Comic Book Review – Invasion!

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dc summer blockbusters 1980s

Invasion! (1989)
Written by Keith Giffen & Bill Mantlo
Art by Todd McFarlane, Keith Giffen, and Bart Sears

invasion tpb cover

On the distant homeworld of the despotic Dominators, a plan is being hatched. They have been abducting humans and subjecting them to experiments to uncover why Earth is home to the majority of the galaxy’s super-powered beings. A tenuous alliance is formed after the discovery of the metagene. This invasion force consists of The Dominators, the Khunds, Daxamites, Durlans, and other alien races. Their goal is to conquer Earth and harvest these metagenes for their purposes. A surprise attack is launched, and the superbeings of the planet form a defense force to resist these invaders.

These days it is common to see DC or Marvel assign an annual event to whichever writer is the current hot ticket. At DC these days guys like Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder are being handed the reins of the newest attempt to dump a bunch of heroes together and see what sticks. At this particular time, Keith Giffen was a very hot property, mainly because of he and J.M. DeMatteis’ radical relaunch of the Justice League. He was also reasonably familiar with the characters that were the focus of Invasion! due to his work on Legion of Super-Heroes and The Omega Men.

The conceit of Invasion! seemed mainly to create cohesion in the galactic worlds that had been presented in fifty years of comics. The Omega Men had a whole alliance of beings that had never shown up anywhere else. The Legion of Super-Heroes has their collection of alien foes in the 30th Century that seemed to be non-existent in the 20th. Then you add in all the one-off alien races or alien enemies, and there was a real lack of continuity, unlike at Marvel where Kree, Skrull, Sh’iar, and others had a consistent presence since the 1960s/70s. And this is one of the longest lasting effects of Invasion! is that these species have remained a constant ever since.

invasion 01

Giffen pulls in the aforementioned Omega Men and their enemies from the Citadel, Adam Strange, the Thanagarians, and even the Daxamites, cousins to the Kryptonians who’d only ever been represented in Legion team member Mon-El. The first issue is the best one by far as we see the alien alliance coalesce while other space-based characters become suspicious of various fleets’ movements throughout the galaxy. Planet’s like Adam Strange’s Rann take a stance of neutrality which brings up some interesting questions for Strange who is a native Earth human.

In the wake of Crisis in 1985, questions had arisen among fans as to the America-centric nature of superheroes in the DC Universe now that comics were coming to reflect the more real-world global events. The Cold War was a looming presence with both Reagan and Gorbachev appearing in titles during this era. Giffen was even trying to address this in his Justice League International title. Invasion! stages its battles across the globe, making Australia ground zero of the alien alliance’s attack. Characters like Tasmanian Devil, Crimson Fox, and others are given appearances throughout, and a sense of a global defensive force of heroes is made pretty clear. Forces are coordinated by General Wade Eiling (a Captain Atom supporting character), Amanda Waller, and Maxwell Lord who have such different outlooks on world events that they make for some interesting interpersonal conflict.

invasion 02

The format of Invasion! was in three 80-page monthly issues. The subsequent ongoing title crossovers happened “between the panels” so to speak of the Invasion! series, meaning you can read these three issues and get a complete story with a crossover into Superman, for example, being a close-up of a smaller moment in the main event. As a result, Invasion! reads much smoother than Millennium and the motivations of the villains make sense. In fact, this event has remained the skeleton that other DC events attempt to follow in regards to how they crossover into the monthly titles.

The legacy of Invasion! was pretty tremendous but not without bumps in the road. Introduced in these pages is Vril Dox, a Coluan who was captured by the Dominators. He eventually he is the son of the notorious Superman villain Brainiac and forms a partnership with fellow captive Garryn Bek. This would spin off into the long-running series LEGION, a contemporary version of the futuristic teen soap opera Legion of Super-Heroes. LEGION would run until 1994 at which point the events of Zero Hour turns the title into REBELS. Perhaps one day we will delve deeper into the extraordinary and fascinating book that was LEGION.

Invasion! also re-introduced Mon-El into post-Crisis continuity. This time as an adult Daxamite who joined LEGION and would later spin-off into his title. The incomprehensible continuity of Hawkman was also exacerbated by Invasion! with its an attempt to retcon the presence of Hawkman and Hawkgirl in comics during the 1980s. This is a problem that STILL plagues these characters to the point that I feel they might need to retire them for good.

Invasion! is a fun read, with decent momentum. It is a vast improvement over Millennium and about as a good as Cosmic Odyssey. Next up, we’ll be looking at the multiple reality twisting story of Armageddon 2001.

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