World War II has inspired some of the most thought-provoking stories in popular culture, and the time period has served as a memorable backdrop in the Marvel Universe. In my opinion, the best World War II comic stories are told through the lens of the Invaders, a team made up of Captain America, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Winter Soldier and Jim Hammond, the Original Human Torch.
All four men were bonded by a sense of camaraderie and necessity that survived until the modern day. Namor’s relationship with the other Invaders is particularly interesting because they are among the few people he considers true friends. In War Ghosts, Chip Zdarsky not only redefines Namor’s dynamic with the team, he also changes the mythology of the Sub-Mariner for the better.
Wars never end for some people
What makes Namor one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel Universe is his complexity and willingness to do what he believes is right no matter the cost. In War Ghosts, he’s once again cast as the vengeful antagonist who wants to war with the surface and the other Invaders are determined to reason with him.
The story also introduces a new, non-superpowered member of the Invaders called Randall Peterson. It’s revealed that he was the closest friend that Namor had, to the point that Peterson even named his daughter after the Sub-Mariner. Namor spent years with the family, watching all of them grow. His strong connection to the Peterson clan forms an important part of the narrative.
The modern-day villainy of Namor contrasts with flashbacks from WW2, highlighting his heroic nature. It provides insight into his motivations for wanting to create a world where no more war happens. Zdarsky skillfully fills in one of the biggest gaps in the Sub-Mariner’s history, addressing his time as an amnesiac after the war and before he met the Fantastic Four.
The author also clears up the old ‘oxygen imbalance’ chestnut that’s been used to conveniently explain Namor’s madness every time he goes off the deep end. Zdarsky provides more nuance and depth to Namor’s psychological condition and it’s truly riveting.
Broken friendships and history
Zdarsky devotes ample time to the rest of the team. His interpretation of Captain America is everything you’d want from the First Avenger: steadfast, compassionate and brave. The Winter Soldier provides comedy relief and it’s good to see him leaning into his memories as Bucky, rather than being the grim assassin that other stories have portrayed him as.
Jim Hammond gets his moment to shine as the conscience of the Invaders, wanting to keep everyone together and holding onto the belief that Namor can be saved. His interactions with the Peterson family are tense and moving, challenging the faith he has in his own belief system.
The art of War Ghosts is split between Carlos Magno and Jackson ‘Butch’ Guice. Both artists’ styles complement each other, with the flashback panels getting across the grim and bloody nature of war. In contrast, the modern-day panels are filled with colour and vibrancy, showcasing the very best of what makes comic art so engaging.
With poignant themes and excellent characterisation, War Ghosts is the best Namor-related story in years. It has all the makings of an instant classic and easily ranks as one of the top WW2 stories in recent memory.