As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, I had my eleventh birthday just before this time. This was also the period when, for some reason, Marvel decided to forego cover dates on its comics for three months. I don’t know if this was an experiment in seeing if they could get newsstand outlets to keep the books on sale longer or what, but I wasn’t a fan of it. It played too much with my sense of order. Anyway, this issue of INVADERS would have been purchased at my trusty 7-11 when it came out, since INVADERS was a regular buy for me. That cover is trying mightily to evoke those of Alex Schomburg from the vintage WWII era–though it’s covered with enough copy and balloons in what was the style of this period to blunt the effect somewhat.
This story is pretty daffy, and really an extended way to create a new young WWII-era super hero team to replace the culturally-insensitive Young Allies. But writer/editor Roy Thomas didn’t take the short or easy path to this goal. Roy had been a comic book reader starting in the mid-1940s, so he had a true fan’s affection for the comics and stories of this era–INVADERS was something of a dream assignment for him, at least until he’d eventually get to do ALL-STAR SQUADRON for DC in a few years, with a similar premise.
The story picks up with Agent Axis having captured both Bucky and Doctor Sabuki and his daughter from an American Japanese internment camp. Bucky was there to seek out Dr. Sabuki’s help in operating on Toro, who lies in a nearby hospital near death. Upon learning this fact, Agent Axis diverts the course of his subterranean borer machine to the hospital, intent on adding Toro to his collection of captives. He succeeds, but also winds up with young Davy Mitchell, an African-American kid who worked as a delivery boy for a local florist, and who had the misfortune of looking in on Toro’s room when the snatch took place.
Elsewhere, the rest of the Invaders are on the chase, but still operating two or three steps behind Agent Axis. They make their way to the Japanese internment camp that was attacked last issue, and Captain America gets into it with the hardcase commander of the base–providing a decidedly 1978 perspective on the wrongness of what is taking place there. Namor had lent Bucky his own flagship to take Toro to medical help in the United States, and when the Invaders board that now-abandoned ship, they realize that Bucky has taken one of Namor’s tracking chips with him–so they can follow its signal to locate the young Invader.
By this point, Agent Axis has reached his own secret base, and we’ve learned what he wants from Dr. Sabuki. You see, Agent Axis’ origin is that he was three spied, a German, an Italian and a Japanese, who were merged by a fluke accident into a single being. Agent Axis wants Dr Sabuki to operate upon him, to separate his three component parts. For reasons that don’t make a lick of sense, he first allows Sabuki to remove the life-threatening bullet from Toro, saving the flaming kid’s life. Then, just to make sure that Dr Sabuki doesn’t double-cross him, Agent Axis has Sabuki’s daughter Gwenny-Lou and the extraneous Davy Mitchell strapped into the operating machine with him. Should any harm befall Agent Axis, the device will duplicate Sabuki’s movements, and the same fate will befall the two captives. All of this is just bonkers, and stretches credibility beyond the breaking point–but as we sometimes need to do in the world of comics, we just need to roll with it here.
So the procedure starts–and you can just feel an origin about to break out, can’t you? In the midst of it, Toro wakes up, sees what’s going on, and launches a fireball into the middle of their captors. Having just had surgery, he really shouldn’t be in much shape to be doing stuff like this, but whatever. Chaos erupts, and the machine holding Gwenny-Lou and Davy runs wild! And wouldn’t you know it? They both come out the other side with super-powers! Gwenny-Lou discovers that she can fire off golden bolts of kinetic force, like battering rams made of light. And Davy can spin around at superhuman speed like a Human Top.
But still, the four young crusaders start to get overwhelmed by the superior numbers of their foes. Agent Axis has had enough of this story, and he orders his men to kill everybody, including Dr. Sabuki. But before the order can be carried out, crashing through a convenient wall come the main Invaders: Captain America, the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner! The odds have completely tilted now–but with only 17 pages of story available in a given issue, this story, like so many others, has To Be Continued!