Cover Date: January 1964
Plot Overview: The Avengers decide that the Hulk can’t be left to roam freely. Iron Man unveils one of Tony Stark’s inventions, an image projector. He uses the image projector to visit the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the X-Men. The FF and X-Men are too busy with their own affairs and Spider-Man was just Spider-Man about it. The Avengers remember Rick Jones and decide to contact him. Jones sets out and finds the Hulk in New Mexico. He contacts the Avengers and they all head to New Mexico in their unique ways.
Iron Man is the first there and gets ambushed by the Hulk. The Hulk uses the needles of a cactus as deadly projectiles. Iron Man blocks the attack but the needles cause some problems for Giant-Man, ant sized at the moment, and the Wasp. They head to a nearby ant hill and use the ants to cause the ground to collapse to try and catch the Hulk. The Hulk avoids the trap and takes to the air as he continues to battle Iron Man. Iron Man uses his magnetic repulsers to spin the Hulk until Thor arrives. The Hulk tries to flee and hitches a ride on a nearby train. He fends off the Avengers before using flour in the smoke stack of the train. He uses the resulting confusion to escape from the Avengers.
The Hulk hides in a truck load of gravel and then takes to the ocean after it gets dumped. He gets picked up by a ship and is pretty worn out. Meanwhile, Namor has been watching the Hulk the entire time. When the Hulk decides to leave the boat and head to a secluded island he is greeted by Namor. They have a short battle where Namor gets the upper hand in the water. Afterwards, they decide to team up to get their revenge upon humanity. They head off to begin their conquest while planning to destroy each other afterwards.
The Avengers are challenged to battle them at Gibralter. They arrive on the scene and Namor fires an old WWII cannon at them. Iron Man repels the shell and Namor uses a pellet with emery dust to disable Iron Man. Giant-Man and the Wasp find oxygen equipment and set about cleaning Iron Man up while Thor keeps Namor and the Hulk busy with his Hammer. Namor and the Hulk make a temporary retreat.
The battle continues on and just as things are starting to look good for Namor and the Hulk, the Hulk reverts back to Bruce Banner. Banner flees from the scene of the battle. The Avengers easily capture the abandoned Namor as he grows weaker without water. Namor manages to crack a wall and the water revives him. He makes his escape and Thor says that he’s earned his escape today. The issue ends promising us some big surprises for the next issue.
My Take: I wanted to start this issue off by saying the Avengers really came off like jerks in the first part of the story They were essentially telling the Hulk he was a menace to society that shouldn’t be allowed to roam free and then getting mad that he didn’t want to reason things out with them. Yes, because antagonizing someone is a great way to get them to see your point of view!
Iron Man also makes a mental note that no one knows that he’s really Tony Stark about 3 times in this issue. It was overkill and I think I literally rolled my eyes the last time it randomly was mentioned in this issue. We get it, you’re Tony Stark and no one knows! With all of that hand wringing on his part, he makes a slip of the tongue early on in the issue. He goes on at length about Tony Stark’s image projector and then after using it he calls it HIS image projector. No one really reacted so I think that was more of a writing error than anything else.
These first 10 issues of Avengers are burned into my brain from being a teenager. I was lucky enough to get about 4 of the Marvel Masterworks when I was a teenager and this was one of them. I remember not liking this issue much from those days. As an adult, it wasn’t so bad. There were a lot of interesting aspects to this issue. For starters, everyone in the Marvel Universe showed up in this issue. The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and X-Men all made appearances here. They all blew Iron Man off, Reed picked an experiment over fighting the Hulk, and that was really interesting. You would expect for all the heroes to jump at the chance to fight a bad guy. But they all kind of shrugged it off as an Avengers issue and weren’t terribly interested. It humanizes the Marvel characters in a very negative way. All of the characters have depth and it really shows that the Marvel heroes don’t march to the same drum.
It’s also really interesting to see how this book slides into continuity. I think a book like the Justice League of America ran away from trying to fit in with the heroes solo books but Stan Lee seems to really embrace it. The heroes costume changes appear in the Avengers even the same month that it happens. It mentions the upcoming Iron Man issue from the same month. And Stan Lee makes a point of reminding you when you last saw a character. The universe is really small right now but it’s incredible to see the care that Stan is taking to fit it all together.
The art was really good in this issue. The Hulk looked great and there was some really good action going on in this issue. Most of the issue was just an all out brawl with the Avengers vs. the Hulk and the Avengers vs. Namor and the Hulk. Jack Kirby also did a good job of refining the look of the new Iron Man armor in this issue. It looked a little wonky and crappy in Tales of Suspense #48 but it looked better in this issue.
I give this issue *** out of *****.
Notes: This issue features the first meeting of Hulk and Namor. Their relationship will be important in the 70s as they become two of the main members of the non-team the Defenders. Their relationship keeps a very similar dynamic to this issue throughout those issues.
Next Issue: Tales of Suspense #49