Friday, March 28, 2008

To End All Wars: Part 1 of 3 (Marvel)
New Invaders #1 When: October 2004
Why: Allan Jacobsen How: CP Smith

The Story So Far...
When the Invaders are reformed by US Secretary of Defense, Dell Rusk, they are deployed to the oil-rich nation of Mazikhandar, unwittingly the pawns of the the Red Skull!

The Invaders come to blows with the Avengers, but despite their struggles, still manage to unseat an attempt by the Axis Mundi to replace the Nation's ruler with a synthetic duplicate. The ensuing battle sees the Sub-Mariner compelled to declare the sovreign protection of Atlantis for the Middle Eastern state as part of an alliance of protection. Along with his fellow New Invaders, Namor promises to ensure the safety of this section of the world.

When Thin Man invites Jim Hammond and his V-Battalion to become involved in the operations of the militant new Invaders, the former Human Torch soon discovers exactly what the team is up against. With the Battalion's chopper coming under Pterrorist fire, the Torch's war of good against evil is reignited!

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: CP SmithARTWORK: Scott KolinsStrength: Sub-Mariner 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Thin Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spitfire 5 (Super)
Stamina: Blazing Skull 6 (Generator)
Agility: Thin Man 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Sub-Mariner 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Human Torch 6 (Mass Destruction)

- Pterrorists are insect-like synthetic humanoids modelled on the Nazi villain, Agent Axis, using similar technology to that of the World War II android hero, the Human Torch. They are a technological clone army employed by the Axis Mundi, capable of utilizing Kalahian science to shift within sub-dimensional reality.
Not terribly durable, their strength lies in numbers, and the diversity of airborne attack.

- The Invaders are: USAgent, Thin Man, Blazing Skull, Spitfire, Union Jack, Tara, and Sub-Mariner. They are joined by Human Torch and the V-Battalion.

The Invaders are the premiere superhuman line of defense of the Allied Nations during the Second World War. Their membership was captained by the combined forces of; Captain America, Namor, the Sub-Mariner, the Human Torch, Toro, Bucky, and several other recruits, such as Union Jack, Whizzer, Spitfire, and Blazing Skull.

The Invaders were chiefly positioned to defend the world from the threat of the Nazi Party and their many superpowered machinations and allies. This struggle against tyranny would extend to the modern era, with many of the Invaders roster enduring through time by means of science, magic, and mutation.

The Math: Invaders Ranking: Sub-Mariner (#16)

What Went Down...
Image previously featured in a spotlight/pitch for USAGENT!As V-Battalion helicopter transport hovers over the Republic of Mazikhandar, it quickly comes under attack from unseen agents of the Axis Mundi! The fast-moving drones damage the choppers propeller blades, leaving the Battalion to make a crash landing on the battlefield.

With minimal casualties, the V-Battalion find themselves set upon by a lone soldier of the Pterrorist clone army. Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch, projects heat that explodes the synthezoid villain. As more Pterrorists swoop into the field, the Torch suffers under the use of his powers that had previously been dormant for extended periods. A shield carrying shadow looms to protect him, driving the spiked disc through the mid-section of the synthezoid... Captain America!

The Human Torch recognises his rescuer not as the original Captain, but rather John Walker, former USAgent who had assumed the mantle whilst operating with the Invaders under Dell Rusk.

A swarm of Pterrorists appears overhead prompting renewed combat from the forces of the Invaders and V-Battalion. Their missiles cut through the descending curtain of synthezoids, but the sheer volume of creatures remains potent.

Dr. Bruce Dickson, the Thin Man, reaquaints himself with his former ally, while using his own fantastic powers of malleability to stretch himself across the battlefield. With knife in hand, and no remorse for the manufactured soldiers, his hand is swift to slice through the competition.

The Torch again summons his powers, exploding yet more Pterrorists as they fly over the heads of both he, and the Thin Man. Also airborne is their ally, the Sub-Mariner, who combats the Pterrorists by more personal means.

One of the many faceless synthezoids descends on Namor, using it's own body as a missile. The creature expresses distain for the human-atlantean hybrid, inspiring the indomitable wrath of the scion of land and sea. Namor accepts the wicked -isms of race and creed, but demonstrates the false claim of weakness, using his mutant stength to rip the creature's head from it's shoulders.

On the ground; inheretor to the Union Jack mantle, Joseph Chapman, continues to fight the good fight, using more conventional weapons to stem the threat of the Pterrorist hordes. Though lacking in superhuman flair, Chapman's methods prove exceptionally effective. Joined by his lover, Spitfire, he directs her super speed to the V-Battalion, who find themselves overwhelmed by the Pterrorists.

Moving at staggering speeds, Spitfire races toward the beseiged Battalion with a blade sufficient to tear through the synthetic Pterrorists at blistering velocity.

