GRAPHIC NOVEL and TRADE PAPERBACK (TPB) REVIEWS

by The Masked Bookwyrm

Miscellaneous (Superheroes) - "Inva"

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cover by RobbinsInvaders Classic 2007 (SC TPB) 200 pages

Written by Roy Thomas. Pencils by Frank Robbins, and Rich Buckler, Dick Ayers, Don Heck. Inks by Vince Colletta, Frank Springer, with Jim Mooney.
Colours: various. Letters: John Costanza.

Reprinting: Giant-Size Invaders #1, Invaders 1-9 (1975-1976)

Rating: * * * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 3

Published by Marvel Comics

The Invaders was Roy Thomas' retro series which told World War II-era adventures involving Marvel's key 1940s characters -- Captain America (and sidekick Bucky), The Sub-Mariner, and the original Human Torch (and his sidekick, Toro) -- Cap and the Sub-Mariner, of course, existed in contemporary adventures, as well (the former thanks to suspended animation, the latter, simply to natural longevity).

The premise of the Invaders was that they had formed a Nazi-busting team in the 1940s, whose primary mandate was to take the battle to the enemy -- hence their name: The Invaders (though they spent a lot of time on the homefront, too).

And at its best, it was an energetic, fun comic. Thomas has long been comicdoms chief nostalgist, not just for the comics themselves (a few years later, he created a similar comic using DC's 1940s heroes, The All-Star Squadron) but also for historical periods themselves, and that means the stories feel nicely rooted in their milieu as the characters engage in typical Thomas-esque snappy banter, dropping period pop references at the drop of a hat...but it's not all flippancy and badinage. There's just enough seriousness, angst, and character conflict to rest it all on a keel of seriousness, and to let the super characters emerge as people. But the emphasis here is definitely on the action and adventure. Thomas' later All-Star Squadron, though also good at times, leaned a bit more toward the soap opera-y which, though effective at times, also meant that series lacked some of the pure, raw, pulp energy of the Invaders (or maybe it was just the larger team membership could slow things up).

Also aiding the series is Frank Robbins dynamic art, which, like Thomas' scripting, straddles the needs of a "modern", relatively sophisticated comic, with an old style retro feel of Caniff-esque high cheekbones and period cars and costumes. Robbins art is definitely a bit wild and raw, as he sometimes seems to fling his figures across the panels with limbs bending in bizarre directions, but it all serves to imbue the scenes with a kineticism, even in talky scenes. It's not polished, by any means...but that's kind of the appeal. In these early issues he's paired with inker Vince Colletta, which doesn't exactly make for an ideal match. Colletta's ambivalent place in the annals of comicdom has oft been debated in general, but certainly his style wasn't maybe well suited to Robbin's deliberately raw, frantic pencils. Toward the end of this collection, Robbin's would be paired with inker Frank Springer for a more effective collaboration.

The characters were brought together in Giant-Size Invaders #1 -- which apparently proved so successful it immediately led to a series (the regular comics' opening two-parter had, apparently, been intended for another Giant-Size issue). And despite the war-time milieu, there's a nice degree of variety in the foes, as well as occasional elements of mystery and suspense. The first two-parter involves and amnesiac girl, aliens, Norse gods...and, of course, Nazis.

If Thomas had a chief flaw in his career, it was probably that he could be a bit too obsessive in his love of nostalgia and comic book continuity. His later All-Star Squadron could get a bit bogged down in characters as he just tried to employ too many heroes, or used his stories to "fix" continuity problems. The Invaders is a more manageable team, but early on he indulges in a story where the Invaders are brainwashed by the Red Skull, so Bucky must recruit a second team of rather more obscure 1940s heroes to help rein them in. It seems a bit odd, so early in a new series, to start using it as spring board for other characters -- The Liberty Legion -- and, though they landed a few subsequent appearances, they never took off the way Thomas presumably hoped they would. Still, the story, which crosses back and forth between Invaders #5 and 6 and Marvel Premiere #29, 30 remains eminently readable, the art an agreeable mix of Robbins, Don Heck, Jim Mooney and others. One can't exactly say Thomas was doing wonders with varied characterization -- most of the characters talked in the same snappy, wisecracking way (even the Sub-Mariner who's "modern" 1970s adventures had him talking in a formal, imperious way, here is often given to colloquial slang) -- but as noted, the energy is high, and the personalities, if redundant, remained engaging.

