Characters Appearing: Angel (Golden Age), Destroyer (Brian Falsworth), Dr. Erskine, Dr. Nemesis (Golden Age), Electro (Golden Age Robot), Fiery Mask, Fred Raymond, Heinz Kruger, Human Torch (Golden Age), John Steele, Major Kerfoot, Makkari, Mister E, Monako, Nick Fury, Noah Burstein, Patriot, Phantom Bullet, Phantom Reporter, Phineas Horton, Professor Zogolowski, Red Hargrove, Red Skull, Sam 'Happy Sam' Sawyer, Thin Man, Toro, Two-Gun Kid, U-Man
Marvels Project #1-8
Issue(s): Marvels Project #1, Marvels Project #2, Marvels Project #3, Marvels Project #4, Marvels Project #5, Marvels Project #6, Marvels Project #7, Marvels Project #8
Ed Brubaker, one of Marvel's better writers in the Quesada era (at the time i'm writing this, he's wrapping up his Captain America and Winter Soldier books as well as his current working relationship with Marvel) is primarily appreciated for his crime-themed books. He also, however, is responsible for an unusual numbers of retcons and continuity inserts, including an expansion of Dr. Doom's origin, the insertion of an entirely new pre-Giant Size #1 team of X-Men in Deadly Genesis (and associated Dark Secret for Professor X), the previously verboten resurrection of Bucky, and a major revision/addition to Iron Fist's backstory. These were received with varying degrees of praise and outrage (i personally haven't read Books of Doom or Deadly Genesis). And here we have a sort of Grand Unification Theory for the Golden Age, albeit one that barrels unforgivingly though existing canon.
The major revelation is that many of the Golden Age super-heroes are related through a super-powered arms race wherein characters receive a variation of the super-soldier serum as it goes through iterations as the formula passes back and forth between Germany and the US through scientist defections and espionage. Phineas Horton, it turns out, was getting backdoor funding from the government for his Human Torch program (in the second scan below, that's his partner, Dr. Bradley, later the X-Club scientist Dr. Nemesis, breaking their partnership over the fact that, in this telling, Horton exposed the Torch to the press as a propaganda exercise).
Dr. Erskine, the man responsible for Captain America's version of the super-serum, was originally a German scientist that was part of a project that studied the unusual John Steele (more on him in a bit) and Atlantean cadavers.
Erskine's formula (the part that Erskine wrote down, anyway) was also copied by a Major Kerfoot (alias of Professor Hamilton), who delivers it back to German agents. A modified version was then given by scientist Professor Schmitt to Brian Falsworth, who becomes the Destroyer (and later the second Union Jack).
Both were prisoners of a concentration camp (this is part of the Destroyer's original Golden Age origin as well, although as Wikipedia notes, while the phrase "concentration camp" was used in the original, it was before an association with the Holocaust)(and the idea that the Destroyer is of the Union Jack lineage comes from the 1970s Invaders series)...
...after Schmitt, who was originally working for the Germans as a scientist, was discovered to be Jewish.
Meanwhile, one of Erskine's German scientist partners, Hans Broder, who didn't defect, is later moved to occupied Switzerland and partnered with a Dr. Burstein. Broder's notes on John Steele are of special interest to Burstein as well as his young son, Noah.
Noah Burstein will later be the scientist who provides the treatment that gives Luke Cage his powers, and John Steele himself has a power set similar to Cage. Steele first appeared in Daring Mystery Comics #1 as a non-powered WWII soldier, but it's said in this issue that he was captured by the Germans at the end of World War I and put in suspended animation.
When he's later freed during an Allied bomb raid on Broder's lab (the location of which was supplied by Erskine), he goes on a rampage through Germany (encountering Nick Fury along the way) and is generally depicted as unstoppable.
Brubaker will bring Steele back on his short Secret Avengers run.
The Red Skull appears in this series as well, although it's not explicitly said that he was enhanced with the super-serum.
