I do not envy the creative team of James Robinson and Steve Pugh. They have the thankless task of bringing the team of Captain America, Bucky, Namor the Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch, best known as the Invaders, to the comic book page. If they succeed, credit will undoubtedly go to the fact that these characters are Marvel’s most enduring of superheroes. If they fail to capture the imagination of readers, it will be a poor start for Marvel’s 2014 rebranding All-New Marvel NOW!
But let’s not dwell too much on “if”s. With two issues already released, it’s time to find out if Robinson and Pugh get All-New Marvel NOW! off to a good start.
Issue #1 starts off strongly. Right from the first page, we’re reminded that the Invaders really haven’t worked together much in the present day. In fact, most of the previous stories about the team involve dealing with repercussions of actions taken when the team was active in World War II. In introducing the four protagonists, we’re also reminded that they’re aren’t exactly seeing eye to eye in the present day.
We are then introduced to the first storyline’s mystery, new Kree antagonist Tanalth the Pursuer seeks the MacGuffin known as “Gods’ Whisper”, and the location of the final component is known only to the Original Human Torch. The real mystery for this fan, however, is exactly how the other Invaders are going to put aside their differences and come together as a team in the modern day, and how, after this resolving this incident, they’re going to find a reason to stay together for the course of this ongoing series.
Issue #2 starts to reveal more of the mystery, with slightly more exposition than I’m comfortable with, and at the end of the issue we understand why having a superhero team called the Invaders is still relevant in the present day.
It’s difficult to review a series like this, because it seems to want to cater to as wide an audience as possible. At least, on that note, Marvel appears to have succeeded – among January’s new title launches, All-New Invaders was second only to Avengers World with estimated sales of over 55,000. Whether or not those kind of numbers is sustainable remains to be seen, however, since writer James Robinson seems to be taking the slow burn route and is spending more time with individual characters, the Original Human Torch in #1 and Bucky in #2. Ironically, the plot isn’t suffering because of the focus on each protagonist, mainly because Robinson insists on cramming as much exposition as possible into each issue. So really, the audience should have nothing to complain about.
Except, in an era where superhero comics have proven to be capable of much more than just big-budget action and adventure, All-New Invaders feels like it’s not trying hard enough to go beyond. And in an era when less is often more, a comic book like this feels like it’s trying too hard to harken back to a style that wasn’t always good for comics.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of quality to this book. Steve Pugh’s art gives me very little to complain about, it’s bold and strong and well-suited to the kind of story Robinson is telling. The exposition throughout both issues reveals how much research went into Marvel’s recent history and firmly places this story in the present day, which will both bring new readers up to speed and please continuity Nazis like myself. Perhaps the only problem with the book is that it’s still finding its legs, and in this day and age of instant gratification, comic books don’t have the luxury to do that any more.
Ultimately, despite being an above-average title, All-New Invaders doesn’t quite capture my imagination just yet. Admittedly, to do that in any Invaders book is definitely an uphill battle, and so far, I’m willing to wait just a little longer to see how this storyline resolves and how the creative team are planning to move forward after that.