This collections' highlight, though, probably remains the three parter from 7-9 as The Invaders cross paths with a vampire -- Baron Blood -- working for the Nazis in London. Robbins art is nicely suited to the overtones of gothic horror the tale invokes. And while keeping the same snappy feel, there's also deeper and more affecting characterization, involving both the leads and supporting characters Lord Falsworth and his daughter, Jacqueline, who would become mainstays of the title. And there's nice suspense generated by the fact that the reader knows Blood's identity even as The Invaders don't. If there's a flaw it's that, after Blood is defeated, we are still left with a bit of a dangling thread as a supporting character is left injured and hovering near death -- and this is the final issue included in this collection. Still, that dangling thread aside, it's a great tale that caps off what holds up as a surprisingly enjoyable run of tales. Indeed, perhaps a mark of how strong the Baron Blood arc is can be seen in the fact that it would continue to have reverberations in later stories (such as a contemporary-set Captain America story collected in War & Remembrance), and Baron Blood is often thought of as a signature foe of The Invaders even as his reappearances were few.

I have a certain fondness for "period" super hero tales, particularly when done well, and with a nice sense of time and place (which Thomas had more than most). After all, super heroes are "escapism" and historical stories -- even those set during a grim time as a world war -- are likewise escapism, removing the reader from their contemporary concerns. The two genres go well together.

These days, there are so many TPB collections, one can't help but wonder about the editorial decisions made at Marvel and DC. For a while Marvel's main format for older reprints was either its expensive hardcover Marvel Masterworks, or its delightfully economical, black and white massive Essential volumes. Recently, they've been going the "___ Classic" route, which though it has the advantage of reprinting older series in colour (unlike the Essential volumes) also offer a heftier prince tag and fewer pages.

Still, in this case, the price is worth it.

A second volume has since been released...reviewed below.

This is a review of the stories as they were serialized in the original comics.

Cover price: $__ CDN./ $24.99 USA.


cover by Gil KaneInvaders Classic, vol. 2 2008 (SC TPB) 200 pages

Written by Roy Thomas. Pencils by Frank Robbins, with Jim Mooney, and Alex Schomburg, Don Rico, Lee Elias. Inks by Frank Springer.
Colours/letters: various

Reprinting: The Invaders #10-21, Annual #1 (1977)

Rating: * * * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by Marvel Comics

The Invaders was the 1970s "retro" series by Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins telling the World War II adventures of Marvel's signature 1940s heroes -- Captain America (and sidekick Bucky), the Sub-Mariner, and the original Human Torch (and sidekick Toro). Although the characters had had occasional interaction in their 1940s comics, in the Invaders, Thomas assembled them into a proto-super hero team battling Nazi villainy together. The first collection (reviewed here) was pretty entertaining, delivering fast action (and even faster repartee) with just enough characterization and occasional reflections on the grimness of war to not seem too trivial. I'd like to say this second collection following on the heels of the first (reviewed above) is just as good. But I'm not sure I can.

'Cause it may actually be a bit better!

Any bugs that needed to be worked out for this, admittedly, kind of atypical series seem to have been done so, and Thomas seems even more fully in command of his material. Even such little things as how the Sub-Mariner should speak seems to have been settled upon (in his original 1940s adventures, the Sub-Mariner tended to speak in flippant colloquialisms, but by the 1970s, he was being written in a much more imperious way -- and in the early Invaders issues, Thomas seemed unsure whether he should write him true to his 1940s origins, or present him more in line with the version readers would encounter in his then on-going comic).

