Avengers (1st series) #18

Issue Date: 
July 1965
Story Title: 
When The Commissar Commands!

Stan Lee (writer), Don Heck (pencils), Dick Ayers (inks), Artie Simek (letters)

Brief Description: 

Captain America feels a bit frustrated, as he still hasn’t set up a private life of his own and seems to be taking enough by living in another man’s house and eating his food. Cap hopes that Nick Fury will soon answer the letter he wrote requesting to join his task force, but so far Cap hasn’t gotten a response. At the same time, Pietro and Wanda go out separately. Wanda goes to see an opera, and Pietro enjoys a circus performance and even saves one of the performers’ life. And Hawkeye takes the time-off to improve his arrows in the mansion’s lab. However, at the same time in Sin-Cong, the evil Commissar and his army rise up and overwhelm the citizens, and want to recruit them in a war against the communists in America. However, the townspeople don’t like the idea, as they don’t have anything against the Americans. The Commissar is stubborn to prove his right, and asks his helper Hoy to set out a trap to America’s greatest protectors, namely the Avengers. He does, and the Avengers take the bait and travel to Sin-Cong, at first thinking they are going to fight in the underground rebel forces. However, they soon realize they have been set up, and Wanda gets caught and the others faint thanks to sleep gas. The Commissar challenges them all for battle, as he wants to prove how weak the communists are. Every single one of the Avengers gets beaten, but then it’s up to Wanda. After some time thinking, Cap has an idea behind the Commissar’s strength and informs Wanda about it. She uses her Hex powers and reveals a control panel, which was used to operate the “Commissar.” He literally explodes, and is revealed to be a robot! Major Hoy escapes before being spotted, and wants to get out before Peking realizes his failure. The townspeople cheer for their freedom thanks to the Avengers, and thank Wanda in particular, and carry her to a celebration party.

Full Summary: 

Cap sits alone in a big room in Avengers Mansion. He is frustrated, and wonders if this is how he is supposed to live his life: accepting another man’s shelter and food, and ramrod of a team of super heroes and without a private life of his own. Cap wishes that Nick Fury would answer the letter he send about requesting to join his armed unit, but so far, Cap hasn’t gotten a response yet. He notices that the world outside the window is passing him by, and that he has yet to establish an identity of his own. But, with his former teammates Iron Man, Giant-Man and the Wasp having left the group, Cap realizes that he can’t leave, as he is needed to guide the new members.

Meanwhile, Wanda meets up with a television watching Pietro. He is enjoying circus performers, and don’t want to be disturbed. Wanda mentions that she has bought two tickets for them to go see the opera “Twelfth Night” and invites her brother to join. Ironically, Pietro had already bought two tickets to see tonight’s circus, in the hope that Wanda could have join him!

And so, the two mutants go alone. Wanda enjoys the opera, and remembers how she always dreamt about being an actress and loves the theater. And at the circus, Quicksilver enjoys the trapeze act, and wishes that it could be him up there. However, he always feared that, upon seeing his great speed, the public would fear him for being a mutant. Suddenly, one of the performers gets a cramp in his muscles, and fails to grab his partner’s arm during the show.

The audience thinks it’s all part of the show, but Pietro luckily realizes otherwise. He quickly runs down into the ring, with nobody noticing it, and prepares a safety net, which catches the falling performers! They don’t know what happened, but are glad to be safe.

At the same time, Hawkeye has spent many hours in the mansion’s lab, working on just one type of arrow, and decides to test it if it’s good enough. He fires the arrow, and watches it vibrate at the correct frequency pitch and lifting a nearby safe. Clint has now proven that weight means nothing, provided the ultra-sonic vibration is perfectly pitched. He now wants to send a moving crew to replace the safe.

However, other things are happening on the other side of the world, on the communist-ruled puppet state of Sin-Cong. Soldiers gather citizens around them, and give them an angry speech that they are angry at paying their taxes too slowly. The citizens try to make them understand that they have to pay too much, and that the soldiers have already taken anything they’ve got. The soldiers claim that the citizens must pay for their protection.

An angry Commissar shows up from his tent, and wants to know who just said that. The person remains silent, and the soldiers start to speech again about how they have offended their beloved Commissar. He demonstrates his awesome strength by lifting a heavy, big rock and by throwing it high into the air! He also shows his fists, which he wants to use to fight the capitalist nations.

But the citizens don’t fear the capitalists, since they have been giving them food and clothes, until the Commissar and his soldiers came for power. Hearing this remark makes the Commissar even angrier, and he grabs one of the citizens by his clothes, wanting to make them pay for still believing the Americans’ “evil propaganda.” He orders them all to bow for him, which they do, and promises that they’ll soon see the Americans go down at his might!

Hours later, Captain America receives a radio call from Sin-Cong, begging them for help and fearing that any moment might be their last thanks to the Commissar. Cap realizes the threat, and promises that help will be on the way. Cap secretly hopes that this mission might prove his worth to Nick Fury and that, after winning this mission, Fury will have to consider him joining his group.

