Avengers (1st series) #32

Issue Date: 
September 1966
Story Title: 
The Sign of the Serpent!

Stan Lee (writer), Don Heck (pencils), Artie Simek (letters), Irv Forbush (editor)

Brief Description: 

Upon arriving back home, the Avengers are attacked by their very own security system, which Cap forgot to turn off before they left. After a good team-up between Cap and Hawkeye, the system gets turned off again. Goliath still feels down about his seize problem but, after a rumble with Hank, he gets over himself. He goes back to his and Janet’s home, planning on finding a cure. Meanwhile, an evil organization called the Sons of the Serpents is in full movement, attacking foreign citizens wherever they find them. They initiate a new recruitment drive, and among them is Natasha Romanova, the Black Widow. She infiltrated the group to find out what they were really up to. Having heard enough, she returns to Hawkeye and informs him about the situation, as she wants to prove to him that she is redeeming herself. Back at their lab, Hank and Jan get into an argument when Hank accidentally doesn’t see her and hits her with his elbow. Janet angrily walks out, and Hank thinks he needs an assistant. He contacts Tony Stark, who sends his employee, Bill Foster, to Hank’s house. They quickly get along and start their research. When taking a break, Bill is attacked outside the house by the Serpents. They leave their sign, a serpent staff, behind. Hank recognizes it and gathers the Avengers for a meeting. After that, Cap goes to visit Nick Fury to gain more information about the Serpents. Later, the Serpents keep harassing foreign citizens and visitors, including General Chen, who has come to address the U.N. building. The Avengers gather a press meeting, promising they’ll deal with the villains. On that very moment, Cap gets sucked into the air and ends up being a prisoner of the Serpents. They quickly outnumber the legendary hero, and he is chained. The Serpents contact the Avengers, wanting them to surrender and join them or else Cap will die. The Avengers, uncertain about what to do, receive a call from a general, who wants their help against the Serpents. Hank claims not to know for certain if the Serpents are behind the attack, and refuses to help. The Avengers think he has gone crazy, but go with Hank’s plan anyway. The bad news about the Avengers is reported on the news, with the Serpents thinking they have earned their victory. Elsewhere, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch have looked up a doctor. He gives them a Diathermatic treatment, which will help the twins get their powers back faster. With full confidence that their problems are over, Pietro informs the Avengers that they will soon return.

Full Summary: 

The Avengers return home, though they forgot about the intruder alarm, which automatically activates when they leave. The alarm goes off, and an energy beam attacks the heroes. Luckily, Cap manages to hold up his shield and ricochets the beam. Hawkeye shuts the machine down by firing an arrow on it. Cap congratulates Hawkeye on the fine shot, and Clint thanks his team leader. Cap corrects that, technically, he isn’t the leader any more, now that Goliath is back. Hank doesn’t want to hear it and, as far as he’s concerned, things can stay the way they are, and Cap can continue leading the team.

Cap doesn’t think that sounds like the old Giant-Man at all. Hank confirms, as he isn’t Giant-Man anymore: he’s Goliath, who can never return to normal size. Hank doesn’t want to ruin the party, and starts feeling sorry for himself again, about to take off. Janet tries to hold him back but Hank ignores her. Cap doesn’t want to see Hank like this anymore and decides to do something. He throws his shield at Goliath, wanting to make him shrink size personally by initiating a fight! Hank doesn’t know what Cap thinks he’s doing and Janet tries to stop him. Hawkeye calms her down, confident that Cap knows what he’s doing.

Hank loses his cool and starts punching around. This is exactly what Cap wanted and hopes he can prevent Hank from hitting him in his next blow. Hank strikes, but Cap manages to quickly hide behind his shield. Were it not for his weapon, Cap would certainly have felt the punch. Cap thinks he’s ready to make his next move: he calls Goliath a has-been and that it’s good he’s quitting the team, as they can’t use a loser like him. Hank defends that he isn’t a loser and, despite his freaky size, is still the world’s best-blame bio-chemist. Hank calms down, realizing what Cap is trying to do: he wanted him to stop feeling sorry for himself and realize only he can do something about his problem. Cap confirms.

Janet doesn’t like the idea Cap pulled, but Hank defends that Cap did the right thing. Cap thanks his teammate for the compliment. Hank takes off, wanting to find some place to work. Once he’s gone, Janet thanks Cap, as he’s sounding happy for the first time in a very long time and it’s all thanks to him. Janet kisses him on the check, making Cap blush. He warns Janet this can’t turn into a habit, not when her boyfriend is the strongest man in the world.

