I picked up this issue of INVADERS on another regular sortie to the local 7-11 on Thursday as usual. It was a title that I quite liked, though looking back on it it isn’t anywhere near as polished as I recall it being. This particular issue, the first of a two-parter, was an attempt to cement the series further into the Marvel Universe by guest-starring Thor, God of Thunder. It’s a good notion, given Hitler’s reported admiration for Norse mythology and its themes, and INVADERS was a title that it was easy to look past since its events were taking place three decades in the past, during a war that was ancient history to most any modern reader, myself included. But what appealed to me about the book was that it functioned as a touch-point to the Golden Age of Comics, a period I was intensely interested in.
Up until around this point, the artwork on the series had been done by Frank Robbins, who was a divisive figure whose style was a bit far afield from the typical look of Marvel comics. He meshed better on INVADERS, both because of its period setting and because his work was softend a bit by inker Frank Springer. By this issue, though, Robins was gone, replaced by Alan Kupperberg. I’ll confess, I’ve never liked Kupperberg’s spongy work. While his heart was in the right place, his command of the stylized anatomy of super heroes and the particulars of telling an exciting story visually were just not to my liking. Robbins’ work may have been weird, but Kupperberg’s was often unattractive. I suspect that most readers were happy to have Kupperberg on the title in favor of Robbins, but I wasn’t one of them.
Meanwhile, this continued to be a book into which writer/editor Roy Thomas could pour his passions, at leas for another issue or two. At that point, his attention shifting elsewhere, he wound up relinquishing more and more of the writing of INVADERS to other people, typically not to the betterment of the book. But that still lay in the future. This issue opens with the Invaders being confronted by a trio of Achilles Tanks, new weapons of war that are to be handed over to the Russians on the front lines, But they’re in the midst of being stolen by Fifth Columnists. The Invaders leap to stop the escaping Tanks, destroying two of them in the process before the commanding General can order them to disable the remaining tank without destroying it. Having done so, the Invaders are thereafter asked to deliver that final tank to its destination on the front lines.
Throughout this skirmish, in a bit of heavy handed foreshadowing, Union Jack bemoans the fact that he doesn’t possess any actual super-powers like his assorted Invaders comrades, a fact that makes him feel like a fifth wheel. As a result of this story was going to be to give him such powers, this wasn’t a complaint that he was going to be able to hold for much longer. Elsewhere, in Germany, after spending an evening at an opera performance of Gotterdammerung, Hitler visits Doktor Olsen who has been perfecting a dimensional gateway to the realm of the Gods with the help his his bandaged assistance, Hans. Using it, Hitler draws Thor (whom he recognizes as Donar, the German god of the storm) to Earth, intending to use him to best the Invaders and thus win the way for the Fatherland.
Of course, in order to make it palatable to readers that Thor would choose to take up the Nazi cause, Hitler uses select televised images to make his enemies in Russia seem like the aggressors, so that the Thunder God will take action to help his underdog nation. Hitler paints the Invaders as enemies working to bring about Ragnarok, and Thor, unfamiliar with modern technology, is swayed by his words. So a confrontation is in the offing–and specifically, the Thunder God is off to take out Josef Stalin, with the Invaders as a fine bonus should they turn up along the way (as we know they will since they are delivering the Achilles Tank to the Russian leader.)
Over in Russia, the Invaders fly over territory near the front lines where the retreating Russian forces have been scorching the Earth as they do, destroying entire towns before they can fall into enemy hands. They come upon a train being strafed by German fighters, and the guns on Namor’s flagship have been frozen due to their flight through the intensely cold climate. Rather than having, say, the Human Torch who can fly take care of things, Captain America and Union Jack leap out of the craft–they’re not even wearing parachutes, ridiculously enough. They’re able to force the pilot to bail out, thus fulfilling the action portion of the issue, albeit with a quasi-battle that doesn’t matter materially to the plot at all.
As the issue wraps up, another German plane discharges a passenger, one who makes his way to the ground under his own power. This is, of course, Thor, and he proclaims his intention to murder Josef Stalin straight to the Invaders–a declaration that seems well out of character for the Thunder God we know. Maybe chalk this up to this being the pre-humility version of Thor who hasn’t spent any length of time on Earth as lame Don Blake. Anyway, as the book closes, the Invaders are about to get into a dust-up with this brash newcomer, with Stalin’s life on the line. To Be Continued! The whole issue thus feels like a lot of blah set-up, to be honest.