Unfortunately, Cap isn’t aware that the call was a trap set by the Commissar! His helper is glad that the Avengers have taken the bait, and is certain that the Commissar’s name will be known across all of Asia if he destroys them. The Commissar promises to do just that.

And, back at the States, Cap sends out the famous “Avengers Assemble” battle cry out towards Hawkeye’s, Quicksilver’s and the Scarlet Witch’s contact rings, and they rush back to the mansion. Cap briefs the team in what’s going on, and asks if there are any questions. Clint of course sarcastically “gets it” but Pietro and Wanda do not. They thought that the Avengers had to battle crime, and want to know why they have to meddle in international affairs.

Hawkeye cuts in and explains it to them. He is aware that the Avengers are supposed to fight injustice and, when liberty is threatened, justice goes down the drain! Pietro and Wanda get the picture, and agree to help out. During the flight to Sin-Cong, Cap tries to thank Hawkeye for supporting him, but Clint only wanted to show that anyone can give a leader’s speech if they just push it.

They land at the Asian airdrome, and are already awaited by a large army of soldiers. Cap fears that they might have intercepted the message, and have run into a trap. The soldiers aren’t impressed by them, and whisper that they are certain the Commissar can destroy them. Cap warns his troops to do as the soldiers say for now, hoping that thereby they’ll gain their trust. Hawkeye isn’t sure about it, as he doesn’t like guns pointed at his head. The soldier’s leader mentions that, for now, they are safe and orders them to get into a car so that he can take them to the Commissar.

Exactly one hour later, the soldiers report to the Commissar that the Avengers have landed, and he orders them to prepare a suitable welcome. The Avengers get lead into a beautiful temple, which Wanda finds odd for being there seeing how many people are starving in this country. Cap tells her not to worry about that now, and just follow the soldier’s lead as anything can happen now. The soldiers drop the Avengers in a large room inside the temple, and leave them, promising that the Commissar will be with them soon.

However, suddenly the steel door from the room starts to close, and Cap realizes they have been trapped! He orders Quicksilver to run towards it, hoping he can get through, but Pietro can’t. He orders Hawkeye to shoot his blast-arrow against the door, which on impact explodes and makes a hole in the door. The team rushes through, but is already expected by the soldiers, who shoot at them.

Cap protects himself using his shield and, after running through them, he attacks the soldiers and makes them understand that, sometimes, victims fight back! More soldiers arrive, but Wanda quickly uses her Hex power to make the guns defective, and not able to fire. Unfortunately, yet more soldiers arrive, but Wanda can’t put a spell on them. Hawkeye shouts at Cap and warns him that one of the soldiers has fired a bazooka at him, but luckily Cap dodges the blast by hurling away. He orders Quicksilver to use Plan Seven. Pietro does so, and uses his powers to make a “7” like wave and hits and defeats the soldiers in that order.

The Avengers take some time to gather back their strength, and Wanda mentions that once again they’ve won a battle under Cap’s leadership. However, he is confident that it’s not over yet, and they have merely rescued themselves from the first part of a bigger battle. Cap mentions that there first objective is to contact the underground leaders who have asked them for help, but doesn’t close out that they have walked into a trap. Clint understands. Suddenly, a part of the floor below them opens, and Wanda falls through it! Before the Avengers can react, the stone closes again! Hawkeye wants to blast an opening for them using his blast arrow, but Cap orders him to hold, as he might cause a cave-in, realizing they don’t know how the dungeon is constructed.

Pietro fears the longer they’ll wait, his sister’s fate might be doomed. However, just then, they hear a loud scream, and Pietro recognizes it as Wanda’s. Quicksilver rushes to her rescue, as he can’t loose her after having survived so many battles with the X-Men. Hawkeye asks the speedster to wait for them, but Cap realizes he won’t, as it’s his sister in danger they are talking about.

Quicksilver finds Wanda trapped in an underground dungeon, blindfold and her hands tied up, which makes her unable to use her Hex powers to free herself. Cap thinks his shield might break the bars, but Hawkeye thinks his arrow will be faster. He uses one of his flare arrows, and the bars smelt like butter. Unfortunately, just at the moment they’ve almost rescued Wanda, the room gets filled with odorless gas, making the Avengers feel groggy and unable to keep their eyes open. Cap suspects they are dealing with sleep gas and warns his Avengers about it, but is too late, as the gas robs Cap and the others of their breath, and they faint.

A few minutes later, Quicksilver, Hawkeye and Cap wake up in a different, but still large room. The Commissar steps forwards and introduces himself, explaining that they walked right into his trap and laughs at their foolishness. He wants to destroy them now, but Cap is confident that the Commissar’s enormous size alone can’t take them down. Cap warns the others to stay back while he tries to tackle the Commissar. This is much to the dislike of Hawkeye, who wonders why Cap always wants to take first shots, seeing that they are supposed to be a team.

The Commissar interrupts them, and orders them not to fight him or else he’ll kill the Scarlet Witch. Pietro goes to stand between them, but Cap tells him to relax, as he won’t jeopardize Wanda’s life. The Commissar’s helper, Major Hoy, opens a curtain, which behind it holds Wanda captive in an unbreakable glass cage. He informs the Avenger that Hoy will kill her instantly on his word, unless the Avengers to agree on the terms he will soon propose.

