymous phone calls to the police and news media. Seeing that the gang has taken his shield from the jail, Cap leaps up, grabs it, and quickly defeats them. He interrogates their leader, referred to as “Number Four,” who mumbles an address before losing consciousness. Unable to turn the gang over to the police due to his fugitive status, Cap leaves them in the alley and slips off into the night. Shortly after midnight, Cap joins Thor, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Mantis atop the Empire State Building to fight the twelve leaders of the international crime cartel Zodiac—Aquarius, Aries, Cancer, Capricorn, Gemini, Libra, Leo, Pisces, Sagittarius, Scorpio, Taurus, and Virgo. The Avengers are surprised to see Cap, knowing he’s wanted in connection with the death of the Tumbler. He assures his teammates he’s been framed, but then Aries throws the unconscious Mantis off the roof. While the Avengers are busy saving her, Zodiac escapes in their Star-Cruiser aircraft. The team decides to take Mantis back to their headquarters for medical treatment, but Cap knows he can’t join them until he’s cleared his name.

At the address he obtained from Number Four, Cap is confronted by the Falcon, who now has large red wings attached to his costume that enable him to fly. Cap explains how Harderman framed him for murder, but they are interrupted by Moonstone, who boasts that he will now see to having the Falcon branded as Cap’s criminal accomplice. Gloating, Moonstone also admits to having killed the Tumbler with a nearly invisible laser beam from a sniper’s nest in the exhibition hall ceiling. Still inexperienced in aerial combat, the Falcon is quickly taken out, setting Cap up for a searing jolt of energy that knocks him out as well. When they revive, the heroes find themselves in Central Park, guarded by the gang that staged the jailbreak. Overcoming their foes, Cap and the Falcon escape and make their way back to Harlem under cover of a fortuitous thunderstorm. Deducing that Moonstone is likely from Nashville, Tennessee, Cap and the Falcon decide to head south to see what they can find out about their foe. Thus, at dawn, Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson hitch a ride in an 18-wheeler bound for Little Rock, Arkansas and hop out in Nashville a little over 24 hours later.

After a scuffle with the Irish mutant known as the Banshee, Captain America and the Falcon are contacted by Professor X, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl, who are also in Nashville for some reason. Professor X reveals that the rest of the X-Men, as well as some of their allies and enemies, have been kidnapped by a mysterious anti-mutant group that he believes to be the same organization that’s been trying to destroy Cap’s reputation. They are interrupted suddenly by Nick Fury, who has appeared along with Dum Dum Dugan and a detachment of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents backed up by the Tennessee State Police. Fury demands that Cap surrender, but the superheroes decide to fight their way out. Cyclops is able to hold the law-enforcement officers off with his optic blasts as the beleaguered heroes flee the scene. Once they’ve found a safe place to hide, Professor X continues his explanation. His investigation, he reports, suggests that their enemy is a resurgent subversive organization known as the Secret Empire, and that Quentin Harderman is one of their operatives. Their only lead right now, the Professor admits, is the Beast’s former girlfriend, a woman calling herself Linda Donaldson, whom he believes to be another agent of the Secret Empire. Following the Beast’s disappearance, Donaldson was transferred from her position at the Brand Corporation’s Long Island facility, where she and the Beast had both worked, to one of the company’s research campuses in Dallas, Texas. The Professor suggests that they head to Dallas and try to use Donaldson to enable Cap and the Falcon to infiltrate the Secret Empire. Determined to finally take the fight to their foes, Cap agrees to the plan.

In Dallas later that evening, Steve and Sam disguise themselves as unemployed laborers and hang around outside Linda Donaldson’s apartment building. When she returns from work, Cyclops emerges from the woods and stages a kidnapping attempt. Steve and Sam charge in to the rescue, shouting anti-mutant slurs. Cyclops uses his optic blasts to wreck a couple of cars, including Donaldson’s, then retreats into the woods. Steve and Sam chat with Donaldson for a few minutes, claiming to be strangers in town looking for work and mentioning the name of the motel they’re staying at. After seeing Donaldson to her apartment, they return to the motel to see if she makes contact with them. Sure enough, they are soon visited by a man in a business suit wearing a hood to conceal his identity. On the hood’s forehead is printed the number 13. He offers them $10,000 to steal a device called an electron-gyro from the Brand Corporation, and when they agree, he provides them with details of the device and the facility’s security measures. After “Number 13” has left, Steve and Sam get a few hours of much-needed sleep.

