Friday, October 31, 2008

Blood: Part 2 of 2 (Marvel)
New Invaders #5 When: February 2005
Why: Allan Jacobsen How: CP Smith

The Story So Far...
Having relinquished leadership over the V-Battalion to the Human Torch, Roger Aubrey finds himself uncertain of his decision when he learns of the Torchs allegiance to the new Invaders. Retired to Dymhurst, United Kingdom, the former Mighty Destroyer finds himself requiring of their services when he is attacked by vampires.

The proximity of the attack earns the interests of Spitfire and Union Jack, whose histories with the vampire legacy of Baron Blood cost them the lives of loved ones.

Believing the attack to be an isolated incident, Thin Man and the Sub-Mariner dedicate the majority of the team to their on-going concerns with the Axis Mundis Pterrorist attacks on a recently liberated Mazikhandar.
The Human Torch opts to accompany his British allies to the UK, drawn by his connection to Spitfire. His presence proves valued when Spitfire is kidnapped from Falsworth castle, taken prisoner by the cult of Baroness Blood!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: The Destroyer 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Human Torch 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Spitfire 5 (Superhuman)
Stamina: Tara 6 (Generator)
Agility: Union Jack 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Union Jack 4 (Trained)
Energy Power: Human Torch 6 (UWMD)

- The Invaders are: Human Torch, Union Jack, Tara, Destroyer, (and Spitfire).

The Invaders were 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, joined by expansions of the team, 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.
Their legacy endures into the modern age, where the team is reunited on occasion to undertaker varying missions, such as; the liberation of Mazikhandar.

- A slave to Dracula; Dr. Jacob Cromwell was ordered by his master to revive a deceased John Falsworth, who had aided Germany during WWII as the vampiric, Baron Blood. Acting briefly as Falsworth's familiar, Cromwell was ultimately killed by his new master, along with one of his daughters. The other daughter, however, was merely turned, becoming herself an immortal vampire.

Upon the Barons death at the hands of Captain America; Cromwell's daughter became Baroness Blood, dedicating herself and her hordes to the cult of her creator. The Baroness succeeded in obtaining the Holy Grail, and upon drinking from it, gained the ability to exist in sunlight freed from her undying thirst. She turned her powers on Falsworths defiant family, beginning a vendetta against Spitfire that claimed the life of the hero's adult son.

Baroness Blood possesses most abilities associated with mystic vampires, including enhanced strength, speed, agility, flight, transformations, and the projection of lightning. The gifts of the Holy Grail can be transferred to vampires who drink her blood, but only on a temporary basis.

Math: The Invaders Ranking: Tara (#59)

What Went Down...
The Union Jack leads the Invaders to Falsworth Caverns, quickly figuring the repetitive strategums of Baroness Blood. There they discover a small army of unsuspecting vampires, the sentries the first to be vanquished by a sneak assault by the Human Torch!

Deeper into the caverns a colony of sleeping suckheads gets a rude awakening, the first feeling the glow of Union Jack's torch nestled close to his gun. The heat gets turned up again as Tara enters the fray, roasting her way through the hordes as they drop from their ceiling perch.

A shrunken Destroyer lifts his game to catch the fleeing undead, curbing their plans to inform the Baroness with a few well placed shots with silver bullets.

While the Invaders navigate through the underground caverns, the Baroness reveals her need for Spitfire's unique blood to sustain the child she sired with the hero's son, Kenneth Falsworth. The pain of the infants feeding channels to the Human Torch, who developed a connection with Spitfire after a blood transfusion.

Union Jack finds himself taken by the surprise of the vampires ability to channel lightning even in the depths of the Earth, but is once again saved by the gunship of the Mighty Destroyer. Concerned for Spitfire's safety, they regroup with renewed urgency.

Unbeknownst to the team, Spitfire launches her own rescue attempt, tearing free of her shackles to strike at the Baroness with a devestating punch-kick combo!
She rescues her grandson from a fall, but her dedication proves her undoing as the Baroness summons her minions. The skinhead vampires swarm like ravenous dogs, dragging Spitfire to the ground, whilst tearing the baby from her grasp.

The sudden ignition of flame comes to the embattled Spitfire's aid, but fails to stem the flow of undead. The creatures of the night renew their attack, biting and sucking at Spitfire like a well of super powered blood.
Enraged by the prospect of vampires embued with the powers of synthetic blood he donated, the Torch summons a firestorm rarely seen from the aging android.

Union Jack fails in his attempt to retrieve the Falsworth baby, who disappears in the arms of the Baroness like an eerie apparition, but the day is won.

The Hammer...
With a whole stack of charcoal vampires to his name; Human Torch leads the Invaders to a solid team victory! Which also concludes our belated October of Halloween monsters, machines, maniacs, and mystics! [Applause!] The obsessive among you can lump the Baroness and her vampires in with the monsters, if you like!

