These two issues introduce a familiar face to the World War II era: the mighty Thor, visiting Midgard (Earth) as he had been doing for centuries, but rarely this close to his eventual banishment there in the form of Dr. Donald Blake in August 1962’s Journey into Mystery #83. We also meet another familiar face—albeit a thoroughly bandaged one—from another favorite Marvel comic of mine, although this one makes less sense in terms of character (if not timeline, which was reconciled later, as we will see).
Issue #32 finds the Invaders back in England, only to be attacked by three Achilles tanks (the Allies’ newest secret weapon) that were stolen by Axis spies. (Note Union Jack’s strange mood, which will be rectified by the end of this story.)
Cap seems to take the near-destruction of the last tank awfully hard below.
As it happens, Hitler is also focused on the Russian front, and is inspired by a performance of Wagner’s “Twilight of the Gods” to try to make contact with Asgard (while recalling a false Thor analogue from an earlier Invaders tale).
Who is this bandaged “Hans,” you ask? Is it Larry Trainor, Negative Man from the Doom Patrol? Is it Tommy Elliot, aka Batman’s foe Hush? Is it Claude Rains from the 1933 film The Invisible Man? Would you believe… none of the above? Wait and see!
Dr. Olsen shows Hitler a vision of the real Thor (well, he’s real as far as the Marvel Universe is concerned, at least)…
…and Hans brings Thor to WWII-era Berlin.
Hitler proceeds to brainwash the young, naive, and vain Thor into protecting the descendants of his Nordic worshipers by attacking the Russians and their allies, the Invaders.
Once the Invaders reach Russia, they defeat a German plane attempting to assassinate Stalin, only to face a much more formidable foe.
“Thor? Ha, that’s a funny name. Thor. Almost funny as Namor.”
Needless to say, the battle is joined in issue #33, and Cap finds out what it feels like to sock an Asgardian in the jaw. (Also, it sounds like BLANG!)
Good thinking, Cap. (But remember to make fun of his name later.)
Namor leaves with Stalin in his flagship headed toward Moscow, and Thor follows until he loses them in a cloud bank. (Cloud 1, God of Thunder 0.) They leave the rest of the Invaders to lick their wounds, with Union Jack reaching the limits of his self-perceived mediocrity and Cap fulfilling his childhood dream of driving a choo-choo.
After Hitler contacts Thor and gives him directions to the Kremlin—”just turn left,” ha ha—he has visions of summoning other Asgardians to his cause (including the Warriors Three, seen below), while Dr. Olsen and Hans realize what they’ve done. (“But he seemed like such a nice guy!”)
Olsen succumbs to the stress, and it falls to Hans to serve Hitler’s wishes… and his own.
Wait, what? Hans is apparently none other than Doctor Doom, archfoe of the Fantastic Four who was a young man in the early 1960s and therefore just a wee Doomling in the early 1940s. But the bandages would suggest that he already suffered the laboratory accident which led to his becoming Doctor Doom, an accident involving Reed Richards, who was in the army in WWII, as we know from Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #3… oh, my head.
This was explained much later, as we’ll see soon. For the time being, Thor arrives at the Kremlin (and he is, to his credit, clearly through with Hitler), while Cap urges teamwork to his Atlantean friend.
Despite their best efforts, though, Thor reaches Stalin and executes him, shocking the
Avengers Invaders. They stand ready to fight again until Thor starts hearing the voice of the treacherous Hitler…
…thanks to the treacherous Victor von Doom.
Luckily for the world, Doom remembers his ethnic heritage, which kinda means Hitler is… his enemy? Imagine that.
OK, I don’t want to dwell on this continuity and characterization tomfoolery, but indulge me a second. The last panel implies that yes, he has had his accident that led him to visit Eastern mystics, the problems with which we’ve already addressed. Kudos for grounding all of this in his quest to find his mother, which is true to character, but I have problems with Doom “hoping” to be evil: Setting aside his earliest cartoonish days fighting the Fantastic Four, Doom has always considered himself a hero, humanity’s savior, rather than a villain, much less an evil man. (I can’t be certain this mindset was current in 1978 when this was written, but I suspect so.)
As for the timing issue, this was “corrected” many years later in an Invaders story in Marvel Universe #2 (July 1998). There, notorious Nazi and Hydra agent Baron Strucker was in Berlin when Hitler brought Thor to Earth and saw the bandaged man run from his compound and disappear in a time portal.
Strucker followed the man through the portal and arrives in the 1960s, eventually finding Doctor Doom, who gives a slightly better explanation of what he was doing with Hitler in WWII. (I did say “slightly.”)
So, Doom now says he traveled back in time to kill Hitler in the name of his fellow Romani, rather than try to save his mother (ouch), but this doesn’t explain why he helped Hitler bring Thor to Earth, or why he seemed unaware of Hitler’s future then. Nevertheless, Doom’s outfit here suggests this is early in his “career,” but still post-accident; we can assume the bandages he wore when he traveled back in time were to hide his scars while remaining less conspicuous than his mask. (I tell ya, this is some Roy Thomas-level retroactive continuity, on behalf of writer Roger Stern, to fix a conundrum Roy Thomas created, which I guess makes it an homage in a way?)
Back to Invaders #33… before they fight, Thor makes reference to his need for humility as he comes to the realization that Hitler was evil. (Verily!)
Funny you should say that, Namor, because that wasn’t Stalin, and he isn’t dead. (Other than that…)
So let this get this straight: If Thor kills someone with a blast of “raging lightning-force” from his hammer, all he has to do to save their life is… suck some of it out, like snake venom? Really?
Not only does this save Union Jack’s life—it gives him a superpower, which makes his inferiority complex go away tout suite.
Thor borrows a trick from Doctor Strange’s medicine bag, making the Invaders forget he was ever there.
Aww, does Namor not like having someone around who’s stronger than him? Good thing he’ll forget soon, then.
Both collected in: Invaders Classic: The Complete Collection Volume 2.
And just for the heck of it, although I’ll cover the issue here whenever I get to 1998…
Collected in: Invaders: Eve of Destruction.
LAST ISSUES: Invaders #29-31 (June-August 1978)
NEXT ISSUES: Invaders #34-37 (November 1978-February 1979)