This miniseries marks the return of the Invaders in their first title since their ongoing series in the 1970s, and it picks up right where the first series left off in mid-1942. (Writer Roy Thomas was always very precise with his dates in his WWII-era comics, including both Invaders and his All-Star Squadron series at DC Comics.) As with the original series, this Invaders miniseries is heavy on the action and the appearances from well-known and obscure Golden Age heroes, but relatively light on the explicitly ethical aspects—this being a very early version of Captain America, possessed of admirable virtue but less experienced at putting them to practice—so we can cover all four issues in one (long) post, with a lot of annotations (especially from Mr. Thomas himself).
After a page showing a Nazi submarine firing a torpedo at a merchant ship off the coast of New York City, issue #1 gives us the following two-page spread of our heroes, in fine fighting (or flying) form.
After Namor turns the torpedo back on the Nazi sub, all three Invaders attack the ship and its crew, only to be surprised by the “non-uniformed” members aboard.
If these folks look familiar, congratulations: As Thomas explains in his column at the end of issue #4 (included at the end of this post), these were all forgotten Golden Age heroes who were published by other companies but were now in the public domain and so could be “turned” to Nazis (so Timely’s own heroes didn’t have to be soiled in this fashion!).
In fact, the first thing our heroes notice is that the Battle-Axis members do not have German (or other “foreign”) accents—but nonetheless, Cap gives them a chance to give up before issuing the distinctly unimpressive Invaders battle cry.
Cap takes on two of the costumed Nazis, the second of whom obviously doesn’t know that web-shooters go THWIP, not SWISSH.
When he finally wriggles out of Spider Queen’s webbing (by exhaling, I guess), Cap is still careful to strike her lightly, whether out of a chivalrous reticence to hit a woman—a trait he still displays occasionally in the modern day—or the simple recognition that she has no super-powers and would therefore fall easily to a light SLAPP.
Soon, Namor’s ship dive-bombs the sub and the Invaders are thrown in the water, allowing the Nazis to escape while our hero rub their wounds and face their
Our heroes decamp to the New York City headquarters of the Liberty Legion (introduced in Marvel Premiere #29), and the member of that team guarding it fills the rest in on their teen sidekicks (who went off as the Kid Commandos in Invaders #28).
Cap and Torch describe the Nazis they fought to the Thin Man, who recognizes the names and pulls out glossy 8x10s—of course there are glossy 8x10s—which confirms that these are American heroes who switched sides, angering all three Invaders, but none more than Cap.
After encountering and narrowly escaping the Battle-Axis at the end of this issue, Miss America falls through the window of the Liberty Legion headquarters at the beginning of issue #2. After Cap catchers her, she tells him and the others that the Nazis captured the Whizzer (her fellow Liberty Legionnaire and Invader, as well as her boyfriend), as well as their evil plans having something to do with a “Project Mojave.”
After the Human Torch suggests that Miss America stay behind and recuperate, she shows her displeasure in way that Cap, were he a lesser man, could easily take offense at.
I have to admit that, at first, I found Cap’s mention of carpooling too modern for 1942, until I learned that the concept was introduced during World War II to save energy. (That’ll teach me to doubt Roy Thomas!)
The team splits up, with Namor and the Torch looking for Dr. Johann Goldstein, the scientist they rescued in Invaders #11-13 who is now involved with Project Mojave, but instead they find his brother Jacob, otherwise known as the Golem, apparently now working with (or for) the Battle-Axis. After defeating them both, Jacob leaves with the Torch, leaving Namor to die in a burning building—until he is rescued by
Ghost Rider the Blazing Skull, in his first appearance since 1942 (not counting Rick Jones’ “recreation” of him and other Golden Age heroes in Avengers #97).
Meanwhile, Cap and Miss America visit UCLA to look into the Mojave Project, with Cap trying to distract his fellow hero from thinking about the captured Whizzer.
In a lab they find and are quickly defeated by three of the Battle-Axis, but luckily a hero comes to their aid (also in her first appearance since 1942).
She keeps the Battle-Axis busy long enough for Cap and Miss America to recover and chase them off, after which she finds that the man she loved and worked for (and who designed her armor) was killed in the fight. Naturally she wants revenge, and predictably Cap recommends she stay behind, bur rather than destroying a bust of Captain America, she simply explains she has useful information to help them defeat the Nazis.
Yes, that’s right, another of Rick Jones’ memories will be appearing for real in issue #3, as you can see on the cover at the top of this post, based on the classic cover to Avengers #57. But before we get to that, we follow our revised and updated Invaders team en route to the Mojave Desert, with Cap piloting as well as trying to keep tempers down in the cockpit.
(Fibber McGee was half of the very popular “Fibber McGee and Molly” radio show, which ran from 1935 through 1959.)
