FLASH Facts: Invasion!

Metagenes, Fidel Castro, and charities.

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In the late '80s, DC Comics was going full force. They were far enough away from Crisis on Infinite Earths that they didn’t need to keep dealing with the after-effects of the story, but the new continuity wasn’t so far along that the lingering issues from Crisis (like how the hell did the Legion of Superheroes form if there’s no Superboy) needed to be answered right away (that would be saved for Zero Hour). So the powers that be turned to the guy behind DC’s biggest book, Justice League, and let him come up with the yearly universe wide crossover. Keith Giffen came back with Invasion! and it is fantastic.

The story of Invasion! centers on a coalition of evil alien races called the Alliance, lead by the Dominators, who decide to invade Earth in order to end the rise of metahumans who will no doubt lead to humans becoming the dominate species in the universe. With the Green Lantern Corps disbanded, there is nothing that can help Earth.

The invasion started in Australia which, with only a handful of superheroes, fell faster than a 40 year old virgin’s underwear at a brothel. The Alliance offers mankind salvation if they turn all power over to them. If not, every man, woman, and child will be killed. After a brief meeting with at the UN, the leaders of the world responded to the Alliance’s offer.

If you can’t see the pic, it is a shot of the Daily Planet front page which reads ‘EARTH TO INVADERS: DROP DEAD!” I love it!

The Alliance didn’t love it so much, so they sent out some Daxamites who, if you are watching Supergirl, you know are pretty tough, to beat the tar out of Superman to show everyone just how serious this invasion is. Superman gets beat to hell, but the Daxamites learn something; they can’t survive in Earth’s atmosphere. The beaten up Superman, being the greatest hero of all, saves the dying Daxamites. In reference to Superman’s generosity, the Daxamites leave the Alliance and team up with Earth.

Earth’s mightiest heroes battle across the globe, including Flash who gets stationed in Cuba. We briefly touched on the events of Invasion! and what they meant for Wally, who was Flash at the time (see Flash Facts: Wally West Part 2 for less info) but we’re going to get into it more in a moment.

As the Alliance comes to the conclusion that they will not be able to defeat the heroes of Earth, they decide to say screw it and leave. Before they do, they set off one last attack, a “Gene Bomb”. The true plot by the Dominators, as it turns out, was to use the other alien races to capture a few humans, a few with and a few without powers, to figure out what it is that gives some Earthlings the ability to get superpowers. What they discover is the metagene, a dormant DNA trait that lies in some humans. If I, for example, where to get doused with chemicals and struck by lightning, I would likely die, but for Barry Allen and his dormant gene, he gets superspeed.

One Dominator, a real jerk of a bad guy, builds the Gene Bomb and sets it off without clearing it with his superiors. When it goes off, just about everyone on Earth with a dormant metagene gains powers. At the same time, anyone whose metagene had already been activated loses their powers, including Flash.

The remaining heroes, made up mostly of aliens like Superman and Martian Manhunter, and a few gadgeteers like Booster Gold and Rocket Red, head off into space to land a final, nasty blow to the Dominators, ending the invasion.

I love Invasion! It is, in my opinion, one of the best, most well thought out crossover events from either DC or Marvel. I really suggest you read it if you haven’t. All that said, this is Flash Facts, not DC Facts, so how about we focus on what Invasion! did to Flash in particular?

Bill Messner-Loebs, the best writer on the Wally West Flash series in my opinion, had just taken over the series a few months before Invasion! began, and he saw it as a great opportunity to start taking selfish womanizing Wally West and turn him into a true hero. For Wally, the coming of the Alliance starts with the aliens focusing on him. Wally was, after all, one of the few heroes who didn’t have a secret identity - people knew he was Flash - so the aliens were able to mess with him a bit before announcing themselves to the world. Wally had just lost his lottery fortune and he was forced to move out of his Long Island mansion and move into a slum with his mom. The Alliance, picking up on this, decided to see how a hero would react to even more financial stress, so they sent down a Durlan (a shapeshifting alien) to follow Wally and screw with him.

They started by getting Wally and his mom (and everyone in the apartment building) evicted. Then they cut off Wally’s credit cards and bank account, leaving him penniless. At this time, Wally needed to eat almost constantly because his metabolism was sped up, so no money meant no food, and that was a real problem.