By this point the core team of "classic" heroes has been augmented with some original characters, namely the British Falsworth family, with Lord Falsworth, a retired former super hero himself, and his daughter, who becomes the super powered Spitfire in this collection. With more characters, and characters whose backstories haven't previously been explored, there's greater opportunity to indulge in character undercurrents and to tease along a few sub-plots.

In fact, although this collection is comprised of various independent adventures (raging from one and two-issue stories, to an epic raging across 6 issues!), the events in one adventure sets up elements that will direct the next adventure -- which can be fun when read together in a collection. Though the downside is that this collection ends with a dangling plot element, as the Invaders triumph over their foes, but one Invader is left grievously wounded (ironically, that's how the first collection ended as well!)

Of course, sometimes the plotting can be a bit lax, as Thomas shoots from one story idea to another. In the epic story arc, the Invaders head to Germany to rescue a captured man, which is accomplished mid-way through the story arc...then the guy disappears from the plot (what'd Cap do: drop him off on a street corner in Nazi Germany with cab fare to get home?) Or an initial character conflict, wherein the Human Torch is in love with Spitfire, but she has a crush on Captain America, quickly seems to get dropped.

Obviously, the biggest stumbling block with the series might be: is it in poor taste? Taking one of humanity's greatest follies (war) and turning it into a backdrop for gee whiz heroics by super heroes. But, of course, war has been trivialized in adventure novels and movies long before the Invaders came along. And every now and then, Thomas will throw in a darker reminder of the reality that helps mollify the sense of frivolity (or our guilt in enjoying the frivolity!), such as an anguished Captain America lamenting whether this war will allow any of them to emerge without blood on their hands. And in perhaps the most questionable sequence, when the Invaders go to the infamous Warsaw ghetto and indulge in their usual adventures and escaping outrageous death traps prepared by caricatured Nazi foes, Thomas nonetheless delivers a haunting final caption that acts as a sobering slap across the face -- and effectively says in one caption what some modern comics writers will take whole mini-series or super-sized graphic novels to say.

Actually, one could argue a series like this can act as sugar coated education. Because despite the blatant fantasy of the super heroes, Thomas has always been one keen to research his historical material (and Robbins' visuals are, likewise, referenced) so the fact of the matter is, you can learn about the period reading these issues.

There's an energy and dynamism to the storytelling that is almost lost today, where "decompression" is the new goal, and minor stories have to be stretched out to a half-dozen issues to justify the trade paperback collection down the line. The plots here have sufficient intriguing elements to keep you turning the pages, wondering where it's headed (though there is some repetition, as there are no less than two sequences where the Invaders are captured and, given their abilities, imprisoned using similar techniques!).

And though characterization isn't belaboured -- that's the point. Characterization shouldn't be belaboured, but should emerge naturally, even subtly, from the scenes. So we have Captain America trying to rescue his captured comrades, and constantly thinking how he has to save Bucky...and the others. With a subtle bit of phrasing, Thomas reminds us that, as Bucky is Cap's sidekick, he would feel especially responsible for his safety. In fact, Thomas' Cap is a particularly nicely realized take on the character, combining the unflappable professionalism of Marvel's iconic symbol...while lacking the smugness of some takes on the character, making the character human and vulnerable.

Another appeal of the series is Robbins' art -- raw, ugly, and sometimes seeming as though he's never heard of an eraser as the figures will be hurled across the panels with sometimes ludicrous contortions and mismatched limbs. But it works. There's an energy, and primal purity that emerges. As well, it suits the material, both because Robbins was an old time artist, who apprenticed with the likes of Milt Caniff, giving him a credibility when drawing this retro series, but as well the ugliness (emphasized by inker Frank Springer's coarse inking) maybe suits the temper of the times, evoking the feel of the dark days of a world war that a slicker art style might trivialize. Robbins' Nazi villains are ridiculously caricatured -- more like grotesque Dick Tracy foes -- but he's also capable of invoking subtle expression in the faces and reaction shots.