The US military is also shown to be behind the development of the Golden Age robot Electro (not to be confused with the Cold War era Electro, the Monster Age robot Elektro, or, of course, the Spider-Man villain), and the way the dialogue is phrased ("Who are we meeting with today?") suggests that he's one of many additional projects that they're funding.
Beyond the direct recipients of the arms race, this book also more directly ties together various additional Golden Age Marvel & Timely characters. Pre-Howler Nick Fury (with his childhood friend Red Hargrove) is the one who goes behind enemy lines to help Erskine defect.
And several of Timely's non-powered hero characters are tied into the super-serum plot by having them involved in the investigation of German serum-related espionage. The main character of the series, actually, is the Golden Age Angel. The series opens with him as a doctor, tending to an elderly dying man who turns out to be the Two-Gun Kid. Two-Gun was a time-traveler (twice, actually - once for a long period in the 1970s Avengers, and a second time in Dan Slott's She-Hulk) and got to experience the Marvel Age firsthand, so after he was sent back to the past he moved to New York so that he could experience the birth of the modern super-hero first hand, if he lived long enough. He doesn't (he was originally active in the 1870s; death in 1938 would make him ~90, but time travel makes it moot anyway) but he does get to pass on his knowledge to the not-yet Angel, as well as his mask and gun.
Angel never wore a mask in the actual Golden Age comics, and rarely used guns, but he does in this series. It therefore comes across as a rather forced attempt at a symbolic transition between eras.
It's said Angel's rational for his name and his flashy costume is so that people who see the mask will be assured he isn't a criminal.
Besides Angel, a character called the Phantom Bullet and a detective called the Ferret (and his pet ferret Nosie) also investigate the German espionage and end up getting killed.
(The "Handler" that kills Ferret is unnamed; i'm not sure if he's supposed to be anyone in particular.)
Angel follows up on their leads and helps unravel the plot.
Brubaker forgoes appearances by the more typical secondary Golden Age characters like Miss America and the Whizzer, and instead has cameos by the Fiery Mask and Mister E (both of whom appeared, with Electro, in the series The Twelve, by J. Michael Straczynski, which was kind-of published concurrently with this series (it started in Jul 08 but went on hiatus and the final issue didn't ship until Feb 10).
The Thin Man also gets a couple of cameos, as does Hurricane, which is pretty odd considering his supernatural origins, which are outside the theme of this book.
In issue #6, in a scene that takes place during a big Human Torch/Sub-Mariner fight, a group of heroes are shown helping the citizens of New York with the deadly floods caused by Namor. We've got Angel, Thin Man, Electro, Mister E, Patriot, Fiery Mask, and the Phantom Reporter (who was also in The Twelve) (thanks to Louis for help with recognizing some of these guys!)
We're told a little of Angel's childhood. It's said his father was a prison warden and so Angel was raised in a jail block. He first earned the nickname "Angel" by helping get a prisoner freed just by reading his case file. To my knowledge this is new information - neither Angel's first appearance in Marvel Comics #1 nor any other Golden Age appearances i've seen didn't have an origin of any kind - although it seems so familiar!
As for the Cap Origin Checklist, we have a boy orphaned at age 16 and forced to grow up on the streets of New York. His artistic tendencies are shown.
In a scene repeated in issues #1 and #4, we have a Steve Rogers angrily watching newsreels on the Nazis (that's coincidentally Angel getting out of the seat next to him).
There's an oral and (presumably) vita-ray component to the serum.
And there's the infiltrator Heinz Kruger, alias Frederick Clemson, who kills Erskine and is subsequently killed by the newly strengthened Steve Rogers.
Cap's armor is drawn to be goddamn scale mail like modern artists seem to like to draw instead of the chain mail it's supposed to be (i know i'm way into the weeds with this complaint, but it bugs me).
Cap runs into Angel on his first mission; an interaction i don't think we've seen before.
