Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Butch Guice, Carlos Magno and Alex Guimaraes
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
There is something weighing on Namor in the debut of Invaders #1. Presented in a tense, time-hopping structure by Chip Zdarsky, this new tale of one of Marvel’s first super-teams explores the cost of war and the toll it takes on soldiers set against the backdrop of Namor’s newest winged heel turn.Though this debut doesn’t have that trademark Zdarsky wit, he adapts surprisingly well to the more somber, action-heavy tone of the team, aided in large part by the bisected art team of Carlos Mango, who handles all the present day scenes, and Butch Guice, who once again returns to the mud and the blood of World War II. While it feels like a slow-burn way to bring together the entire squad, Invaders #1 still is an entertaining, affecting clash of this classic team’s past and present.
The war might be over for certain Invaders, but for Namor, it comes for him every night in the form of vivid, hellish nightmares. It is here where we open on our leading men. Rendered in Butch Guice’s sketchy, semi-realist style, Zdarsky starts us off with a gut-wrenching flashback centered around Namor and the loss of one of his few human friends. This scene in large part serves as the issue’s emotional core as it shows Namor’s connection with humanity and how deeply he can feel loss.
But here in the present, Namor and Zdarsky are leaning into his return to villainy - namely by gathering the elite forces of the Seven Seas in order to take on the surface world, extending Zdarsky’s plot from the recent Best Defense limited series. It forms a nice contrast for the mystery that stretches all the way back to the War that Zdarsky is starting to seed in the present day scenes. Recent Invaders books have struggled with dual plots, but Zdarsky really rises to the challenge, stretching emotionality across the timeline and making great use of the Band of Brothers-like make up of the team.
Which does bring us to the Bucky of it all. For a team that he played such an integral part of, it’s a little disappointing to see him on the sidelines. That disappointment also extends to how Steve and original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, are mainly used as exposition machines in service of the Namor-focused narrative. Zdarsky really does a fine job of finding everyone's voice, but the issue would have felt stronger if the whole cast was given proper attention and not just so focused on Namor and his crusade.
And speaking of dual plots, artists Carlos Mango and Bruce Guice make a meal out of both timelines. The two styles can be, at first glance, pretty similar. Both men have a line heavy, detail-oriented style and the colors provided by Alex Guimaraes give them both eye-grabbing tones. Obviously the scenes in World War II are a bit more sepia-toned and inked a touch more heavily, but they form a neat visual bedrock to the more vibrantly colored and splashy (no pun intended) present day sequences. I am curious to see how the pair keep up this energy and dueling contrasts, but Invaders #1 offers a wonderful introduction to the war-torn past and clear eyed present.
Armed with a time-hopping mystery and a stocked cast of vintage Marvel Comics favorites, Invaders #1 is a solid, shockingly mature debut from Chip Zdarsky and his art team. Namor as a villain again isn’t the most groundbreaking of moves, but this issue really takes the time to delve into his psyche, revealing the trauma that lead to his latest turn into villainy and how it is affecting those closest to him. I know that may sound a little one-note, but under Zdarsky’s pen, the whole affair feels much more empathetic and tender than one might think. Couple that with the expressive line work of Guice and Mango and the tonally sound colors of Alex Guimaraes, and you have a debut that is fighting fit and ready for duty.