In addition to picking up back issues on that trip to Heroes World in Levittown, New York with my grandparents, I also purchased a bunch of brand new books that hadn’t quite made their way to my area yet, such as this issue of MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION. I wasn’t the type of kid who could wait on stuff like this, even though it would have meant more money on hand to spend on stuff that I might never get another crack at. The cover here makes an interesting choice: in this story, Goliath’s costume colors are changed from blue and yellow to red and blue. The original AVENGERS cover had them in blue and gold as they are here, but that’s because it had been sent to the printer before the decision had been made to revise them on the interiors. But for this reprint, everybody involved would have known. And yet, they decided to keep the piece these colors anyway.
At the time this story was first created, AVENGERS was on something of an upswing. Much of that had to do with the arrival of John Buscema on the title. John was a phenomenally talented artist, and one who quickly grasped the bombastic Kirby-derived approach to storytelling that editor Stan Lee was after. Qualitatively, AVENGERS suddenly looked a lot more modern and electric than it had done. Additionally, writer Roy Thomas began to tailor his efforts more and more to Buscema’s sensibilities as he got a firmer grasp on them, which turned out to be a good thing. The stories became a little bit narratively simpler, but the individual incidents had a lot more punch to them. After inking the previous two issues, Buscema decided to go back to just penciling–he never liked any of his inkers, pretty much, but he made far better money if he was just doing pencils or breakdowns than he did when he inked his own work, which was a more time-consuming process for him. So George Tuska, who had been inking the series before that, returned for this issue as embellisher.
Also returning to the pages of AVENGERS, at least for the duration of this story, were Thor and Iron Man. Ever since he’d come onto the title as writer, Roy Thomas had been angling to bring the scion of Asgard and the armored avenger back into the fold on a permanent basis. But editor Lee wouldn’t hear of it: he remembered all of the letters he’d gotten from fans during the early days of AVENGERS, asking how Iron Man could be in jeopardy in his own series while hanging out with the team in AVENGERS. Roy would eventually get his wish, but for the time being, he had to be satisfied with bringing in the two AVENGERS big guns whenever the story permitted it. He’d done so recently in the first AVENGERS ANNUAL, and so he tried his luck again in this story, to successful results. (Roy also wanted Captain America back, which would also take some time to happen–but he’d rope in an adequate substitute for the WWII Living Legend by the end of this issue.)
This issue opens with the Avengers at low ebb, mainly because there’s only three of them left on active duty, and Goliath has lost his growing powers. Attempting to regain his size-enhancement abilities, Hank Pym attempts an experiment in the opening which goes wrong, forcing Hawkeye and the Wasp to pull him out of it before he’s flash-fried. But the real threat of this issue is presented by the Collector. At this point in time, very little was known about this mysterious being who had on one previous occasion attempted to secure the Avengers for his space menagerie. This was well before the concept of the Elders of the Universe had been formulated, before the Grandmaster had been introduced, so the Collector’s motivations for doing what he did were murky at best. But his obsession was easy enough to understand. And with the Avengers in disarray, this was an opportune moment for him to strike and complete his collection.
So the collector plants–no fooling–a booby trapped comb near to Janet Van Dyne’s A-shaped pool, and when the heiress touches it, it winds up whisking her and her two comrades-in-arms away to captivity aboard the Collector’s hovering starship. There, they learn that Thor has been made into a thrall of the Collector, having been unsuspectingly drugged by the vilain when the two met a short while ago. The Collector scans the world for new targets, giving Roy the opportunity to plug then-current Marvel stories featuring Captain America and the Hulk before settling on Iron Man as the next Avenger to go after. In order to overpower Shellhead, he dispatches Thor to retrieve him. Iron Man isn’t expecting any aggression as the God of Thunder approaches him, so he’s on the back foot almost immediately as Thor whangs him with his hammer. This leads into a battle sequence in which Iron Man is only barely able to stay one step ahead of the raging Thunder God.
Fortunately for the Avengers, the tide is about to turn. The Wasp is able to escape her cell with the aid of one of the Collector’s other specimens, which is close enough to an ant for her to communicate with and command. She swiftly liberates Hawkeye and Goliath, and the three hurl themselves at their abductor. But it’s still a pretty one-sided fight since they’re trapped aboard the Collector’s ship and forced to combat all of his defensive technology. But it turns out that the Collector didn’t’ want a damaged Goliath as a part of his collection, and so he took the liberty of restoring Hank’s size-changing powers–which is good news as the Avengers are assaulted by a 25 foot robotoid. Showing off his restored abilities, Goliath makes fast work of the robot, ripping the thing apart. The Collector’s ship is rocked by a series of explosions from the damage done to its inner workings, so the Avengers need an escape route. But elsewhere, having overcome Iron Man, Thor rousts from his trance.
And so Thor comes bursting into the Collector’s failing ship in time to convey his fellow Avengers to safety. (Not real thought is given to the Collector’s many other exhibits, including the critter who helped save the Wasp, all of whom must perish when the ship detonates–oops.) Back at Avengers Mansion, Iron Man is revived and helps to stabilize Goliath’s powers so that they’ll be permanent. What’s more, the Avengers have a message from Captain America. He’d just gotten finished with a team-up with the Black Panther over in TALES OF SUSPENSE, and he’s recommending that the Chieftain of Wakanda join the Avengers. (Roy only refers to T’Challa as the Panther in this story, rather than the Black Panther, an emphasis that was being made to help distance the character from the Black Panther Party.) And so, the ranks of the Avengers are replenished, even though Thor and Iron Man don’t stick around.