Hawkeye jokes that, if he didn’t know any better, Cap is actually turning into a normal human being. Cap warns Clint to stop, as he’s about to say something pleasant and he’ll make sure he’s an imposter. With all the kidding aside, Cap suggests that they go working out at the gym.

Meanwhile, in another section of the city, a lawyer citizen is being attacked by members of the Sons of the Serpent. They warned the poor man not to move into this city, but he thought he could do whatever he wanted, since America is a free country. The Serpents have heard enough talk and start pounding the man. Above, in a nearby building, a married couple notices the fight, but are too scared to interfere, so they do nothing.

After Mr. Gonzales is down, the Serpents leave behind their Serpent Sign to prove they are responsible. Feeling lucky that nobody called the police on them, they depart and return to their base, the Serpent Den. At the Den, the Supreme Serpent initiates his new recruitment drive. He reveals the group calls himself the Serpents because a serpent is feared by everyone, and so will they. Their enemies must know that they aren’t fooling around, and like the original serpent drove Adam and Eve away from the Garden of Eden, so too will they drive away all the foreigners from America. Those who wear the robes of the Serpent will one day be master of all.

The new recruits are eager to return and lay hands on any foreigner type they can find. Though, they don’t notice that a spy is among them: Natasha Romanova! She has heard enough, and thinks that the time has finally come for the Black Widow to return.

Back at their headquarters, Janet goes to visit Hank in his new lab. He doesn’t notice her and accidentally bounces his elbow into her face! He apologizes, but luckily didn’t brake anything on Janet. Though he did break a beaker. Hank gets upset. He knows that Janet is only trying to help and appreciates it, but he thinks he screw up every time she’s in the lab. He thinks he needs an assistant, someone who’s specialized in bio-chemical things like he is. Janet gets angry, telling Hank she would hate him now if she didn’t love him so much. She says goodbye and leaves, angrily closing the door behind her.

At the same time, the Black Widow, in full costume, has almost reached the mansion. She wants to reach Hawkeye to ask him for help, thinking this is her chance to redeem herself towards him. Swinging across rooftops until she makes it to the mansion, she falls through a window and makes it to Hawkeye’s room.

Clint doesn’t know what to think when he sees her. Natasha mentions that she came as a friend, asking for help. Clint mentions that, once, they were a lot more than just friends. Natasha’s feelings haven’t changed one bit for Clint, but it’s he who has doubts about her. And now, she explains, she wants her chance to prove she has changed. Clint smiles, thinking to himself that, every time Natasha looks at him, his heart melts.

Meanwhile, Hank has been unable to find a qualified assistant. He decides to contact Iron Man and ask him if he knows anybody. Tony does, and mentions that Bill Foster is an excellent assistant, working for Tony at his Plans and Research facility in Baltimore. He’ll contact Bill immediately, thinking the man will gladly want to help out an Avenger.

A few hours later, Bill arrives at the mansion. Stark told him not to be surprised at Hank’s size, but he isn’t sure what to exactly expect. He enters the mansion and Hank introduces himself. Bill still is startled to see Hank like this, but nonetheless quickly calms down. They immediately start working, and Stark has already filled in Bill about the problem so he knows what to do.

As the hours pass by, Hank and Bill start liking each other, thanks to the fact both of them know what they are doing. Bill initiates a device, but Hank’s cells aren’t answering to it properly, so their first attempt has failed. Hank has another idea and suggests they use Von Steinholz’s theory. Bill knows what Hank’s referring to and thinks it’s worth to try. Janet enters, and Hank happily greets her. She introduces herself to Bill and gives the guys some coffee. Later, she watches them working and hopes that Hank will succeed in returning to his six feet size.

Meanwhile, half across the world and past Antarctica, another problem is taking place. Wanda is going through an operation process, which is almost complete. Pietro asks the doctor what he means, and he thinks that Wanda’s powers will be soon fully regained. Pietro tries to fake that Wanda doesn’t have any powers, but the doctors knows otherwise: he’s fully aware that they are both Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, famous members of the Avengers. Thanks to the diathermatic treatment, the doctor can confirm that both young heroes will soon be back at the peek of their uncanny powers. Quicksilver is excited that soon they can finally return back to America and to their Avengers status.

