I still wasn’t buying the main AVENGERS title at this point, but strangely enough, I did continue to follow MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION. It’s probably a reflection of the fact that, even in the 1970s, the comic book stories of the 60s held the greatest appeal for me. I bought this issue on my regular weekly Thursday trip to my local 7-11’s spinner rack.
The first thing you noticed upon cracking open the cover on this issue was that regular AVENGERS artist of the period, John Buscema, was being spelled for this month by George Tuska. Tuska was a favorite of those who worked in the Marvel offices, notably John Romita who had loved his CRIME DOES NOT PAY work decades earlier. Consequently, Tuska became a semi-regular part of the expanding Bullpen and had only just stopped being the regular artist on IRON MAN a short time before. But this was one of his earlier stories with the firm. Tuska didn’t command the same raw power that Buscema’s work help, but he told the story well, and his characters moved nicely. I found the art on this issue pretty appealing.
The story opens with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch the prisoners of Magneto and the Toad, who want them to rejoin the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Their recruitment methods leave a little bit to be desired as they’ve got Wanda and Pietro chained up in a makeshift dungeon. Maybe this was a brotherhood hazing, I don’t know. Either way, Quicksilver is able to free a hand and get to his Avengers mini radio to send an SOS. We ten cut around to see where the assorted individual Avengers are, including Goliath and the Wasp, who are in las Vegas. There’s a strange dogleg page that goes nowhere setting up a gambler who’s cheating using magnets concealed in his pockets. It wasn’t until years later that I’d get to read the page that was cut out of this reprint where the tiny Goliath and the Wasp expose this guy and get him kicked out. So it’s a strange beat here.
As the Avengers begin to assemble, back at Garrett Castle where Wanda and Pietro are being held, another figure works his way through labyrinthine secret chambers. This is Dane Whitman, the scientist who created the magnetic bridge which allowed Magneto and the Toad to get back to Earth. But there’s more going on with Whitman than that–he’s actually the nephew of the super-villain called the Black Knight, who had perished in battle with Iron Man some time earlier. Dane ad promised his dying Uncle that he would redeem the family name by using his science in the service of mankind.
Having failed once by allowing Magneto to escape and menace the world, Whitman decides to be more direct this time. He dons armor adapted from that which his uncle had worn and adopts the name of the Black Knight. But he’s overpowered by Magneto and he knows it, so his move here is to seek out the Avengers and enlist their help. Meanwhile, Magneto has discovered Pietro’s treachery, and he clobbers the powerless speedster–to say nothing of kicking the Toad around. The Magneto if this era was a far cry from the tortured survivor of Nazi death camps that we’ve seen for the past three decades. Rather, he was one of the most black-hearted villains in the Marvel line-up, without any real redeeming facets to his personality. Ultimately, he magnetically picks up Quicksilver and the Witch and carries them off to an awaiting ship, to take his business elsewhere in case somebody heard Pietro’s call for help.
Meanwhile, the Black Knight has made his way to Avengers Mansion, but he hasn’t given enough thought to the fact that he’s flying in wearing the colors of one of the founding members of the Masters of Evil. Thinking themselves under attack, the Avengers retaliate–and a pitched battle breaks out between them and the novice would-be super hero. To make matters worse, Whitman is still a bit of an amateur with is uncle’s weapons, so as he’s in the middle of the fight, his stray blasts start causing damage and imperiling bystanders.
In typical Marvel fashion, its a big ol’ colorful fight sequence, with the Avengers not giving the Black Knight time to explain himself and the Knight’s inexperience putting the various Avengers and the rubberneckers gathered below at risk several times. In the end, the Knight accidentally uses too much power when blasting a building cornice, causing it to crumble and fall towards the ground. Goliath grows large enough to catch it and hurl it away, but he’s left off-balance by the maneuver and he himself falls towards the ground. Fortunately, he begins to shrink as he does so, allowing the Knight to catch the wayward Avenger on the back of his winged steed Aragorn.
With this lull in the battle, the Knight is finally able to explain himself, and then to lead the Avengers back to Garrett Castle. But by the time they arrive, Magneto and his prisoners are long gone. The Avengers are a bit frustrated at this point, and take it out on the Black Knight, who snaps back at them. He’s not a partner of Quicksilver or the Scarlet Witch, nor does he care all that much about Magneto (though in truth he’s responsible for the evil mutant being at liberty) so if the Avengers want to continue to distrust him, they can go hang. And, so saying, he flies off into the night, leaving the Avengers without much of a clue as to the whereabouts of their two missing members. To Be Continued!