This is "From a Different Point of View," a feature where I discuss a comic book series with another writer. In this case, it is CBR's own Eileen Gonzalez: who will be going over the history of the Avengers with me, story by story!
We continue with Avengers #15, "Now, By My Hand, Shall Die a Villain," by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Don Heck and Mike Esposito.
Brian Cronin: How about a spoiler warning next time, title of the story!
Eileen Gonzalez: Well, it doesn't say WHOSE hand the villain will die by.
Eileen Gonzalez: Or perish by, depending if you're on the cover or the splash page.
Brian Cronin: There is so much to unpack about just this opening splash page.
Brian Cronin: First off, before even getting into the specifics of the issue, let me note that this is easily the best issue of the series since the death of Wonder Man.
Brian Cronin: And it's probably better than that. It might be behind only Cap's return as the best issue of the series so far.
Brian Cronin: The fascinating thing about that is that clearly Lee felt the book was missing a little something something, so he brought Kirby back to do "layouts," which we all know by now is basically code for "write this story for me, please, Jack."
Brian Cronin: Heck was thrown into the deep end and he hasn't quite hit the level that Lee was hoping for and so the steady hand of Jack Kirby was brought back.
Brian Cronin: Only probably with a bit more time to think, as opposed to last issue's pulled out of nowhere nonsense.
Eileen Gonzalez: This issue definitely feels more like a real story as opposed to whatever was going on last time. And hey, Lee was a lot nicer to the rest of the team in the credits this time around!
Brian Cronin: I guess he couldn't very well ask Kirby to come back to help and then make fun of the guy!
Brian Cronin: The bit I love the most about the splash page is the part about how this is Marvel's answer to those readers who have complained that the Avengers don't kill enough people.
Brian Cronin: I mean, wha?
Brian Cronin: How crazy is that?
Eileen Gonzalez: I did wonder about that. Were there really people clamoring for the Avengers do do some more hardcore avenging?
Brian Cronin: I doubt it was actually their motive behind the story and it's more like one of Lee's marketing bits, but still.
Brian Cronin: Giant-Man is all irked, "Hey, I just killed a dude last issue!"
Eileen Gonzalez: Giant-Man never gets credit for anything.
Eileen Gonzalez: Maybe because he can't seem to nail down a decent costume.
Brian Cronin: And Thor was all, "Hey, what about my 'Fight Avengers! To the Death!'"?
Eileen Gonzalez: I just like Thor using Mjolnir as a gavel. He's gonna break the table that way!
Brian Cronin: I belieeeeeeeve that this Giant-Man costume is only just in these two issues.
Brian Cronin: Weird design choice by Kirby.
Brian Cronin: However, the return to Kirby layouts also mean that Wasp just stands like a normal person again.
Brian Cronin: No pushing her chest and backside out in every other panel.
Eileen Gonzalez: I wonder what Don Heck thought of Kirby coming back. Was he annoyed or just glad to have some help?
Brian Cronin: Huh, great question. Since he wasn't getting paid more to plot, I bet he was happy for the help.
Brian Cronin: Finally, who invited Paul Newman to this meeting?
Eileen Gonzalez: Ha!
Brian Cronin: What the heck is up with Rick's look on this page? Dude aged, like, a decade overnight!
Eileen Gonzalez: Now there's a crossover I'd like to see.
Brian Cronin: We see a HINT that Wasp's near-death experience has changed Jan and Hank's relationship a bit, as they seem much more like a normal couple this issue.
Brian Cronin: How amazing is Don Blake's bizarre "They'd rather look at a pretty girl than a guy with a cane."
Brian Cronin: What does that even mean?
Brian Cronin: What kind of bizarre self-pity is THAT?
Brian Cronin: "Why aren't strangers on the street staring at ME?"
Eileen Gonzalez: I figured it meant that people prefer ignoring disabled people, but I like your version better.
Eileen Gonzalez: "I'm just as pretty as she is!"
Eileen Gonzalez: And is this the first hint of Artist Steve, with his portfolio there?
Brian Cronin: I believe so, yes.
Brian Cronin: Up until this point, the Masters of Evil had been the most dependable Avengers foes, so it was a smart move to go back to them for the first time in a while.
Brian Cronin: It's nice to know Zemo is as super-racist as always.
Eileen Gonzalez: Zemo doesn't discriminate--he'll hate anybody and everybody!
Brian Cronin: How awesome are Zemo's pilots thoughts?
Brian Cronin: Just casually thinking about how Zemo is the only Nazi criminal to have escaped, but it's only a matter of time before the Avengers destroy him."
Brian Cronin: Gee, thanks, exposition thoughts!
Brian Cronin: I guess our favorite newspaper, The Daily Exposition, doesn't get delivered down there.
Eileen Gonzalez: I'm fascinated by that guy. Why is he working for him if he's convinced it'll end badly?
Brian Cronin: He's just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit. He took the midnight train goin' anywhere...and ended up here.
Brian Cronin: "Don't Stop Believin'" was always vague of where the midnight train goin' anywhere went.
Brian Cronin: Now we know.
