Friday, February 3, 2012

Avengers & Invaders!

When this epic first dropped onto the stands, it was a time of transition for me a comic book reader. After long decades, I was leaving the mainstream Marvel Universe behind and that included the Avengers. So despite a story starring the Avengers (composed of characters I didn't really care for at the time) and all-time faves The Invaders I passed.

I did pick up the neat reprint volume that came out at the time out of affection for Sal Buscema's great artwork.

When the story came out in trade I was tempted again but the thirty-five dollar price point had a shade of sticker shock to it. Also I'm not a fan of Dynamite Comics which has way too many alternate covers of questionable merit for my tastes.

I do love Alex Ross and he and longtime partner Jim Krueger were the heavyweights behind this. Krueger can write an intriguing story for sure. The covers were magnificent, at least the main ones were. The interior artwork by Stephen Sadowski was pretty good, though he was replaced by another artist I'm unfamiliar with and one who was much weaker.

I found the collection for reasonable money at Half-Price Books and took a tumble. I just finished reading it and after the beautiful cover gallery below, I'll have a spoiler-laden review.

The story begins strong told from Bucky's perspective, though I personally had a very hard time reading the font they used to mimic Bucky's handwriting. That made getting up to tempo on the reading difficult in the worst place for that to be the case.

The story follows the core Invaders team as they are whisked into a green mist alongside a G.I. to the modern day to confront the Avengers pretty quickly thereafter. Captain America is still dead when this story was originally told, so seeing Cap returned proves to be a blockbuster for many of the characters.

The Invaders think they are inside some sort of bizarre Nazi plot and fight tooth and nail against both teams of Avengers and against SHIELD which shows up to take them into custody.

I liked Subby's sojourn to find his own people only to have to confront an elder version of himself. It was pretty keen the way they dismissed as just another of Namor's crazy bastard kids.

I was at first confused by the Human Torch's mumblings about the plight of the LMD's but then when it was all revealed to be a scheme by Ultron even that plot element jelled for me. That's a staple of Krueger's work, a sense that things are very confusing then arriving at an "aha" moment which is worth the work.

It became increasingly clear that this was Bucky's story, and having him meet himself, then the new Captain America was poignant, especially the call by the former Winter Soldier to his younger self to save himself from Zemo's rocket.

And Toro too became of interest, and I'll admit that flipping through the book and finding that I might've seen him resurrected in the modern world was a pull to finally read this story. The death of Toro all those years ago in the Sub-Mariner comic is a favorite story and I wanted to read this potential coda to that classic.

The soldier who goes into the future with the Invaders plays a key role and I guess he's supposed to give us the everyman perspective on superheroes which seems a requirement of stories these days, but I never connected with this character and found him more than a bit annoying.

Learning that there was a connection between the original Vision and the Cosmic Cube was cleverly done and again a classic Krueger move. This kind revision of backstory is a neat thing he does and he almost always makes it make sense.

The story's shift to the WWII setting is when it really gets going and I loved the way the Avengers pretend to be Golden Age heroes. This final arc of the story really was outstanding and had an old-fashioned bang-up quality to it. It needed to have begun a few issues sooner and I think the story would've held up better for me. The teams tumble around on the Helicarrier a bit too long for my tastes.

A really good story. It's clearly an Invaders story with the Avengers being the "guest stars" but you can't tell that from the logo which obscures the "Invaders" name on most the covers. They seem to want to market this as a stealth Avengers book. It's the Invaders which got me to buy it at last. I'm very glad I did.

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