The Return of Captain America!
To most people, the top of the world is not very inviting. To Namor, however, it was perfect. Having lost most of his pursuers he turned his attention to his original plan. "To think, only a few miles under this sheet of ice rest the remains of my kingdom!" In the days since he last battled with the surface dwellers he had some luck finding some of his people.
From them he gathered a few fragments. A wizard of some sort had arrived nearly a decade before. Namor seethed at the memory, a hazy recollection that taunted him. From there disaster had befallen his people. The nomadic tribes he talked to were not certain what happened, but the general consensus was atomic testing was to blame.
As far as support went, the tribes were hesitant to follow him. He would need something to show them that he was still capable of leading. In his trek across the snow, he spied a large pillar of ice jutting out of the ground. A group of men gathered around the ice. Several of them were kneeling around the pillar and chanting.
Namor narrowed his eyes in rage. "Even here surface men follow me!" He took to the air with a single leap. "Away!" He bellowed, uncaring if the men understood him.
"Run! The Sub-Mariner is here!" An old man shouted. "Radio the mainland!"
In his anger, Namor lashed out blindly. His fist smashed the ice pillar, bringing it crashing down. "You worship this?" he hefted the ton of ice over his head easily. "Try worshiping true power!" He threw the ice into the ocean. Watching it drift out to sea mollified his temper.
Once he was alone on the ice, he looked around at the scene of destruction. "Those men were no threat to me, and such a tantrum does not help me gain me my people. No, the prince of the blood is no mere brute, lashing at helpless objects!" Sickened, he turned back towards inland and started walking.
Unseen by all, the large chunk of ice became caught in the oceanic current and started drifting away. Had Namor bothered to inspect the ice, he might have caught sight of a humanoid figure trapped inside. The ice drifted away, and as it washed into the warmer waters it started to melt.
"You really think this will work?" Ant-Man tapped his fingers on the control board. He glanced around the inside of the submarine. With the Sub-Mariner on the loose, the world's countries had started a planet wide manhunt. The Avengers, for their part, were piloting a prototype sub developed by Stark Industries.
"Mister Stark assures me this is the fastest thing outside of a Verne novel."
With the Hulk and Lady Thor holding down the fort in New York, Iron Man switched the controls to automatic. He stood up and walked back to his cabin. Unknown to the Wasp or Ant-Man, Tony Stark needed to recharge his breastplate in order to keep his heart beating. As he made his way towards his spare battery, the warning klaxon sounded.
"Did we find the Sub-Mariner?" Ant-Man scanned the controls as Iron Man hurried back to bridge.
"I'm not sure!" Iron Man looked at the radar screen. "Instruments are picking up something though, something humanoid and warm enough to register."
The Wasp rushed to the periscope. With Stark's genius he had developed a model that could be used under water just as easily as it could be used above it. "I see something! It's a man, he'll drown!"
"Let's get him on board," Iron Man pointed them towards the front of the ship while he left to recharge. "First we'll handle this, then the Sub-Mariner."
Jennifer Ross had been busy since she slipped away. The She-Hulk had taken her across Europe. She found intrigue and mystery nearly everywhere, but it was Greece where she found something amazing. She managed to barter her way onto a tramp steamer, but that trip ended at the first sundown.
The grey skinned behemoth easily jumped ship and swam to a small island some miles from anything. Changing back in the daytime, Jennifer busied herself exploring. She thought she was alone until she found the island's only other occupant.
She saw the statues first. Twisted shapes similar to men and women, Jennifer thought back to the old legends of Medusa. "With my luck, she's probably home." Remembering the old myths, she tied a strip of cloth over her eyes and felt her way around, mostly to see if there was anything living.
She felt her way into the cave. Hearing machinery humming, she removed the blindfold and gasped. Deep within the mountain was a sight. A large metal ship was hidden inside the cave. She marveled at the strange design when a hatch opened.
With a loud hiss the metal slid away and a strangely garbed figure stepped out. She thought it might have been a gorgon like the legends, but when she caught a glance of her reflection in the metal suit's visor she relaxed. The figure stepped down and approached her, a hand on the pistol like device in its hand. "Identify yourself." The voice was flat and toneless, but spoken in nearly perfect Greek.