Brian Cronin: It was headed to a Nazi criminal's headquarters in South America.
Eileen Gonzalez: First time I read this, I expected that guy to play some kind of role in the story, but nah. He just exposits morosely and disappears.
Brian Cronin: Then we get one of the greatest plot points ever invented - Captain America writing a letter to Nick Fury, hoping he will remember him and give him a job in counter-espionage.
Eileen Gonzalez: I do love Cap writing to Nick Fury like he's a friend he met at summer camp.
Brian Cronin: It's amazing.
Eileen Gonzalez: And that little exclamation point after the first sentence!
Brian Cronin: This becomes one of the great recurring plots.
Brian Cronin: Before being dropped by Kirby later on in Tales of Suspense when Cap and Fury finally meet.
Brian Cronin: And it's just, "Oh, hey, Fury." "Hey."
Eileen Gonzalez: Holy anticlimax!
Eileen Gonzalez: That bit with the Executioner and Enchantress in the car confuses me. Did they acquire a driver from somewhere? Is that what they've been up to all these issues--interviewing a chauffeur?
Brian Cronin: I bet Enchantress just seduced some dude into driving them around.
Brian Cronin: She can make Thor destroy the Avengers, I'm sure she can get a guy to drive them around.
Brian Cronin: Kirby does a fine job on the layouts on that Steve chase scene.
Brian Cronin: It doesn't really go anywhere, but still well laid out panels.
Eileen Gonzalez: It is a fun scene. I'm surprised we didn't get to see any of the drivers wondering if this is a marketing stunt.
Brian Cronin: "Wow, they really pull out all the stops to promote Bewitched!"
Eileen Gonzalez: And Steve manages to keep his hat on until the very end. Impressive!
Brian Cronin: It's really amazing, though, how that doesn't play into the story at ALL.
Brian Cronin: It's so odd that him discovering them early didn't change anything, so it was seriously just a chase scene for the sake of a chase scene.
Eileen Gonzalez: I'll take any excuse to see Kirby work his magic.
Brian Cronin: Zemo's plan is outstanding.
Brian Cronin: Just fly up to Avengers headquarters and suck Rick Jones into a ship.
Brian Cronin: Genius.
Brian Cronin: And drop a freakin' LANDMINE to distract the Avengers.
Brian Cronin: I love how a landmine is just a distraction.
Brian Cronin: Cap's shield is suddenly ginormous in Giant-Man's hand. That was odd.
Eileen Gonzalez: I like getting to see Giant-Man wield Cap's shield, even if the ship was conveniently protected by a force field. Zemo really thought of everything this time.
Eileen Gonzalez: And Iron Man has, what, a radio hidden in his chest?
Brian Cronin: Transistors!
Brian Cronin: It's nice to know that they could have had access to a rocket plane this whole time
Brian Cronin: Instead of having to ride commercial in some of their past issues.
Eileen Gonzalez: Good point! I bet Hank and Jan will be having words with him about that after the issue is over.
Brian Cronin: There's as great "Marvel Method" bit where Stan tries to explain why Melter and Black Knight are imprisoned in their costumes.
Brian Cronin: As it really doesn't make any sense.
Brian Cronin: Black Knight pulls the most amazing weapon out of thin air when he attacks the Avengers.
Brian Cronin: How in the world does he have a weapon that powerful just lying around in his lance?
Brian Cronin: But then when Thor attacks him, he's back to freakin' bolos!
Eileen Gonzalez: I think Thor snapped his neck getting out of the plane there. I'm surprised he could still fight Black Knight after that.
Brian Cronin: Yikes, yeah.
Brian Cronin: I guess Mike Esposito was all, "Hey, if Vince Colletta can erase heads to save time, so can I!"
Eileen Gonzalez: Also, I think Black Knight describing Melter's power as "awesome" is overstating it a little. Melter's entire career consists of being beaten by a guy in metal, when his one claim to fame is being able to melt metal.
Brian Cronin: He does better than Wasp, at least, who spies on them so that she can warn the Avengers about Melter's blast...right when he blasts them.
Eileen Gonzalez: Back to being useless again. Sigh.
Brian Cronin: I am fascinated by how Iron Man's repulsor blasts make a "Zitt!" noise.
Brian Cronin: What kind of noise is "Zitt!"
Brian Cronin: Is it a popping sound?
Eileen Gonzalez: And then Melter's beam makes the same noise when it knocks over the water tower! What is that?
Brian Cronin: I thiiiiiiiiiiink it's supposed to be the sound like when a bug hits a bug zapper.
Brian Cronin: Although, you'd think "zap" would have done that job, right?
Eileen Gonzalez: Just about anything other than "zitt" would be better!
Brian Cronin: When Giant-Man lands on the street, there is a nice bit advertising the Merry Marvel Marching Society on the marquee.
Brian Cronin: Their fan club of the era.
Eileen Gonzalez: I did see that! I can never remember what MMMS stands for though.
Eileen Gonzalez: I guess now I know!
Eileen Gonzalez: Executioner slipping on oil is peak comedy.
Brian Cronin: Hey, Wasp did something, at least!
