Hello Comic Fans!
Today I want to look at ALL NEW INVADERS #3, written by James Robinson, pencilled by Steve Pugh, colored by Guru-eFX, and published by Marvel. The cover art is by Mukesh Singh. ALL NEW INVADERS covers the modern day adventures of the World War II-era super hero team made up of Jim Hammond (the Original Human Torch), Namor: The Sub-Mariner, James "Bucky" Barnes (aka The Winter Soldier), and Captain America. Since WWII, the group had largely disbanded, with only Bucky and Captain America regularly fighting alongside one another.
I was first exposed to The Invaders through references in Ed Brubaker's run on CAPTAIN AMERICA (2005-2012). Through that volume, Captain America and Bucky Barnes became some of my favorite super heroes, and I was aching for more stories about their exploits during World War II. However, I have never been a fan of comics from the '60s and '70s (or even earlier) so I was left somewhat in a lurch. When ALL NEW INVADERS was announced I was very excited.
The first two issues of the run had a promising start, reintroducing Jim Hammond (who has been out Marvel comics since about 2005) and setting us up for the first arc. The art was flashy and explosive and the dialogue seemed crisp and put together. When I picked up comics this week, ALL NEW INVADERS jumped to the top of my queue.
I must confess that I was very disappointed with this particular issue. It begins with a flashback fight scene between Namor and Tanalth, High Pursuer of the Kree Empire, information we had suspected but hadn't yet seen. Robinson's characterization of Namor is spot on, he rants and brags unnecessarily about his battle prowess while fighting, displaying the character's well-known arrogance. After awhile though, all of the talking through the battle begins to be reminiscent of early Marvel comics. Talking heads during fight scenes is largely something modern comics have shifted away from, so it is a bit strange to see it occurring in a new series.
Unfortunately, the excessive talking doesn't just confine itself to the battle. The entire rest of the issue is filled with expository dialogue, describing in great detail the history of the principle characters. I can understand to a certain degree. This is a brand new series featuring a few characters who modern readers may not be entirely familiar with. But do we need to know that Namor used to be an Avenger and an X-Man? Or that Jim Hammond was once a West Coast Avenger? Neither of these facts enhance the story, but they take up valuable real estate on the page. Jim Hammond and Captain America spend a couple panels discussing the fact that Bucky is still a wanted man for his actions as The Winter Soldier. All of it felt like lampshade-hanging. In fact, that whole page is just a conversation explaining why they've decided to pursue action the way they have, while the good Captain and Jim share an espresso.
Meanwhile, Bucky has been set to locate Aarkus, the original Vision, an ally of The Invaders back in the day. Apparently the alien has been in hiding as a shape-shifted dog amongst the homeless. This is where it felt a little personal to me. When Robinson had to find a place for a scene involving the homeless, naturally he went to Detroit, Michigan. As a resident of southeast Michigan, I get a little sensitive when people start talking about Detroit. Yes, it's a city with problems. Yes, there are many without homes in Detroit. But the same could be said of many cities in the United States. It could even be said about New York, where 90% of Avengers stories are set anyway. It might even make sense that if Aarkus was interested in the ongoing exploits of Captain America, he could have stayed close by. But other than Hell's Kitchen, Marvel rarely shines a spotlight on any of the problems regarding low income or housing in New York. Detroit, on the other hand, makes numerous appearances as a center of poverty. This is certainly a personal bee-in-my-bonnet, but I don't like to see one of the most important cities in my home state regularly trash-talked.
After the obligatory backstory recapping of Aarkus, he shows up and agrees to help Cap and the other Invaders recover Namor from the clutches of the Kree. For all the explanation of who Aarkus was, I still didn't feel like I really knew him. I think they gave more time to explaining the principal cast, most of whom the general Marvel audience would have been better acquainted anyway. When asked if he would help, Aarkus responded "Of course, Captain America. We are brothers." Brothers they may be, but little in Robinson's dialogue helped me understand that.
Clearly I have a lot of complaints. My opinions on the book are not entirely negative though. Pugh is doing a wonderful job on the art. His panel distribution is unconventional and diverse and nearly every page bleeds to a certain extent. The huge 2-page spread where Aarkus and Bucky travel though Aarkus's "office" is beautiful and just a tiny bit surreal. Guru-eFX, whose name is all over right now, compliments both the story and and the pencilling with his coloring. Each scene has a distinct color palette which helps to distinguish between simultaneously occurring scenes on the same page.
Despite my negativity, I still have a lot of hope for this book. A classic team featuring three of my favorite characters, coming together to stop a weapon that controls gods? It's a great concept. The execution worries me though. I'm going to stick with it, and hopefully by the end of the first arc the exposition-heavy story telling will subside and we'll get more meat and potatoes dialogue.
E. Ross Ura is a writer, letterer, artist, composer, and blogger active in the Metro Detroit Area.