Worried about engaging in illegal activity, Steve insists that they sneak into the Brand Corporation as Captain America and the Falcon. When they grab the electron-gyro, Cap leaves a note in its place that asserts his innocence and promises to return the device once he’s cleared his name. They inadvertently trip an alarm and have to fight their way out of the complex but are otherwise successful. A few hours later, having switched to their “bum” disguises, Steve and Sam make their rendezvous with Number 13. He then flies them in a small jet to a remote location in the desert some distance to the west and escorts them into the underground headquarters of the Secret Empire. They are led into a large throne room, where the Secret Empire’s Number One is waiting for them. Receiving the electron-gyro, Number One is pleased to have the final component necessary to their plans of conquest. He boasts of how they have destroyed Captain America’s reputation and how their front organization, the Committee to Regain America’s Principles, has been flooded with support from disaffected citizens desperate for a new hero—Moonstone. He then orders Number 13 to take their two new recruits to their quarters to get settled in. Once they’re alone, though, Sam suddenly insists they get into costume and vacate the room. Steve is confused by this abrupt change of plan, but goes along with it. No sooner are they inside a maintenance duct than the room is filled with deadly laser beams. As they retreat, Cap overhears one of the Secret Empire agents say they were tipped off by the note he left at the Brand Corporation, and he berates himself for being so worried about salvaging their reputations that he made such a basic blunder. After helping Cap destroy a large robot guard, Falcon has a hunch and opens a service hatch, which allows Professor X, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl to enter the installation.

Explaining that the Falcon’s hunches were a result of his telepathic suggestions, Professor X leads them to another area of the underground complex, where they are horrified to discover the missing mutants—Iceman, Angel, Beast, Havok, Lorna Dane, Blob, Mastermind, Mesmero, and Unus the Untouchable—shackled to a large machine that is siphoning off the peculiar mutant energies in their bodies. Cap and Cyclops wreck the machine and free the captive mutants, but then Number One enters the room with Linda Donaldson and several of the Secret Empire’s shock troops. Cap, Falcon, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl attack them immediately, but the former captives are too groggy to help out. The battle is brief, as Number One orders his Number 68 to use a weapon called the atomic annihilator, which blasts all the heroes into unconsciousness. Fearing he’s reached the end of the road only to find defeat, Cap struggles to hold on but finally blacks out as Number One gloats.

Cap slowly comes to sometime later to find himself on the floor of a dank sub-basement. Realizing two members of the Secret Empire are looming over him, he bolts up, but they reveal themselves to be top S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Gabe Jones and his rookie partner Peggy Carter, on her first mission. Jones explains that he was Number 68 and made sure the atomic annihilator blast would be non-lethal. After giving Cap a quick briefing about the history of the Secret Empire and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attempts to bring them down, Jones revives the other heroes. Cap can’t help but notice how happy Peggy is to be back in action and doing something meaningful with her life again. He realizes she’s tougher than either he or Sharon gave her credit for. Leaving Professor X behind, Cap, Falcon, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl stow away aboard the flying saucer the Secret Empire is taking to Washington, DC. The craft is powered by the mutant energies of the nine prisoners, who have been recaptured and wired into the engines. As they speed across the country, Jones reveals what the Secret Empire plans to do after they land on the White House lawn—defeat Moonstone in a fake battle, then demand that America surrender or be destroyed by nuclear bombs their agents have hidden all over the country. Cap is determined not to let that happen.

After the flying saucer has landed, Cap, Falcon, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and the two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents storm the command deck. Cyclops destroys the control panel for the mutant-energy siphon, then Cap races outside to capture Number One, who’s ranting and raving on the landing ramp. As Cap tackles the masked megalomaniac, the Falcon swoops out of the ship, saying he’ll get the locations of the nuclear bombs to S.H.I.E.L.D. so they can be disarmed. Moonstone, standing near some reporters, tries to insinuate that Captain America is in league with the Secret Empire, but Cap charges at him and kicks Moonstone’s ass on national television. Quentin Harderman comes running up, followed by a TV camera crew, and starts to say that his group was duped by Moonstone. However, Moonstone cuts him off, unwilling to take the fall for the entire conspiracy. He announces that the Committee to Regain America’s Principles was never more than a front for the Secret Empire, and that the idea to discredit Captain America was cooked up by Harderman and his former partner, Jordan Dixon, a.k.a. the Viper, who is currently in prison. As Moonstone continues his televised confession, Dum Dum Dugan arrives on the scene to take charge of the S.H.I.E.L.D. operation. Cyclops and Marvel Girl escort the nine captive mutants out of the flying saucer. Looking around, Cap finally smiles, feeling a tremendous sense of vindication and reaffirmation.

