Invaders #22-23, 25-34
Issue(s): Invaders #22, Invaders #23, Invaders #25, Invaders #26, Invaders #27, Invaders #28, Invaders #29, Invaders #30, Invaders #31, Invaders #32, Invaders #33, Invaders #34
Toro was badly hurt during the battle in Berlin in the previous trade and that triggers a recap of his origin. It starts with a little trash talking between Namor and the Torch..
...but then gets into what i believe are new revelations about Toro. It turns out that Fred Raymond was an assistant to Professor Horton.
Prior to that, he worked with asbestos, and it had made him ill. Similarly, Fred's wife Nora worked with radium and she was equally sick.
Nonetheless, they had their son, who they really did name Toro "for reasons unknown". Then the Raymonds had an encounter with the Asbestos Lady (!)...
...that involved the Torch as well. And that's when he saw Toro for the first time and learned that he was immune to fire.
Then later, the story that had been previously known: Toro's parents killed in a train crash that leaves Toro miraculously unscathed. Adopted by circus fire eaters.
Discovered again by the Torch, which this time activates his flame powers.
After the recap, a British doctor shows up to mess with the Torch's head. "He's dead! No wait! He's not dead but i can't help him!"
Luckily there's a American surgeon who can help Toro, but the Invaders are needed to deal with a problem in Egypt. So Bucky uses the Sub-Mariner's flagship to take Toro to California while the rest of the team is brought to Egypt via a British bomber plane (an Avro Lancaster for those interested in such things).
Both plots are interesting from a real life political/historical perspective. The doctor that Bucky is seeking, Dr. Sam Sabuki, turns out to be a Japanese-American, and he's been put in an internment camp.
Meanwhile the Invaders discover an Egyptian super-character called the Scarlet Scarab who wants both the Axis and Allied powers out of his country.
I can't say either topic is handled with any particular grace but it's good to see issues like these tackled on some level, even if real history prevents the characters from doing anything about them. I know this is sort of contradicting my comments in earlier entries about the Holocaust. What's interesting about these issues is that it's not uncontroversial bad guys doing bad things; it's a nice character moment to the good guy Union Jack's readiness to treat Scarab as an enemy, for example.
In the Scarlet Scarab story, there's hints of an ancient Atlantis/Egypt connection, which is interesting.
And don't worry about the Invaders destroying one of the world's ancient wonders; Namor knows a guy who can fix that right up.
The Ruby Scarab that grants Scarlet his powers will late factor into the Living Mummy's series in Supernatural Thrillers (by publication date these stories had already been released, but there's no footnotes). Later, the current Scarlet Scarab's son will inherit the mantle.
The internment camp storyline is interrupted by the return of Agent Axis...
...who wants Sabuki to cure him of his triple-personality.
During a fluke during Agent Axis' surgery, Dr. Sabuki's daughter Gwenny and another adolescent - an orphan named David Mitchell who was captured as a hostage by Axis - receive superpowers and become Golden Girl and the Human Top, respectively.
There was/will be another Golden Age character called Golden Girl who replaces Bucky as Captain America's sidekick after the war; there's no relation to this character, and it's odd to see Roy Thomas recycle a name in a series where he's been actively bringing "real" Golden Age characters into Marvel canon.
The Human Top, on the other hand, may have been designed to keep the name alive after it was/will be (always hard to pick a verb tense when dealing with continuity inserts) abandoned by Whirlwind. In any event, it seems that this Top is the first in a family of spinners, including his son (Twister, although his powers were mechanical) and grandson (Topspin).
Prior to his capture, David Mitchell / Human Top makes some comments about race and i guess we can say that Roy Thomas had his heart in the right place in terms of adding diversity to the cast of Golden Age era characters.
The regular Invaders arrive at the camp, allowing Captain America to denounce internment (while not being able to do anything about it for historical consistency).
The Invaders then show up to help out their sidekicks against Agent Axis.
Bucky and Toro decide to stay in the States with Golden Girl and the Human Top and form the Kid Commandos. The new Commandos' costumes are said to be taken from "various outfits" that Namor kept in his flagship. "After all", says Toro, "he used to wear different threads himself, off and on". There's a footnote that says "See Fantasy Masterpieces reprints of early Marvel Mystery Comics tales". Ok, so maybe the Human Top's costume is based on the striped shirt we loved so much in Human Torch #2 (who knew those stripes went all the way down?), but Golden Girl's costume was apparently intended for a "lady friend". Or there's a pretty interesting Untold Tale for Marvel to publish.
