Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Invaders #15

The Invaders #15 (April 1977)
title: "God Save the King!"
writer: Roy Thomas
penciller: Frank Robbins
inker: Frank Springer
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Don Warfield
editor: Roy Thomas
letter column: Roy Thomas
cover: Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott

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

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 Nazi spy, Adolf Hitler (behind the scenes)

Overall Summary: 
The Crusaders have been made King George VI's Royal Guard, but they have been led to believe that the Invaders are Nazis. What's worse, they are dupes of true Nazis, and King George's life is in danger!  

Plot Summary:
The Invaders are discussing whether it is a good idea for them to stop being the Honour Guard for King George VI in lieu of the Crusaders. The Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner do not trust them because they basically appeared out of nowhere the day before yesterday. Spitfire reminds them that all of the Invaders "came out of nowhere" initially. The Human Torch argues that they now all have years of experience, so they have earned England's trust. However, in the end, Spitfire is able to convince the others to give the Crusaders a chance, in spite of their concerns. 

After the meeting, Lord Falsworth insists on talking privately to his daughter, Spitfire, about a very personal matter. 

Elsewhere, on a tugboat floating on the Thames River, the Crusaders are meeting, too. They are wondering, again, about why they were chosen to become the Crusaders. Alfie, who acts as if he is their liaison officer to the Admiralty, arrives and tells them that their powers are controlled by the power source on his belt. He demonstrates that if he turns his device off, Ghost Girl is no longer able to use her illusionary ability. 

Alfie then reminds them that he recruited them to help protect King and Country, and that he expects them to follow his orders. Also, he has a job for them: he wants them to battle the Invaders, who he says are Nazi spies. He shows them recent photos of when the Invaders were working for the Nazis, and they reluctantly believe him. Of course, these were from the recent incident when all of the Invaders except for Bucky were under the mind control of the Red Skull, but Alfie doesn't tell the Crusaders that.   

Dyna-Mite, set "permanently" at his small size but with no memory of his life outside of his recent recruitment as a Crusader, doubts Alfie's story. He follows the cab driver and learns that Alfie is actually a Nazi spy. Dyna-Mite confronts Alfie, so he tries to kill him. But the miniature hero survives the murder attempt and manages to get to Falsworth Manor. There, he warns the Invaders that the Crusaders have been duped and that King George VI is in real danger of being assassinated. 

The Invaders rush off to the dedication ceremony of a new battleship, HMS Hornblower, where King George is officiating. Spitfire stays behind "to nurse Dyna-Mite." The Invaders are unable to get the Crusaders to believe that the christening bottle of champagne is a bomb, so the two groups battle.

Eventually Toro is able to grab the champagne bottle and toss it to Sub-Mariner, who tosses it out to the Atlantic, where it explodes harmlessly. This convinces the Crusaders that the Invaders were telling the truth, and that they are not Nazis after all. 

The Human Torch chases after Alfie, who had been on the scene to witness the death of the King. A fireball scares Alfie, and he accidentally drives off the London Bridge as his cab explodes. The Crusaders find that they are powerless now that Alfie's power source has been destroyed. Depressed that they had been duped into almost helping assassinate the King, they give up their costumed identities. 

When the Invaders return to Farnsworth Manor to check on Dyna-Mite and Spitfire, Hotchkins the butler informs them that the Farnsworth and Dyna-Mite have left, without telling Hotchkins where they have gone, and with a warning to the Invaders to not try and find them!  

If you are a fan of the Invaders you probably like this issue, but if you are a fan of the Freedom Fighters you probably DON'T like it. 

Oh, it starts out alright. Spitfire, aka Lady Jacqueline Farnsworth, tells us all we need to know about the Marvel Universe version of the Freedom Fighters in a profile re-cap, and they sound like a bunch of winners. She successfully argues her case for allowing them to be King George's Honour Guard, even though they ARE brand-new to the super-hero world. You would think that they would have to show their true identities to the Admiralty or to the Prime Minister or someone to get that close to the King, right? I mean, everyone in power knows that Cap is Steve Rogers, and the Human Torch's secret identity is an open secret, too, right? So just on that condition alone the Invaders are more trust-worthy. I found myself thinking that if I were a Crusader, I would go in and show myself to the government and let them find out whether I was a Nazi dupe or not, ya know? 

