After the original Crisis, DC went on something of a creative hot streak. Many series had classic runs that are still remembered today for good reason, and a few of the initial post-Crisis crossovers actually did make lasting changes, something that many crossovers can’t really claim. Legends re-established a Justice League on a combined Earth while ironing out a few minor points about what the post-Crisis world looked like. And then there was Invasion!, which introduced the concept of “metahumans” into DC continuity, a concept that still exists today.
So, how was the actual Invasion! mini-series?
Invasion! opens with the alien Dominators experimenting on a group of kidnapped humans with a deathtrap. They calculate the odds of somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe one surviving the onslaught of weapons from the Khund, a violent race of aliens barbarians. As it is, six survive, and the Dominators want to know how. How is it humans keep popping up with superpowers? The only answer is to get a bunch of aliens from different races together, form an alliance, and subjugate Earth until they can get an answer to that very question. And if the alliance happens to have a number of DC’s more recognizable hostile alien races (and one or two occasionally friendly ones), so much the better.
Now, from what little I remember from old issues from this period, much of the fighting actually took place in crossover issues, and since it was a world-wide invasion, that made a certain amount of sense. It made the story seem bigger in ways that many past crossovers never quite managed. What that means for the main series, a three-issue mini that had a page count of 80 per issue, is more about the ideas behind the story. The concept that comes up is the “metagene,” a genetic abnormality that can, in times of extreme physical or emotional stress, grant people with the gene superpowers. It turns out many DC heroes and villains had this gene, and it turns out they weren’t quite willing to surrender themselves to an alien alliance, and fortunately, the people of the Earth were willing to stand by them.
You just know if this were Marvel Earth, they’d be herding mutants onto the nearest Dominator ship without a second thought.
But as much as the story suggests action, there isn’t a lot to see here. Part of that may be due to the simple fact that many of the large-scale fight scenes are actually not very well done. We see things like heroes flying into action, but few if any of their opponents appear in the same panels. There are just explosions in the background and maybe Superman breaking something. Even the final issue, where a strike force has to infiltrate the Dominator homeworld, is more about low-key espionage with maybe ten pages (remember, out of 80) of actual combat with hostile aliens. Instead, there are smaller moments of people reacting to the alien threat, the aliens squabbling amongst themselves, or just conjecture about why humans can get superpowers.
So, maybe it wasn’t that great, but it is memorable for one thing beyond that, and it has to do with the creative team. Justice League International plotter Keith Giffen did the plot here, the artistic breakdowns, and even drew half of issue #2 with Bart Sears handling issue #3. But the other artist? That was future Image founder Todd McFarlane, drawing half of the overall mini-series, and yes, he did give a lot of heroes big capes.
I’m not sorry I read this one, especially since it came across as different from most, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it except as a time capsule look into what DC was doing in the late 80s. That was an interesting time for the company, there are much worse crossovers floating around out there, but it’s still a big crossover. Those are only so good. 7.5 out of 10 killed off Omega Men.