Switching over to Namor, I wanted to mention that Atlantis' location is said to be in a sargasso near Bermuda, for what it is worth. Sometimes i got the impression that Atlantis was actually located in the Arctic during the Golden Age, but not here.
This series does a lot to rationalize the Golden Age behavior of Namor, explaining his attacks in New York as misguided revenge for the German atrocities committed against his people.
To my way of thinking, this was not a great move. Namor's quasi-villain status has always made him a more interesting character. It was especially unique for the Golden Age and it made him at best an early anti-hero. Based on what's shown here, Namor was basically a good guy, just misdirected. Even a cursory reading of Namor's Golden Age books shows him to be pursuing an anti-surface world agenda unrelated to World War II - it continues after World War II is over, for example. There's also major continuity problems with the specific sequence of events; see below for more on that.
There are two major Namor/Human Torch clashes. The first takes place at Coney Island.
Namor is defeated and chased off.
The first fight is used as the turning point where the Torch becomes thought of as a hero (i don't know who the hooded villain is here).
The rematch is a longer, more brutal fight, including the flood scene.
The fight ends with Cap showing up to help the defeated Torch. Namor is knocked out and captured for the duration of the series.
We also learn that the Red Skull is working with the Atlantean rebel Meranno, aka U-Man from the Invaders series.
It's sort of a double-edged sword that Brubaker is using a continuity-insert character from the Invaders, for reasons i'll get into in the Chronological Considerations section.
U-Man plays a fairly prominent role in this series. As shown above, he's working directly with the Red Skull and helping them with their super-serum research (which means he's endorsing their wholesale slaughter of Atlanteans).
He's also involved in a skirmish on the coast of the US that seems to be a re-write of Cap's repelling of Germans from the US coast in Tales of Suspense #63 except with the insertion of Meranno...
...and Angel again.
Note Bucky's use of guns in the above scenes. This is following up on the idea introduced in Brubaker's Cap run that Bucky was much more soldier than mascot.
Meranno's defeat in this second battle allows Cap to bring a captive to the imprisoned Namor, who realizes that he's been blindly attacking the wrong country.
With this, Namor is released to help Cap repel a third attack by Meranno. This one is part of a two-pronged Axis attack. Meranno attacks Washington, DC...
...while the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.
Among the many things it covers, the first few issues of the series cover the Human Torch in a lot of detail. But by the last few issues, it seems to get a bit sketchier, jumping ahead a lot. It covers his education in the cement block, his escape, his decision to fight crime, the decision to join the police force, and then battles with Namor, all in a moderate amount of detail. We also see the Torch's first discovery of Toro.
But then the focus seems to get a little blurrier and more random. The series jumps ahead quite a bit in the Toro/Torch relationship (skipping the whole fire-eater fake-out origin, which is fine).
The Torch and Toro are sent to stop the Pearl Harbor attack, but aren't able to prevent it.
After that, it's said that "things moved swiftly" and "President Roosevelt commissioned America's first super-team, code-named the Invaders", with a conditional pardon for Namor.
There's then a series of montage scenes in the epilogue (i'm not including characters shown here as appearing in this arc)...
...and it's said that John Steele disappeared after Normandy.
In issue #3, Angel beats up some hoods for information at a bar where the bartender is called Josie. A nod to the frequent Daredevil setting.
In isolation, this is a well written, enjoyable, intriguing story. If i have a complaint it's that the last few issues suddenly get decompressed to the point where we're it feels like we're slow peddling waiting for Pear Harbor. When i read this in single-issue format it felt incredibly slow, but it reads better all together. Epting's art, while not really suited for action sequences, is great for action shots, and generally has a really nice photo-realistic look. I think there are legitimate complaints to be made about the need to tie together the origins of various Golden Age characters, but it's a logical enough thing to want to do. My Quality Rating stops here; the purpose of that field is for me to provide my take on whether the story and art are well done. The dialogue is natural, the plot is interesting, the art is good. So, high Quality Rating.
