This issue of MARVEL TEAM-UP also came out of a 3-Bag at around this same time. I suspect it may have been bagged with FANTASTIC FOUR #182 and ETERNALS #11, but I have no way of proving that for certain. In any case, I got this issue not so much because I wanted it as because it was bundled with another book that I desired–in this case the FF issue. My recent sampling of the latest AVENGERS issue hadn’t gone over so well, so I was hardly an Avengers aficionado at this point–a bit ironic, as I’ve now edited AVENGERS for twice as long as my nearest rival.
I had a strange relationship with Marvel’s reprint titles of this period. If truth be told, I found that I liked many of these older stories more than the newer one. But at the same time, the common wisdom was that these titles were “worthless”, being only reprints and not likely to go up in value. So I pursued them, but always with a little bit of ambivalence. Here, the story opens with the discovery that Quicksilver has learned how to fly by vibrating his legs at super-speed. This power would turn out to be short-lived–after he exited the series in a few issues, when he returned down the line, it was forgotten. But for a brief period, this served to separate him from other speedsters such as the Flash.
The opening few pages of this issue were devoted to bookkeeping and characterization as writer Roy Thomas moved some of his pieces into position for what he wanted to do next. So Quicksilver gained a new power, Hercules and Captain America sparred, with the former ultimately acknowledging his opponent’s skill and daring, and the Wasp came into her inheritance–a paltry Three Million Dollars (a lot more money when this story first saw print.) Meanwhile, Hawkeye has snuck out to follow up a lead on his missing girlfriend, the Black Widow, who went AWOL on a SHIELD mission.
Hawkeye makes his way into a typical underworld dive incognito–and penciler John Buscema draws him differently from any other unmasked portrayal of Hawkeye we’ve seen so far, so maybe he was wearing a disguise. He tries to squeeze the info he needs out of a bruiser named, well, Bruiser, and gets his head handed to him. But he’s left his bow and arrow in teh alley, and comes back a second later to mop up the place with them. It’s not quite a fair fight, but it does make Hawkeye look pretty cool. He learns that the Black Widow’s communist masters have captured her, so he heads back to Avengers mansion looking for help to spring her. Only Hercules is there, but the Prince of Power is willing to lend his arm, so the two heroes head out.
When the two Avengers burst into the hidden enemy stronghold, they find themselves confronted not just by your run-of-the-mill soldier types (although they do beat up a bunch of those as well) but also the Red Guardian, the Soviet answer to Captain America, who has been developed and perfected in this spot. He’s even got a belt buckle that he can hurl as a weapon similar to Cap’s star-spangled shield. This was the Guardian’s first appearance, and he shows off his mettle by holding his own against Hercules much as Captain America did earlier in the issue, and Hawkeye at the same time.
Still, Hercules is a bit out of the Guardian’s league, and so he lures the godling inside a conveniently close-at-hand Psychotron which creates illusions in Herc’s mind, and allows artist John Buscema to cut loose with a full page shot of Herc confronted by the mythological Hydra. (It must be said, sadly, that inker George Roussos really does Buscema no favors in this issue with his muddy, imprecise inks.) Herc engages the beast in battle, but cannot overcome it–because it exists only within his mind. In any case, he’s neutralized as a combatant in this fight.
That leaves only Hawkeye, and the Guardian beans him with his belt-buckle, knocking him out. When Hawkeye comes to, he’s imprisoned next to the Black Widow, and learns the Red Guardian’s shocking secret: he’s the Widow’s husband! And is hope is that the captivity of his fellow Avengers will draw Captain America to him, for the Red Guardian is anxious to prove his prowess against the earlier super-soldier. Back in the States, the Avengers learn where Hawkeye and Hercules headed off to–but they also realize that them mounting a rescue mission might also set off an international incident, as Hawkeye has gone behind the “Bamboo Curtain.” But undaunted by this possibility, the Avengers mount up–and their defiant battle cry rings through the halls of Avengers mansion. To Be Continued!