"I'm a human, and I don't mean you any harm." Jennifer slowly raised her hands. The being touched something on the side of its helmet.
"Possibly, but I've been attacked by your people before using a similar tactic." The voice was now in English. "What is your designation?"
"My name is Jennifer. Who are you?"
"My name is Vuk." The visor lifted with a hiss. Jennifer stared at the creature. Its skin was green. The face was narrow, with two saggy eyelids right in the middle. A few strands of light green hair stuck out from the visor.
"Are you from outer space?" Jennifer gasped.
"I come from the planet D'Bari IV, although I doubt the term means anything to you." Vuk sounded apologetic. "I was an explorer." He cast a sideways glance at his space ship. "The Starhammer may not be much, but at one point it was the fastest thing in the galaxy. My instruments were damaged and I was forced into landing on your planet."
"How…how long have you been here?" Jennifer remembered the ruined statues outside.
"Several centuries by your understanding. I placed myself in hibernation, only awakening when natives entered the cave. The first group mistook me for something they called 'Medusa'. I was forced to use my petrifactor" he patted his sidearm, "and turn them to stone. This continued for a great many years before the natives finally left me alone. Unfortunately in some of the latter skirmishes my supplies were damaged and I have been unable to fix my ship."
"That's terrible!" Jennifer felt a twang of sympathy for the alien. She also felt something else. She gasped when she saw the sunlight retreating from the cave. "Oh no!" She jumped up and frantically looked around. "That gun, can you reverse the effects?"
Vuk quizzically raised a fleshly glob on his face. "Yes, in theory, why?"
Jennifer doubled over, sweat pouring down her face. "Then use it on me!" Her muscles swelled as her skin paled. "Hurry, I don't know how she'll react!"
"She? Who else are you talking to?" Vuk un-holstered the weapon as a precaution, but before he could power the weapon, Jennifer fell to the cave floor.
Before his amazed eyes, Jennifer's hair grew longer and darker. Standing up, she now towered over Vuk. "Who are you?"
"Curious" Vuk kept his hand on his weapon. "Do you recall where you are?"
"Can't say as I do." She marveled at the spaceship. "That thing work?"
Vuk looked over Jennifer's new form. "How strong are you?"
Jennifer sauntered over to the ship. Gripping the rock surrounding it, she pushed the rock away. Vuk dodged the falling rock, taking shelter under the ship's fins. When the rumbling stopped, he careful edged out from under the ship.
The whole side of the mountain was gone. With little effort, the She-Hulk did in seconds what he failed to do in centuries. Vuk holstered his gun. "I believe this is the beginning of a profitable partnership."
Iron Man carefully manned the manipulator arms. Ant-Man volunteered to enlarge his arms and drag the man in, but Iron Man was firm. With mechanical precision, the two arms reached out and snagged the melting chunk of ice. The final pieces broke free and floated away.
Quickly taking the man inside, the Avengers rushed the man into the medical bay. "Who is he, a sailor?" Iron Man laid the man on the nearest stretcher.
"I'm not sure." Ant-Man picked a large clump of ice off the man's chest. "Those look like army greens, but lord, those must be twenty years old!" He dropped the ice as the Wasp pushed past him and gasped.
"His chest!" She pointed at the man. He was dressed in a green uniform, but the clothing was tattered and worn. In several spots the cloth had rotted away entirely. Under the green fatigues, however, was another uniform.
Bright blue chainmail peaked out from the tattered cloth. A clean white star above red and white stripes covered the man's chest. "That's…that's Captain America's uniform!"
"Captain America? But it's been ten years since anyone's seen him. How does he look so young?" Iron Man gazed at the man's uncovered face. True enough there was no visible sign of aging. "He's been running around since 1941 and he hardly looks older than you Ant-Man. Maybe he's imposter?"
The Wasp stared intently at the man's face. "No, he's real, I'm sure. Captain America saved my town when I was a child. I'd never forget that jawline."