Separated from his mom, Wally wanders the streets of New York being treated like a common homeless person until he runs into Pied Piper. Piper, a one time baddie, had left the life of crime and turned to helping the less fortunate. Piper helps Wally get some food and figures out that someone is messing with the Scarlet Speedster (Wally wasn’t very smart in these days). Piper and Flash catch a glimpse of the Durlan who is following Flash and attack. The Durlan takes them out real quick, but a group of homeless people keep the evil alien from killing Flash.

When Flash wakes up, he learns that the world has been invaded and heads off to the base of the Justice League (which he is not yet a member of) to see what he can do to help.

Like I said, Wally gets stationed in Cuba with his best pal Chunk (who I am still hoping will end up on the show so I’m not gonna talk about him much here). Before they land at the Cuban airport, Wally and his crew are attacked by Durlans. The fight is quick, mainly because Fidel Castro shows up with some soldiers and saves our hero. Strangely hanging out with Castro is Wally’s dad, Rudy West, which is super shocking because what the hell is a failed businessman from Blue Valley, Nebraska who is supposed to be dead doing in Cuba with Fidel Castro?!

Wally spends the night with Castro and his soldiers in the jungle, as most of the island has been taken over by the shapeshifting Durlans. Turns out that some of Castro’s loyal soldiers, including a woman that Wally was looking forward to sleeping with, are Durlans too. Lucky for Wally (again, these were the days where Wally was an idiot who needed saving quite often) the hidden Durlans are taken out by the Manhunter, a vigilante who Wally’s mom hired to follow Flash to Cuba and keep him safe. Good job, Mary West!

Wally helps Castro retake Cuba from the Durlans, and in return Castro throws Wally a party for his 21st birthday. Wally finds himself liking the communist dictator who he’s pretty sure is just using him to make his people think he has powerful friends. Still, free cake and all that.

During the party, Flash and Manhunter figure out that they didn’t do a very good job beating the Durlans because the Durlans show up. In the fight, Manhunter knocks out Castro in order to keep him safe.

Mary West, who has never fought anyone, shows up and completes the team that finally beat the Durlans in Cuba - that team being Flash, Manhunter, Rudy West, and Mary West. Looking to make up for the time he tried to kill Mary, Rudy sacrifices himself to blow up the Durlan ship, making the island alien free. Castro, being a dick, orders that Manhunter be killed for knocking him out. Flash and Mary West stop the execution, with Mary getting in Castro’s face and scolding him for treating people so poorly. Mary West was awesome.

Embarrassed, Castro kicks everyone out of Cuba. Before they can leave, the Gene Bomb goes off.

When Wally wakes up, he learns he has no powers. With the help of S.T.A.R. Labs, mainly Tina McGee, Wally is able to get his powers back by recreating the conditions that gave him the powers in the first place.

Remember waaaaay back when I said the Gene Bomb gave most people with a dormant metagene powers? Well, some of them got really cool powers, like Maxwell Lord who gained the ability to control minds. Others, like a kid who went by the terrible codename “Warmth” had an equally terrible power; he could raise his temperature by four degrees. Turns out most people with dormant metagenes had lame powers.

Over the years, Pied Piper found these people, and other people whose lives were ruined by superhero events like Invasion! and War of the Gods and brought them to the secret city Turtle had built under Keystone City (read about that here!) so that they could get off the streets and have a place where they would be accepted. When Wally learned about this, he took the fortune that he got in the last will and testament of the Icicle (a baddie I hope will end up on the show sooner or later so I won’t say much more here) and started the Barry Allen Foundation, a charity for families whose lives were adversely affected by superhuman activity. William Messner-Loebs would leave Flash just two issues after introducing the charity and it would never get mentioned again, which bums me out.

Invasion! ended up having long lasting effects on a few DC books, but I don’t know if there is one that used it as well as Flash. The crossover really is where the character of Wally West starts going from selfish jerk to true hero culminating, in my mind, with the creation of the Barry Allen Foundation. Yes, Wally had more fights over the years, and he helped save the world who knows how many times, but his taking a fortune that was handed to him and setting up a foundation to help others while still living hand to mouth is true heroism.

Oh, before we go, when Mary West married an Italian secret agent named Rudolph Valentino, Fidel Castro sent a gift.

ART SOURCES

Todd McFarlane

Bart Sears

Joe Rubinstein

Greg LaRocque

Frank Springer

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