Posted by Don MacPherson on April 2nd, 2008
Secret Invasion #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Leinil Yu
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Gabriele Dell’Otto, Leinil Yu & Steve McNiven
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.05 CAN
After all the talk of closely guarded secrets, of paranoid powerhouses and reported efforts on Marvel’s part to keep spoilers from leaking on the Internet, we’re faced with a story that fails to surprise, shock or even rock the boat all that much. Bendis’s script is a bit awkward, given how much exposition is needed and the diversity of characters that play a role in the story, but given the scope of the event, it’s understandable with the first issue. Where the story goes astray is with the predictability of the big “revelations” about who’s a Skrull and who ain’t. I did enjoy the art. The loose, sketchy work Leinil Yu’s been doing on New Avengers is replaced by much more defined, intense visuals that serve the atmosphere of the plot fairly well.
Tony Stark approaches his friends and fellow geniuses Reed Richards and Hank Pym to help him examine the body of the dead Skrull that had once been posing as Elektra. Stark is convinced an invasion is coming, and to repel it, Earth’s heroes will need to be able to detect the Skrulls hiding among them. Meanwhile, a Skrull ship rockets to Earth, headed for the Savage Land, where the latest incarnation of the Avengers was founded. Both Stark’s Avengers and the outlaw Avengers rush to the crash site, and what they find turns out to be surprisingly familiar.
Leinil’s Yu’s artwork looks a lot more polished and dynamic than it has in New Avengers, and the reasons are clear: Mark Morales’s inks and Laura Martin’s colors. While there’s a brighter, more exciting and crisper look at play in this comic, Yu’s own style isn’t lost in the process. He makes great use of double-page spreads to convey the immense scope of the story. It helps to sell the notion on the “importance” of these events in the Marvel Universe.
For the most part, the characters revealed to be undercover Skrull agents are minor, supporting characters and C-list heroes that one would expect to be compromised, as opposed to Marvel’s pop-culture icons. Some of the revelations strike me as being so obvious, I found it odd that Stark and other Avengers didn’t suspect them in the first place. Of course, some of the plotting problems I perceive here might be the result of Bendis and Brevoort’s decision to hold off on bigger surprise revelations for later in the series. They have seven more issues to go, after all. The same is true for some of the stiff, exposition-heavy dialogue; Bendis does have to set the stage for those who haven’t been following the emerging storyline in other Marvel titles over the past few months. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to incorporate that information more seamlessly into his script.
To Bendis’s credit, I am intrigued by the notion that the Skrulls’ motives in this invasion seem to stem from religious zealotry. We rarely connect the concepts of war and faith, but in reality, they’re often inextricably linked. Just look at the civil war underway in Iraq. Look at the so-called war on terror. Look at German persecution of Jews in World War II. Look back to the Crusades. The cult-like behavior of the Skrull characters in this story served as the only element that really surprised me, and it’s a notion that adds a tiny degree of sophistication to the plot. The Skrull fanaticism is clearly going to play a major role in the event, and that piques my interest above all else.
I think what this comic book is lacking is a variant cover, or even several variant covers. Certainly, what would add to this reading experience is owning more than one version of this particular comic book, right? Right? Yeah, Marvel went overboard with the variant editions, I know. There’s like, what, eight different covers for this comic? Yikes.
While I had problems with the plotting and execution of Civil War, there was no doubt it was about something. The tone of the book was focused on the ideological division between two groups of heroes. It was straightforward and interesting in concept. Now take Secret Invasion. I really don’t know what it’s supposed to be about, at least not yet. And I get the impression the creators haven’t completely made up their minds either. Look at the logo for the book. Honestly, I really like it. It’s clearly trying to evoke memories of cheesy, campy sci-fi flicks of the ’50s and ’60s, and that makes sense, given the premise. But the plotting in comics leading up to this event book encouraged readers to take the Skrull threat seriously (despite the goofiness of the term “Skrull”), and the same holds true throughout this issue. On the other hand, the book boasts a bright look and the emergence of so many vintage looks at the end of the book seem to point to a less grave, more fun story. I wonder if this title’s identity crisis will sort itself out. 5/10