cover #1The Invaders

(1993 - four issues, published by Marvel Comics)

Writer: Roy Thomas. Pencils: Dave Hoover. Inks: Brian Garvey.

The Invaders had been a retro series published in the 1970s. Set back during the 1940s it told wartime adventures teaming up Marvel's Golden Age heroes -- most notably Captain America, The Sub-Mariner, and the original Human Torch -- as well as a few original characters (notably British heroes like Spitfire and Union Jack). Creator Roy Thomas later duplicated the formula at DC with his All-Star Squadron.

Which brings us to this 1993 mini-series, with Roy Thomas back at the helm, joined by younger artist Dave Hoover.

This isn't an attempt to re-boot or anything (it even draws upon minor guest stars from the original series) -- it just tells another story of the Golden Age heroes battling Nazis (though conspicuously absent are the British heroes). And it's a decent enough romp without really being anything exceptional.

Thomas keeps things clipping along, with plenty of running about and action, building to a suitably pulpy master plan of the villains. The story takes place on the Home Front (many of the old Invaders stories had them overseas) and adds a novel twist by having some of the villains be home grown Americans working for the Nazis. Some with intriguing motives (one allying with the Nazis because she hates communists -- just as during the war the Allies joined with communists to fight Nazis). Thomas is a great one for nostalgia so the story is chock full of obscure Golden Age comic book characters he's revived -- some joining the Invaders, some serving as the aforementioned turncoat Americans.

Unfortunately that's a bit of a problem -- particularly in a four issue mini-series (even if it's clear Thomas was hoping it might spawn an on-going series). Because Thomas is so busy shoe horning in new (and not especially interesting) characters the scenes can get kind of busy, without it really enhancing the drama or the plot. It's not like Thomas uses the big cast to fracture the story into multiple threads that we can cut between, making it some complex, Byzantine epic.

I can't decide if my ambivalence with this story is entirely due to it -- or to me. After all, a lot of it reminds me of Thomas' work on The Invaders and the All-Star Squadron (especially the opening story of the All-Star Squadron which, like here, involves a lot of meeting up with obscure characters who then quickly trade origin tales) -- stories I liked (as I review them here and here). But there's a feeling Thomas hasn't got the mix quite right this time around. Piling on heroes and trading origins can seem a bit pointless when it's just a mini-series. And though there are character moments and aspects (including a surprise revelation in the final issue) there's not enough to give the action an emotional foundation. Most of the characters we don't get to know well enough to care about -- and those we know don't have enough to do. Maybe it was a mistake for Thomas to leave out the usual sidekicks of Bucky and Toro, meaning Captain America and the Torch have no one to play off of.

The art by Dave Hoover is solid enough. The seminal artist on the original Invaders was Frank Robbins who had a raw, ugly, but dynamic style that really gave the early issues of the old series a sense of identity, and a period ambience. On one hand I could imagine some readers preferring Hoover's cleaner, more straight-forward style. It's very distinctly of the 1990s with its Image-style big muscles and square faces and busy line work -- but not so much so to be distracting read all these years later when that style has become less popular. But it's more about the costumes and the muscles than mood or storytelling. It's solid work -- but lacks Robbins' sense of personality.

Neither as written by Thomas nor as visualized by Hoover is there much sense any of the dusted off old characters necessarily warranted further adventures.

Ultimately there's nothing wrong with this revival of The Invaders, but it doesn't really stand out among the better of Thomas' wartime revisitations (whether Invaders or All-Star Squadron). Briskly-paced without exactly being a complex or epic plot, too concerned with throwing in costumed heroes but less sure what to do with them once they're in the mix.

It's agreeable, but nothing more.