And so, not long afterwards, the Avengers receive a call from Pietro, telling them the good news. They are excited, especially now that also Natasha has come to prove herself. They hope that Hank can work out his problem as well and, if he can succeed, they will be golden.

But, unfortunately, some bad things are about to happen. Bill took some time off from the experiment to catch his breath. Just at that moment, the Serpents attack him. Bill warns that he can’t be harassed right now, as he’s in the middle of vital experiments. But so are the Serpents, and they attack Bill, knocking him out. The Serpents think that Bill got what he deserved, as he had sworn to them to never set foot in this neighborhood again. He lied to them. They hear a door opening and decide to leave before the police arrive. So, they leave their mark of the Serpent behind and depart.

Goliath arrives, and asks Bill what happened. However, there’s no need, as Hank recognizes the staff: the attackers were the Sons of the Serpents. Bill confirms, and recalls he could literally see the evil in their eyes. Hank hears an engine. He looks up in the sky, and they see a plane. It’s the Serpents, taking off. Hank swears that he won’t let things end there and supposes it’s best that he gathers the Avengers for a meeting. Bill wonders what to do about their experiment then, but Hank thinks it can wait until the Serpents are dealt with.

Minutes later, Hank has filled everyone in about the situation, and most agree to do something about it. Janet isn’t certain if this is a case for the Avengers, thinking the police can better handle it. Cap doesn’t think so, suspecting there’s more behind these attacks. There’s a strange, mysterious pattern in their attacks: they’re all rich and well-organized and even operate on a national scale! Cap suggests he contacts Nick Fury, the director of SHIELD, thinking that he probably has a full file list about the Serpents.

Hank warns Cap to do it fast, as, no matter how many missions the Avengers went on, Hank never felt the need for vengeance. Cap thinks Hank is finally sounding like his old self again, and that this is what he needed: a mission to sink his teeth in. Hank tells Cap to go to SHIELD immediately, and tells Janet and Hawkeye to join him in the Planning Room, as they’ve got a strategy to work out. Cap promises to be back by dawn tomorrow and warns to leave the emergency frequency open in case any more calls for help come in. Janet notices that at least it feels like she’s back with the old Avengers.

Moments later, Cap, in his civilian clothes, arrives in what seems to be an ordinary barbershop. Though in reality, it’s a cover for SHIELD. Cap enters it, and shows the “barbers” a photo of Fury, wanting to see him. The barbers aren’t sure what to think, and tell Cap to go sit in a chair. While Cap does, the barbers pull a lever. A panel on the wall behind Cap opens, and he falls through it! He doesn’t like being treated like an enemy and tries to reach for his shield, but a voice warns Cap to better not to it as they’ve got him covered.

It’s Nick Fury and his agents of SHIELD, armed to battle! They fear that Cap might be an imposter and want to know if he’s the real deal. Cap takes off his clothes to reveal his uniform. Fury apologizes, but he and his boys have learned not to trust every average Joe. Cap tells Fury he needs to speak to him, and they go to SHIELD’s Morgue Room. There, Fury mentions he knows about the Serpents, as they’ve been gathering info about them for months. Fury planned to tackle them after he took down AIM, but now he and his boys are busy dealing with other affairs. So, he would appreciate it if the Avengers could take the Serpents off his hands. Cap notices that Fury seems to know all about them, except where their headquarters is and who their mysterious leader is. Cap stays at the room for a few more moments to study the file, before he departs back to his teammates.

A few hours later, outside the U.N. building, an angry mob has gathered to protest against General Chen’s arrival. The police try to calm them down, defending that Chen has a right to be here, as he’s about to address the U.N. But the crowd isn’t interested and becomes angrier by the second. On that very moment, an empty taxicab explodes! The blast came from above, missing Chen’s arriving car by just a few yards. Other police officers go to Chen, checking if he’s okay. Chen is, but he’s angry. He thinks it’s the American’s fault, and thinks this is the way they threat foreign visitors. He suspects that the Sons of the Serpents are behind the attack and wants to know why they don’t get arrested. An officer explains that, unlike in Chen’s country, they don’t arrest anybody unless there is proper evidence.