"Well, we can ask him when he comes to, maybe." Iron Man hooked the unconscious man to a monitor. "His heart is steady," the machine began to beep louder, "in fact it's increasing!"
The figure on the stretcher suddenly opened his eyes. He glanced around wildly. "Buck! Bucky look out!" he sat up, tearing the sensors off.
"Easy, no one wants to hurt you!" Ant-Man slowly approached him, his hands open and outstretched.
"I won't let you hurt Bucky!" Rolling off the stretcher, Captain America landed on his feet. In one smooth motion he freed a shield that had been slipped behind his back. "I'll smash you all!"
"Look, we don't want to fight you!" Iron Man raised his hands up, but in his case he was powering up his repulsor rays in case the hero didn't want to stand down.
He didn't even see the shield until it connected solidly with his helmet. Dazed, he staggered back as Captain America ripped the tattered uniform away and slipped a blue cowl over his face. The shield bounced off Iron Man's helmet, ricocheted off the ceiling and landed neatly in his outstretched hand. "No, Bucky… Bucky's dead. I remember now."
"Captain, do you know what year it is?" the Wasp approached him slowly.
All three Avengers looked at each other. Ant-Man broke the silence first. "Captain, how did you get stuck in ice?"
Captain America sat back down, still at the ready. "It was all Zemo's doing. We, Bucky and I, we were sent in to check out a rumor about Zemo trying to steal a prototype jet from a secret warehouse in England. We went in disguised as regular GI's, but Zemo ambushed us with some kind of giant robot. He strapped us to it and sent it on a course to Berlin."
Captain America suddenly looked very old and very tired. "We managed to get free, somehow, but Bucky didn't want to let Zemo get away with the plane. We chased after it, but it was a trap. Either the designers or Zemo, I don't know, but there was a bomb. Bucky tried to disarm it, but it went off." He lowered his head. "I fell, hit the water. Bucky's dead, I know that now" He looked at the trio. "Are you with the Allied Command? I don't recognize the costumes."
"Cap, I don't know how to tell you, but that was twenty years ago." The Wasp put a hand on his shoulder.
He paled. "What?" he flinched away from her. "No, you're lying!" he jumped to his feet. "This is some kind of Nazi trick!"
"Cap, it's 1963. The war is over." The Wasp shook her head. "What can we do to convince you?"
He glanced around the sub. "If I could get a radio and verify your story…"
"Done and done." Iron Man gestured towards the radio room.
The She-Hulk smirked as the Starhammer streaked across the sky. Once the ship had been freed it was only a matter of time before Vuk had it up and running. The fuel was still low, so leaving the planet was out of the question. She had a plan for that.
"This gun, can you use it on more than one target?"
"Yes," Vuk piloted the ship away from the island.
Shifting in her seat, she accidently flicked a switch, turning on the ship's radio monitor. Before Vuk could turn it off, she caught the tail end of an announcement. "We repeat, startling news from the Avengers," her blood boiled at the mention of the name, "legendary hero Captain America reported alive and well. Tony Stark has called a press conference within the hour to introduce the famed hero to a hungry public."
"We have to go there!"
Vuk tapped the control panel. "We barely have enough fuel as it is. If we go to this event, the ship will never fly again."
"Just do it!" She gripped her armrests hard to warp the metal. "Iron Man will be there! If you turn him to stone, you can get Tony Stark to do whatever you want!"
"But, harming innocent people, I couldn't do it!"
The She-Hulk, who seemed much larger in the cockpit, moved closer to him. "And if you don't you'll be stuck here, forever. Do this one thing and you'll be free to go home."
Vuk looked at the fading stars. "Home…"
The She-Hulk's smile faded. "Blast, we'll be heading back into daylight."
"What was that?"
"Just a reminder. When I change back, be sure to secure me tight. My other self is quite crazy you know and might sabotage your plans." She secured the safety harness around her and popped several small tablets in her mouth. Vuk assured her they would be enough to keep her asleep for several hours if not days. Her eyes felt heavy. "Just remember, turn the Avengers to stone then get me out at sunset. We'll have your ship homeward by daybreak," She smiled as she drifted to sleep, "with me at the controls and you here to deal with the consequences." She added mentally.