So "Alfie" turns out to be a Nazi spy with secret super Nazi devices. Let me see if I understand what is happening here:  super-modern devices are given to six patriots so that they can worm their way close to King George VI in order to not let somebody notice that a champagne bottle is a bomb....? That sounds like a super stupid plan! And then the Crusaders lose their powers when Alfie and his control device are destroyed. That is convenient, in order to shuffle these characters off-stage, but not very good internal logic. You mean to tell me that all six of these power devices are just prototypes? THAT doesn't sound like the Nazis, either. There should be an army of Blitzkrieg Fists and Hauptman Wings out there right now, you know what I mean? 

As it goes, these characters DO manage to hold their own against the Invaders in a well-written and well-choreographed, albeit short, battle. You may argue that the Invaders were distracted by trying to save Great Britain's monarch, but that doesn't explain away the fact that Ghost Girl and Captain Wings take out Toro, for example. Would the Invaders have been able to defeat the Crusaders eventually? Well, it IS a book called The Invaders, isn't it? But I think we can all agree that the Crusaders DID have some pretty good moments. 

The sad thing is that we never learn anything deep about these Crusaders, other than that they were all patriots and believed in what they were doing. Roy Thomas doesn't give us any secret identities or back stories, other than the fact that Captain Wings wanted to join the Royal Air Force but could not due to a heart murmur. These characters really deserved better. 

In other words, these Freedom Fighter characters were tossed into this story with no particular love for what they represent and with no intention of keeping them around in the Marvel Universe. That's a shame. Instead they are basically a plot-device that Roy uses to re-introduce an actual Golden Age Timely (Marvel) character in the follow-up story-line. That incident doesn't concern us, so I won't spoil it here, but Dyna-Mite turns out to have a personal connection to the Falsworths, not to the Invaders. And *that* is why he made his way to the Falsworth mansion, not because he knew the Invaders were using it as their headquarters (he didn't know). 

The more stories by Roy Thomas that I go back and re-read, the more strongly I believe he should have had a good editor. I feel confident that another pair of eyes might have been able to make these Crusaders into better characters, and/or been able to convince Roy to let them "live" at the end. By the way, the Spirit of '76 does actually re-appear in an Invaders story, but not really as that character. Check out What If #4 (collected in WHAT IF? volume 1) if you are at all interested. As I say, that story does  NOT feature any of the other Crusaders. 

Well, that's it for the Marvel days of World War 2. Let's hope the DC Crusaders get better handling than these British character did. Join us next week when we'll be back in the DCU looking at Freedom Fighters #8, and the other set of Crusaders! 

Captain Wings Moment 
Captain Wings uses his wings as a bellows to knock out Toro's flames.    

Dyna-Mite Moment
Beaten and thrown into the River Thames, Dyna-Mite is still determined 
enough to hitch a ride out of London. 

Ghost Girl Moment 
Ghost Girl evades Toro, setting him up to be defeated by Captain Wing 
(see above) 

Spirit of '76 Moment
The Spirit of '76 is able to face the Human Torch
due to his flameproof cape 

Thunder Fist Moment
Thunder Fist strikes at the Avenging Son, Prince Namor  

Tommy Lightning Moment
Captain America is no match for Tommy Lightning's electrical blasts

Best Moment
The Crusaders show that their hearts are in the right place, 
even if they aren't the most intelligent Brits out there.  

Worst Moment
With the death of Alfie and the destruction of his device, 
the Crusaders call it quits. 

Freedom Fanmail
Although Roy had promised in The Invaders #18 to print letters regarding the Crusaders, no letters were printed in The Invaders #19 (or ever) regarding this issue. 

Freedom of Information

  • Although Spitfire is shown on the cover, she does not participate in the fighting. 
  • There is not now nor has there ever been an HMS Hornblower in His Majesty's Navy.  
The Crusaders
created by Roy Thomas

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