Ultimately, the Invaders is first and foremost an off beat adventure series, nothing more -- but it's a highly entertaining one, with just enough human drama, character moments, and brooding ruminations squeezed into the action, and an effective evocation of its historical milieu, to succeed as a drama, as well.

Cover price: $__ CDN./ $24.95 USA.


coverInvaders: Eve of Destruction 2010 (SC TPB) 184 pages

Written by Roger Stern. Pencils by Steve Epting, with Mike Manley, Bret Blevins, Jason Armstrong. Inks by Al Williamson, Mike Manley.
Colours: Gloria Vasquez. Letters: Jim Novak.

Reprinting: Marvel Universe #1-7 (1998)

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Reviewed: Aug. 2015

Published by Marvel Comics

Marvel Universe was perhaps reflective of a trend attempted in the 1990s. Reminiscent of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and especially Legends of the DC Universe, which told self-contained arcs focusing on different characters and time periods in the DC canon. So Marvel Universe was set up to tell stories set within different periods of Marvel lore. The difference being that instead of a changing writers, this seemed intended as the playground of Roger Stern. And part of the gimmick was to play up the history that had built up in Marvel comics, dating back millennia, by revisiting periods sometimes outside the years of Marvel's main super heroes.

The comic started out with nothing too outre by telling a tale of The Invaders -- the WW 2 era super hero team featuring Captain America, the Human Torch, and the Sub-Mariner. This then was followed by a slightly more off beat line-up, jumping ahead to the 1950s and teaming up a collection of more obscure heroes.

Since the series only ran seven issues (and just two story arcs) it can be construed as an indication the audience just wasn't keen for it, or that it wasn't that great a concept -- or that it wasn't done as well as it might have been.

And the fact that over a decade later the entire run has been collected but as an "Invaders" TPB -- despite The Invaders only accounting for half the pages -- indicates that clearly the marketing thinking was they're the selling point, even as it slightly misrepresents this TPB. (Given how sporadic The Invaders' appearances have been, maybe Marvel could've released a TPB collecting their post-1970s stories. Around the time Marvel Universe was published, Marvel also was publishing Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty which was a similar enterprise telling self-contained arcs jumping around through Cap's mythos -- and it featured an Invaders story from issue #2-4 by Mark Waid and Ron Garney. And maybe that arc paired with these Marvel Universe issues might have made a true "Invaders" TPB).

Anyway...

Part of the problem here lies with the whole fanboy conceit of the series. The insanely convoluted mythology of comics is part of their appeal -- and also part of a quagmire that can drag stories down. Although many writers, at one point or another, have crafted stories by drawing upon obscure continuity, certain key comics scribes have made it almost a signature of their style: (to name a few) Roy Thomas, to some extent Steve Englehart, Kurt Busiek -- and, of course, Roger Stern.

And that may be the biggest flaw with Stern's stories here. He doesn't seem to draw upon Marvel lore to tell great stories, using the mythos for some extra resonance and a few winking in-jokes, so much as he's arguably writing stories simply to make use of and tie together established continuity. And the problem Marvel Universe may have encountered, sales-wise, is there just weren't enough hardcore fanboys to make that work.

As mentioned, the opening story (three issues, including the double-sized first issue) revisits The Invaders, a comic originally published in the 1970s though set in the 1940s, and initially devised and produced by writer Roy Thomas and artist Frank Robbins.

