Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The Invaders #14

The Invaders #14 (March 1977)
title: "Calling....The Crusaders!"
writer: Roy Thomas
penciller: Frank Robbins
inker: Frank Springer
letterer: Joe Rosen
colorist: Marie Severin
editor: Roy Thomas
letter column: Roy Thomas
cover: Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott

Order of Appearance: Spirit of '76, Dyna-Mite, Ghost Girl, Tommy Lightning, Captain Wings, and Thunder Fist

Guest Stars:  The Invaders (Captain America, Bucky, the Human Torch, Toro, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Spitfire) 

Supporting Characters: 
Lord Falsworth, his butler Hotchkins, King George VI, Alfie the cab driver

unnamed Nazi spy, unnamed Nazi Luftwaffe crew, Adolf Hitler (behind the scenes)

Overall Summary: 
The All-New Almost All-British Crusaders arrive in London and help out during the Blitz. The next day, they want to take the Invaders' place as King George's personal body-guards.  

Plot Summary:
As the Invaders return from their recent mission in Warsaw, they fly directly into a "blitz" of London by Nazi bombers. They witness one bomber getting hit by the Royal Air Force and crash-landing on the outskirts of the city. There its three crew members are met by older members of the Home Guard, the British Civil Defense. The Nazi crew shoot up the older WWI veterans. Before the Invaders can come to the rescue, three brightly garbed heroes arrive and take down the three Nazis. They introduce themselves to the Nazis (and to us) as the Spirit of '76, Dyna-Mite, and Ghost Girl. Then they introduce themselves to Namor, the Human Torch, and Toro, and tell them that they are half of a new group called The Crusaders. 

As Bucky lands the Invaders' airplane, three more heroes make the scene to help rescue civilians caught in the bombing. Thunder Fist smashes a wall of a damaged building, smothering a fire. Tommy Lightning stops live wires from injuring anyone. And Captain Wings rescues people caught in the fire. 
They introduce themselves to Captain America, Bucky, and Spitfire, then disappear into the night. 

Back at Farnsworth Manor, Spitfire reports to her father on the success of her super-heroine debut. As Lord Farnsworth had once been the super-hero known as Union Jack, he is extremely proud of her. However, when the Human Torch relates to Lord Farnsworth information about the Crusaders, his Lordship asks to be left alone. 

Later that afternoon, the Invaders are heading towards a very special assignment when their attention is diverted by an explosion right outside Buckingham Palace. They investigate, and a cab driver who witnessed the explosion tells them the anarchist who tossed the bomb ran into St. James Park. The Invaders head after him. 

Meanwhile, less than a block away another anarchist jumps onto the limousine carrying King George VI and is about to assassinate him. He is stopped by Dyna-Mite, who is then joined by the other Crusaders. 

The Invaders rush back, finding the Crusaders protecting King George. They request that they be made the King's Guard of Honor, and His Majesty agrees. It is then announced over the radio that the Crusaders will be protecting the King at a dedication ceremony of a new battleship scheduled for tomorrow. This information pleases Alfie, the cab driver, immensely. 

Right off the bat, I have to admit that I wasn't sure if I should start with my reviews with the Marvel Crusaders or with the DC Crusaders. As you can see, I ended up leading with the Marvel Crusaders, but let me explain how I came to that decision. First of all, I initially thought that the Marvel Crusaders were published first. The Invaders #14 went on sale in January 1977, whereas Freedom Fighters #8, where the DC Crusaders go up against the Fighters, went on sale in February 1977. HOWEVER, ultra-fans of the Freedom Fighters such as myself will be quick to point out that DC's Crusaders *actually* made their debut on the last page of the issue previous to that, namely Freedom Fighters #7, and that particular issue went on sale in December 1976! 

The deciding factor for reviewing Marvel's Crusaders first, though, was the nature of the Freedom Fighters' story-lines in their book. Immediately after they fight their version of the Crusaders, the story branches off into several directions. Therefore, I decided that it would be better to follow those threads, rather than to take the time to veer off into the Marvel Universe to look at these Crusaders. 

And lastly, the Crusaders in the DC Universe were said to have been World War Two comic-book characters. So I figured it made sense in the heroes' fictional chronology to cover the actual World War Two characters, The Invaders, first. So here we are! 