The Kid Commandos aren't particularly interesting to me. Their costume designs are awful. But i'm kind of glad to see the kid sidekicks off the main team, so they're good for that, anyway. I suppose if more had been done with them, their origins here might retroactively seem more important but their development here is minimal and chaotic.
Between Egypt and California, the main Invaders had stopped back in England where they found that Roger Aubrey, formerly the tiny Dyna-Mite has been restored to full size and has decided to take on Brian Falsworth's former identity as the Destroyer now that Falsworth is Union Jack.
Destroyer's not going to join the Invaders, though. He's heading back behind enemy lines for some solo work. The beauty of this decision is that any random Golden Age Destroyer story can be either Falsworth or Aubrey depending on where you place it.
The next issue (#29) is billed as the "untold origin of the Invaders" in #28's next issue blurb and "the almost origin of the Invaders" on the cover of issue #29. This turns out to be a continuity insert in a continuity insert, wherein each of the three main Invaders fought but failed to defeat a character called the Teutonic Knight prior to the formation of the team.
People, let me just stop here and say that you can't just put an asterisk wherever you want. Just because a footnote didn't fit in your previous panel doesn't mean you should hang the asterisk off an entirely unrelated sentence. Save it for the lettercol if you have to.
Anyway, the Knight returns now with a Der Fliegentod which is basically a flying saucer but it sounds much scarier in German.
It was built out of the three mcguffins that the pre-Invaders failed to stop the Knight from stealing.
The attack is part of a two-pronger that also involves Baron Strucker and his Blitzkrieg Squad going after Winston Churchill. The fight with the Teutonic Knight is relatively quick...
...but nothing compared to the fight with Strucker, which lasts about four panels. Strucker's non-powered unit would obviously be outmatched, but it's a pretty sad showing for Strucker. Basically the Invaders show up, a single grenade is thrown, and that's it. I imagine Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos would have put up a longer fight.
The Knight's background is kind of interesting. He was a patriotic German religious fanatic whose mind snapped when the atheistic Nazis took over the country, so to handle the cognitive dissonance he decided to become a Nazi Holy Warrior. He doesn't have any actual powers, though. This is his only appearance.
The next few issues get into some cool stuff. We start with Nazi Frankenstein. You can really make any concept better by putting the word "Nazi" in front of it (important caveat: this is really only true in comic books!).
The story is told in flashback mode, having taken place "earlier this year" and before Spitfire or Union Jack joined the team. The location is neutral Switzerland, but a descendant of the original Dr. Frankenstein has created a new monster and is terrorizing the local village in all the usual ways with plans to power up his army of monsters with the Torch's blood. The Invaders put a stop to things and the monster gains consciousness and kills himself and his creators in a fall. The artificial Human Torch develops a kinship for the tragic creature.
Next we have the issues that were sort of the pot-sweeteners when i was considering whether or not i wanted to bother getting all these Invaders trades: a two parter featuring Thor and Dr. Doom!
The issue plays off Hitler's interest in the occult and especially the Teutonic Gods, and he has a scientist, Dr. Olsen, and his bandaged assistant "Hans" summon Donar, or Thor, from Asgard.
Thor is sent to help the Nazis fighting at Stalingrad. This puts him on a collision course with the Invaders, who have been tasked with delivering a prototype Achilles tank to the Russians.
Before Thor is sent off, there's a scene where Hitler reviews a seemingly magical sceptre, with a note saying that we'll find out more about that another day.
The Invaders have to protect Josef Stalin from Thor.
Housekeeping note: Stalin eventually becomes the super-demon Coldsteel, so much like Adolf Hitler i'm listing him by his super-villain name in the Characters Appearing section. He's just regular old Stalin in this story, though.
Namor is most likely to hold his own against Thor, but even he's outmatched so he grabs Stalin and flees.
The other Invaders don't hold up very well.
Meanwhile, Hitler's success of summoning Thor has him increase his ambitions to include even the Warriors Three.
The thought of transporting Volstagg across an interdimensional portal is enough to give Dr. Olsen a heart attack, and he dies, leaving Hans - now revealed to be Victor Von Doom, doing Hitler's bidding "for my own experimental purposes" - in charge.
