This week’s blog is both another installment in CBYSBR and the start of what I hope will be a semi-regular tradition—Bottom of the Stack. Check the end of upcoming blog entries for an informal list of comic series I’m really enjoying at the moment. I won’t post everything I buy—just the two to five series at the bottom of my monthly comic stack. (I read in reverse order of preference, so the best stuff is at the bottom.) I hope it’ll help those of you who are contemplating getting into comics to find a way in. Not everything I read is for newbies, but my very favorite comics are usually well-written and all-around fun, so if you’re not too picky about needing to know all the continuity in advance, they should all be a good read.
Cool? On we go!
On the other hand, I yet cling to the last shreds of my journalistic objectivity, and I know that All-New Invaders, for all its virtues, is not going to be everyone’s favorite comic in the universe. I buy it for specific reasons, I love it for specific reasons, and some of those specific reasons are personal to me rather than universal to comic readers, or even general to the readers of my blog.
Here’s the SparkNotes version: All-New Invaders is a standard Marvel superhero comic, done extremely well, with a strong flavor of Band of Brothers and just a touch of Joss Whedon about it. If that sounds good, buy it. Seriously. Go buy any or all of the first five issues. I’ll wait here until you come back.
|Captain America and the Human Torch will have coffee while they wait for you.|
|"Don't worry, Jim." "We've got your back."|
-Scene from My Little Invaders: Friendship is Explosive.
Don’t believe me? Take this panel, which takes place after Captain America has spent several pages insisting that another World War II hero, Aarkus the Vision, will help the Invaders out just because they palled around with him during the war. Nobody has believed Cap because Aarkus was always kind of weird and now he’s fully off his nut. But when asked, Aarkus basically says, “Of course I’ll help—you guys are my brothers,” and this panel happens:
Here’s the casting rundown, with what makes each character distinctive and interesting:
|Pictured: not Johnny Storm|
|"Arrogance! Stupidity!" Namor's life words.|
|"So this is like the old days, gentlemen." Cap's favorite thing to say.|
|Falling off a roof while shooting at aliens.|
Must be Tuesday.
The comic has just wrapped up its first story arc, “Gods and Soldiers.” The plot involves a Kree device called the Gods’ Whisper, which can control the actions of deities—Norse gods, Eternals, pretty much anything in the Marvel Universe with god-level power. The Nazis got hold of it during the war, but three Invaders took it away from them, broke it up, hid the pieces, and then had their memories wiped so even the Allies couldn’t be tempted by the possibility of controlling the gods themselves. The story begins when the Kree decide they want their doohickey back and go after the three Invaders in question, kidnapping one of them (Namor) in the process. Once the boys realize what’s going on, Captain America leads the team to the Kree homeworld, Hala, to destroy the Gods’ Whisper and rescue Namor. They’re after the Gods’ Whisper because they don’t think anyone should have it, but they’re rescuing Namor because almost nobody else on earth actually likes Namor, which means he’ll literally die of being a jerk if they don’t do something.
|Captain America delivers the team's mission statement.|
Also, "Namor being Namor" is going to be that guy's official cause of death.
Meta? Oh, yeah, it’s meta.
Here’s an example. (If you can’t abide spoilers, skip down seven paragraphs RIGHT NOW.) At a key moment in the fourth chapter of the story, the heroes have been captured by the Kree and are being told the fates in store for them—imprisonment, dissection, etc. Now, because this team includes the Winter Soldier, I got to this chapter assuming that he would completely lose his composure at some point because the central macguffin is a device that controls people’s minds. Bucky does not cope well with the prospect of mind control, and the mere suggestion that he’s going to get his head messed with again is usually enough to make him go postal.
And he does go postal, in spectacular fashion—
|Leap BEFORE you look!|
|Note the bodies on the floor.|
Because Bucky Barnes.
|"Why can't JIM die this time?" Because he lights himself on fire, that's why.|
All told, All-New Invaders is a wonderful blend of action, humor, and personal drama. The writing is crisp, the art is both lively and technically proficient, and there’s very little continuity that requires actual explanation—you don’t need to know precisely why these guys are friends to understand that they are friends, and very good ones. Sadly, the book is on the publishing cusp right now, not selling enough copies to be a breakout hit but not an obvious failure either. If it’s going to live up to its excellent potential, it needs some more readers. (Hey, editorial! Would it kill you to slap Cap and Bucky on the cover more often? Maybe pull in some movie fans?) It suffers a bit from not being a high-concept book—I can’t sum up its appeal in one sentence that actually appeals to people who haven’t heard of the Invaders. But every issue is like a visit with old friends, combined with a really good action movie, and that’s a rare feat in a comic these days.
If you’ve got the budget for it and you’re in the mood for space adventure, superheroics, and arguments about why it can’t be Jim who fakes his death this time, this is the book for you. A new issue hits the stands this Wednesday.
Bottom of the Stack:
All-New Invaders (Marvel)
Loki: Agent of Asgard (Marvel)
Winter Soldier: The Bitter March (Marvel)
Original Sin (Marvel)