"Are you sure about this?" Ant-Man nervously tapped his fingers as the sub docked in New York Harbor.
"Look, the best way to introduce anything is the biggest way possible. Cap will wave to the crowd, we answer a few softball questions, and then we drop him off at the mansion. What could go wrong?" Iron Man finished buffing out the dent in his helmet.
As the submarine resurfaced, a crowd of reporters were already clamoring for space on the docks. The door to the sub opened with a slight fanfare. Iron Man, the Wasp, Ant-Man, and Lady Thor (who flew in to meet the team) assembled on a quickly made bandstand. Iron Man stepped forward to greet the crowd when a tall figure in a trench coat pushed past the first line of reporters.
Before the harried police could approach the figure, he drew what appeared to be a pistol from his coat and fired. The Avengers were caught in the pistol's strange rays. The crowd was silent, unsure of what to expect. When an onlooker noticed the team had been turned to stone, panic erupted.
The police, already pushed to a breaking point, fled along with the crowd. In seconds the dock was devoid of life. Captain America slowly exited the sub. "What's going on?"
He glanced around. All he saw were the empty street and a strange collection of statues. "Could this be a monument?" He looked at the stone. "No, it's in too odd a place; so what happened to the team?"
He walked down the gangplank and made his way into the city. Rounding a corner, he gasped at the New York skyline. Some familiar sites were still there, but others he didn't recognize. He passed by a small electronic store. "Televisions? They're so small!" He peered at the sets on display. "Amazing!"
Seeing a newsstand, he picked up a newspaper and thumbed through it. "So much has changed." He careful put it back. "So is New York just empty now?"
He heard a loud crash coming from an alley. Lifting his shield up, he rushed towards the sound. He stopped short when he saw the source of the noise. "Yeoman Walters?"
The Hulk stood up from the crater she created. Rick Jones slid off her back. "C'mon Hulk, we have to find out what happened to the Avengers!"
"Yeoman Walters!" Cap shouted, relief breaking his voice. "I can't believe it!"
Rick emerged from behind the Hulk and gasped. "You!" The images of a faded and torn comic book came to mind when he stared at the red, white, and blue costume. Long Sundays with a stack of yellowed paper came flooding back as he looked into the face of Captain America.
"I'm sorry, do I know you?" The Hulk scratched her head. The costume seemed familiar, but Rick seemed to know the stranger more than she did.
Rick sputtered and tried to come up with something to say before he finally gripped the captain's hand and shook it. "Yeoman, what happened?" Cap gently freed his hand from Rick.
"Yeoman…Holy Hannah, you're talking about my mother!" The Hulk gasped.
"Mother?" Cap tried to wrap his head around the image of the She-Hulk being a parent when a car exploded down the street. "What's happening now?"
"Stay here!" The Hulk moved into the street. A marching party of Atlantean troops was making their way down the street. "I don't believe it!"
Cap joined her in the street. "Atlantis is attacking now?" He scanned the invaders, looking for a familiar face. "Their weapons, they look…old."
Rick looked at the devastation as the troops randomly fired at the buildings. "They seem to work pretty well to me!"
"No, I mean those weapons and uniforms look the exact same when I last saw Namor. Either his military had some cutbacks or something is wrong." He lifted his shield up to deflect debris. At once he stood at the ready. "Young man, you need to get to safety." He tapped the Hulk's shoulder. "She-Hulk?"
"Just Hulk, actually," She lifted a wrecked car.
"Hulk, the Avengers were hit with some kind of ray gun. I heard the crowd say someone shot them and they must be the statues I saw. You need to get them somewhere safe and look for the culprit. He may still be around."
"And leave you against an invading army?"
He smiled. "I've had worse odds." The Hulk tossed the car aside and jumped towards the harbor. Rick stood there, dumbfounded, as Captain America rushed towards the Atlanteans.