Regular readers will probably know by now that I will constantly refer to New Invaders with fondness. Reading issues of the ill-fated series, I could never make any claim that increased sales would've done anything but prolong cancellation, but I take solace in the fact that I can continue to enlighten those that overlooked this rare treasure in the Marvel stable.

With next month's Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe game casting a new perspective on the understanding of the medium of comics, a subject that's found prominence is the conservative censorship forced upon the traditionally violent game series.
From a perspective of comics publishers, I almost tend to observe Marvel as the more conservative, at least in terms of their willingness to experiment. Marvel, though ocassionally straddling a conceited modern design, often steers more closely to the tried and true - a symptom of it's economic structure.

New Invaders marked a rare departure (from the familiar) for a Marvel that was looking to secure a readership recouped by the experimental Bill Jemas era. It was a Marvel that backtracked the X-Men revolution pilotted by Grant Morrison and revamped the lagging Avengers property with it's chief cash cows.

After struggling to maintain the integrity of the artwork when scanning panels for this review, I have to willfully acknowledge that CP Smith's digital art style was a crucial blow to the series' success. While I feel it always maintained a necessary professional quality, it's sometimes static and repetitive nature was sure to rub obsessive compulsive readers up the wrong way, to say nothing of it's departure from conventionalism. I quite like it. It's vibrant and distinct graphical properties got me excited at the time, and continue to do so.
I cannot fathom how difficult it must have been to remian on schedule with the style, even with it's printed shortcuts, like the pixelated photocopy-style backgrounds (presumably) provided by "colorist," Cory Walker.

Conceptually the series was like nothing on the Marvel catalogue at the time, and perhaps, since. Post-Civil War tensions held by the Secret Avengers might be vaguely comaprable to the political controversy of the Invaders' tactics, but the world stage the series played to gave even that aspect a unique quality.

The moral ambiguity of the Golden Age stars also laced their actions with a sense of curiosity. Fuelled by that political intrigue, their intentions held a sincerity under Jacobsen that projected a modern sensibility, without devolving the Golden Age war heroes to vehicles for hollow anti-heroism.

Between the undercurrent of war, the guns, and the slightly wacky villains; I almost get a British sensibility from the series, but it's early superheroics remain uniquely American by design. Starting the series as a spin-off from the Avengers might have upset the balance of sales, but struck me as a well intending way to motivate the series by plot, rather than marketting. It may have given the series an unfortunate association with then Avengers-writer, Chuck Austen, but the benefit of hindsight should leave those aspersions recognised as misplaced.

Since cancellation, the stars of New Invaders have struggled to relocate.

Spitfire's recent tenure with MI:13; where her vampiric nature caused violent tension between her and fellow recruit, Blade; was one of the key attractions to ending our Halloween October with this issue. A reference in the issue is made to a previous bite by Baron Blood, which apparently had some apparent effects on the hero's aging process. I do wonder if it was the events of this issue, however, that contributed to Spitfire's current pseudo-vampiric state. I certainly do not recall the detail appearing in the series.

Spitfire's life after Invaders included a guest-spot early in Ed Brubaker's Captain America, where both she and Union Jack aided in attempts to stop a terrorist attack in London by the Red Skull. Chapman's anti-terrorist adventures continued in a short-lived Union Jack series, before a cameo in Spitfire's MI:13.

Sub-Mariner, perhaps the team's most present member in the Marvel universe, has continued to make multiple appearances in his role as Atlantean monarch and a member of the Illuminati. Post-Civil War tensions led to an alliance made between Namor and the ruler of Latveria, Dr. Doom. Most recently, however, Namor clashed with Hercules amidst an invasion on Atlantis by the Amazons.

USAgent, after relinquishing the self-appointed title of Captain America, grappled with the implications of Steve Rogers' legacy after his death. As the Agent he chose to remain loyal to the establishment, finding himself reassigned to Canada's last ditch effort to fund a superteam, now called Omega Flight. The team continued in the relaunched Marvel Comics Presents after a mini-series.

Blazing Skull's membership in the Superhero Registration Act sends him to Jersey where he takes part in another ill-fated Initiative spin-off, Nighthawk's Last Defenders. He joined a rotating cast that included She-Hulk, Colossus, and other.

Human Torch and Tara remain deactivated; the former was destroyed when he absorbed Tara's excess energies when a self-destruct sequence was initiated. The Torch was honored upon the construction of the Initiative training camp, Camp Hammond, where as statue carries the inscription, Jim Hammond, The First of the Marvels: He Showed Us Heroes Can be Made.

Thin Man remains at large, having escaped incarceration upon the disbanding of the team. I eagerly anticipate the next time he should resurface, and any other projects that might see the New Invaders allumni find more permanent station within the Marvel Universe.

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 5

The "Blood" two-parter is included in the complete collection of the New Invaders, along with all other issues of the short-lived series. Printed in it's entirety, I truly believe this is one of the most unique series Marvel has ever released, and hope anyone enticed by our reviews will enjoy it. By using purchase links provided, you help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars, which will no doubt feature more New Invaders at some point!

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