Monday, July 23, 2007
WWII Superhero Action
I’m having a blast reading Invaders Classic Vol 1, which I picked up a couple of weeks ago. This book collects Invaders #1-9, Giant Size Invaders #1 and Marvel Premiere #29-30 from the 1970s. The adventures are set during WWII and use Timely Comics’ (Marvel’s original name) big three: Captain America, the Human Torch, and Namor the Sub-Mariner. These wild and wahoo tales are some of Roy Thomas’ best retcons with all out Nazi smashing action. See, good old Roy was very fond of Golden Age superheroes and really wanted to revisit them. 1940s Timely (Marvel) unfortunately didn’t have the business sense to gather up their most popular heroes on one team during the war years. So, while Cap and the guys fought the good fight in all their four-color glory, they never did it together. Roy sought to rectify that, and thus the Invaders comic was born.
These stories are a lot of fun because they’re a nice cross of WWII combat energy and 70’s cynicism. Frank Robbins, who draws most of the art is OK if somewhat crude at times. But, his attention to detail when it comes to military hardware really makes the combat scenes, and boy, those combat scenes are over the top with things like the Human Touch burning through Junkers bombers and Namor pulling Germans out of fuselages to fall to their deaths. That’s right, this is combat and the heroes have a license to kill. Most of the heroes’ battle action is directed towards Axis supervillains though, which is great because Roy created a new Nazi rogues galley with Master Man, U-Man (an Atlantean traitor) and Baron Blood (a vampire). Although, my favorite, Warrior Woman, won’t appear until volume 2 or 3 comes out. The Golden Age diabolical Red Skull shows up too. Our friends from across the pond will want to take note that Union Jack, Britain’s flag draped patriotic hero, makes his first appearance here as well.
Someone gave me Invaders Issue #3 when I was in junior high, many moons after the series ended, but it made a big impression on me, and I’ve always had a fondness for this title. In fact issue #3 has one of my favorite action scenes. It involves Namor brutally ripping apart a German Sub, which kills everybody inside except for the sub captain who accidentally survives. After rereading this story I remembered why I like Captain America so much, and why it pissed me off that Marvel killed him simply because they wanted to make a few bucks in the short term. As we can see from these panels after Namor brings the German sub captain aboard, Cap is a class act all the way.
…But sadly that is how we do things in the real world nowadays. Ethics and morals folks, that’s something that’s sorely lacking in our national leaders during this troubling period when our principles are taking a nosedive. I’ll choose comic book values over fake patriotism and jackboot tactics anytime. Those panels are nice reminder of what we were fighting for and what we should have been fighting for now.
Check out the Invaders for raw, over the top superhero action.
Note: The Captain America: War and Remembrance trade by Roger Stern and John Byrne that just came out, makes a nice companion to the Invaders as both Union Jack and Baron Blood show up. It collects Captain America #247-255 and it’s pretty dam good in it’s own right.