Avengers (Vol. 1) #20


Cover Date: September 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Wally Wood

“Vengeance Is Ours!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Don Heck

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Don Heck

Inker: Wally Wood

What’s Going On?

The Swordsman joins the team, but what is his ulterior motive?


  • Picking up from last issue, Captain America is falling to his presumed death. But looks can be deceiving! Cap trusted his fellow Avengers, and their teamwork helped him land safely.

  • The Avengers quickly attack and begin to overwhelm the Swordsman, when he unexpectedly vanished before their eyes.

  • Swordsman was teleported away by the Mandarin. The Mandarin wants to help Swordsman become a member of the Avengers; his plan is for Swordsman to become a sleeper agent, ready to attack and destroy the Avengers if Iron Man ever rejoins the team.

  • To accomplish this, the Mandarin creates a 3D projection of Iron Man and has it recommend the Swordsman for membership in the Avengers. The Avengers agree to accept Swordsman.

  • Swordsman joins the team, but the Avengers are still wary of him. He eventually is able to slip a bomb into the Avengers control room, unobserved. The Mandarin can remotely detonate the bomb at his leisure, whenever Iron Man returns.

  • However, the Mandarin grew impatient and told Swordsman that he will detonate the bomb without waiting for Iron Man.

  • Not wanting to see his teammates die such an inglorious death, the Swordsman tries to remove the bomb. He is caught in the act by the rest of the team, who assume that they caught him in the act of planting the bomb. A fight ensues.

  • The Swordsman manages to escape and dispose of the bomb safely. The issue ends with Swordsman no longer on the Avengers, and the Mandarin mightily upset.

Is It Good?

No, this issue doubles-down on what didn’t work last month, and we wind up with a truly ridiculous story. Wally Wood’s inks make Heck’s pencils looks a little better, but the slightly improved artwork doesn’t come close to making up for the stupid plot.

I get the idea that an Avengers team that is 75% reformed villains struggles to reasonably deny the Swordsman a chance on the team. That’s a valid idea, and worth exploring. What makes less sense is the Avengers —- who have, until now, made a big deal about who makes decisions for the team —- would let Swordsman on the team, based solely on the word of someone who is not on the team right now. That’s just kind of against everything we’ve seen about the team’s inner workings to this point.

And then there is the question of why the Mandarin —- who is brilliant and obscenely powerful —- would even bother with subterfuge if he wanted to subvert the Avengers. This is the guy who fired a goddamned intercontinental laser at Tony Stark’s house, remember? Cloak and dagger isn’t his specialty. This not only seems out of character, but his actions are framed as a “this will be helpful if my actual enemy, Iron Man, ever rejoins the team.” That’s one hell of an insurance plan!


  • Last issue, Swordsman kidnapped and threatened Captain America in an attempt to join the Avengers. The issue ended with a bound Captain America leaping (of his own free will) to his apparent death, in front of his teammates.
  • The cover of this issue celebrates Wally Wood’s inking. This is the second time he has specifically mentioned on a cover (the first was his Marvel debut on Daredevil #5). I don’t think I’ve seen Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko advertised in this way.

  • Hawkeye and Quicksilver still want to lead the Avengers.

  • The Mandarin last appeared in a flashback in Tales to Astonish #66. His last appearance otherwise was in Tales of Suspense #62.
  • The Mandarin has improved Swordsman’s sword. It now has buttons that trigger special abilities, like electric bolts, flames, and a disintegration beam.

  • Swordsman joins the team for a few pages, before quitting/being kicked off later in this same issue.

  • Swordsman has a weak spot for the Scarlet Witch. He doesn’t know much about her, but he seems smitten.

  • Hawkeye has a bola arrow.

  • The Mandarin now considers the Swordsman an enemy.


Comics Are Goofy:

  • Captain America turns on his HEEEEEEEE

  • The Mandarin’s presence is known to both the American and Chinese governments, at least. He is not living that much of a secret existence.

  • If the Mandarin can remotely monitor anyone, and he can teleport anyone to his lair, why doesn’t he do this to Iron Man and trap him?
  • How big is that lock?!?

  • “Please allow me, the guy who has known Hawkeye for four issues, tell you, the guy who mentored Hawkeye, about Hawkeye.”

  • Heroes: sometimes, they just want a guy to die.

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