A Timely invasion
NAMOR wasn’t the only superhero to be introduced in Marvel Comics #1 back in 1939. In fact, it was another superhero who graced the cover of that particular book – the original Human Torch, a “synthetic human” named Jim Hammond.
Then in 1941, publisher Timely Comics introduced its most iconic superhero yet – the Star-Spangled Avenger himself (though he wasn’t an Avenger at the time), Captain America, and his trusty teen sidekick, Jim “Bucky” Barnes. Later, the four of them formed part of Marvel’s first ever superhero team – the All-Winners Squad!
While the squad only lasted two issues (All Winners Comics #19 and #21) before being dropped, another incarnation of the Cap-Namor-Human Torch team was introduced in 1969 by writer Roy Thomas and artist Sal Buscema in The Avengers #71. Called the Invaders, the team featured five heroes – Captain America, Bucky, Namor, Human Torch and his sidekick Toro – battling the Nazis during WWII.
Now comes the latest incarnation which drags the team into the present day and updates their status quo accordingly.
Yes, all four of them are still around, for a variety of reasons: Cap is now the bona fide leader of the Avengers; Namor has just lost a war (and his entire city) to the Wakandans; Bucky is now the wanted but presumed dead Winter Soldier; and The Human Torch? Well, he keeps trying to lead a normal life, but things just keep going up in, er ... flames around him.
It takes an old fashioned trope, a MacGuffin, to bring the four of them together again – a Kree device called the Gods’ Whisper, which allows its wielder to control Asgardian gods. During WWII, the device fell into the hands of the Nazis, but a Cap-less Invaders team managed to intercept and dismantle it into three pieces before hiding it. They then conveniently got themselves brainwashed into completely forgetting it ever existed.
The action in All-New Invaders comes courtesy of the Kree (when in need of a plot, just add aliens), who send the blue, bad Big Barda-wannabe Tanalth the Pursuer to retrieve the pieces from the former Invaders; which, of course, brings the old team together again.
With Cap and Namor already well established in several books in the All-New Marvel Now, the first two issues focus mostly on integrating the Human Torch and the Winter Soldier back into current continuity.
With Captain America and Bucky returning to the silver screen via Captain America: The Winter Soldier this year, the reintroduction of these old Timely Comics characters couldn’t be more, well, timely. In fact, awareness of Marvel’s characters is a lot higher these days, and the chances of Jim Hammond being mistaken for Johnny Storm are probably a lot lower as well..
While the first two issues of the book mostly feature a lot of punching, some burning, and more punching, there are also some nice touches of character development here, especially with Hammond’s attempts to make friends and fit in to the town where he lives.
With Namor yet to truly rejoin the team, however, it still feels a little unbalanced, with the noble do-gooders like Cap and Hammond dominating proceedings and making the book seem a little too predictable and safe for now. Here’s hoping that things will pick up when the Sub-Mariner finally swims back into the fray!
Namor the Sub-Mariner: First among Marvels