Again hours later, the Avengers have gathered a press conference. They try to calm the curious reporters down. Cap opens the meeting, explaining that freedom belongs to everyone in this country and swears they will deal with the Serpents in a proper way. The reporters are glad to hear that the Avengers are declaring warn on the Serpents, thinking it’s about time. But, with everybody knowing where Avengers Mansion is, the headquarters of the Avengers, they do wonder how the Avengers will figure out where the headquarters of the Serpents is.

Suddenly, a bright light surrounds Cap, and he is lifted up! The Avengers rush outside, and Hawkeye spots that Cap disappeared into a weird looking cloud above them. Cap lands in a room, and a voice talking over an intercom reveals he is now a prisoner of the Serpents. The cloud was just another thing of their cover. Cap tries to find an exit, but fails. Suddenly, the entire room starts to spin, and Cap is attacked by various powerful rays and is knocked out.

The room returns to normal, and members of the Serpents pick up the defeated Cap. They take his shield away from him, thinking they’ve now got the upper hand. However, Cap quickly gets back up on his feet and, even though without his shield, manages to free himself from the Serpents’ grip and knock them out. Unfortunately for Cap, more and more Serpents enter and he is soon outnumbered. Cap hopes that the Avengers will soon come after him.

Meanwhile, Hawkeye has returned back to the mansion. He desperately waits for Cap to call for help, so they can use his signal to move to his location. Hawkeye never thought he would be this worried about the Winghead, but Cap has been nice to him, even trusted him ever since he joined the group, and Clint always talked down on him. Hank and Janet enter, telling Hawkeye not to worry about the Serpents thinking they’re nothing else but losers but with nothing more than just hatred and bigotry. They’re certain that the Avengers will take them down once they find their headquarters.

Then, the alarm goes off. It comes from the roof, so the heroes move there. The Serpents have left their mark again. Their leader speaks to the Avengers, revealing to them that Captain America is now their prisoner and will be killed, unless the Avengers stop their attack upon them and join their organization. They hope that, once the American public learns that even the Avengers serve the Serpents, everyone else will join as well. Back at the Serpent’s headquarters, Captain America is chained. The Serpents mention to him that they’ll give the Avengers 24 hours to decide, and if they are against their proposal, the good Captain will meet his fate!

Hawkeye wants to fight, like Cap would want them to. Hank agrees, but wants things to be done his way. The phone rings. Hank tells Clint to pick it up, and tell to whoever is calling whatever he whispers to him. It’s the general attorney’s office, and they want the help of the Avengers for a new, legal strategy against the Serpents. Hank tells Hawkeye to tell the AG that they aren’t really sure the Serpents are behind the attacks and don’t want to help. Clint thinks that Hank has gone insane, but does as ordered.

The attorney general isn’t pleased about the news and his assistant thinks that, if the Avengers should chose side with the Serpents, many other misguided people will join their enemies’ side. A short while later, the bad news about the Avengers get reported worldwide on the news. The supreme leader of the Serpents is content, already knowing that they will certainly win.

Characters Involved: 

Captain America, Goliath, Hawkeye, the Wasp (all Avengers)

Iron Man, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch (former Avengers)

Black Widow I (Natasha Romanova)
Bill Foster

Nick Fury (agent of SHIELD)

Hu Chen
Henry and his wife, Mr. Gonzales (citizens)

various members of the Sons of the Serpents (all unnamed)
various SHIELD agents (all unnamed)
various reporters, scientist, police officers and their General (all unnamed)

Story Notes: 

First appearance of Bill Foster, who eventually becomes Giant-Man II and later Black Goliath.

First appearance of the Sons of the Serpents.

Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch chronologically appear next in X-Men (1st series) #27, denying their offer to join their ranks in a battle against Factor Three. The twins eventually return to the Avengers in Avengers (1st series) #36.

Cap and Nick Fury’s earlier meeting can be found in Tales of Suspense (1st series) #78. This is Fury’s first appearance in the Avengers’ title though, and he would later on become a regular ally to the team.

The Black Widow was brainwashed into becoming evil in Avengers (1st series) #29 and was ordered to kidnap the Avengers so they could be brainwashed into working for her employers, but got back to her senses in Avengers (1st series) #30.

Hawkeye has been giving Cap a bad time ever since he joined the team in Avengers (1st series) #16, though Clint has recently learned to trust “the Winghead” after he gave Clint his blessing to go after the Widow alone, as seen in Avengers (1st series) #29.

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