The problem is that while it's a good story, it doesn't work very well with Marvel's previously established stories. Editor Tom Brevoort's guiding principle during this period was (paraphrasing) 'never let continuity get in the way of a good story', and that's definitely exemplified here.
In the past, a writer like Roy Thomas or Mark Gruenwald or Kurt Busiek would get a good idea (and it is a good idea) of having the Two-Gun Kid leave his accoutrements to a Golden Age hero as a way of passing on the legacy and symbolizing the dawning of a new era, but they would either find (or insert) a Golden Age character that actually wore a domino mask and used guns or they'd abandon the idea. Brubaker pushes it through with brute force, and that's true of the larger super-serum trail as well. It makes you wonder what Marvel's goals were in publishing this story. It was odd to put out a continuity focused project in 2009. This was never going to be a huge seller, and the sort of people that were likely to read it are the sort of people that were going to dig in and notice the problems. Total nerd bait; it's asking for trouble. So, ok, you've told a "good" story but the only people who are going to read it are going to be annoyed by it.
It's worth mentioning that Marvel has always had a casual relationship with its Golden Age stories. The initial rule put forth during the Invaders series was "it's only canon if we actively included it" and then it was "it's canon unless we contradict it". But this series also stomps over post-Golden Age books like Marvels #1 and the Invaders series. See the Chronological Placement Considerations below for more details.
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #1 takes place in 1938 (in the prologue) and 1939. The rest of the series covers 1940-41, ending with the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) which also results in the formation of the Invaders. As i usually do for continuity inserts that span a period of time, i'm placing this at where it ends, directly before Sgt. Fury #1 and Giant-Size Invaders #1. One caveat to that: there's actually a two-page scene at the very end of issue #8 that takes place in the modern (2010) period, where Captain America passes on Angel/Two-Gun's guns and mask and a journal of the events depicted in this series to Jason Halloway, Angel's grandson.
Cap is accompanied by a younger Two-Gun (on his second trip to the future).
My policy is generally that if a continuity insert has bookends in modern times, i go with the bookend placement, but i'm breaking that policy at least for now. If i ever make it to 2010, and especially if that scene winds up being important (so far, nothing's been done with Jason Halloway), i may change my mind.
Now for the problems...
One issue is Merrano. U-Man was first introduced in Invaders #3, after (obviously) the formation of the Invaders, and everyone - Cap, the government, even Namor - react to top-secret footage of U-Man as if it was the first time they see him. Namor later realizes that he's Meranno, a traitor that he exiled for trying to form an alliance with the Nazis. Obviously there's the basic chronology problem - Meranno here fights Cap and Namor before the formation of the Invaders - plus the fact that Namor was aware of the Nazis and therefore able to distinguish the various surface world civilizations earlier than is depicted here.
It's surprising the Brubaker even chose to use Meranno. A more obvious choice would be Master Man. In Giant-Size Invaders #1, Master Man was the first super-foe that Cap, Namor, and the Torch fought - near Washington DC no less - that resulted in the formation of the team. If you swap Meranno out for him in the final battle of this series, you're nearly aligned in that regard (although that battle takes place after, not concurrent to, Pearl Harbor). And Master Man also fits better thematically, being a recipient of a partial version of the super-serum formula (it's interesting to note that despite the back-and-forth with the serum, no German agents are actually powered-up with it in this series).
Beyond that, you have the Torch/Namor battles, neither of which align well with pre-established stuff. If the first battle at Coney Island is meant to be the one depicted in Marvel Mystery Comics #8-10, it doesn't hit any of the right beats; it's depicted as a minor skirmish. And the second battle, with the massive flood, is probably supposed to be the one from Human Torch #5A, but that story has Namor attacking the entire world, while here his assault is specifically directed on New York. And of course that story doesn't end with Namor's imprisonment. The sequence of events here makes any heroic Namor stories taking place in the US impossible, the most notable of which is his team-up with the Human Torch in Marvel Mystery Comics #17 (which was published prior to Pearl Harbor although i suppose i could push it out and assume it's an Invaders era story). Marvels #1 covered all these events faithfully, so there's no getting out of them being in continuity.