The Avengers agree. The Commissar explains that he does want to fight the Avengers, yet not as a team but individually. Pietro agrees but first wants his sister released, but the Commissar won’t do that until after they have fought. Captain America, Hawkeye and Quicksilver agree to the Commissar’s proposal. He, however, explains another part behind their deal: he shows the Avengers a group of townspeople he has gathered, so that they can see how weak the capitalists are. Cap realizes now that the Commissar just wants to win a propaganda victory. The townspeople, however, fear for the Avengers, as they think they will be defeated like the others before them.

The Commissar puts on an orange and brown uniform, which he plans to use as a combat suit. Cap laughs at the ridiculous suit. Made angry by this, the Commissar chooses Cap as his first combatant. Cap tries to throw his shield against the huge man, but he isn’t even hurt by it! He next decides to take a high jump, and gathers all of his strength into one single punch, but… it’s unbelievable! The Commissar didn’t even move! With the audience having seen how easily he can take Cap’s punches, the Commissar decides to finish him off. He takes the shield away from Cap and throws it on the ground, and next grabs Cap in a “bear-hug” and decides to crush his bones.

Hawkeye protects Cap by shouting at the Commissar to try him next. That’s fine by the madman, as he had planned to try Hawkeye second. The townspeople are truly scared, and realize that Cap has never been more humbled. Hawkeye steps forwards, and fires a stun-arrow, but the Commissar easily punches it away as if it were a mere toy! Cap can’t believe the strength the Commissar has, and tries to guess the reason behind it. It can’t be just his strength, can it?

Hawkeye desperately tries to fire more arrows, but the Commissar punches them all away with his sword. Hawkeye can’t believe the Commissar’s awesome strength either, and can only think of one reason behind it: he has tampered with their weapons while they were asleep. The Commissar tries to punch Hawkeye down, but he dodges most moves, until the last one. The Commissar grabs him, and thanks to the strong hug Hawkeye faints.

Quicksilver moves real fast around the room and grabs a thick, hanging drape and runs around the Commissar with the same speed, and traps him inside it, making it hard for the villain to even move. The townspeople are amazed, and wonder if the Commissar has finally met his match. The Commissar however has thought up a solution: he grabs the end of the drape and throws it off him. Pietro tries to run fast hoping he can dodge further attacks, but with no such luck: the Commissar hits him.

Captain America has also a solution: they have been fighting the wrong man! While the Commissar laughs at his victory, Cap asks him to fight the Scarlet Witch next, as she is an Avenger too. Pietro doesn’t want it, but Cap asks Quicksilver to trust him on this. After Wanda is released, Cap whispers in her ear what to do. She smiles and understands, and is ready to face her adversary.

Before they begin to fight, Wanda asks the Commissar why Major Hoy disappears behind the drapes while he fights. The Commissar refuses to answer and orders to begin the battle. But Wanda really wants to know: she uses her Hex power to put the drapes on fire, and reveals… a huge control panel?! But what could it be for? The Commissar wants to kill Wanda for revealing his secret. She just smiles, and destroys the panel with her powers.

At the same time behind the drapes, Hoy decides he best escapes while he can, as Peking will end his life once they’ve learned he failed. Wanda and the other Avengers witness that Captain America was correct: “the Commissar” starts to collapse and spark, and a panel from his chest opens and explodes! All this time, the Avenger had been fighting a robot!

The townspeople cheer for the Avengers for freeing them, and ending the Commissar’s tyranny. Cap warns them not to get too carried away, and always be cautious about people like the Commissar, who also might try to enslave them. The townspeople in particular cheer for Wanda, and carry her to a victorious celebration.

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch (all Avengers)
Edwin Jarvis

The Commissar and his army including Major Hoy

various, circus performers, opera singers, soldiers and townspeople (all unnamed)

in Cap’s thoughts:
Nick Fury

Story Notes: 

First appearance of the Commissar and Major Hoy.

Captain America used to be a World War II hero, but disappeared after seemingly sacrificing his life to stop a bomb on a plane. He fell into the ice-cold ocean below them, his body instantly frozen and remained in stasis for many years. Until one day, when he was eventually found by Eskimo’s in Avengers (1st series) #4, who at first praised him as a god, not knowing who Cap really was, until they got attacked by the Sub-Mariner. He didn’t recognize Cap either from their shared battles during the war, and tossed the ice-cube back into the ocean, where the Avengers where just hunting on Namor. They noticed Cap and rescued him, and after a rough awakening let him become almost instantly an Avenger. However, since then Cap entered into battle after battle, and indeed never really got a chance to rebuild his life besides being team leader. When having heard of Nick Fury and his army force in Avengers (1st series) #15, Cap became interested and wrote a letter of recommendation, but so far hasn’t gotten a response, whatsoever. Next issue explains why.

Twelfth Night is a Shakespearean play, whose complete title is “Twelfth Night, or What You Will.” It is a comedy, which is supposed to take place on the twelfth night of the Christmas holidays.

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