Suddenly, Cap sees that Number One is trying to slip away and chases him into the evacuated White House. There, he tackles the villain and pulls off his concealing cowl. Cap recoils in horror to discover that Number One is none other than the President of the United States, Morris N. Richardson. President Richardson admits that even the highest office in the land was too limiting for his grand ambitions, so he sought absolute power through the Secret Empire. But since his scheme has failed, he pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the head. Stunned, Cap staggers out of the building as Dugan and Jones enter. He walks past the Falcon, feeling like his entire world is crashing down around him. He notices that Cyclops and Marvel Girl seem to somehow know what has happened, as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents carry the body of Number One out of the White House, hidden under a sheet, and load it into one of their own vehicles. Dugan then takes Cap aside and swears him to secrecy, saying they cannot let it be known that the duly-elected President of the United States was behind a conspiracy to turn America into a totalitarian dictatorship. The cover-up begins less than an hour later, when a Life Model Decoy of President Richardson appears at Camp David to announce his immediate resignation, citing unspecified health problems. Vice-President William E. Miller, quickly cleared of any connection to the Secret Empire, is then sworn in as the nation’s 38th president. Over the next two days, the remaining subversives within the Richardson administration are ferreted out and quietly taken care of by S.H.I.E.L.D. Though exonerated of the murder charge against him, Cap finds his faith in the American system of government crumbling, and he returns to New York City feeling utterly devastated.

December 1966 – Captain America finally returns to Avengers Mansion following the defeat of the Secret Empire and finds Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, and the Vision. Iron Man congratulates Cap on his vindication, but Cap is in no mood to celebrate. Unable to explain fully due to the cover-up, Cap merely says that he may have to re-think his entire life. The other Avengers try to cheer Cap up, knowing it’s not like him to be so cryptic. Iron Man regales Cap with the story of their battle against the dragon-like Star-Stalker in Vietnam and how Mantis and the Vision finally defeated the creature. They are interrupted when Thor returns from visiting Loki in Vermont, and soon afterward Mantis brings the Swordsman in, who has just arrived after being hospitalized in Saigon. Not in the mood to socialize, Cap returns home to Harlem but is soon called back to the mansion for a meeting with Captain Marvel and his two enigmatic friends, Drax the Destroyer and Moondragon. Captain Marvel reports that a hidden colony on Saturn’s moon Titan has been conquered by Thanos, who has now come into possession of the Cosmic Cube and is thus a threat to the entire universe. However, the strategy session is cut short when Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Drax, and Moondragon suddenly vanish into thin air. The Avengers realize they must have been kidnapped by Thanos. Though unable to find any trace of their missing friends, the Avengers learn from the space station Starcore One that an armada of starships is heading toward Earth from the vicinity of Mars—presumably Thanos’s fleet of space pirates that Captain Marvel warned them of. Deciding to intercept the armada before it reaches Earth, the Avengers take their spaceworthy Quinjet and Zodiac’s confiscated Star-Cruiser out to meet the threat. As the battle is joined, Thor leaves the Quinjet and smashes into the command deck of the fleet’s flagship, where he takes on an army of armored aliens singlehandedly. Cap pilots the Quinjet, using aerial dogfight tactics he learned during World War II, but the armada still manages to reach Earth. In high orbit, Cap blasts one of the alien ships with the Quinjet’s energy weapons, but it plummets down through the atmosphere and crashes in New York City. Cap is cursing his carelessness when the Avengers detect an amorphous area of utter darkness nearby, which proves to be a cloaking field around the ship that serves as the armada’s central universal translator. The Scarlet Witch, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis don spacesuits and penetrate the cloaking field. Several minutes later, the field collapses, revealing the ship within. The Quinjet and the Star-Cruiser destroy the ship, causing the aliens to lose their ability to communicate with each other. Gaining the upper hand, the Avengers press their attack and, within the hour, the fleet of invading ships has been destroyed, with a handful of survivors in full retreat. Victorious, the Avengers soon land on the roof of their Manhattan headquarters.

