This time last year, we were getting excited about a big Arrow-verse crossover that would launch Legends of Tomorrow, the first team show in the universe. It’s been a pretty eventful year for superhero TV shows, and now that Legends is established and Supergirl is on the same network, we’re looking at a weeklong television event that is diving into some deep nerd cuts: DC’s Invasion.
Invasion was the third major DC Comic crossover after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Plotted by Keith Giffen, it featured Bill Mantlo (creator of Rocket Raccoon among others) on his first DC gig, and Todd McFarlane on pencils for the first two issues. The story involved a galaxy nervous about the super-powered potential of Earth.
The Dominators (who were originally introduced as Legion of Super-Heroes villains back in the late ‘60s, and are the lead villains in the TV crossover) are Yellow Peril stereotypes a race of calculating, hyper intelligent, rigidly hierarchical aliens. In publication chronology, they spent 20 years periodically fighting the Legion before DC decided to expand their universe back. Invasion was the first time the Dominators and Earth butted heads in the chronology of the DCU.
The Dominion was primarily concerned about the unpredictability of metahuman mutations in the human race. They gathered together an alliance of disparate, asshole aliens to stomp out what they can’t control before Earth becomes a serious threat. Joining them were:
-the Gil Dishpan, an aquatic, militaristic, highly organized species.
-the Khund, a race of space barbarians straight out of a Robert E. Howard story.
-Durlans, the shapeshifting race that would eventually give us the Legion of Super-Heroes’ Chameleon Boy.
– a group of Daxamite observers – we’ve already met Mon-El (I CAN’T STOP SMILING), but for those of you not watching Supergirl, he’s from Krypton’s sister world. Same powers, only he’s allergic to lead instead of Kryptonite.
– Thanagarians, the hawk people from whom Katar and Shayera Hol of last season’s Legends of Tomorrow team descended and the subject of an entirely separate 10,000 word explainer.
– A whole mess of races from the Vega System, a sector of space forbidden to the Green Lantern Corps. Included in this group are the Warlords of Okara (they make giant guns spaceworthy and then sail them off to conquer); the Psions, an offshoot of the race that eventually became the Guardians of the Universe and the founders of the GLC; and the Citadelians. In the Invasion comic, Citadelians were violent, simple brutes, and not the intelligent, brutal religious fanatics they would be in The Omega Men, Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda’s series from this past year that might be the best superhero comic from this millennium.
This alliance captures the Omega Men and whacks a bunch of depowered Green Lanterns before invading Earth. They’re fought off by a group led by Superman and the now-helping Daxamite observers, and the Earth forces turn the tide when they’re joined by the full Daxamite army, along with the revelation that the Dominators aren’t attacking Earth as a preventative measure. The alien allies discover that the Dominators want to institute a breeding program for people possessed of the metagene, to create a super powered army of their own. This causes everyone but the Khund to surrender, and they are finally defeated when Deadman forces the head of the Khund army to commit really graphic suicide.
But just after the battle ends, one low-born Dominator sets off a bomb that targets only humans with the metagene, because he’s apparently not up on the whole “army of super-slaves” part of the plan. There’s a scramble for a cure, and a whole bunch of people who didn’t have powers suddenly discover they have abilities, and the cure is found.
It’s an odd miniseries – oddly paced, half drawn by Todd McFarlane, but still really compelling. And it had a significant impact on the history of DC Comics: Max Lord got superpowers! Kidding, nobody cared about that. It actually set the stage for Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and Animal Man (and thus Vertigo). And while I doubt this TV crossover will end with Kara meeting Greg Berlanti, or Ollie retiring to a trans roadway, I think you will see it being similarly impactful: Flash can only mine an aging particle accelerator accident for metas for so long. The gene bomb will allow them to keep adding to the DC-CWniverse’s coterie of capes nigh indefinitely.
There’s also a later story in the comics where Mon-El discovers a group of humans who had been kidnapped by the Dominators and experimented on, rescues them, and settles them on planets around the universe sowing the seeds of the races that would later contribute members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, but that’s WAAAY too dorky for them to put in this show, isn’t it?
The CW superhero TV crossover kicks off on November 28th with Supergirl‘s “Medusa,” and the follows up with The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow, all of which are called “Invasion,” of course.