by Simon Brown
Of late there has been some discussion as to what makes a good crossover series. A decent story is probably a good place to start, but however good the story is, it needs to be able to integrate the titles it crosses over with in a meaningful way. Sometimes it works (Crisis, Zero Hour), sometimes it falls over (Underworld Unleashed, Bloodlines), and sometimes they just should never have bothered (Genesis).
Since Crisis we have had a vast number of crossovers to wade through, but one of the very best (not to mention most far reaching) was Invasion. Three monthly issues at 80 pages each, this series was spread out enough to give it a feeling of substance, as well as enough spacing to easily follow everything that's going on (as opposed to the flash-in-the-pan crossovers we have now which are over in a month and forgotten in two). Each issue only cost $2.95 as well...how things change..
The basic premise behind the series is that The Dominion have noticed the large number of super-powered beings who originate from earth, and fear that one day the galaxy will be overrun by earthmen. Working on this theory, they form an alliance with other alien races in order to invade Earth and enslave it's populace. The Dominion work to co-ordinate the attack, gathering together the Khunds and Okkarans for use as soldiers due to their brute force, Thanagarians for aerial attack, and the Gil' Dishpan to conquer the seas. Also involved are the shape-shifting Durlans who act as spies, the sadistic Psions who intend to dissect captured superbeings and find out what makes them work, and finally Daxamites who are along as observers. A space starlag has also been set up to hold any prisoners, and this is maintained by members of the Citadel. With this, we launch straight into.
The Dominators have a theory that some humans contain a recessive genetic trait that will manifest a 'super power' when their life is endangered. To test this, they have kidnapped a group of humans and subjected them to a death trap. Seven of the humans survive the ordeal, and six are found to have this genetic imprint (including JLA mascot 'Snapper Carr'). The dormant gene is dubbed the 'Metagene', and all humans who derive their power from it are labelled 'Meta Humans', a name that DC continues to use to this day.
Fuelled by their discoveries, the Dominators rally their army and make plans for the Invasion. Their preparation includes destroying the remnants of the Green Lantern Corps to discourage other worlds opposing them. Adam Strange sacrifices himself to the alliance in order to protect his adopted world of Rann, the Omega Men are apprehended by a Durlan ambush, and we are introduced to a cold Coluan named Vril Dox.
The invasion of Earth takes place as a huge fleet settles over Australia and takes over the city of Melbourne. The JLA embassy is destroyed, its transporters are seized and the Tasmanian Devil is taken prisoner. Now in Earth's atmosphere, the 6 Daxamite observers obtain tremendous super abilities, each being stronger than Superman, and this revelation makes the Khund immediately suspicious. The last major plot point has the Lords Of Order forbidding The Spectre to become involved, and giving him the task of keeping all other mystic heroes from the battle. The invaders demand that Earth hand over all of it's super-beings, to which the UN responds 'Drop Dead', leading into a month of alien battles throughout the DC line.
The art in the first issue shows an amazing versatility from penciller Todd McFarlane. With hardly a superhero to be seen he fills the 80 pages with dynamic variety, and sets an excellent sci-fi feel to the proceedings. Inkers P. Craig Rusell, Al Gordon and Joe Rubinstein take a 20 page chapter each, with Todd doing the last 20 pages himself, and each artist captures the setting perfectly ensuring an easy flow.
O.K. you say, sounds like a good story, but what about the crossovers? It is here this series comes into it's own. Within the main crossover there are several smaller crossovers which help to give a wonderful sense of continuity and interaction between the cast members. Everything has been meticulously planned, and is as much a testament to Keith Giffen's wonderful story as it is to Andy Helfer's editing. This first month of crossovers are bannered as 'First Strike', and detail the war with the invaders.
After being captured by the Power Elite, Starman is kidnapped by a Durlan impostor. On the way to the starlag, he is rescued by the new Firestorm, Firehawk, and Powergirl (Starman #5). Crossing to Firestorm #80 we see the heroes battling alien forces with the help of army unit Easy, and rescuing Adam Strange. A four part crossover between Flash and Manhunter begins here as Wally (Flash) West tries to help in Cuba. Durlans have invaded and replaced Castro with an impostor. Manhunter is hired by Wally's mother to watch his back. (Flash #21, Manhunter #8).