Unfortunately, the team quickly discovers that Thanos has used the Cosmic Cube to shift the entire planet out of phase to prevent them from interfering with his plans. The space armada, they realize, was merely a distraction meant to lure the Avengers off Earth while Thanos caused the phase-shift. Still, Mantis is able to contact Captain Marvel and tell him what happened. Captain Marvel and Drax the Destroyer then attack Thanos, their fight soon carrying them away from Avengers Mansion as the team watches helplessly. Mantis sets off after them and, a few minutes later, the phase-shift is abruptly cancelled out. Entering their headquarters, the Avengers discover that Iron Man has returned as well, though he’s not sure how he got there. After comparing notes, they track Mantis to a nearby rooftop, where they find her with Captain Marvel and Drax. Captain Marvel has somehow defeated Thanos by smashing the Cosmic Cube, though he and Mantis give only vague and evasive answers to the Avengers’ questions. As Drax flies off into the night sky, Captain Marvel trades places with Rick Jones, who accompanies the others back to the mansion. Not long afterward, Captain America and Iron Man lend a hand when an old government research facility collapses a few blocks away. In the basement, they discover a vintage cryogenic vault and take it back to their headquarters for safekeeping. Iron Man decides to have some technicians from Stark Industries examine it after the holidays. Cap then learns that Rick has left on a 15-city concert tour as part of the opening act for a more famous band, a gig his manager arranged for him. Already dispirited, Cap broods about how he and Rick are no longer as close as they once were.

Cap tells Thor and Iron Man that he’s considering giving up his costumed identity, permanently this time, and becomes angry when they try to talk him out of it. Before they can discuss the matter further, though, the mansion is attacked by Solarr and his new partner, Klaw, who have imprisoned the Scarlet Witch, the Black Panther, the Vision, the Swordsman, and Mantis, along with Ambassador Ronald Pershing of Rhodesia, under a dome of solid sound outside. The villains are threatening to roast their hostages unless the Black Panther surrenders the throne of Wakanda to Klaw, after which he intends to declare war on Rhodesia to pay them back for the harsh treatment he suffered there last year. When Klaw proves to be a sonic illusion, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man search the neighborhood for the real villain, but the Black Panther deduces that he is, in fact, masquerading as Ambassador Pershing. Klaw and Solarr are quickly defeated, but the Black Panther announces that he must take a leave of absence and return to Wakanda for a while. Thor, as current team chairman, grants the request and calls the Avengers to gather to toast their valiant comrade. Unfortunately, their celebration is marred when the Scarlet Witch and the Vision get into an argument about the Swordsman’s assertion that the Vision is trying to steal Mantis away from him. Cap is sick and tired of the Scarlet Witch’s bad attitude of late and the discord it has caused. The atmosphere around the mansion is still a bit tense a day or two later when Captain America joins the others for the Avengers’ fifth annual Christmas charity benefit.

The Avengers respond when an intruder breaks into the lab where the vintage cryogenic vault is being stored, and they are surprised to find that he is the Whizzer, the super-fast crimefighter of the 1940s who was a member of the Liberty Legion, the Invaders, and the post-war All-Winners Squad. Cap is frustrated, though, that he doesn’t really remember the Whizzer due to his lingering post-cryogenic amnesia. For his part, the Whizzer is astonished to discover that this Captain America is the original one, having assumed he was another of the impostors who appeared following Cap’s disappearance in early 1945. Growing agitated, the Whizzer claims that the cryogenic vault belongs to him, but the Avengers are dubious until the module opens, revealing a highly radioactive mutant inside. The mutant smashes its way to freedom and disappears into the city. Detecting three radioactive hotspots in the area, the Avengers split up to see which one is the mutant. Captain America and Iron Man find him at a power plant in Queens and note that the mutant has started referring to himself as “Nuklo.” They herd him back to Avengers Mansion, where they are shocked to see their teammates bringing two other Nuklos with them. The three doppelgängers merge into one, tripling his power. He scatters the Avengers with a force blast, but then the Scarlet Witch and the Whizzer arrive on the scene and trap him within a hex sphere that drains his power. As Nuklo loses consciousness, the Whizzer collapses from a massive heart attack. The Vision carries him into their headquarters, where Dr. Donald Blake soon arrives to treat him. While Blake is performing open-heart surgery on the elder hero, the Scarlet Witch informs her teammates that Nuklo is the son of the Whizzer and his deceased wife, Miss America. More incredibly, she reveals, the couple had taken an extended vacation to Europe after their highly radioactive baby was placed in stasis by the government, and while there, Miss America got pregnant again. She ended up delivering at the High Evolutionary’s Citadel of Science on Wundagore Mountain but died in childbirth. Overcome with grief, the Whizzer fled, leaving newborn twins behind—twins that grew up to become the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Cap is happy that the Scarlet Witch has found her birth parents and hopes that her attitude will now improve. Blake soon reports that the Whizzer should make a full recovery, and the Avengers agree to let him stay at the mansion while he recuperates.