Across the plane; Jim Hammond finds himself overwhelmed by the swarming hordes of synthezoids, only to be saved by a creature of similar design. Tara, a flaming android designed from Hammond's template, comes to his aid, engulfing him in the glow of wild flames he can no longer generate himself. She burns through the opposition with robotic efficiency!

Elsewhere still, another flaming fighter makes his presence felt, in the Blazing Skull. The manic mystic marches into the field, turning rubble from the destroyed buildings into his weapon, while delighting in his own invulnerability.

The USAgent continues to mow his way through the opposition, wielding shield and machine gun like a gladiator of old. He stuns one of the Pterrorist synthezoids with his weapon, before finishing it off with his spiked shield.

Having sustained substantial casualties, the remaining Pterrorists retreat as quickly as they emerged; leaving the Invaders none the wiser to the reasons for their assault.

ARTWORK: CP SmithThe Hammer...
With everyone pulling their weight in the fight, much to the convenience to new readers looking to get individual introductions to each member of the team, we give you Invaders victorious! Hey, and let's not forget the vital contribution of the V-Battalion, also.

Last week we held a poll to give readers the chance between two subjects of discussion: movies and teams.
Not surprisingly, overwhelming response [of two!] went the way of the major motion picture, and voted so last week we took a look at Iron Man, Hulk, and Batman; the starring line-up of 2008's mid-year blockbusters!

This also allowed us to continue discussion about characters and the importance of characterization, which brings us to today's convenient segue from that discussions, through the filter of a continued Golden Age presence, to talk about teams and the prominence and place of the reboot in mainstream comics.

This was to be Monday's entry in a jam packed week of superhero super-teams, but as you can see, time got the better of me. Best of intentions to carry that plan into April, where we'll hopefully get a chance to get a balanced look at both Golden Age line-ups from Marvel and DC, as well as their contemporary descendants. Ooo, a little bit of a tease for what's to come!

Anyway, here we are, looking back at Marvel's ill-fated response to 2004's rising success of Geoff Johns and his work on JSA. The Golden Age revival seems to be in full swing, expanding prominently to the DC Silver Age. Elsewhere; Marvel continues to potter around it's forgotten Golden Age properties with revivals in Agents of Atlas and The Twelve, each met with fairly strong response given the relative obscurity of most of Marvel's classic characters. More prominently positioned in the spotlight is the upcoming Invaders/Avengers crossover series, which details the post-Civil War reception of time displaced WWII heroes. Also worth a mention is Dynamite Entertainment's recent Project Superpowers, which revives expired properties from now defunct, Nedor Comics. The series continues Alex Ross' long association with classic properties, as does the latter mentioned Marvel book.

The reboot has copped it's fair share of flack over the decades. After deciding characters and characterization are king [Iron Man Annual #11], you expect an upturned nose when it comes to the trend inherent in New Invaders, but of course, you'd be wrong. Actually, I maintain to this day against, despite fierce opposition, that New Invaders was among the most exciting titles on the Marvel catalogue in 2004!

Golden Age Top 25
#1 Batman (DC)
#2 Captain America (Marvel)
#3 Superman (DC)
#4 Black Adam (DC)
#5 Sub-Mariner (Marvel)
#6 Catwoman (DC)
#7 Green Arrow (DC)
#8 Hawkman (DC)
#9 The Phantom (King Features)
#10 Robin (DC)
#11 Bucky Barnes (Marvel)
#12 Patsy Walker (Marvel)
#13 The Spectre (DC)
#14 Aquaman (DC)
#15 Wonder Woman (DC)
#16 Black Canary (DC)
#17 Hawkgirl (DC)
#18 Dr. Occult (DC)
#19 Thin Man (Marvel)
#20 The Sandman (DC)
#21 Sandy (DC)
#22 Wildcat (DC)
#23 Blazing Skull (Marvel)
#24 Lex Luthor (DC)
#25 Slam Bradley (DC)

We last checked ranking progress
of the Golden Age characters in
October 2007! [New Invaders #0]
Got thoughts about their progress
in the ranks? Drop a comment!
The Invaders are interestingly a fairly strong argument for both consistent characterization, and the benefits of revamps. Though I'm sure examples could be cited, for the most part, the characters have avoided the blemish of 90's "Xtreme makeovers", despite having much of their history defined decades after their initial 1940s appearances.

New Invaders pushes these vintage characters through a very modern filter. One need only glance at CP Smith's digitally treated artwork to recognise that this is a very contemporary experiment in the comics form. It's for this sense of adventure and artistic experimentation that I so fondly look back on the title, particularly because the visuals really reflect the daring Marvel showed when it handed over it's warhorses to King of the Hill TV writer, Allan Jacobsen.

