Another regular issue of INVADERS that I purchased off of the spinner rack at my local 7-11. This was another book that I believe my younger brother Ken eventually bought himself a copy of as well–why he would do this I have no real idea, but he did it semi-regularly. INVADERS was something of a weird comic for Marvel to be publishing, a throwback steeped in nostalgia for a period in history before most all of the current readership had been alive. But there was a lot of nostalgia content in the 1970s, so maybe it’s not so strange. INVADERS was one of those elements which reinforced the notion that the Golden Age of Comics was a mythical, wonderful time–and in some ways it was. By that same token, a lot of the material that was created in those early days was crude and forgettable. But for creators such as Roy Thomas who had grown up on it, the best bits had a vibrancy that drew them back again and again.
Another throwback aspect of INVADERS was the idiosyncratic artwork of regular penciler Frank Robbins. Robbins ad worked for years on newspaper strips before transitioning into both writing and illustrating comic books, and Marvel art director John Romita was a big fan of his. But his approach was somewhat discordant to the marvel way of doing things, and so he often bounced around from title to title, never finding a steady home. INVADERS was about as close as he came, and its period setting made him a bit more of a comfortable fit for it. Robbins, for all his talents, wasn’t really adept at drawing super heroes–he could draw everything else, but that Jack Kirby larger-than-life stylization was simply something tat eluded him. He was one of the more polarizing pencilers in the Marvel roster, and one whom it seemed a particular fan either really liked or couldn’t stand. On INVADERS, at least, I liked him, as odd as some of his work could be.
One of the things that write Roy Thomas liked to do in INVADERS and his other later similarly-wartime-set series was to reflect the events of the era with the viewpoint of today. So it is here, where the story tackles the plight of Japanese-American citizens who have been rounded up and interred unjustly after Pearl Harbor and the fear of a Japanese fifth column. As the story opens, Bucky has brought a deathly-wounded Toro back home to the U.S. in order that they can seek out Doctor Sam Sabuki, the only surgeon who might be able to save his life. But as we learned last time, Sabuki and his family were carted away to be locked up for the duration, so Bucky is out of luck. Even the head surgeon at the local hospital tells him Toro’s condition is hopeless. But then, a helpful nurse lets slip to Bucky where Dr. Sabuki is being detained, so off Bucky goes to try and enlist his help. One of the odd quirks about Robbins’ work here is that he gives most of the lead characters modern 1970s haircuts–so Bucky is rocking a feathered ‘do that’s an anachronism in the 1940s.
Bucky flies Namor’s ship over to the internment center, and his Invaders credentials get him past the front gate. He talks to the base commander about the need for Dr. Sabuki’s help, but the guy turns out to be a cartoonish racist–some of this is down to Robbins’ style, where lots of different characters were designed as recognizable “types.” The commander orders Bucky thrown off the base, but with his friend’s life at stake, Bucky fights back and races through the compound, desperate to locate Dr. Sabuki and enlist his help. There’s a bit of modern day moralizing here as well, as Bucky holds to a point of view about the wrongness of this internment that it’s a bit of a stretch to think he might have felt in the actual 1942–but then, we want our heroes to be heroes, so making them more enlightened in this fashion is probably worthwhile, for all that it’s a bit unbelievable.
Meanwhile, across the ocean, the rest of the Invaders have returned to London following their mission against the Scarlet Scarab last month. The Human Torch–himself sporting huge 1970s hair as well–is anxious to fly back to the States and find out how Toro is doing. But before that can happen, there’s a bunch of bookkeeping to be done. Bookkeeping such as revealing that Union Jack’s friend Dyna-Mite, who had been stuck at his diminutive size, has been cured in the Invaders’ absence. What’s more, he’s decided to adopt the identity of the Mighty Destroyer–said costume and name having previously been used by Brian Falsworth, the current Union Jack. It’s all a bit confusing, to be honest, as characters swap clothes and names for some reason. In any case, by the time the scene ends, the Invaders have boarded a transport and are on their way Stateside.
Back in California, Bucky has found his way to Dr. Sabuki and his daughter, the oddly-named Gwenny Lou. Still being pursued, Bucky rapidly pleads his case to the Doctor, who is willing to give his medical assistance to Toro–despite even his daughter’s outrage at how poorly they and their fellows have been treated. But before they can go, it turns out to be a busy day at the internment camp, as a massive drill ship burrows up into the room from underground and masked stormtroopers pour out of it. Turns out they’re looking for the popular Dr. Sabuki, too–and they’ve turned up just in time to have a fight scene with Bucky to keep the comic from becoming too talky!
Bucky puts up a good fight, but he’s unprepared for the villain behind this attack: Agent Axis! Agent Axis has an interesting backstory. Originally, the character was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in their BOY COMMANDOS series for DC. Decades later, while drawing a CAPTAIN AMERICA story that had Cap reliving events from WWII, Kirby had a brain-fart and included Agent Axis as one of Cap’s old foes. Not one to rest on such an opportunity, Roy eventually introduced this Marvel Agent Axis in the pages of INVADERS–he was a trio of enemy operatives–one German, one Italian and one Japanese==whom an accident had merged into a single being. His hope here is that Dr. Sabuki might be able to reverse this process and liberate his assorted selves, and so having clobbered Bucky, Agent Axis and his men make off with Dr Sabuki, Gwenny Lou and the kid as well–leaving Toro still at death’s door (which, in fairness, he’s been at since around issue #20 or so…) To Be Continued!