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 declares 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 the stolen Quinjet 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 Quinjet. 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, the Scarlet Witch, 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

Jump To: Captain America – Year Six

Next Issue: Wakanda Forever!


5 comments:

  1. Here's the new post, I was looking forward to this! Now 1966 is complete for all the major heroes (Fantastic Four, Spidey, Daredevil, Hulk, X-Men, Thor, Iron Man and Cap), right? Although I guess we're still missing, among others, Hank Pym and the Scarlet Witch.

    BUT, what's that next issue blurb, "Wakanda Forever"? :D
    Should we expect a new line, that of the Black Panther? In that case, will you start with "Year 1" or will you go straight to 1966?

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    1. I've been missing several issues of the Black Panther, which I just got in the recently-released Epic Collection. I'll be starting a new line with Year One. There will be a couple more 1966 posts as I transition to 1967, and Hank Pym will serve as a bridge between the two. Some other interesting stuff is in the works as well. Thanks for reading!

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  2. Nice!
    Will Black Panther's Year One be 1963 (the year in which, according to your chronology, he first meets the Fantastic Four)? Or will you jump straight to his adventures in Jungle Action, which I guess in your chronology take place around 1965?

    Keep up the great work!

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  3. ...oh, I see now on the Marvel Chronology Project website that the Panther's adventures in Jungle Action take place immediately after Avengers #126, so immediately after the adventures you have chronicled in your last three posts... that is, at the beginning of 1967. That would fit perfectly.

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