Brian Cronin: By the way, how insanely messed up is this plan?
Brian Cronin: It's all just to distract the Avengers so that Zemo can lure Cap to South America to kill Cap.
Brian Cronin: And it just seems like such a waste of the other villains' time.
Eileen Gonzalez: That's true! What did Zemo promise them in exchange for this? The other Avengers, I guess?
Brian Cronin: I guess, but they fail so easily, it's clear that they're just there to distract them.
Brian Cronin: Executioner trying to drive a getaway car is awesome, by the way.
Eileen Gonzalez: It is! It just seems so funny to see these giant Asgardians in funny clothes driving a plain little brown car. Which is then flattened by Giant-Man.
Brian Cronin: I also love Black Knight tricking Thor into flying directly into a building.
Brian Cronin: But really, just like how the Masters of Evil are distracting the Avengers
Brian Cronin: This is distracting from the main story.
Brian Cronin: Cap's amazing Rambo-style one-man raid on Zemo's stronghold.
Brian Cronin: Kirby really outdid himself here.
Eileen Gonzalez: Definitely. But I do wonder--Zemo has a ray that can disintegrate even Cap's shield... but he doesn't think to use it on his mask? He's so angry at Cap in the first place because he's got that bag stuck on his head!
Brian Cronin: Well, as we saw in Zemo's first appearance, he never seems to REALLY give any of this stuff any thought.
Brian Cronin: Remember, "An ANTI-adhesive? I never thought of that!:"
Eileen Gonzalez: And then he apparently forgot all about it again!
Eileen Gonzalez: And then he gets squished like the Wicked Witch of the East, but with rocks instead of a house.
Brian Cronin: Such a cool scene, though.
Brian Cronin: Kirby really got Cap (shockingly, I know, since he created the guy).
Brian Cronin: He's not a guy who is going to go out of his way to kill a dude.
Brian Cronin: But if a bad guy gets killed during battle, Cap's not going to weep about it.
Eileen Gonzalez: Yeah, I'm glad there was no angst about it. Cap did what needed doing and then moved on.
Brian Cronin: He even did a little bit of a celebration.
Brian Cronin: That Bucky was avenged.
Brian Cronin: In a lot of ways, this is really the conclusion of the initial Avengers run.
Brian Cronin: Cap getting revenge on Zemo.
Eileen Gonzalez: I'm sure Bucky would have appreciated that, if he was alive. Which he totally isn't.
Brian Cronin: Totally not alive.
Brian Cronin: Dead as a door knob.
Brian Cronin: I love that Cap gets to get in one last "We don't need weapons, Rick, we have justice!" speech.
Brian Cronin: "We have justice, but they have guns, Cap!"
Eileen Gonzalez: But you are right about this being the end of the initial run. Cap has been looking for closure about Bucky's death since his first appearance, and now he has it. Maybe it's just hindsight, but this does feel like the end of a mini-era and now it's time for the next phase in the Avengers' development.
Brian Cronin: Of course, we have to wrap up the plot of the other Avengers.
Brian Cronin: It's pretty sad commentary on the Masters of Evil.
Brian Cronin: That their attack on the Avengers is consigned to "we'll wrap that up next issue quickly."
Eileen Gonzalez: Ha, yeah. They're such an afterthought.
Brian Cronin: Almost like Kirby just ran out of pages.
Brian Cronin: "I guess we'll just pick this up next issue."
Brian Cronin: I'm just glad that they finally sated my thirst for blood.
Eileen Gonzalez: Finally, someone died in The Avengers! That's what's really been missing from this book.
Brian Cronin: "What is this nonsense? They're called the Avengers, but they don't KILL anyone? Who would read this foolishness?"
Brian Cronin: "I was briefly excited when that alien suffocated last issue, but I need more. MORE!"
Eileen Gonzalez: Well technically, according to Cap, DESTINY killed Zemo, not him.
Brian Cronin: Next issue - Captain America takes on the Endless from Sandman to bring Destiny to justice!
Brian Cronin: The destiny speech doesn't make ANY sense, by the way, right?
Brian Cronin: Stan seemed like he was going straight stream of consciousness there.
Brian Cronin: "If I keep writing, maybe this will make some sense."
Eileen Gonzalez: Is it weird that the first thing I thought of with the destiny talk was the Tick?
Brian Cronin: "It sort of sounds high brow, at least."
Brian Cronin: It's totally a Tick deal.
Brian Cronin: As if Destiny just showed up and shoved Zemo under the rocks.
Brian Cronin: "This is for Bucky!!!!"
Eileen Gonzalez: Time for an Avengers/Tick/Paul Newman team-up!
Brian Cronin: Well, I heard the Avengers will be looking for some new members soon...
Eileen Gonzalez: I wonder who they could be?
Brian Cronin: Hopefully Black Knight and Melter.
Brian Cronin: But wait, what am I saying? They're supervillains. You can't put supervillains on the Avengers. I must have just gone nuts there for a second.
Feel free to write in if you have stuff you'd like to see us discuss in future Avengers issues (or questions about the stories)! You send your questions, requests and/or comments to me at email@example.com!