Jacobsen does well to draw upon the wartime history of the characters, while also maintaining a great respect for the period of writing which greatly established the characteristics of the team - the 1970s - where writers like Roy Thomas mapped out the depth of the Second World War's forgotten tales, and brought in iconic new characters, like the retrofitted Union Jack (James Falsworth).

Of course, Jacobsen had a great pedigree to draw upon, and a surprisingly open slate. With populary maligned writer, Chuck Austen, responsible for launching the characters in Avengers, Jacobsen had the opportunity to take a run with a unique blend of the old; Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Thin Man, and the new; USAgent, Tara, Union Jack (Joseph Chapman).
It's no doubt that the association these characters came to have with Austen drastically damaged their chances of success, but that's speculative digression.

What I find particularly interesting to observe is not just the way in which Jacobsen reinvigorates each character, which remains very true to strong facets of each character, but the history of the revamp/reboot in Marvel Comics.

The "Marvel Age" of comics began in the 1960s with the introduction of new characters like, Fantastic Four, Spider-man, Hulk, Iron Man, and the X-Men. Each was the creation of then Marvel Editor, Stan Lee, as envisioned by talented artists including legendary co-creators, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

Crucial to Lee's success was an editorial attention that allowed him to tie his characters together, presenting a cohesive Marvel Universe. Stories told in such a way were relatively unique in a post-fifties industry directed almost exclusively at children, who were assumed to be unable to cope with complex story devices.

Marvel Comics was itself something of a reboot, formerly Timely Comics.
Taking it's name from one of Timely's popular sci-fi superhero titles, Marvel Comics; Lee also brought along some of the popular characters featured in the 1940s title. Here we find what is arguably the first major example of a superhero revamp as we know it today, and at the centre: Namor, the Sub-Mariner!

Clearly a fan of the stories that had come before; Lee inserts former Timely title characters, recasting them as guests in his new series. Early issues of Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Daredevil all featured the character in the role of ambiguously aligned antagonist, clashing with the heroes with typically ambivalent results.

As vengeful ruler of Atlantis, the undersea king would make many reappearances that would earn him lasting association with the Fantastic Four. Here, the character remains a similarly surly anti-hero to his early 1940's appearances, but gained greater motivation through an ecological message, and a romance for the Invisible Woman. This series also brought Namor into contact with another Stan Lee revamp - the Human Torch - who was a direct reinvention of the 1940s flaming android, featured in this very review of New Invaders!

Namor would go on to permeate throughout the new Marvel Universe, often terminally coloured by Lee's early entries into the character's new chapter. The ecological consciousness established of the character would make for many uninspired wars declared against the surface.

Captain America makes up the final piece of the Golden Age trinity; another prime example of a Stan Lee revamp. In fact, like his fictional fellows, much of Cap's history would be explicitly defined years after his World War II exploits.
Lee himself would recast the wartime warrior as a firm presence in the superhero world, joining popular individuals like Thor, Hulk, and Iron Man, as the original Avengers!

So, how do we feel about revamps and reboots?
I think the inevitable answer has to be mixed. Stan Lee may have made good on his resurrection of dying properties, but most comic fans can effortlessly recall the besmirchment of some of their favourite characters through distanced redirection. I think if we can draw nothing else from discussions like this on the Infinite Wars, it's that every case should be measured on it's individual merit. I certainly like to think I bring a balanced opinion, but you might disagree. Be sure to drop a comment if you've got any favourite revamps of your own, or just want to yam about the Golden Age Invaders!

Some say it's currently a Golden Age of comics blogging, but those people are probably just trying to protect themselves from devouring. That's right, it's Friday, and by pushing this entry back to Friday Fight Night, we're inadvertantly running on time for Bahlactus's Friday Night Fights! Bahlactus is a blog devouring cosmic entity whose hunger must be appeased by combat to save the universe!
If you're joining us for the first time, hey! Where you been, jerkface?! Hit up the issue index and do some catch-up, ya lousy poozer! Everyone else -- enjoy the weekend -- in much the same way! Yaaaay combat!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 5.5

If you missed out on the New Invaders, then I would greatly recommend you check out some of our previous reviews, and consider picking up the complete collection. Sadly the series was cancelled with it's tenth issue (#9), suffering low sales possibly due to association with Chuck Austen, and timid reception of CP Smith's radical art style. Personally I was a very big fan, and consider it one of many examples where I've been ahead of the curve in slow acceptance. Don't believe me? Tell me you haven't come around to Dark Knight Strikes Again. Thaaat's right, fanboy! Amazon have the collection for a very low price, and if you use purchase links provided by the site, you help sponsor future entries through their affiliate program. And hey, don't forget to visit the Infinite Wars Gift Shop, which includes this, and most other issues reviewed (in collection format). Mmm, comics!

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