The art for the trilogy is by Steve Epting (with veteran artist Al Williamson as inker) -- Epting with a realist style evocative of someone like John Buscema that gives the story a lavish, dramatic feel. It's a far cry from Robbins' raw, distorted style that so much defined the original Invaders. But maybe that's a good thing, giving the new story a more polished, classical feel -- not unlike the way Alex Ross' painted art seemed to reinvigorate scenes lifted from old Silver Age comics in Marvels. It's as if The Invaders are being given a big budget, big screen revival. With that said, Epting/Williamson's style is maybe a wee bit too clean and pretty, lacking the energy and immediacy -- and, yes!, the humanity -- Robbins instilled in his issues.

While Stern's script, though certainly giving us a big-scale adventure, maybe reflects the problem with the project -- and Stern's style in general. I'll admit, some writers have a knack for creating personalities with just a line or two, or for instilling in the four-colour heroes a down-to-earth humanity. But Stern's Captain America, Human Torch and Sub-Mariner lack the humanity Thomas gave them -- instead coming across a bit too much like stoic archetypes (especially Cap, a character Stern has written for in his own comic, often with equally "iconic" intent). A fact maybe not helped by his decision to leave out their bantering sidekicks (Bucky and Toro) or the English characters Thomas created. Stern gives us clean-cut all-American heroes fighting Nazis and Nazi-like villains. Then add to that the story involves the heroes (along with sometimes member, The Whizzer) facing off against, not Nazis per se, but the fledgling terrorist group, Hydra, and its leader, Baron Stucker -- all clearly meant to draw upon and tie together past continuity. Now that is part of the gimmick of Marvel Universe, but maybe it threatens to make the comic seem like too much of a fanboy effort for casual fans (the same way that DC's later Superman: Confidential discovered that story arcs about the origin of Jimmy Olsen's signal watch might not have been something most readers were clamouring for).

And the story itself is pretty straightforward and rudimentary (given it runs the page equivalent of 4-issues). Hydra wants to develop a new, war-time "secret" weapon. Okay -- one guess now as to what that will be!

It moves along sprightly enough, without successfully mimicking Thomas/Robbins' full throttle pacing, yet never really offers a lot of twists or turns. And, as mentioned, without much effort to jazz things up with character stuff.

The result is an attractively-looking Invaders story that, though certainly an okay page-turner, never really becomes that memorable.

Then the next four-issues jumps ahead to the 1950s and teams Dr. Druid, Ulysses Bloodstone, and a newly created character, an African warrior-princess from Wakanda, as well as a character in whom Stern seems to be trying to conflate a few different obscure Golden Age characters (eventually revealing he's actually a character first created in the 1970s). How much fans were clamouring for a team up between Dr. Druid, Ulysses Bloodstone, etc. -- well, I'm not sure. Not that the fans need to be -- many a classic comic ended up scratching an itch readers didn't know they had!

Here Stern lets his hair down a bit more, having these eclectic heroes chase monsters around the U.S. and the world (in an homage to the 1950s monster stories Marvel produced), touching on Cold War-era espionage, and with I think a little more tongue-in-cheek than The Invaders story. In that vein the art -- three different pencillers, but with Mike Manley giving the visuals a uniform finish -- is cartoony (in a Bruce Timm-sort of way) that is presumably meant to evoke a kind of Jack Kirby-vibe (appropriate to the period). But that sort of cartoony style in an adventure story is arguably much more of a modern convention.

Unfortunately it ends up neither fish nor fowl. Stern doesn't seem to be taking it too seriously, as the characters race about in a movie serial-like fashion, without really making it that funny. The result is that even as Stern is trying to create a proto-team (even ending suggesting they might have later adventures) he doesn't successfully create characters we actually care that much about, or who have much emotional depth. And once more the plot seems to exist just to show how encyclopedic is Stern's knowledge of Marvel history, as he ties together unconnected bits of lore.

An example of what I meant about whether the story or the retconning comes first is a supporting character threaded through the story. His presence seems largely extraneous building to a revelation about his true identity. In other words, the twist about his identity isn't a clever plus, but is pretty much the only reason he was included in the story!