New penciller Graham Nolan get a baptism of fire with his first issue of Power Of The Atom (#7). Picking up where the Byrne-pencilled #6 left off, Chronos offers to put aside hostilities for the time being to fight the invaders. Atom phones himself to Australia and helps some local prisoners to fight the Khund. Chronos arrives at the end to save Atom's life, but the two part enemies. Nolan also pencils Doom Patrol #17 which guest stars Aquaman, Aqualad and the Sea Devils. In fighting the Gil' Dishpan, leader Celsius loses her life leaving more questions than she ever answered.
Captain Atom is asked to lead the super-powered forces against the Invasion, and has to team up with Wade Eilling who is leading the military forces. He attempts a space mission to try and destroy the Armada, but a Durlan infiltrator has alerted the alliance, and Captain Atom is forced to abort, returning to the headquaters in time to save Eilling from the Durlan. He then makes an appearance in Superman #26 to recruit The Man Of Steel who has gone missing after a fight with a Thanagarian battlegroup. Instead he finds The Guardian who offers his help 'for the duration'. Superman turns up again in Adventures of Superman #449 and takes a hidden camera to the Dominion headquarters to talk about terms of peace. The Dominion insist on total surrender, and tell Superman to leave with the footage taken on the hidden camera.
The Spectre gathers together the mystical heroes for the second 'confab' in Spectre #23. Deadman decides to ignore the suggestion that if agents of order involve themselves in the war, Chaos may throw its hat in the ring. The remainder of the gathering stop a small interdimensional invasion by young cattle-rustlers. Abbey gets abducted by an alien in Swamp Thing #81 because of her involvement with Swampy. When her abductor finds she is pregnant, she is set free because the alien is a new mother as well. The alien then finds the lost remains of her mate, and removes herself from the Invasion.
Wonder Woman and the JLI team up for two linked missions. Etta Candy has gone missing, and Diana, Guy Gardner and Dmitri (Rocket Red, in his new Apockoliptian battlesuit) go to save her and the information she's carrying in Wonder Woman #25. In JLI #22 J'onn, Scott (Mr. Miracle) Free and Ted (Blue Beetle) Kord boom-tube a bomb into a Khund ship and detonate it, destroying a fleet of Khund ships. Fire and Ice help out on the ground, while back at the embassy Oberon has to fight a group of teeny-weeny Khunds who have teleported in from the Australian teleporters. (Later, they beam a bomb back to the Australian embassy to destroy the teleporters.)
Rounding out the 'First Strike' crossovers are Checkmate #11, New Guardians #6, Detective #595 with Irv Novrick art, and Animal Man #6 which has an awesome Brian Bolland cover.
The second issue starts with all the assembled heroes being briefed on the situation at hand, and discussing strategy (anyone notice Deadman lurking?). Amanda Waller suggests bringing in the villians to help the fighting, and an all-out attack spearheaded by Superman begins. Deciding they are endangered, the Daxamites join the battle and engage Superman. During their fight, the lead in Earth's atmosphere starts to affect them, and they try to flee. Superman saves them and leaves them to decide which side they are now on, since the Khund abandoned them.Lex Luthor manipulates the alien's information gathering tactics to get a android replica of Flash on board one of the invading vessels. The android explodes taking numerous Dominators with it.
Suddenly, Todd McFarlane is gone. Halfway through the book Keith Giffen takes over. Maybe Todd's Marvel workload got in the way, or maybe it was planned this way, but in either case, Giffen's pencils on this chapter are amazing. Gone are the odd pointy headed people and indistinguishable surroundings that had marked his work for some years, and in it's place is work similar to his Legion work of the early 80's. Apart from the fact that Captain Atom looks distinctly like Benny Hill, the art in this section is fantastic. More subdued that Todd's, but excellent in it's own right.
Flash and Manhunter herd the Durlans in Cuba toward the dock where Wally's dad sacrifices himself to destroy them. The JLI, Superman, Firestorm, Green Lantern and the Daxamites are fighting the armada from space, when it is revealed that the Daxamites have sent one of their own back to Earth to call for help from the Daxamite fleet. The returning Daxamite dies making the attempt. The Omega Men and the captured humans from the first issue break out of the starlag, Primus dying in the battle, and the humans gaining powers in the process.
The Daxamite army arrives to help earth's forces, and the Dominators on the verge of defeat decide to obliterate Earth and get rid of the Meta-human problem forever. However, Deadman has other ideas and causes the head Dominator to surrender. The Khund leader kills the remaining Dominator with the intention of destroying Earth, but Deadman again intervenes, and the Invasion is over.