The origin of the Destroyer deviates from the script as well. Falsworth is said to have been in Germany as a spy, whereas in the Invaders version he was there as an appeaser.
The sequence of events also has him becoming Destroyer after Cap, whereas in the Invaders he was powered up and active after Poland was invaded, before Cap. This was necessary to establish the chain of super-serum being passed back and forth as part of the arms race.
Because this is a Golden Age era book, this may be one of the first entries a new reader of my site may encounter, so i wanted to make a little note here: with this series i'm just sort of throwing up my hands and placing this approximately where it kinda fits assuming there weren't all these problems. I don't normally do that!
References: There's no footnotes or endnotes in this series, but i'll list what i think are the relevant issues.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Red Cape guy is probably the Thunderer.
Cold War Electro was a robot? I thought he was a living being.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 21, 2012 10:31 PM
I was only able to buy this series sporadically, and it marked one of the last comics I bought before I decided current comics just weren't my thing and it was time to stop buying. I am a WWII history buff so some things bothered me.
First, they get the helmet wrong on Fury during the commando raid to rescue Erskine. It shows him with the famous M1 helmet which wasn't adopted until June 1941 and didn't become standard until well until 1942. They should have shown Fury with the old WW1 style Brodie helmet, like the British wore.
Second, Fury should never have even been sent into Germany. This was an act of war, and FDR would never have agreed to it. Besides, it makes no sense for Fury to be recruited for this mission - what qualifications does he have at this point? It would be far better had they used Fury's mentor - "Happy" Sam Sawyer.
Third, I agree completely about Namor's motivation. I think Byrne adequately explained Namor's extreme mood swings in his '90s NAMOR run, but even with that it's obvious Namor was arrogant and had his own agenda. There are far better ways to explain why he focused his ire towards Nazi Germany eventually.
Fourth, I think it would have been better had Erskine either been an escaped German Jewish scientist (like so many were that helped America's war effort) or to show Erskine as a disillusioned pacifist who wanted the "Super Soldier Serum" to be used peacefully for the benefit of all mankind to eliminate disease and infirmity, but fled Germany early because the Nazi's wanted to pervert it and then gave the serum to the US to use to defeat the Nazis.
However, the Two Gun King angle was just awesome. Very cool.
Posted by: Chris | September 21, 2012 11:09 PM
Mark, i've only seen the Cold War era Electro in flashback scenes but it looks like you're right; i've updated that text. Thanks.
I guess you're right about the Thunderer, too. That's definitely him with the blue hood in the montage scene towards the end, but the guy in the flood scene didn't initially strike me as wearing a hood. But now... if i squint... I'll list him as a character appearing unless someone else has a better idea.
Chris, thanks for the WWII info. I assume you read at least issue #1 and you know that there was some talk about plausible deniability about Fury & Hargrove's incursion but you're saying it's not enough, which is fair.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 21, 2012 11:41 PM
Oh wait. I forgot which red cape guy i was talking about. Heh. I meant the guy in the same panel as Electro, with the domino mask and brown hat. That's not the Thunderer. As for the other guy in the red cap holding the rope line, i think i originally just assumed that was Angel again.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 21, 2012 11:55 PM
Am I the only person that thinks that Cap knocking Namor out with one toss of his shield is lame?
Posted by: Michael | September 22, 2012 12:05 AM
You could argue that Namor was weakened and dehydrated after the long fight with the Torch.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 22, 2012 12:08 AM
Red cape, brown hat and domino mask? Isn't that Mister E?
Posted by: Louis | September 28, 2012 6:36 PM
Yeah, now that you point out, it's clearly him. Thanks, Louis! We are down to the green cape guy.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 28, 2012 6:43 PM
Blonde haired, green cape and red sleeves. I'd say it's the Fiery Mask.