Once they find the Nazis’ hideout, its self-defense system shoots down Namor’s plane, after which Miss America takes point investigating the facility, followed shortly by the rest of the team, with the Blazing Skull revealing a delightfully absurd sense of humor (with which Cap predictably takes issue).
As it happens, Cap and the Skull face the Golem themselves, and when the Golem defends working for the Nazis to save his brother, Cap objects to this understandable but all-too-narrow justification for helping genocidal fascists.
Dr. Death, the leader of the Battle-Axis, has Professor Enoch Mason use the Dimension Smasher (as he did in 1940’s Marvel Mystery Comics #13) to summon the otherworldly Vision (or Aarkus), making his first appearance since 1943. (He also played an important role, alongside Cap and other heroes, in the recently-ended series The Marvels).
Although he calls himself “Destroyer of Evil,” Aarkus helps the Nazis by incapacitating the Invaders—the only ones who can return him to his home dimension—leading to this scene early in issue #4.
After Aarkus argues also that it matters not in the long run, to either him or humanity as a whole, who wins this war, Cap gives up on him and turns back to the Golem, whom Dr. Death defends—and, in the process, reveals information about Dr. Goldstein, leading to the Golem’s reiteration of his personal motivations to side with the Battle-Axis.
Like a Bond villain, Dr. Death reveals his entire plan, including triggering a massive earthquake in California which would also release the poison gas the U.S. government stored underground in the desert since the end of World War I.
After a short skirmish between the Human Torch and Volton, the rest of the Battle-Axis leaves to enact their plans, leaving Volton and the Golem behind to watch the Invaders. After Volton brags that the Torch is now frozen and poses no threat, Cap exercises some logic to goad the turncoat hero.
The Whizzer puts the rest together based what Dr. Death (née James Bradley) told him in the last issue regarding his history with Phineas Horton, the man who built the Human Torch.
Cap’s punch didn’t do much good, but he bounces back quickly, taking an electric shock in order to reclaim his shield and use it to free the rest of the Invaders.
He endures yet other shock to give the other heroes a chance to recover…
…after which they easily subdue Volton. The Golem has a partial change of heart, but Cap still calls him out, asking him to remember what it was like in Nazi-occupied Poland. (The Golem does eventually agree to join the heroes, asking God for forgiveness should his brother suffer for his choice.)
After the Invaders find the Battle-Axis and the battle ensues, one of the Nazis kills Johann Goldstein, sending the Golem into a rage, and Cap knocks Dr. Death over with his shield, which doesn’t prevent him from triggering the earthquake device. Dr. Death knows Cap well enough, even in 1942, to be confident he won’t take a life… but he didn’t count on an existentially distraught Volton.
Namor destroys the earthquake machine, but too late to stop the poison gas escaping. The Invaders Prime brainstorm solutions, but it is Aarkus who redeems himself to finding a way to open a portal to his dimension himself, taking the gas with him, asking for forgiveness as he disappears.
When all is said and done, the Invaders survey the damage, especially the lives lost (and memorialized by Cap), while Miss America and Whizzer reunite and the Blazing Skull shows he is the designated cynic of the group. (He should meet Nick Fury sometime.)
Before we sign off, from issue #3 here are Roy Thomas’s notes on the lesser-known heroes featured in this miniseries:
And from issue #4, here are his notes on the members of the Battle-Axis:
On behalf of all my fellow detail-obsessed comics history geeks, I thank you Mr. Thomas!
Invaders (vol. 2) #1, May 1993: Roy Thomas (writer), Dave Hoover (pencils), Brian Garvey (inks), Paul Becton (colors), Pat Brosseau (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Invaders (vol. 2) #2, June 1993: Roy Thomas (writer), Dave Hoover (pencils), Brian Garvey (inks), Paul Becton (colors), Pat Brosseau (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Invaders (vol. 2) #3, July 1993: Roy Thomas (writer), Dave Hoover (pencils), Brian Garvey and Ian Akin (inks), Paul Becton (colors), Pat Brosseau (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Invaders (vol. 2) #4, August 1993: Roy Thomas (writer), Dave Hoover (pencils), Brian Garvey (inks), Paul Becton (colors), Pat Brosseau (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
All collected in: Invaders Classic: The Complete Collection Volume 2.
LAST ISSUES: Invaders #38-41 (March-May and September 1979)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Captain America #415 and Iron Man #292 (May 1993), Captain America Annual #12 (May 1993), Avengers #362-363 (May-June 1993), The Incredible Hulk #406 (June 1993), Captain America #416-417 and Mys-Tech Wars #4 (June-July 1993), Infinity Crusade #1-3 (June-August 1993), Avengers #364-365 (July-August 1993), Amazing Spider-Man #380, Spectacular Spider-Man #202-203, Spider-Man #37, and Web of Spider-Man #103 (July-August 1993), Captain America #418 and Silver Sable and the Wild Pack #15 (August 1993), and Secret Defenders #6 (August 1993)
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