I still had a real liking for INVADERS and these all-new tales of Marvel’s earliest super hero characters set back during the era in which they were initially conceived, World War II. But around this time, my enthusiasm for the series began to wane a little bit, for reasons I wouldn’t have been able to articulate then, but boiling down to not loving a lot of the art and not being wild about the pinch-hitter scripters who would come in to relieve creator/writer Roy Thomas as the title neared its seemingly-inevitable end. I’d imagine that making INVADERS a must-buy series to the average reader was a particularly daunting thing, which helps to explain why Roy chose to involve modern day super-star Thor in this issue and the last. It got him another recognizable Marvel mainstay on his cover, and maybe caused a couple impulse buyers to give the series a shot.
To speak about the artwork a little bit, departed artist Frank Robbins had a very singular and unique style, one that wasn’t to many fans’ liking. And indeed, on other assignments, I thought he was often an ill fit. But on INVADERS, with its period setting, it somehow worked much better. Robbins was good at capturing the era, and his versions of the Invaders themselves became the defacto WWII-era depictions. By contrast, I was never really a fan of Alan Kupperberg’s work at all. It was always very open, without a lot of power, and with faces and figures that often seemed rubbery. He never quite mastered the exaggerated dynamism of Kirby that the Marvel look was based upon, for all that he was a fan of the man. And so his stories tended to feel lifeless to me, like the characters were all made of rubber like one of those cheap toys that you’d find at discount toy stores.
So, the story. Using magical means, Hitler and his guys have summoned Thor from far-off Asgard–this is a Thor from before he was exiled to Earth in the form of Dr. Don Blake, so he’s maybe a bit more headstrong and battle-hungry. So maybe that explains why the Nazis are so easily able to convince him to their cause and dispatch him to kill Josef Stalin, who is traveling to one of those convenient summits between Allied leaders that always seem to turn up in these sorts of stories. The Invaders are providing security for Stalin’s trip, and so they swiftly come to blows with the God of Thunder. And while they’re really not much of a match for him, they do delay him long enough for Prince Namor to spirit Stalin away to safety in his aquatic flagship.
In the aftermath of the battle, Union Jack complains about his uselessness, as he possesses no special powers like the other Invaders. This is clearly heavy-handed foreshadowing for the fact that Roy is about to give him some–I realized that even at the time. Elsewhere, Thor checks in with Hitler and his chief scientist, who has an assistant, Hans, whose face is swathed in bandages. This too will become important later on. Hitler encourages Thor to try to kill Hitler again, directing him towards the Kremlin to do so. A reckoning is clearly in the offing.
As expected, the Invaders are standing ready at Stalin’s villa–but Thor goes through them like a hot knife through butter. Even Namor, whom you’d expect to be able to hold his own for a while, gets almost incidentally pummeled into submission. So there’s nothing standing between the Thunder God and his tight-lipped victim. And so Thor blasts Stalin with some lightning, intending to finish him off. The Invaders are too late to do anything but try to avenge the Russian leader–but before the battle can be joined, Thor is brought up short. He suddenly hears the voice of Hitler in his head, ranting about how he’s using the Son of Odin as a lackey to do his dirty work. This pleases the Thunder God not at all.
So what is going on? Well, it all revolves around that bandaged fellow. After his mentor is stricken with a sudden heart attack and perishes, he takes over operation of the machine that brought Thor to Earth, and which Hitler is now trying to use to draw more creatures from the Nine Worlds to serve under him. But the big reveal here is that this bandaged guy is actually Doctor Doom, and he first opens up a channel that allows Thor to hear how he’s been tricked before causing the device to blow itself up, destroying the outpost. Now, this story was released in 1978, and it was set some 46 years earlier in 1942. And Doom here is depicted by Kupperberg as a full-grown man. Clearly, something is out of whack with the timeline here. And that’s because the Marvel “sliding timescale” was still only beginning to take shape. Roy and many others during this period tended to hew to the notion that events as reported in the earlier comics were sacrosanct–facts such as Reed Richards and Ben Grimm serving in World War II, If that was the case, then surely Victor Von Doom must have been around as well, right? It’s a fun reveal, but it really doesn’t work–and it worked less every year that went on. Eventually, in the 1990s, Roger Stern and I did a story that revealed that Doom’s time in this story was accomplished via his time machine, thus eliminating this discontinuity. You’re welcome.
Still, Stalin is dead, right? Wrong! Because it was actually Union Jack in disguise, standing in for the Russian leader who was struck down. In one of the more absurd scenes in the run of the comic book, Thor sucks most of the electrical energy from his lightning back out of Brian Falsworth’s prone body, somehow restoring him to life as though it had been Kryptonite or something. It doesn’t work at all–but chalk it up to Thor being a God and leave it at that. Anyway, Union Jack is suddenly all better–and do you think that his encounter with Thor’s lightning will give him some neato-cool super-powers of his own? Sure enough– but we’ll need to wait until next issue to get into all of that. For now, Thor departs, but not before first making the Invaders all forget about their encounter, so that Roy can avoid all of the fan mail asking why he and Cap and Namor didn’t acknowledge one another when they had first met in the Marvel age.
3 thoughts on “BHOC: INVADERS #33”
That’s a pretty sweet cover… even so…. Cockrum really submerged Kirby. There are glimmers of Kirby in Cap, Spitfire, and Thor’s expression….but hardly anywhere else.
I loved Robbins/Springer on Invaders and also lost interest in the book with other artists. The interior art is serviceable here, but not very exciting… Springer is adding a bit of distinction in the inks. Kupperberg’s rendering is ok but I think the general fault with his work is the lack of variation when it comes to panel layout. Everything is a relatively medium shot… even the close ups are never particularly close up.
Recently reread Invaders. Sadly, in general, the series never quite got there for me. and Thomas never reached the heights he would hit on All-Star Squadron, mostly because Timely didn’t have the same Golden Age depth as DC and he didn’t make good use of what there was, instead, cooking up new characters or weirdly remixing existing ones. The art start to finish was a minus as well, with Springer trying to be Milton Candiff and Kupperberg not really bringing his A game.
Now I want a checklist of every Marvel comic where Hitler appeared as a character in the story. Oh wait, the Internet did this for me. I will now wash my eyes out, because EW HITLER.