One of the famed fundamentals of the monumental meridian of the Marvel Age of Comics was a scintillating skill for self-promotion. Every edition was cause for a colossal cacophony of courageous crowing, typically found in the Mighty Marvel Checklist. For example, Avengers #44 was proudly promoted as follows: “At last! Captain America and the Red Guardian battle as never before! And this one ends in the only way possible–although we’ll bet it’s the last thing you’d ever suspect! it’s mildly magnificent!” While the “mildly magnificent” hedges somewhat, as outrageous outcome that’s somehow simultaneously “the only way possible” and “the last thing you’d ever suspect” is enticing to the extreme.
The towering tale begins with Hawkeye, the avenging archer, held captive “behind the Bamboo Curtain” by a trio of terrible Trostskyites: the super-powered Red Guardian, Chinese Colonel Ling and Russian General Brushov. They tout the provocative power of the Psychotron, a dastardly device designed to provokes perilous panics across the American heartland.
Clearly, the intervention of the adventurous Avengers will be required to halt these harrowing hallucinations before they send the citizenry into a seething spiral. The tremendous team of sure-footed superheroes find their way to the Commie quarters, leading to the fearsome face-off that faithful fans have been frothing for.
Truly, this has got to be a battle for the ages! Luckily, Joltin’ John Buscema is handling the art duties, and does he ever deliver a doozy. You want ferocious fisticuffs? Then look no further, wishful one!
That right! Captain American may have been boosted by his sampling of super-soldier serum, but he’s also got a crazy command of Judo at his dauntless disposal. The evenly-matched adversaries continue with their serious scrap until cowardly Colonel Ling throws a switch and electrifies the floor that the star-spangled Avenger is standing on, thereby incapacitating him. What Ling didn’t count on was the red Guardian’s striking sense of honor. Just as the malicious military man is about to deliver the death blow, the Red Guardian intervenes!
The deflected shot pulverizes the Psychotron, which sets of a chain reaction that leads to the destruction of the entire headquarters. It seems that the rotten Reds made a clumsy choice when it came to the location of their loathsome laboratory.
So Captain America is saved from certain death by his Russian equivalent, who also sacrifices himself in the process. The Red Guardian’s sense of honor may very well have made this the only outcome, but it was easily unexpected, too. Magnificent? Mildly. Verily, the verdict is clear: the tale lives up to its promise.