These four issues of Invaders introduce several characters who will become important elements of the book going forward (as well as the broader Marvel Universe). As I explained in the first Invaders post, these World War II-era stories feature a younger, less experienced Captain America, with the same virtues that we know well, albeit less emphasis on them (and none of the post-defrosting ennui about losing Bucky and being a man out of time). This is my long-winded way of justifying the spotty coverage of these issues, focusing as much on the new characters as the one at the top of this here blog.
Issue #7 starts with our heroes facing a sneak attack from Nazi planes, but their reactions to each flier brought down is a bit different, and Cap is perceptive enough to guess why.
It’s not obvious to me what Cap is thinking, but I read it this way: Their experience has helped them to acknowledge the common humanity between them and the rank-and-file soldiers on the other side, a sentiment he expresses from time to time throughout his comics history. Even though they must fight each other, and may have to kill each other when necessary, they need not take joy in it, but mourn, even just a little, for a fallen brother-in-arms.
Cap reaffirms this thought to Bucky below, after bringing down another Nazi plane.
Interestingly, this revelation seems to hit the Human Torch even harder, due to not being technically human, but a synthetic man. This leads him to some soul-searching (if the term applies), during which he meets a young woman, Jacqueline Fallsworth, to whom he’s instantly attracted, and rescues her from a masked vampire, Baron Blood, to whom he’s rather hostile (to be honest).
When the Torch takes her home, he meets her father, Lord James Montgomery Fallsworth, whom he learns is a former hero himself.
Despite the nature of Fallsworth’s history lesson, this was the first appearance of Union Jack… and he wasn’t alone in the days of the War to End All Wars:
Like Union Jack himself, Freedom’s Five (the team) was introduced in this issue, as were the other members, with the exception of the Phantom Eagle, who was introduced as a World War I hero in 1968 (in Marvel Super-Heroes #16).
When Jacqueline tells her father about Baron Blood, Fallsworth reveals that the vampire was his foe in his WWI days, causing him to summon his fellow Invaders, who also run into Baron Blood on their way to the Fallsworths’ castle. Cap notes the Human Torch’s improved demeanor, but then unwittingly destroys it just as quickly.
The flames of jealousy continue to burn in issue #8 over dinner, fueled by the Torch’s insecurity over his origins.
The young man across the table from the Torch is John Falsworth, the Lord’s nephew, but we know from the last issue that he is also none other than Baron Blood. (Shh, don’t tell anyone else yet—won’t they be tickled when they find out!)
The elder Fallsworth tells the story of his final battle with the vampire, culminating with being awarded a medal by the prime minister, when Jacqueline reveals her passionate anti-war views (if not quite pacifism), always an interesting element in Cap’s stories.
Lord Fallsworth reveals that Jacqueline’s mother died in the Blitz, after which our heroes make plans to find Baron Blood. The next morning Cap finds Jacqueline and tries to explain their attitude toward war, but she’s not buying, especially with regard to her father.
It turns out she was right to worry, because Union Jack returns and saves the Invaders from Baron Blood himself. It isn’t Cap who has second thoughts about this, though, but the Torch, based on his feelings for Jacqueline.
Issue #9 sees the newly expanded Invaders return to the castle, and Jacqueline gets over his crush on Cap right quick. (He admirably takes her blows, understanding her anger.)
She faints soon thereafter, and our heroes find two small holes on her neck, revealing that Baron Blood got to her in the castle. They don’t know who he is yet, you see—but during the attack, he revealed to Jacqueline that he is not her cousin at all but her uncle, and Lord Fallsworth’s brother, who traveled to Transylvania before World War I and met none other than Dracula, who sired him.
Most of the rest of the issue deals with the Invaders fighting Baron Blood, who crushes his brother’s legs with a boulder. Union Jack must have played tennis in his youth, as he returns serve for match point.
Baron Blood is gone… for now. (He will return in a later issue of Invaders as well as in the modern day in Captain America.) But for now, our heroes are mainly concerned with Jacqueline, and Cap refuses to lie to Lord Fallsworth to give him false hope.
Finally, issue #10 is mainly a reprint of a story from Captain America Comics #22 (January 1943), presented within a short framing sequence in which our heroes rush the Fallsworths to hospital, and Cap thinks about death—”even” Bucky’s, wink wink—after Union Jack mentions “the reaper,” prompting him to remember their earlier adventure “The Reaper.”
And after his trip down memory lane, Cap is still preoccupied with death, and not just Jacqueline’s.
We’ll learn Jacqueline’s fate in the next issues—after the creators catch up with deadlines due to the title’s new monthly schedule!
Including “The Reaper” from Captain America Comics #22 (January 1943): Stan Lee (writer), Al Avison (pencils), Al Gabriele (inks), ??? (colors), ??? (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Invaders Classic: The Complete Collection Volume 1. (The Golden Age material is not included in this collection, nor is the original comic available digitally, but it is included in the digital version of Invaders #10, as well as in print in Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Captain America Volume Six.)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #199-200 (July-August 1976), Captain America Annual #3 (1976), Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles (1976), Captain America #201-203 (September-November 1976), Avengers #149 (July 1976), and Avengers #150-153 and Annual #6 (August-November 1976)
NEXT ISSUES: Invaders #11-13 (December 1976-February 1977)