Picked up INVADERS #28 from the 7-11 as usual. This one’s got a rare Frank Robbins cover on it. Robbins’ style was so divisive among the readership and so much on the very outskirts of what people thought that a Marvel comic should look like that they rarely allowed him to do covers for the book. But this one, introducing the new team the Kid Commandos, was given over to him. One of the odd touches that stuck with me about Robbins’ work on this series is that he gave all of the heroes modern long 70s haircuts, as Bucky has here. And even Toro, when aflame, would have a particular style of flaming halo around his head that would mimic long hair, as he does here. It was an odd choice, but it seemed to work.
It’s worth taking a few moments here to talk about the Kid Commandos. Writer.editor Roy Thomas had been setting up their arrival for issues now, and he intended them to be a more enlightened and palatable WWII-era kid group than the unfortunate Young Allies, whose ranks were stuffed with ethnic and other stereotypes. The sad thing is that, while Roy’s intentions were certainly good, the two new heroes he comes up with for this purpose, Golden Girl and the Human Top, are themselves fairly stereotypical in a 1970s fashion, and not really all that much better than what they were designed to replace. They mercifully didn’t make many appearances after this issue, and the worst aspects of them are all elements that could be adjusted. But there you have it.
The issue picks up with the main three Invaders breaking into Agent Axis’ headquarters, where he’s been trying to force Dr Sam Sabuki to operate on him to separate the three men who were fused together to create Agent Axis. Bucky and Toro are there as well, the latter recuperating from a near-fatal bullet wound, as are Dr. Sabuki’s daughter Gwenny-Lou and hapless tag-along Davy Mitchell, who have both been endowed with semi-wondrous powers as a result of the feedback from Agent Axis’ surgical machines. Ill-prepared to take on the Invaders in full, Agent Axis grabs Dr. Sabuki, hot-foots it to his awaiting underground boring machine, and makes a run for it, with the Human Torch in hot pursuit.
Despite Agent Axis’s best efforts, the Invaders are difficult to outrun. So it is that he’s forced to abandon both his boring craft and his captive in order to try to get away himself. But he hasn’t reckoned with Captain America! This page is a good example of one of the problems that Frank Robbins had when drawing super hero comics. He could never quite keep the powers of the characters straight. In particular, he tended to think that any super hero could fly, and on this page he’s clearly drawn Cap swooping, not leaping, out of Namor’s flagship to attack Agent Axis. Sometimes the Bullpen would correct these sorts of shots, dropping a leg down as if Cap or whomever was pirouetting like a ballet dancer. And other times, like this one, the writer tried to simply rush past the moment and hope nobody noticed.
Anyway, everything is pretty much denouement from this point on, as Cap beats the heck out of Agent Axis and drags him back to face American justice. Bucky and Toro tell the others that they and the two new kids are going to remain stateside and become a new homefront team, the Kid Commandos. Namor gives Gwenny Lou and Davy access to a trunk of clothing that he’s got for some reason, and they come back in two of the most absurd costumes of the period. Seriously, Davy in his new role as the Human Top is wearing a striped onesie, and Gwenny Lou as Golden Girl is attired in a cross between a kimono and a bathrobe that looks like it’s three sizes too large for her and only staying on through the power of the Comics Code. Of course, these are both super hero names that Roy has recycled from other largely-forgotten Timely golden age heroes.
The Invaders still need to deal with the racist commander of the Japanese internment camp to which they have to return Dr. Sabuki–and from which Golden Girl needs dispensation so she can become a part of the Kid Commandos. But as the Invaders get into it with the commander, Agent Axis’s boring ship crashes up out of the ground and he attacks the assembled company! This is a surprise, as Axis was beaten pretty decisively a few pages earlier. But Golden Girl and the Human Top take this opportunity to show what they can do, defending the camp and its soldiers from Agent Axis’ attack and ultimately undoing him.
With the day saved, the base commander gives Gwenny Lou permission to go with the Invaders, and it’s a happy ending all around. But wha–?? The Agent Axis who attacked the base wasn’t the true fascist criminal at all, but rather the Sub-Mariner in disguise! So the whole thing was a put-on to help convince the commander of the value of letting Golden Girl join the Kid Commandos! Pretty sneaky, Namor–and your line about how their victory was won fairly because you used only just as much power as the real Agent Axis could seems a bit spurious. But hey, who wants to go back to an internment camp anyway, apart from brilliant surgeon fathers. So I’m sure this ruse was all for the best, and now the power of being able to spin around really fast and to project brilliant bursts of glowing force out of one’s hands can be put to good use! And on that note, the issue wraps up. I believe this was Frank Robbins’ final issue as the penciler on INVADERS–and for all that his work could be idiosyncratic, I don’t think any of the artists who followed him quite captured the ineffable flavor of the strip in the manner that he did. He wasn’t the obvious choice to draw INVADERS, but he turned out to be the right choice.