The Hulk found the rest of the team easily enough. Carrying them back to the mansion was a pain, but she managed. Once inside Tony Stark's home, she started to think. "Ok, pretty well solid stone, but what can that tell me?"
Shifting back to Betty Ross, as the Hulk's fingers were not suited to delicate work, Betty picked up a modified Geiger counter. "Slight radiation trace, but nothing I've seen before. If whatever did this is still in the city, I might be able to track it!"
Captain America dodged the ray fire as he waded through the Atlantean troops. They went down individually with a few well-placed blows to their water filled helmets, but he wasn't doing enough. "Where is Namor?"
"Cap, Namor is in Central Park!" Rick shouted from the corner. He waved a transistor radio in his hand. "The police say he just landed there!"
Cap looked around him. The Atlanteans were on the ground, many of them gasping for breath. The uninjured ones stood nervously, their guns lowered. Captain America slung his shield over his shoulders. "Take me to your leader."
The Hulk, after borrowing some equipment from Stark's private lab, bounded across the rooftops. The Geiger counter beeped louder and louder as she neared the Bowery. Landing in the street, she muscled her way into the ruined building. A few drunks eyeballed her as she stomped her way up the steps. The ancient wood and tile creaked and groaned dangerously as she neared her target.
Flicking her finger against the door at the end of the hall, she forced her way in the narrow room. "Come out, I know you're here!" she groused as she dusted plaster and asbestos off her shoulders.
"Of course I'm here, you sent me to this place." Vuk stepped out from the bathroom, his disguise dropped. "Wait, I thought you could only be active at night?" His hand dropped to his weapon, but the Hulk rushed forward.
Enveloping him in a crushing bear hug, she plowed through the wall and into the street. Landing almost exactly in the same pothole she created earlier, she shook Vuk violently. "How do you change the Avengers back?"
"Wait!" Vuk wailed. "My petrifactor's effects can be reversed!"
The Hulk relaxed her grip, but only enough to let him slip the device out of its holster. She leaned forward. "If you try anything with that, remember, I'd weigh several tons as stone, and from this position I'd fall forward. Got it?"
"Yes!" Vuk made it a point to keep his finger off the trigger.
"Good, now let's talk about fixing my friends."
Captain America walked towards the center of the park. His Atlantean captors limped beside him and seemed far worse for wear. In the center, directing troop movements and issuing orders to a group of newsmen, was Namor.
"Take my words to the rest of the surface world! Namor the First, Avenging Son of Atlantis, will conquer your Eastern seaboard!"
"Hold it!" the red, white, and blue shield streaked through the air and bounced off Namor's flagship. Namor spun around, a look of utter shock on his features.
"No, no it's can't be!" His shock gave way to anger. "Your attempts at humor are as weak as your defenses surface dweller!"
"Namor, stop this, please!" Captain America held up his hand. "I don't know what could have happened since the War, but the prince I knew would never attack without just cause."
Namor raised an eyebrow. "Your voice…are you the real Captain America or yet another imposter?"
"I'm the real deal Namor, now can you tell me what is going on?"
Namor pointed towards his flagship. "Inside, I don't wish to be seen conversing with a prisoner before my troops."
Captain America sighed. "I see some things haven't changed at all."
"So, you claim to be Steve Rogers." Namor poured himself a glass of water. He offered Captain America nothing.
"I claim nothing. Namor, I was frozen in ice. The Avengers claim it's been almost twenty years since I last saw you. Is it true?"
Namor was silent for a full minute. "Yes. The Invaders gave way to the All-Winners Squad. The Human Torch died some ten years ago, killed by the Russians I think. Toro vanished, and I have no idea what happened to Union Jack or Spitfire, nor do I care."
Hearing the names of his friends discussed in such a cold manner brought a flush of anger to the Living Legend. "Blast it man, they fought with you! How can you just stand there and act like they meant nothing?"
Namor's lip jerked in what may have been a smile. "If I had doubts before, you've convinced me now. Welcome back Steve."
"Glad I passed the test, now how about calling off your invasion?"