The following month has I's books bannered as Invasion : Aftermath titles and largely deal with clean-up from after the war. Firestorm deals with the devastation in Russia (Firestorm #81), Flash and Manhunter (Flash #22, Manhunter #9) are still in Cuba where Wally learns of his father's death, and the JLI are cleaning up the South Pacific when they bump into Major Disaster's motley crew (JLI #23).
Superman has major troubles when a fight with The Guardian reveals that he has been unconsiously masquerading as the new Gangbuster (Superman #27). Deciding that he is unsafe to be around, he heads for space in a self imposed exile (Adventures of Superman #450). Wonder Woman and Captain Atom team up in Wonder Woman #26 as they attempt to find the missing Steve Trevor. Durlan shapeshifters try to set them against each other, but they eventually prevail.
One branch of the Suicide Squad (#23) takes on the Khund battlewalkers in Moscow, while another branch fights the invaders on their Australian beachhead. Captain Boomerang fights fiercely to defend his homeland; later, bragging to other Aussies, he's thrown off a ship. All of this is related to Nightshade in her hospital bed by Nemesis (Nightshade is mistakenly shown fighting in Moscow in Invasion #2).
The Atom, still in Australia, finds a Thanagarian who has been aged beyond the point of death by Chronos. Chronos uses this as a declaration of war, and Atom tracks him to his old mansion to settle things (Power Of The Atom #8). He also pops up in Starman #6 where Will bumps into some of the other heroes of the DCU (Green Lantern, Blue Beetle, Powergirl). In Doom Patrol #18 respects are paid to the deceased Celsius, and the crossovers wrap with Captain Atom #25 and Checkmate! #12.
At the end of each of these issues (and Detective #595), an atmospheric inversion is seen. This is caused by a bomb which has been set off in the atmosphere by a lower castling of the Dominion, seen early in Invasion #1. This neatly brings us to
New penciller Bart Sears takes this last part, and what a way to go out! The atmospheric bomb has been engineered to affect the Metagene in Meta-humans, and it causes many super beings' powers to go awry. Major Force is encased with rock, Captain Atom and Firestorm explode with power, and Scott Fischer from the Doom Patrol starts to burn up, among others. A task-force is assembled to infiltrate the Dominion empire to search for the antidote, and the team leaves Earth via Green Lantern and Guy Gardner.
In space, the team of Starman, J'onn J'onzz, Cliff Steel and the 2 GLs come across Superman who agrees to help them in their mission. They also meet the Omega Men, and the new Meta-humans who escaped the starlag. The team arrives at the Dominion homeworld where Snapper Carr teleports J'onn and Cliff to the planet surface. They then find where the scientist who created the bomb is held, and J'onn telepathically lifts the antidote from his mind. After the ensuing fight, the team returns to Earth (minus Superman and the Omega Men), and an antidote bomb is released. Needless to say, it works, and the meta-humans are cured. However, there were other lasting effects.
Scott Fisher dies due to complications caused by his leukemia, Metamorpho is resurrected, Primus of the Omega Men is dead, and Max Lord manifests a power of persuasion. Superman travels through space with a teleporter provided by the Omega Men, Vril Dox forms L.E.G.I.O.N., Snapper Carr's group become The Blasters, Melbourne is left in ruins, Metropolis has major damage from the Thanagarians.
Invasion! took a great story concept and intricately wove it through the DC Universe for 3 months, while setting up major plot points that are still in focus today. The term 'Meta-human' is standard for the DCU now, Superman's exile was made more interesting due to the distances he could travel, and without that journey we would have no Mongul, and Coast City would still exist. Most of the credit for this would seem to lie at the feet of Keith Giffen for such an excellent story. Bill Mantlo is also to be praised for not giving into the humorous tone Giffen's JLI had. And of course, Andy Helfer must have worked maniacally to get it all to co-ordinate. We need more crossovers plotted this carefully.
Now you may be saying, "that seems a neat story, but it's a lot of comics to try to find. Which do I really NEED to follow the story?". I'm glad you asked. Here is a list of the issues I believe you must have for the story to flow cohesively. The rest you can collect at your leisure. Happy hunting!
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This piece is © 2000 by Simon Brown.
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