Doom fixes things so that Thor is able to hear Hitler's ranting as he moves on to talking about bringing in gods and trolls to purge the world "of Jews, of Poles, of Gypsies -- of all races inferior to the Aryan". Doom then causes the transport machine to explode, leaving Hitler trapped in the rubble.
Doom leaves him alive...
...only because I recognize in you one who will soon bring down the wrath of a planet upon your own head. I will be interested to see how the world deals with you. For, I shall learn from its actions -- how it will one day deal with me!
It's said that the world will not hear from Doom again "till he has learned much from Eastern mystics and he is ready to challenge the world's mightiest super-heroes". The intention here is that Doom is working for Hitler some time soon after the explosion that got him expelled from college, and before he traveled to Tibet where he got his armor. Due to sliding timescale concerns it's been retconned so that Dr. Doom is here via time travel. This was shown explicitly in Roger Stern's Marvel Universe series; i think the idea had been kicked around in lettercols and possibly the handbooks prior to that.
Now that he knows he was being manipulated, Thor stops beating the crap out of everyone.
He pauses long enough to, erm, wipe everyone's memories and give Union Jack lightning powers before warping back to Asgard.
While i'm not thrilled about Doom actively talking about Hitler as a role model (even with caveats) or the memory-wipe ending, this was a nice break from the usual routine that plausibly (relatively speaking!) used some non-Golden Age characters.
Between that and Nazi Frankenstein, it's a bit of a letdown to get back to the final issue, which involves Master Man masquerading as the Destroyer...
...and ends with the Destroyer once again passing on the opportunity to join the Invaders (fine with us, dude!).
It was mainly a Union Jack solo story, demonstrating his new lightning powers...
...and hinting at something more than a friendship between Falsworth and Aubrey.
I should note that for all these issues, and even past Invaders issues, Roy Thomas is also the Editor, making him a Writer/Editor for most of this series. This is a dangerous role, and when Jim Shooter took over as Editor in Chief he eliminated that role, which was ultimately one of the reasons Thomas left. We're not quite there yet (Shooter is even listed as a Consulting Editor on some of these issues) but i wanted to make that note in light of the quality concerns i raise in these entries. I haven't noticed any mundane things like spelling errors. From that concern the books are in fine shape. But they could have used a stern review from another party. Roy Thomas obviously deserved and deserves a lot of respect for his contributions to Marvel over the years, but everyone needs an Editor (says the guy writing all these reviews in caffeine-fueled blasts who often doesn't even proofread his own stuff before hitting Publish).
And regarding my art complaints, which remain, i want to make sure i don't go overboard. The art is messy...
...and between that and Roy Thomas' wordiness, the books definitely feel cluttered. But it's worth noting that Frank Robbins was around 61 years old at this point and i don't want to be overly critical. Things definitely feel cleaner when Alan Kupperberg takes over, however (i honestly can't tell when Don Glut is scripting vs. Thomas).
On my ongoing complaint about how super-heroes ought to have affected the outcome of the war, Cap at least pays lip service to it at one point:
I want to say that this trade was slightly more enjoyable than the previous, thanks to the vaguely political tops in the beginning and the odder stories towards the end, plus Kupperberg's somewhat better art. But only slightly.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #24 was not included in the trade because it was a reprint of Marvel Mystery Comics #17 with no framing sequence. There is a note referring to the story as the First Timely Team-Up, so they weren't trying to suggest that it was something that actually occurred between Invaders #23 and #25. Bucky notes in Invaders #26 that it was only a year or so ago that Namor was trying to conquer the surface world, so it's clear not a lot of time has passed in the 26+ issues and 3 or so years by publication date that the Invaders series had been running. The Thor storyline takes place during the battle of Stalingrad, which in real life ran from August 1942 to February 1943. This trade continues directly from the end of the last. This trade ends with Cap, Namor, and the Human Torch being summoned back to the US "immediately". The plotting is a bit less frantic in these issues and there are clean breaks between stories; the MCP fits Sgt. Fury #13 and a few other things between issues #28 and #29. Strucker's formation of the Blitzkrieg Squad in Sgt. Fury #14 would have to take place before their appearance here in Invaders #30.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: Invaders Classic #3 TPB
Inbound References (5): showAgent Axis, Baron Von Strucker, Bucky, Captain America, Coldsteel, Destroyer (Brian Falsworth), Destroyer (Roger Aubrey), Ernst Mueller, Fritz von Sydow, General Erwin Rommel, Golden Girl (Gwenny Lou Sabuki), Hate Monger (Hitler), Hotchkins, Human Top, Human Torch (Golden Age), Ludwig, Manfred Adler, Master Man, Otto Rabe, Sam Sabuki, Scarlet Scarab, Siegfried Farber, Spitfire, Sub-Mariner, Teutonic Knight, Thor, Toro, Union Jack (James Falsworth)
It's weird that Toro's mother knew what a mutant was, considering how rare they were in the 1940's.