Later, Cap pays a visit to his former teammate and reports that Nuklo has been returned to suspended animation. The Whizzer is grateful for the Avengers’ help, and reminisces about the days following the sudden disappearance of Captain America and Bucky, when the Invaders went on high alert. Cap admits that his memories of the war are fragmentary after being frozen in ice for two decades, though he’s managed to piece together a fair amount of what happened from various news reports and official records. The Whizzer says ruefully that he may as well have been in suspended animation himself all that time, as the death of his wife drove him into an alcohol-fueled depression from which he has only recently emerged. Seeing his old friend is a mere shadow of his former self, Cap doesn’t have the heart to tell the Whizzer that he’s considering abandoning his role as America’s most patriotic superhero.


Notes:

January 1966 – Captain America starts off the year with a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four #133. The Avengers’ battles with Magneto and the Lion God span Avengers #110–112, with an additional flashback in Captain America #173. The Lion God is most likely the Nubian god Apedemak, who is related to the Egyptian pantheon. The adventures of Captain America and the Falcon then continue in Captain America #160 and following.

February 1966 – The Avengers are rescued from Kang and Zarrko by Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Human Torch, and the Inhumans in Marvel Team-Up #9–11. The Avengers then repair the Statue of Liberty at the beginning of Avengers #113.

March 1966 – The Avengers save the Vision from the suicide bombers in the rest of Avengers #113. Captain America and Spider-Man then join forces against the Grey Gargoyle and A.I.M. in Marvel Team-Up #13.

April 1966 – Mantis and the Swordsman turn up and help the Avengers defeat the Lion God in Avengers #114. Apparently, the Lion God never manages to return from the dimension to which Thor banishes him.

May 1966 – The Avengers and the Defenders team up to defeat Loki and Dormammu in Avengers #115–118 and Defenders #8–11. Additional information is provided in a flashback in Avengers #157, and the Avengers return home in the first few pages of Avengers #119. The hostile reception Cap receives in Japan is actually part of the global wave of violence caused by the invading demons of Sominus, as seen in Adventure into Fear #14–15.

June 1966 – The Avengers and Captain Marvel battle the Controller in Captain Marvel #27–30.

July 1966 – The United Nations places the Avengers on standby as the Elementals terrorize Cairo in Supernatural Thrillers #13. Cap and his teammates remain behind the scenes, though.

October 1966 – The bulk of Avengers #119 covers the last Rutland, Vermont Halloween Parade story.

November 1966 – Following the last two panels of Avengers #119, Cap makes a brief appearance in Defenders #13, where his discussion of their victory over Loki and Dormammu is observed by an out-of-phase Nighthawk. Despite being wanted for murder, Cap lends a hand to the Avengers against Zodiac in Avengers #121. Zodiac must set up their Star-Blaster cannon atop the Empire State Building rather than the World Trade Center (as depicted), since the latter towers haven’t been built yet. For more on President Morris N. Richardson, see OMU: POTUS – Part Three. This brings us up to Captain America #175. The immediate aftermath of President Richardson’s suicide occurs behind the scenes between this issue and the next.

December 1966 – The Avengers team up with Captain Marvel and his friends to battle Thanos and his space armada in Captain Marvel #31–33 and Avengers #125. Confusingly, three different time periods are mashed together in the first three pages of Avengers #125—Lou-Ann Savannah’s arrival at the mansion (in June), Libra being taken away by the police (in November), and Captain America returning to the Avengers after defeating the Secret Empire (in December). This is clearly done for dramatic effect. Later, Captain America and Iron Man discover Nuklo’s cryogenic vault in a flashback in Giant-Size Avengers #1, then Rick Jones says goodbye in Captain Marvel #34. Klaw and Solarr attack in Avengers #126. The Scarlet Witch and the Vision’s argument is seen in one of the many flashbacks in Avengers #280. The Avengers then encounter the Whizzer and Nuklo in Giant-Size Avengers #1.


Jump Back: Captain America – Year Four

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