For some reason, James Robinson’s best work always seems to come when he’s writing Golden Age, or Golden Age related characters. From Starman, to JSA, Earth-2 and of course, The Golden Age, he has shone when telling the tales of WW2 superheroes and their legacies, which is why it’s so exciting that he’s writing a team-book all about Marvel’s most famous Golden Age team, The Invaders.
I would make a joke about how this team isn’t really all-new at all, but then again, the All-New X-Men are just the original X-Men, so I don’t think Marvel really understand what new means in general.
This intriguing opening issue sets up the main storyline, as well as showing Robinson’s strength at characterisation, as he focuses on the least well-defined of The Invaders, the original Human Torch. After a prologue that shows a group of Kree soldiers on Earth, searching for pieces of something called ‘The God’s Whisper’ (If you didn’t pick up the All-New Marvel Now Point One one-shot, you should do so, it explains a lot about who these Kree are), we then move to small-town USA and see what Jim Hammond is up to. In the aftermath of what went on in Rick Remender’s Secret Avengers, he is living the quiet life as a car mechanic and basically trying to figure out who he is after betraying his fellow robots.
His peace and quiet is short-lived, as head of this band of Kree shows up, kills his boss, and starts laying waste to his town. This causes Jim to reveal his powers, and fight back, but in the midst of this, he is blasted with a mysterious beam that causes him to flashback to an event during WW2 he has no prior memory of. He sees himself, along with an unconventional line-up of The Invaders (Bucky and Namor are there, but Toro and Captain America are absent, but someone called Major Liberty is there) taking on some Nazis who seem to have the Norse Goddess Hela under their control. Major Liberty tries to attack Hela, but is zapped and turned into a skeleton like he was nothing at all. Interestingly, Human Torch can tell that both Namor and Bucky are having this same vision.
After seeing Major Liberty bite it, Torch wakes up, and it’s right back into battle, as he tries to save an innocent civilian. Unfortunately, it looks like the Kree is just too powerful for him, and to top it all off, she now knows where the final piece of the God’s Whisper is (it looks like this device is what allowed the Nazis to use Hela, and now the Kree want it for themselves). But before she can kill Torch, his old friends Captain America and Winter Soldier show up to save the day. Hooray! But where is Namor in all of this? Well, the last page of the issue reveals that he’s on Hala, being tortured by the Supreme Intelligence, and this is how the Kree have been able to plan this attack.
This was a solid opening issue, and I didn’t mind that most of the Invaders didn’t show up right until the end, we get enough of Captain America, Bucky and Namor elsewhere in the Marvel Universe, for now, Robinson’s most important job is developing the Original Torch, and so far, he’s done a good job. Robinson created one of the most well-rounded and human superheroes ever in Jack Knight, so let’s hope he can do the same with the Invaders here. The plot is also interesting, both in the present and the past, with plenty of mystery surrounding Torch’s flashback, why weren’t Cap and Toro there? What’s the deal with Major Liberty? As I said, Robinson is so good at writing Golden Age stuff, so I can’t wait to see that developed, and for some even more obscure characters to appear. I especially want to see Union Jack and Spitfire make an appearance, Robinson is British so he pretty much has to.
Steve Pugh’s art was very good too, he’s got a classic, clean line that’s perfect for such iconic characters, and his realistic style grounds the WW2 scenes. I don’t think you can depict even a superhero-filled WW2 in a cartoonish fashion, it would seem disrespectful somehow. I think this series is worth checking out, it’s Robinson in his niche, telling a fascinating story, and whilst this issue is mostly set-up, you can tell that there’s more to come.