There's nothing terrible about Marvel Universe. The opening Invaders story is strikingly (if somewhat aloofly) illustrated and then, for aesthetic contrast, the Monster Hunters story goes for an energetic, cartooniness. Stern's writing is unpretentious and clips along reasonably well, and the period settings make a nice contrast to most comics. And, yes, there is a fun in watching a writer tie together various threads of comic book history.

But it never really becomes that great, either. The plots, for all their pacing, never really become especially complex or original. The Invaders tale might have made a good two-parter (as opposed to almost 80 pages) while The Monster Hunters features lots of running about and globe hopping and battles with monsters without individual scenes or threads particularly standing out. There is little real character/emotional depth to it to make us care beyond the action (the closest is maybe a hint that Zawadi has a crush on Ulysses). And ultimately, it all just seems in service of tying together obscure bits of lore.

Such retconning tales can be fun -- even classics. And maybe it's just as I get older I have less interest in them (being more interested in just being told a good story). But I think it's also what I said: a story drawing upon past lore can be fun, but a story that seems to exist simply so the writer can show how much comic book history he knows can just feel self-indulgent.

Cover price: __


coverInvasion 2008 (SC TPB) 256 pages

Plot, breakdowns by Keith Giffen. Script by Bill Mantlo. Pencils by Todd McFarlane, Keith Giffen, Bart Sears. Inked by P. Craig Russell, Al Gordon, Joe Rubinstein, Tom Christopher, Dick Giordano, Pablo Marcos.
Colours: Carl Gafford, Gene D'Angelo. Letters: Gaspar, Augustin Mas, John Costanza. Editor: Andrew Helfer, Kevin Dooley.

Reprinting the three issue mini-series

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by DC Comics

One of DC Comics' many multi-title crossover epics, Invasion was a mini-series comprised of three massive, 80 page issues (no ads), totalling a giddy 240 pages!

The problem sometimes with such crossover sagas is that because they spin-off into various on going comics like Superman, Wonder Woman, etc., there's the danger that you won't really get a satisfying story just reading the mini-series. One of the first such crossovers, The Crisis on Infinite Earths, wasn't bad in that regard, but Legends was more problematic as it read at times like pages were missing from the story.

Still, I'd read good reviews of Invasion, and since each issue was 80 pages, I figured that left a lot of room to tell a story in its own pages, regardless of what might be happening in other titles.

The premise concerns evil alien races -- most familiar to regular DC readers -- who unite in order to conquer earth. The instigators of the invasion, the Dominators, are curious about earth's preponderance of super heroes, and want to learn why it is that so many humans manifest meta-human abilities.

The first issue (The Alien Alliance) is the build up, showing this alliance form and the invasion begin (at which point it spins-off into various other titles).

The second issue (Battleground Earth) is the slam bam conclusion, as earth's various heroes manage to trounce the aliens. It actually seems like the end -- but this is, after all, a three issue series.

The third issue (World Without Heroes) has the aliens, in a final strike before leaving, hitting earth with a gene bomb aimed at meta-humans that is harmless to normal people but threatens to kill many of earth's heroes.

I enjoyed the first issue quite a bit. Keith Giffen is credited with story and lay outs, which was the same position he had on such subsequent, disappointing mini-series as Aquaman (1989) and Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn. Bill Mantlo, who can run hot and cold, did the actual writing, while Todd McFarlane, the fan favourite artist who I've never much appreciated, did the pencilling (with various inkers). With my pre-exiting feelings about those three, I had my doubts, but this was a rare case where their combined talents seemed to amount to something greater than the sum. I liked the writing and the art. Perhaps because McFarlane spent most of the story drawing aliens, his suspect grasp of human anatomy was less obvious, and his pencils over Giffen's layouts resulted in some truly intimidating shots of the alien armada. While Mantlo's writing was crisp and clever at times.

Despite the focus being on the aliens, there are threads involving characters like space hero Adam Strange, who is captured by the Alliance, but plots how to use that to earth's advantage. There's a nice sense of a build up, creating an ominous mood, and, with 80 pages to work with, there's a sense of a real epic brewing.

