THE THING: LIBERTY LEGION (Marvel, 2011; Hardcover)
Collects Invaders Nos. 5, 6 Marvel Premiere Nos. 29, 30, Fantastic Four Annual No. 11, Marvel Two-In-One Annual No. 1, and Marvel Two-In-One No. 20 (cover dates March- October, 1976)
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: Pencilers- John Buscema, Don Heck, Sal Buscema, Frank Robbins, Rich Buckler, and Dick Ayers; Inkers- Vince Colletta, Sam Grainger, Jim Mooney, George Roussos, and John Tartaglione
The year was 1976, and America's Bicentennial was all the rage. While I was a mere 3 years old at the time, the reverberations of this celebration were felt for years, with all of the leftover Spirit of '76 flags, welcome doormats, coffee mugs, and other paraphernalia. With the apparent success of The Invaders, Roy Thomas was all set to push his Golden Age fetish with yet another team of superheroes set during the 1940s, this batch from the Timely Comics era of Marvel.
Using a somewhat ingenious scenario to unite these seven misfits, Roy Thomas brought in characters which the average comic fan of the day would have no idea who they were. The only reason that I knew who any of them were is because I own all of the Golden Age Marvel Masterworks, and even those don't contain all of the stories referred to here. The Red Skull manages to hypnotize The Invaders (Captain America, The Human Torch, The Sub-Mariner, and the Torch's kid sidekick, Toro) except for Bucky Barnes. Barnes then does a ham-fisted invasion of a radio station to call other heroes for help. Scenarios like this are corny and overwritten, but Thomas does them to move things along while demonstrating the heroes' powers with their misunderstanding fights/ hey, let's team up outcomes. Answering Bucky's call are the Whizzer, Jack Frost, the Blue Diamond, Red Raven, Miss America, The Patriot, and The Thin Man. They are dubbed the Liberty Legion and of course free The Invaders.
Comic fans, myself included, bemoan the crossover. Such blatant cash grabs...such gimmicky marketing...if only comics could go back to the good ol' days! You mean like the good ol's days of early 1976, when rascally Roy Thomas made you buy Invaders #5, Marvel Premiere #29, Invaders #6, and then Marvel Premiere #30 in order to get the complete story? Or howsabout how, in an apparent act of desperation to get his beloved Golden Age heroes into their very own ongoing series, they became the focal point of a crossover which began in Fantastic Four Annual #11, continued in Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1, and finally ended in Marvel Two-In-One #20. Yes, Marvel has been suckering us all into buying comics that we didn't really want to buy for longer than any of us want to admit.
Occasionally clunky dialogue and some overwriting aside, these are all fun reads. The artwork is solid. Just look at that list of artists above, it's a veritable who's who of Bronze Age journeymen. In the second crossover (or “arc” as the kids call them) the Liberty Legion take a backseat to The Thing and the rest of the Fantastic Four. Indeed, the team are not the main focus for the majority of the book. Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 features a young Johnny Romita in the New York of 1942, one of a billion Roy Thomas winks and nods (or “Easter eggs” as the hipsters say) peppered throughout these comic books. Roy Thomas was one of the original generation of comic book fans who came to write comics. His reverence for the medium is apparent. What many folks thought of as disposable entertainment Thomas saw as an important artform.
Praise be to Marvel for releasing such a left field, odd duck collection. No one would have ever asked them to make it, but I was only too happy to buy it. I am not sure what that says about me, but I am certain that someday the pharmaceutical industry will make a pill to cure me of it. Until then, MAKE MINE MARVEL!*
*Sentiment does not apply to most modern Marvel Comics.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- The late, lamented Marvel Premiere Classic Hardcovers were a sort of junior Masterworks line. While they weren't quite the “Blu-Ray” version of these issues like you would see in a Marvel Masterwork, they are still excellent.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Give Me Liberty- Or Give Me Legion text pages by Roy Thomas from Marvel Premiere #29 and 30 (2 pages).
Linework and Color restoration rating: 3 out of 5. This rating is based on an average. Some of these issues are a muddy, pixelated mess (Invaders #6) while others are perfectly fine, serviceable restorations (Marvel Two-In-One #20). The original color palette is maintained for the most part with only a minor deviation here or there.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Sweet smelling toxic ink Chinese made virgin Amazon rainforest tree-sourced coated stock paper with a slight sheen.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Smyth sewn binding, 6 stitches per signature. The book lays 90-95% flat. The book block doesn't have much room to flex to lay perfectly because the squared casing.