Posted by: Michael | September 28, 2012 8:07 PM
Regarding the knowlege of the human race in that era, the Avengers/Invaders miniseries would establish Toro himself being unfamilar with the word 'mutant'. I suppose they never got round to telling him...?
From the same miniseries, Red Skull engages in his typical cosmic cube tomfoolery and summons various Invaders opponents such as Master Man, Iron Cross and interestingly, Thor. This prompts the following exchange:
Iron Man: Thor? This can't be possible. You're an avenger!
Perhaps we could assume it took more than a couple of months for the memory to completely fade irreversably. None of the summoned villains speak, so it's entirely possible they were just constructed. But just so you know, Bucky's war journal claims that from the Invader's point of view the 'present day' was December, 1943. I don't know if this helps or hinders your placement, but there you go.
Posted by: Max_Spider | September 29, 2012 7:43 PM
It wasn't that unusual for Toro's mother to know about mutants; the subject had been appearing in pulp SF stories since the mid-1920s.
The Scarlet Scarab is an analog to the Blue Beetle.
There was a 1940s Timely Human Top, but he only appeared once.
The letters page revealed that Roy got his German wrong--"Fliegentod" didn't mean "flying death", it meant "fly's death".
Marvel's first Frankenstein Monster appeared in a mid-1960s X-Men, written(and rather badly at that) by Roy.
It wasn't just sloppiness and lateness that caused Shooter's antipathy toward the writer/editor model; he was opposed to the idea from the very start,having written for DC with its' multiple editorial "feudal kingdoms" for years. Shooter's refusal to renew Roy's writer/editor status was pretty much the whole reason for Roy's leaving. However, things got permanently out of control afterwards when Roy's "goodbye" note in his last "Conan" issue got edited out, causing Roy to leave a message with Marvel's secretary stating "Your boss is an even bigger asshole than I thought he was!".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 29, 2012 7:58 PM
Gee. Roy Thomas used to be a better researcher.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 4, 2012 8:44 PM
FOOM#20 announced Lee Elias as artist for the Frankenstein issue.
Roy later admitted that the Kid Commandos were a vehicle to get Bucky and Toro out of the book, as the readers were getting tired of the sidekicks. The series later left England for America's west coast for the same reason.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 14, 2013 6:54 PM
The way I see it, Thor's summoning was responsible for the telepathic translation.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 7, 2013 10:04 PM
The Asbestos Lady is a Golden Age villain, from Human Torch stories in CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #63 and THE HUMAN TORCH #27. She appeared on the cover of the latter.
The Frankenstein issue may have been suggested by a wartime storyline from Dick Briefer's "Frankenstein" series in PRIZE COMICS. When the series started the monster was handled as a monster. Somewhere along the way Briefer reformed him and adopted a light-hearted tone. Then he did a story where the Nazis captured him and turned him into a Nazi, dressed in a black military uniform and cap. When he recovered his good personality he pretended he hadn't, so he spent several issues dressed like this. The INVADERS monster has a somewhat similar appearance, but Thomas and Glut could have come up with the idea of doing a Nazi Frankenstein's monster story independently, from the Frankenstein name.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | March 12, 2015 2:50 AM
Pretty serious continuity gaffe in #34: despite the memory-wipe, Brian attributes his new powers to contact with Thor's hammer.
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | July 24, 2016 3:34 PM
Overall I agree that Roy could have used an editor, I've always liked his writing and enjoyed the Invaders and the All-Star Squadron at DC even more. I agree that Robbins art was abominable.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 16, 2016 9:59 PM
The Teutonic Knight is quite cool and its nice that he wasnt a Nazi but I seriously doubt he would have had any support at that time. Hitler had outlawed the Teutonic order in 1938. It was only re-established in 1945 after the war. Very doubtful Adolf would have let the avatar of an illegal organization run around prominently.
Posted by: kveto | January 19, 2017 5:03 PM
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