Funny Books: Captain America Lives Again!!! [Avengers #4]

Funny Books is back, and ready to piggy back on that sweet, sweet Avengers gravy train. From now until the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Funny Books will take a look back at some of the Avengers’ most important moments. This week, the Avenger’s change the face of Marvel Comics forever by bringing back a little known kid from Brooklyn, Captain America!, in Avengers #4, 1963, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

I have to admit, out of all the Avengers Comic we’re going to cover, I was most excited about this one. This is possibly the best Avengers story ever. Well, this one and the time we learn that Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were raised by a Cow-Woman. Everything about the comic screams important, even the comic itself:

I love that even the Editor’s Note predicted the crazy good investment this comic would be.

The story opens with Namor the Sub-Mariner, Marvel’s more competent and therefore less famous version of Aquaman, after being punked by the Avengers. Ever the sore loser, the Sub-Mariner takes out his anger on a group of Inuits worshipping a block of ice that mysteriously instills in you a desire for a bicameral legislature. In Namor, it just makes him want to smash things.

Luckily for whatever paragon of freedom that might be inside, the Avengers happened to be riding their submarine, which never, ever, ever shows up again. What follows is perhaps the best single panel in Avengers history:

Listen, I know Jack Kirby’s name is brought up a lot when mentioning all time greats. It’s easy to assume that this is just another example of snooty critics name-dropping forgotten nobodies. But then you see art like the image above and you’re reminded that Jack Kirby was the shit (I mean, he also served as a Surveyor in enemy rich battlegrounds during WWII, but still).

The Avenger’s manage to wake Cap up, and he’s understandably disoriented:

But he manages to snap out of it, and in perhaps the second greatest (and possibly saddest) series of panels in Avengers history, the man out of time remembers who he is:

After that, the Avengers have one of their typical mood swings (Superheroes, am I right fellas?), and attack a war hero that’s been frozen for twenty years (at that point). However, things like atrophy and frost bite have no effect on the Super Soldier, and Cap manages to shrug off their attack.

We then learn why the Captain America movie had those weird drone planes. During the last years of the war, Captain America and his side-kick Bucky tried to stop a plane full of explosives from reaching the States. They obviously failed, leaving Bucky M.I.A. for over forty years in real time, and leaving Cap frozen. Moved, the Avengers take Cap to New York, where they’re ambushed and turned to stone. Cap assumes that the petrified Avengers are just some sort of crazy modern art that the kids enjoy.

But no matter what the era, Cap makes time for the ladies:

Funny enough, most people recognize Cap, some are even moved to tears:

This was a very nice touch, and adds a level of history and continuity to the then very new Marvel Comics Universe. After all this, Cap manages to find a hotel. How he paid for it I’ll never know. He manages to catch some Zzz while contemplating the death of his young friend:

Again, another stellar and emotional piece of art from Jack Kirby. Words do not do his art justice. He wasn’t called the “King” for nothin’.

The rest of the story is pretty straight forward. Rick Jones, that weird kid that won’t go away, tracks Cap down while looking for the Avengers. Together they find the bad guys that turned the heroes into statues. Then they make the gagster’s leader, who turns out to be an alien that was also the legendary Medusa, turn the Avengers back to normal. Then they get into a fight with Namor while trying to retrieve their submarine. Like I said, straightforward.

Strangely enough, Namor and Captain America didn’t recognize each other right away, despite having fought off the Nazi’s together during the war. Funny that.

And like all great Avengers stories, the book ends with everyone holding hands and smiling:

In a lot of ways, this issue was the real origins of the Avengers. Captain America was that last larger-than-life icon that the Avengers needed, similar to Superman’s role in the Justice League. With the addition of Cap, the Avengers, and arguably the larger Marvel Universe, was finally complete. It would be up to future writers and characters to build on that foundation.

 

Alan Carrillo's picture
Channel Surfer, Funny Book lover, America's Sweetheart
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