"Impossible." Namor pointed to a window. "Those people you so rush to defend destroyed my home and stripped me of memory. While you were trapped in ice, I lived like a derelict, lost in a fog. The world must pay for what they did to Atlantis. I owe my people that."
"I won't argue that, but there must be another way. Innocent people will be hurt if you continue."
"Captain, for the sake of our friendship I won't attack you, but with the Avengers disabled and the Fantastic Four away, I have the advantage."
Explosions rocked the area, flinging both men down. "You were saying?" Captain America rushed to the window. He saw a strange rocket ship, hovering in the sky and firing on Namor's troops. Iron Man, the Hulk, and some women dressed like the Norse god Thor attacked from the sky and ground.
Namor sneered at the sight. "A slight reprieve Captain, nothing more." With a throw of a lever, Captain America found himself ejected from the ship. Around him, the Atlantean cruisers took to the sky as the troops fled.
Later, when the hostages were freed and explanations were made, Vuk explained his role. "I bore no malice against your people, but the large grey and green skinned female offered me a chance to return to the stars."
"Oh brother!" The Hulk rolled her eyes. "This female, where is she?"
"That I'm not sure. She was asleep in the ship the last time I saw her, but when I returned from the dock she was gone."
"Great, and with the sun going down she'll probably be halfway to New Mexico by now." Iron Man groused.
Vuk pointed to his ship. "I might be able to assist you, assuming you can part with a few minerals and some basic chemical compounds."
And so, after a few hours of labor, Vuk sat in his pilot's chair. A small handheld device rested in the Hulk's hand. She said nothing as the Starhammer lifted off from Tony Stark's private airstrip and shot off towards the heavens.
"Can this device really help find my mother?" She tucked the alien tool in her pocket, focusing on the team's new arrival. Captain America had been awe struck since Vuk's arrival.
"Is every day in the 1960s going to be like this?"
"Nay, sometimes things are exciting!" Lady Thor slapped his back. "What say you fellows, shall the Captain join our ranks?"
"I have no objection. All in favor?" Iron Man put his hand out. The others joined him, each placing their hands over his.
The approval was overwhelming. Captain America placed his over the Hulk's massive hand. "I don't know what to say."
"Try yes, that usually works." The Wasp joked. Captain America smiled as they raised their arms in victory.
Based on "Captain America Joins the Avengers!" which was first published in the Avengers I#4 (March 1964) with credits to Stan Lee (script), Jack Kirby (pencils), George Roussos (inks), Stan Goldberg (colors), and Artie Simek (letters)
Next time, Invasion of the Lava Men!
But first, some fan mail.
Wow! "The final showdown between the Hulk and the She-Hulk will be continued in Sensational Comics#18" and "Next month we get a big surprise." What could be bigger? Jen gives up being She-Hulk to become Giant Girl, aka Goliath? Betty gives up being the Hulk to become Yellowjacket? Namor gives up being the Sub-Mariner to become Leviathan? I can't wait!
Fine ideas all, but not quite. Goliath and Yellowjacket will be showing up here sooner or later, though. May the Vishanti grant you good fortune for looking over this.
They call me Bruce
Like how you're doing this
Great alternative take of the Avengers first fight between the Sub-Mariner and the She-Hulk. Makes me wonder how you will do the team's first encounter with Captain America? I also wonder when will the Hulk return to the team and how she will take seeing Captain America? And what of the She-Hulk, what fate befell on her now that she is once again on the run? Please do keep up the good work upon such a great storyline as this was a great alternative take on Earth's Mightiest Heroes. I can't wait to see what you'll do with Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver, when they join up or how you'll handle the Masters of Evil in the future.
All I can say about the last is the old order will changeth, but not in the way you think. And keep an eye out for the Masters.
And speaking of looking at things, check out these upcoming works, appearing at a monitor near you!
Sensational Comics#18-the Avengers take over!
Tales to Astonish#17-The Wasp VS the Human Top!
Journey into Mystery#19-the Return of Zarko, the Tomorrow Man!
Amazing Fantasy#10-Roller Disco Smash!