Unfortunately, with the second issue, the nature of the crossover manifests itself, as we skip a lot of stuff that occurred in other comics between the publication of issues #1 and #2 (though handily recapped at the beginning of #2). Still, we've got another 80 pages of uninterrupted story for us to get back in the mood of the thing. But here Giffen's plotting, that had been so bland on those subsequent mini-series, once again manifests itself. To be fair, it's not just Giffen's fault...most crossovers tend to be weak on story. So busy just trying to work in cameos by as many super heroes as they can, they're often just a lot of big fight scenes where the heroes are depicted with a certain anonymity -- one hero's dialogue could've been uttered by any other. And Giffen, whose ethics I questioned in his Aquaman mini-series (which was just a rehash of Invasion, except on a smaller scale) shows similar tendencies here, such as having the heroes staging a sneak attack on the aliens during a cease fire -- a cease fire the heroes themselves requested! And given this is a "war", few of the heroes seem particularly adverse to using lethal force.

Plot threads that had been intriguing in issue #1 -- such as the Adam Strange sub-plot, or a sequence with the Spectre -- don't really go anywhere. Still, it's not a terrible read, but a disappointment after the first issue won me over. Other than a sub-plot involving one of the alien races, the Daxamites, re-thinking their allegiances, I can't recall much about this issue at all! McFarlane draws the first half, and now that he's drawing people regularly, his shortcomings are more obvious; Giffen drawns the second half capably.

The third issue is oddly self-contained, not just from crossovers into other titles (except for some odd stuff with Superman -- which I think relates to stories collected as Superman: Exile and is reviewed in my Superman section), but even from the first two issues. In fact, if you can only find #1 & #2 together, or #3 by itself, you could still read them without needing the other. But though there are lots of characters running about, with a particular emphasis put on non-super characters that had been occupying DC's titles at the time (Amanda Waller, the tough talking co-ordinator of The Suicide Squad, or Maxwell Lord, who oversaw Justice League International), there's still precious little that amounts to genuine characterization, or human drama. Super heroes not affected by the gene-bomb, such as a couple of Green Lanterns, J'onn J'onzz, and others, eventually head off into space to try and steal a cure from the retreated Dominators, but even this adventure-plot is kind of bland and rudimentary in its execution. Still, this last issue is drawn by Bart Sears and is arguably the best illustrated of the bunch.

Invasion is undermined a little by its basic conceit -- a crossover story involving all of DC's heroes. Instead of getting plot twists and characterization, we get a lot of panels crammed with costumed heroes and big, linear fight scenes. It would be better with such sagas to focus on a few characters whose emotions and motives can be explored and who can serve as consistent leads throughout (or throughout an issue, at least), even if others are reduced to cameos.

Like many crossovers, the series was used as a launching pad for new titles. This is always awkward. In a story that is having enough trouble finding room for existing characters, the heroes must be further short changed in order to showcase new ones. This is particularly ironic, when read years later, since most of those "hot" new properties never went anywhere (spin offs like Blasters mustered a single special before slipping into obscurity, while L.E.G.I.O.N. went for about five years -- not bad, though in an industry where successful titles run for decades, that's not that impressive either).

Also like many crossovers, a few (minor) existing characters are killed off -- something I always find annoying. If you're going to kill off a character, don't do it simply because DC is cleaning house, or needs a sacrificial lamb to make its marketing ploy mini-series seem more epochal than it is.

Ultimately, Invasion starts out promising, and if all you want is a chance to see lots of DC heroes -- circa the late 1980s -- in action and cameos, it's O.K. But if you were hoping for a 240 page epic of adventure, intrigue, intelligent plotting and thoughtful characterization -- look elsewhere.

This is a review of the story as it was originally serialized in the comics.

Cover price: $ __ CDN./ $24.99 USA

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