On a past mission, the Invaders murder innocent people. That’s obviously objectionable. Therein lies the problem. Ross and Gage design “Playing God” like a pat frame to create a pretense of tainted heroism. I don’t buy it, and if you think otherwise, you’re wrong. Not because of any philosophy you may hold but because of the writers’ overt manipulation.
In “Warriors from the Deep,” the Doctor uses poison to kill the survivors of an intelligent reptilian race out to trigger a final war waged between humans. He whispers, “There should have been another way.” The Doctor implicitly asks the viewer, “Was there another way?” Maybe there was. The Doctor didn’t have the time to find it, but does that free him from the charges of homicide? Maybe. Maybe not.
Gage and Ross absolve the Invaders before you can question their actions. The facts excuse them. In World War II, Arnim Zola carried out proto bioweapon engineering. The Invaders caught wind of the plan. Zola’s contagion kills rational thought and turns its victims into mindless, misshapen, infectious monsters. Zola, an arch-sphincter, never created an antidote, and medical science at the time was not advanced enough to deal with the problem. The Vision, an extradimensional police officer, declares the Invaders not guilty. Was there another way? No, there wasn’t. End of story. That’s why “Playing God” is unworkable and fails to resonate.
Ross’ and Gage’s attempts to generate impact fizzle, but I can’t fault their premise. The setup is already foreshadowed by history. The Nazis loved to experiment on humans. While there’s no evidence to suggest they intended to breed a superbug that would be unleashed against the sane world, the idea isn’t all that farfetched. The concept of a weaponized contagion even at that time is actually more plausible than Hitler’s super-villains: Master Man, Warrior Woman, U-Man, Baron Blood and the Iron Cross. This Nazi cadre makes a guest appearance.
Had “Playing God” been set in the present day. Had this contagion been developed by Hydra for instance, the heroes would have availed themselves of more possibilities. Reed Richards, Doctor Doom, and Spider-Man are biochemical geniuses. Medical science advances every day and the Marvel Universe is open to science fiction solutions. Even if a cure could not be found in this hypothetical scenario, the heroes can transport the victims to an uninhabited Earth-like planet. So, I credit Ross and Gage for realizing that “Playing God” could only occur during World War II where the Invaders would be forced into murdering Arnim Zola’s innocent victims. The champions simply lacked the resources they have now.
The writers’ machinations made me feel detached from the story, but Caio Reis tried his very best to touch my heart. Spitfire wears her emotions on her golden sleeve. We see her expressing pain, tears, and misery over the decision. You may cynically suggest, well, Spitfire is soft. She’s a lady with lady emotions. The men will be another story. Not so. Captain America also weeps. Fear not, he does not blubber. Bucky removes his mask as the victims breathe their last. The gesture suggests that he does not believe he’s worthy of wearing an emblem of honor. Reis portrays Union Jack’s desperation through the hero’s rough handling of a Nazi scientist. Namor clearly does not like the idea of breaking an old man’s neck to stave off infection.
Although this issue of Invaders Now may work in the context of the larger five chapter story, as a single comic book, it leaves much for which to be desired. Still, the art’s above average and colorful. It displays the tortured souls of these champions even if there really isn’t a struggle.