Sunday Review – The Thing: Liberty Legion

I’m glad that Captain America: The First Avenger spent so much time on the 1940s Cap rather then rehash the 1990 movie. In that bad version, you may recall that, about the first 45 minutes was devoted to the origin and then Steve Rogers was frozen in time only to be thawed out and resume his fight with the Red Skull in the present.

It’s important to remember that Cap was born out of necessity in the worst war of all time and into the greatest generation. Even though we are all familiar of Captain America thanks to The Avengers #4 (March 1964) and Tales of Suspense #58 (Oct. 1964), Marvel Comics is well aware that the importance of the character lies with his earliest adventures in Captain America Comics #1-75 and other Golden Age titles (All Winners Comics #1-19, Marvel Mystery Comics #80-84 and #86-92, USA Comics #6-17, and All Select Comics #1-10). Over the years Marvel has painstakingly republished the stories as part of their Masterworks line and even collected the short lived 1950′s Atlas Era revival. But the love of the Golden Age version has always been a favorite of Roy Thomas.

Thomas was a writer and editor-in-chief at Marvel and was looking for a new angle on classic stories. He came up with The Invaders. This was a 5 member team of Captain America, Bucky, Sub-Mariner, The Human Torch and Toro, all of whom did have adventures with one another in the 1940′s comics, but did not ever consolidate into a formal team. The Invaders #1 (1970) changed all that with the premise being untold tales of this retro fitted superteam. It worked so well that in just a few issues Thomas quickly expanded the lore by reintroducing more obscure golden age characters including Whizzer, Miss America, Blue Diamond, Jack Frost, The Patriot, Red Raven, and The Thin Man in the pages of Marvel Premiere. Under Bucky’s leadership they became known as The Liberty Legion and now the complete storyline has been collected in Marvel Premiere Classic – The Thing: Liberty Legion.

The plot is as simple as they come: Cap, Namor, Torch and Toro have somehow been captured and brainwashed by the Red Skull and it’s up to Bucky to rescue them before they and the Nazi’s destroy New York City and take over the world. Bucky realizes that he is a bit out of his league and must recruit the other heroes and form the Liberty Legion. With each appearance Thomas retells the origins and brings us up to speed. As with most reviews here on the CCL Blog, I avoid spoilers but I can tell you that the fight sequences and the interaction between characters are well done, especially when brainwashed Cap meets up with The Patriot and calls him a poor imitation. The Red Skull is in typical form, even when his master plan goes array he yells out, “Not Now! Not when I’ve come so close to total triumph”!

The 4 part crossover with The Invaders did so well, that the Liberty Legion would see three more comics, this time teaming up (of sorts) with The Thing and the rest of the Fantastic Four for a series of time traveling adventures. It should be stated that a few of the characters, The Patriot, Red Raven and The Whizzer were reintroduced into the Bronze Age before Marvel Premiere #29, but here Thomas sets it all straight in the Golden Age taking into account their individual appearances elsewhere.

As for the extras in this book there are none, but what is nice is the complete Liberty Legion story all in one book. Marvel’s Invaders Classic TPB collects the initial 4-issue cossover, but nothing else. Also reprinted are the end notes from the original issues. In them Thomas describes just who these forgotten characters are and when they first appeared. Without them, the reader (of yesterday or today) would be lost and wondering who these people are. Thanks to books like these and the Captain America movie, Golden Age Marvel is in style and will be for another great generation.

Marvel Premiere Classic – The Thing: Liberty Legion Variant (Volume 69)
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Frank Robbins, Don Heck and others
168 pages, $24.99, Marvel Comics
Collects The Invaders #5-6, Marvel Premiere #29-39, Fantastic Four Annual #11, Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 and Marvel Two-In-One #20

Recommended reading:
Marvel Masterworks Golden Age Daring Mystery Volume 2 – The Blue Diamond (introduced Daring Mystery Comics #7, April 1941)
Marvel Masterworks Golden Age USA Comics Volume 1 – Jack Frost (USA Comics #1, Aug. 1941)
No reprint of first appearance – Miss America (Marvel Mystery Comics #49, Nov. 1943)
Marvel Masterworks Golden Age Human Torch Volume 1 – The Patriot (Human Torch Comics #3, Spring 1941)
Golden Age of Marvel Volume 2 TPB – Red Raven (Red Raven Comics #1, Aug. 1940)
Marvel Masterworks Golden Age Mystic Comics Volume 1 – The Thin Man (Mystic Comics #4, July 1940)
Marvel Masterworks Golden Age USA Comics Volume 1 – The Whizzer (USA Comics #1, Aug. 1941)

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