But what have we got? Roy Thomas does a good job of having the six Freedom Fighting Crusaders show up in London and battle Nazis. They impress the Invaders and us. In fact, the first half of the book is great. These Crusaders seem to be well on their way to becoming more Marvel Legends. 

However, after a few pages of Invader-centric continuity items, the next time we see the Crusaders they're just standing around, being as useful in helping to save His Majesty's life as the Invaders are, i.e. not helpful at all. Dyna-Mite has grabbed the spotlight from them and it turns out he won't give it up for the next few issues! One of the major drawbacks of the story is that it is not explained where the other Crusaders were while Dyna-Mite prevented King George's assassination. In fact, it's not quite clear where Dyna-Mite himself was. Was he IN the limousine with the King? It doesn't read that way, but he definitely shows up just in time. Perhaps the others were staked out in other areas around Buckingham Palace, then? But it is never explained. So their quick request to be made His Majesty's Honor Guard rings a bit false, seeing as how "their first mission" was a solo success....barely. 

Then, the melodramatic enthusiasm of Alfie, the "witness" of the so-called anarchist, does not bode well for their next appearance. It seems like more melodrama is on its way...! 

The art is by Frank Robbins and Frank Springer, two artists with, shall I say, "controversial" styles? It seems like you either love or hate Frank Robbins' art; I was a fan of his on The Invaders but I did not care for his Batman or Captain America runs. Likewise, Frank Springer was a talented penciller in his own right, but his inks seem heavy and dark here. He is an improvement over Vince Colletta (earlier Invaders inker) but I'm not sure if he's a good fit for Robbins. 

As for the character designs, I have to say that the uniform worn by the Spirit of '76 seems clumsy and very difficult for hand-to-hand fighting. Ghost Girl seems attired more akin to a disco-era pants-suit than a 1940s British super-heroine. And what's with her silver hair? That didn't seem right at all. Dyna-Mite's uniform also struck me as more of a '70s beach-bum type outfit. 

Thunder Fist probably looks the worst of the bunch, as his colors (purple and green) seem to have nothing to do with the theme of his power set or with his name. Was this supposed to be some type of wrestler's suit, modified with super-thick gloves? It doesn't work. Tommy Lightning has a pink and white suit which also doesn't match his power set. I suppose Marvel didn't want to make his uniform too similar to The Ray's, but maybe instead of pink we could have gotten electrical blue? Also, the name "Tommy Lightning" is just stupid. One hopes that his real name was Thomas, at least. And lastly, probably the best of the bunch, Captain Wings. He appears to be outfitted like a World War One flying ace, but with metallic wings. The bright white "W" on his chest isn't great, but the rest of his uniform is pretty nifty. 

As a side note, I am not sure why Roy Thomas gave us The Spirit of '76, instead of the British icon, John Bull? That would have worked better, I think.  

So that is the debut of Marvel's Crusaders. Be here next week to see them fight the Invaders. I mean, come on, it's a Marvel comic, the heroes are going to fight. 

Captain Wings Moment 
Captain Wing flies into the flames to rescue trapped civilians.   

Dyna-Mite Moment
Ghost Girl Moment 
Spirit of '76 Moment
These three Crusaders come on like gang-busters against the three Nazi crewmen.  

Thunder Fist Moment
Thunder Fist puts out fires by smothering them.  

Tommy Lightning Moment
Tommy knows what he's doing when he jumps right in to "turn off" live wires. 

Best Moment
Dyna-Mite is johnny-on-the-spot, just in time to save the life of King George VI! 

Worst Moment
Roy Thomas' attempts to be "topical" by shoe-horning in a quote from Casablanca is 
about as obvious as you can get. And....Captain America has time to go to the movies?!?

Freedom Fanmail
The letter column in The Invaders #18 features letters about this issue. However, they were both about setting the series in England and English politics instead of any comments regarding the Crusaders. 

Freedom of Information

  • Tommy Lightning and Dyna-Mite do not appear on the cover.  
  • King George reigned from December 1936 until his death in March 1952. 
  • Casablanca was released nationally in the USA on January 23, 1943. I'm not sure what its UK release date was, but it would have been after this. 
The Crusaders
created by Roy Thomas

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