Posted by: Louis | September 28, 2012 6:46 PM
Again, clearly him once you mention it. Appreciate the help!
Posted by: fnord12 | September 28, 2012 7:06 PM
This isn't the first appearance of John Steele. According to www.marvel.wikia.com/John_Steele_(American_Soldier)_(Earth-616) he first appeared in Daring Mystery Comics 1 as timely comics response to Superman
Posted by: doomsday | July 3, 2013 7:36 PM
I do mention that in the review. Twice. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | July 3, 2013 10:02 PM
"Based on what's shown here, Namor was basically a good guy, just misdirected. Even a cursory reading of Namor's Golden Age books shows him to be pursuing an anti-surface world agenda unrelated to World War II - it continues after World War II is over, for example."
Ehh, I can almost buy into that logic. We've seen that Namor is pretty headstrong and doesn't always pay attention to things that contradict his preconceived notions, and is willing to rush headlong into things. So, say, his hate for the surface world starts out as all-encompassing, then he realizes that the Nazis were specifically responsible for what he was mad about, so he focuses on them (thus opening the door to becoming an antihero of sorts on the Invaders).
Afterwards, it probably doesn't take more than one or two examples of non-Nazis being jerks to convince Namor that he was originally right and ALL surface dwellers suck, and he reverts back to type. Possibly made easier by the fact that, after the war, his closest surface allies either all break up or disappear, so there's no one left to talk him down again. Though in that case we'd still need a reason why he eventually stopped attacking again, and disappeared for the next 20 years or so (give or take).
His rage against the surface world as a whole in the Silver Age is already adequately explained by amnesia and Destiny's brainwashing, so no need to justify that.
I do agree with you that the way it was handled was awkward, and involved and lot of fudging and shoehorning that wasn't strictly necessary (and broke with established continuity in a number of ways). So I guess I mostly accept the change in principle, but am also kind of annoyed by it in practice, if that makes sense.
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 15, 2014 12:34 PM
Red cape guy isn't the Thunderer, it's the Black Avenger. His one and only story was printed in All-Winners Comics #6, and was one of Goodman's multiple attempts at creating new and popular heroes by slightly altering unpublished inventory stories of older heroes that didn't stick, hoping that a new name and a (somewhat) new costume would make kids respond better to them (see: Mercury/Hurricane).
In this case, the Black Avenger story was just a Thunderer story with the character's alias changed and his costume recolored, though a narration box in the first panel talks him up as an all-new exciting hero you've never seen before, so they're clearly trying to tell kids this isn't that old boring character they didn't like.
Posted by: Adam | September 24, 2014 10:51 AM
Fantastic review. Makes me want to pick up the TPB.
Fnord, of course you and I know that chain mail rocks above scale mail...except against aquators ;)
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | April 26, 2015 11:16 PM
Part of the reason John Steele is included here is that Brubaker will use him in his Secret Avengers series. Steele is played a bit like Hugo Danner from Gladiator by Phillip Wylie, the inspiration for Siegel and Shuster's Superman (and thus the comic-book superhero in general). That's probably another reason Brubaker makes him the distant source of the WWII Marvel superheroes.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 9, 2016 7:13 PM
fnord, reading the entry for this makes me wonder if you'll ever include other stories which take place in the pre-Golden Age, such as the Phantom Eagle story from WWI or the Atlas Black Knight stories, or even the Silver Age Two-Gun Kid and Rawhide Kid stuff. While *publishing* wise it might follow the Golden Age stuff, chronologically it comes earlier, so...
