Summer was winding down when I bought this issue of INVADERS at my regular 7-11 haunt. It’s one of those days that I can recall vividly for no particular reason, biking back up Granny Road with my new purchase. I still hadn’t branched out into Marvel any further than the Human Torch, but it was still exciting to get a new issue. There was something of an air of discovery about beginning to excavate the world of the Marvel Universe.
For whatever reason, INVADERS was a series that seemed plagued by fill-ins and reprints. But this issue seemed to be getting things back on track as the regular art team of Frank Robbins and Frank Springer were united once more with writer Roy Thomas. Springer’s finish always made Robbins’ style somehow more palatable to me–it was a combination that I liked for whatever reason. Robbins always drew his male characters, notably The Torch and Bucky, with big 1970s hair, despite the fact that the series was meant to be set in 1942. It was a weird affectation, but one that worked for me in some manner.
We open with Toro finally in surgery for the bullet wound he suffered three issues earlier (told you the book was plagued by delays!) The attending doctor tells the Invaders that the surgery is too delicate for him to complete successfully. Only a Dr. Sam Sabuki in California can do it. Just then, Spitfire races in reporting that the Allies have a new mission for the Invaders, a mission of vital importance. Bucky volunteers to fly Toro in Namor’s flagship to California to get him the help he needs while the others take on the mission. The Torch reluctantly agrees to this.
The Invaders return to their Big Ben headquarters where they link up with Union Jack and learn the details of their mission. In Egypt, a group calling themselves the Sons of the Scarab have been making terrorist strikes and stirring up the populace in favor of the Nazis just as General Rommel is about to make a push into Egypt. Allied Command wants the Invaders to rout these Sons. So the team takes a conventional transport to Egypt–but they’re almost totaled when a shell destroys the runway they’re landing on. Fortunately, Namor and the torch are able to save the plane.
The Invaders are attacked by the Sons of the Scarab, but quickly send them to rout, even as they shoot a captured confederate in the back to stop him from talking. The team is picked up by their liaison Major Harrison who is accompanied by Dr. Faoul, a respected local archaeologist. The Sons have a base hidden somewhere within the pyramids and need to be found and extracted, but Dr. Faoul is concerned about preserving the historical Pyramids themselves. They plan to have the Torch burn a path into the Pyramids, one that Namor can thereafter seal up. Before that can happen, Union Jack, Spitfire and Captain America are asked to put in a morale-boosting appearance at the front, so they separate from Namor and the Torch.
Breaking into the Pyramid, Namor and the Torch find a mystic red scarab of possibly-alien origin–and Dr Faoul takes the opportunity to seize it, transforming himself into the Scarlet Scarab. He’s actually the leader of the Sons of the Scarab, of course, and he wants the Allies out of Egypt. At the time, I had no idea that this was all a bit of a play on writer Roy Thomas’ first professional assignment, a story of the Blue Beetle, who himself gained superhuman powers from a mystic scarab. But that was Roy all over.
The Scarlet Scarab knocks the crap out of the Torch and Namor, then takes off, with the two Invaders in hot pursuit. But out at the front, things aren’t going so well, as Nazi tanks are beginning to overrun the Allied position. Cap, Union Jack and Spitfire aren’t powerful enough to halt the advance on their own, but they might be able to do something about it if they had air support from Namor and the Torch–but they’re now unable to contact their fellow Invaders! And that’s where things go all To Be Continued!
To add insult to injury, buried in the letters page for the issue is the announcement that the following issue of the book was ALSO going to be a reprint, this time of the first team-up between the golden age Human Torch and Sub-Mariner. I didn’t mind that at the time in that I was interested in the characters and their genuine 1940 exploits, but all of these hiccups had to be playing havoc with the sales of the series, I would imagine.