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Written by Cary Bates & Greg Weisman
Pencils by Pat Broderick
Inks by Romeo Tanghal
Colors by Shelley Eiber
Letters by Carrie Spiegle
Edited by Dan Raspler & Denny O’Neil

This story is an Invasion: First Strike! crossover. Invasion! was a three issue limited series published in late 1988-early 1989 by DC Comics. It was plotted by Keith Giffen, and ties up a great many plot lines from various Giffen-created DC series, including Omega MenJustice League International, and Legion of Super-Heroes.  In this crossover event, the Dominators have put together an alliance to invade Earth and eliminate the threat posed by their unpredictable “metahumans” (secretly, the Dominators wish to harness this and breed their own army of metahumans, but this goal is kept from the rest of the Alliance, and from some of their own race). After assassinating many former members of the disbanded Green Lantern Corps, and attacking the Omega Men, the Alliance launches a massive attack on Earth, overrunning Australia and establishing there a base from which to conquer the rest of the planet.

This tale begins with Maxwell Lord being piggy-backed by Captain Atom to the super-hero HQ. Nate isn’t sure he’s the man for the job, but he’s been unanimously chosen as the Commander in Chief of all Earth’s super-heroes. The aliens are spying on him and will be able to hear and see everything that goes on in the command center. Nate learns from Max that Amanda Waller (of the Suicide Squad) will be in charge of Earth’s super-villains and is dismayed to find out the military will be overseen by General Wade Eiling.

Nate and Wade immediately lock horns when they are in the room together. Eiling does not like Captain Atom’s choice for a pilot on a covert mission they are cooking up. Apparently he had planned to be the pilot himself. He is overruled by Waller and Eiling and has to choose a suitable replacement. They want to present him with a list of candidates but Nate says if it can’t be him, it has to be Steve Trevor, who has re-enlisted in this time of war.

Colonel Trevor arrives at the HQ. Atom takes him straight to the briefing room. He learns that there is a New Genesis satellite in orbit around Earth with immense firepower and destructive capability that the Alien Alliance has overlooked. Steve is to pilot a special shuttle to the satellite and realign it so it is facing the enemy fleet in space rather than Earth itself. Steve’s only question is, “Where’s the shuttle?”

At a briefing the next morning, it is revealed that the alien forces are spread out on the surface of the planet and unprepared for a space-bound attack on their fleet. Max is surprised by how well Nate and Wade are actually getting along. The next day, the two men meet in the coffee room and Eiling tells Nate they need to do something to prevent Peggy and Goz from getting married. Wade wants to transfer Gunner and get him away from her, but Nate reminds him how stubborn his daughter is. That has to be put on a back burner, though, as there is trouble with Colonel Trevor.

steve was found that morning, unconscious and surrounded by a mysterious energy. They don’t know what the energy field is and cannot punch through it without endangering the Colonel’s life. Eiling wants to scrub the op, but Captain Atom insists he be the pilot. Odds are whatever the aliens did to Trevor won’t work on him. Of course, Eiling objects, but is overruled by Waller. The mission must go on.

Eiling has to get a last word in with Nate, giving him no-brainer instructions on how to do his job. After Captain Atom takes off in the shuttle (why he needs a shuttle is a mystery), Eiling is talking to an ensign in the control room who reveals that Trevor and Atom took the shuttle out the night before. Wade was unaware of this.

As Captain Atom progresses out of Earth’s upper atmosphere, he and his team on the surface are still totally unaware that their every move is being monitored by the aliens. They don’t know exactly what the humans are up to, but they know it is something. Apparently, the Durlans have a man on the inside down on the surface. Their secret objective is to capture Captain Atom.

Back on Earth, the energy aura around Trevor vanishes and he wakes up. However, back in the shuttle, Nate’s helmet fills with knockout gas. I made this observation in my coverage of the second Captain Atom annual, but I will point it out again. Captain Atom has super-breath-holding. He doesn’t even need a space-suit. Every time he is taken out by “knockout gas,” it is utterly ridiculous. And I will never not point it out.

Back at HQ, Eiling approaches Trevor with his gun drawn. However, it isn’t Steve on the table but his doctor. Colonel Trevor, it turns out, is a shape-shifting Durlan. It was his unauthorized visit to the hangar the night before that gave the spy away. Trevor didn’t have the necessary key-card to get in, but a Durlan could mimic one. The enemy alien flips off the lights and Wade opens fire in the dark.

Back in the shuttle, Nate blasts his helmet visor with his angry eyes and ignites the knockout gas. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Captain Atom floating in space.

Back on the surface, Eiling gets the lights back on but the Durlan has shifted into a research skeleton. It gets Eiling from behind and begins to choke him but Captain Atom bursts in and blows the skeleton apart. He chases the skull down the hallway, but it makes it to the hangar where they lose track of it.

Noticing an extra fuel tank on a chopper that is lifting off, Atom grabs the tank and flings it into the helicopter blades, slicing the Durlan into several pieces. Ew.

General Eiling is a little chagrined as this is the second time Captain Atom has saved his life. Waller and Max enter the hangar just n time to see the two shaking hands, much to their shock.

Later, as Earth’s super-heroes begin to converge on the command center, Eiling is dismayed to learn their commander isn’t even there. He’s on his way to Metropolis to personally recruit Superman. So that cover image, cool as it is, never happened.

Story-wise, I give this issue a B. I’m never super crazy about the crossover issues. They rarely advance the ongoing plot of the hero we’ve been following. I like that Captain Atom is in charge of Earth’s heroes, but I honestly feel there were better choices. Just because he has a military background he was chosen? Wasn’t Hal Jordan once in the Air Force, too? And a space-cop? For that matter, isn’t this version of Hawkman a space-cop?

The artwork is good but nothing jumps out at me. That panel with the Durlan getting sliced is memorable, though. I give it a B for art as well. Overall, not too shabby.