Posted by: Wis | January 6, 2017 6:33 PM
Marvel Comics #1 is the lower bound for my project. After i've reviewed every comic that takes place after that, i'll... probably be too old to type anymore.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 13, 2017 9:26 AM
I've reread this series several times now, and as much as I like Brubaker's other work, this one just has too many characters (many with aliases) coming and going to really work for me. I missed the Noah Burnstein reference, but I wondered about the Red Skull (Johann Shmidt) outing the Jewish scientist Eric Schmitt. I wondered if they were secretly related, but I guess it's just a coincidence.
Brubaker was on a pulp hero bender at the time he wrote this. As Omar notes, John Steele is basically Hugo Danner. He'll show up in Brubaker's Secret Avengers, along with Fu Manchu and a character who is essentially John Carter of Mars. While the continuity minded might wish this was a encyclopedic overview in the spirit of Thomas or Gruenwald, it's more of a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen style mosh pit.
Posted by: Andrew | May 7, 2017 9:28 AM
The idea seems to be to show the pulp guys doing gritty work in the shadows for the world (and the war) to emerge from the shadows and turn into four-color spectacle: kind of like the Batman story The Long Halloween where the ordinary gangsters who ran Gotham fall and fade away to be replaced by the insane roster of costumed supervillains with their flamboyant mass destruction.
It doesn't work here for a couple of reasons. First, Brubaker's plot with the heroes constantly grasping the baddies' schemes and identities belatedly doesn't work that well with a character like Captain America and his Mighty Shield, here to Smash the Axis!. And tying the final battle to Pearl Harbor doesn't play well against the story's earlier attempts to make us take "Namor floods NYC and kills hundreds" seriously. Ditto for an actual Axis attack on Washington DC led by Atlantean warriors. When your made-up incidents are played as *consequential* mass destruction that arguably dwarfs the *real-world tragedy* that the story plays off of, the results are messy at best.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | May 7, 2017 10:50 AM
Second, unlike Tim Sale's work on The Long Halloween, the art style isn't flexible enough to signal the shift from noirish pulp to Four-Color Spectacle. It's just muted realism all the way through, and that doesn't work when the payoff is full-scale war with superheroes smashing planes and a guy in a fish costume with a swastika belt buckle. Meranno can look like a blue-skinned mad scientist, but U-Man needs to look like something impossible and scary. The loopy Frank Robbins character design and the grounded Steve Epting art style with "realistic" coloring don't work well together, so U-Man just looks like a jackass playing dress-up.
Third, most of the heroes and baddies just aren't that interesting: Meranno is a remarkably flat character for a Nazi from , and his Nazi aides unavoidably so. And the heroes are just variations on one of two types: the PI or spy in the shadows, uncovering a conspiracy already in motion, and the novice superhero prone to Misunderstanding Fights. The intriguing eccentricities of the best pulp villains are absent, and the heroes quickly become conventional superdoers whose rough edges are down to misunderstandings and the villains' trickery. So the story as a whole lacks both the spectacle of superheroes and the lurid pleasures of the pulps.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | May 7, 2017 10:57 AM
(concluded)A sentence above should read "Meranno is a remarkably flat character for a Nazi from Atlantis"
My sense is that the story is somewhat indecisive: Brubaker and Epting want to ground all the Golden Age/Invaders stuff in a pulpier milieu that plays as "more realistic" for 21st century readers. But the story arc is about the emergence of the fantastic and the world going to war. Sticking with the more "grounded" tone undermines the second half of the story, and sticking with the plot payoffs of the second half makes the fist half of the plot feel weirdly inconsequential. It's pretty hard to go from scenes of people drowned in the streets of New York and images of dead soldiers and burning battleships at Pearl Harbor to, say, Nick Fury and His Howling Commandoes shouting "Wa-hoo! as they charge into battle, magically untouched by the bullets and shells whizzing past. And yet that's exactly what the last few pages ask the reader to do.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | May 7, 2017 11:05 AM
The origin of The Angel was originally captured in a 2 page text story in Marvel Mystery Comics #20 in June 1941. It matches up pretty close with this retelling.
Posted by: Steve Perigo | March 30, 2018 4:06 PM
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