Writer: Roy Thomas
Pencillers: Frank Robbins, Frank Springer, Rich Buckler & Dick Ayers
Editor: Roy Thomas
Format: Trade Paperback
Price: $24.99 USD
Invaders Classic Vol.1 was a weird read for me. I first encountered these characters many years after these issues reproduced here were first published and even more years after they were set! I first saw Captain America in Avengers Vol.3 #1 (1998) as the modern leader of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes; Toro, mentioned only by his wife, in Avengers West Coast #50 (1991), after he died; the original Human Torch in that same issue, as an ancient android on whom the Vision was based; Bucky by mention only in reproductions of early Avengers issues, as Cap’s long-dead sidekick; and the Sub-Mariner as the evil invader of the surface world!
The issues reproduced here were written in the 1970s and set during the later years of World War II… and the characters seem very different! The Human Torch is a young, energetic, highly-sophisticated marvel of the mechanical age; Captain America is the dynamic demonstration of modern biology; Bucky is the smart arse, backtalking sidekick; the Sub-Mariner is the arrogant but good-hearted saviour of the seven seas; and Toro is the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed future of mankind (potentially an early mutant).
That said, it is easy to trace the characters’ development from Invaders through to their modern adventures. It is just startling to see how much they have developed!
The volume reproduces Invaders Vol.1 #1-9 and Giant-Size Invaders #1, showing how the team first came together to find the evil Axis alliance and “invade” Hitler’s Fortress Europa. While all of those issues are fantastic – witty, informed dialogue and fantastic art! – they contain two particularly notable features.
The first is Cap’s willingness to blindly follow his government and superiors – something he opposed strongly in the 2006-2007 Marvel crossover Civil War… leading to his eventual assassination!
The second is the first hints at why Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, is such an insufferable jerk, and why he hates the surface world – it turns out the Nazis bombed the heck out of Atlantis in the early days of World War II!
Even if Roy Thomas’ writing isn’t for you (and you wouldn’t be alone, if that was the case – his intense references to semi-obscure continuity can be a bit much for a lot of people) and you aren’t a fan of Marvel’s Golden Age heroes, these issues should be enough just for these explanations of how some of Marvel’s major players turned out the way they have.
The volume also reproduces Marvel Premiere #29-30, featuring the debut of the Liberty Legion. How that particular team formed, you’ll need to learn on your own – I’m not tellin’, ’cause it spoils not only these issues, but also a major ongoing plot thread in Avengers and X-Men. Those two issues, which tie very closely to Invaders #4-6, feature a great deal of Marvel’s Golden Age heroes, who have either not made modern appearances or who have only appeared as aged has-beens.
That doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? But bear in mind that in these issues, Roy Thomas began a mighty Marvel tradition – claiming that comics published by Timely and Atlas (Marvel’s earlier names) in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s are not canon; instead, they are the comics published within the Marvel Universe. For example, Captain America could easily walk down to his local comics store and buy an issue of USA Comics #1, to see how folks chose to depict the origin of his real-life friend the Whizzer. This is especially important as it allowed a lot of characters with convoluted and confusing histories to be brought into the Marvel Universe proper, and for some fairly lame characters to be revamped as newer traditions were introduced, by claiming that their earlier appearances were in-continuity works of fiction.
(Bah – Thomas explains that better than I do… but to read his explanation you’ll need to read his editorial in Giant-Size Invaders #1!)
All-in-all, Invaders Classic Vol.1 is awesome – brilliant writing that shows an awareness not just of Marvel’s earliest days, but is also consistent with later character developments and beautiful, expressive art that shows how truly superhuman these characters must have appeared to their adoring public. Most importantly of all, though, is that the TPB allows you to see just how the Marvel Universe came to be the way it is today… and that can’t possibly be a bad thing.
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Tales of Wonder