Review by François Peneaud
First published in 1998 as part of a proposed anthology set in the less well-travelled corners of the Marvel universe, the comics collected in this book offer two very different stories: the first features the World War II Invaders, while the second one showcases a group of monster hunters in the late 1950s.
Written by Roger Stern and drawn by Steve Epting on pencils and Al Williamson on inks, ‘Eve of Destruction’ sees Baron Strucker, the founder of Hydra, distance himself from his Nazi brethren to make his own grab for power, as he realises the Axis powers will lose the war. In his path stand the Invaders, Captain America, Namor the Sub-Mariner and the android Human Torch (not to be confused with the Fantastic Four character). Strucker, though, has a real ace in his sleeve, thanks to a time-travel incident that could change the history of the world. That incident is a reference to something that happened in the first Invaders series of the 1970s.
Stern has fun with this story, as he peppers it with references to obscure Marvel characters (who remembers Captain Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders?) and weaves into it short recaps of the main characters’ origins, making it a good introduction to the Invaders. Epting and Williamson make a wonderful team. Epting’s storytelling is solid and modern, while Williamson, who by then had decided to forego pencilling for good, brings a real elegance to the realistic art with his old-school inking.
The second tale is even better, digging further still into the bottomless well of (mostly) forgotten characters, Stern comes up with a nice bit of retro-continuity by having a hitherto untold 1950s group assemble to hunt monsters. Included herein are Doctor Druid, a prototype of Doctor Strange, Ulysses Bloodstone, an adventurer who thanks to a magical gemstone is immortal, as well as a mysterious secret agent with multiple identities who hides a super-powered identity. There’s only one woman in the group, the newly-created Wakandan warrior Zawadi.
The monsters originated in the 1950s Atlas comics, precursors to Marvel Comics. This means you get giant talking ants, giant semi-intelligent gorillas, giant lava men… and of course, dinosaurs (who don’t need to be giant). It feels like a compendium of 1950s sci-fi silliness all rolled into one. Stern embraces that silliness, especially with a background character pestering the main ones. Harvey Elder, he of the big nose, the short-sightedness and the even shorter temper (readers of early Fantastic Four comics should get a kick out of that name).
The monsters hunt will ties up with Marvel millennia-long continuity and the real identity of the secret agent. The first part is drawn by Mike Manley, in a delicious cartoony style of the Bruce Timm school. Manley then inks the remainder over Bret Blevins’s and Jason Armstrong’s pencils, bringing a coherent look to the art, which is as dynamic as Epting’s work, though in a completely different way.
Invaders: Eve of Destruction is the kind of book that works for both long-time Marvel fans and casual readers. Fans will enjoy Stern’s use of continuity (as well as the notes and references at the end of the book), while readers not obsessed with that kind of thing will welcome the done-in-one, unpretentious entertainment.
An earlier edition of the same material was released as The Invaders: Marvel Universe.