Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Secret Satans

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

That’s it?

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

21 Responses to “Secret Satans”

  1. Howie Says:

    I still do not care for Yu’s work. While it’s not as dark here as in New Avangers it looks pretty much the same.

    Otherwise… did we read the same book? I got from the “big reveal” spread that there were a lot more than minor, supporting characters and C-list heroes that are Skrulls. Nonetheless, after reading the issue, seeing the art, and then that “reveal” spread, I put it back on the shelf. I think you were generous with a 5/10.

  2. Stephen Says:

    It’s only a big reveal if those characters turn out to be Skrulls. As nice as it would be to just wipe out the past dozen years’ or so of Marvel storylines (rebooting Spidey back to 1990 or so wouldn’t hurt anyone, right?), it’s semi-obvious that this is basically Bendis borrowing Waid’s plotline for “Return of Barry Allen”, only applying it across an entire universe.

    That, or Marvel are all really big Battlestar Galactica fans.

    Agreed on your point about the logo being a dissonant note; after the pretentious cover layouts of Civil War (… which was, after all, A Marvel Comics Event), this is almost too much in the other direction.

  3. Adam Says:

    What’s wrong with the logo?

    The stories it calls to mind all did exactly what this one is doing: playing a concept straight, even if it begs to be made fun of – like most comics.

  4. Don MacPherson Says:

    I don’t know if you guys missed it or misinterpreted it, but my comment about the logo was that I like it. My point was that the campy tone the logo evokes isn’t in keeping with the storytelling within, as Bendis’s script plays this over-the-top straight.

  5. Jeff Vice Says:

    I actually enjoyed the first issue quite a bit. Of course, given how badly I hated House of M, my expectations were a bit lowered to begin with.

    However, I guarantee this title will be more timely and will make more sense than Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis. Let’s all talk when the first issue of THAT one actually comes out, OK?

  6. Conor E Says:

    I’m a little depressed that people keep commenting on it being a BSG rip-off, they can hardly be credited with inventing the concept. Then again, people crying rip-off over highly generic concepts is a pet peeve of mine.

  7. Don MacPherson Says:

    Jeff wrote:
    However, I guarantee this title will be more timely and will make more sense than Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis. Let’s all talk when the first issue of THAT one actually comes out, OK?

    If you’re so convinced Final Crisis is going to suck, why are you considering purchasing the first issue?

  8. Don MacPherson Says:

    Conor wrote:
    I’m a little depressed that people keep commenting on it being a BSG rip-off, they can hardly be credited with inventing the concept.

    I don’t get the “rip-off” allegations re: Battlestar Galactica, but then I’ve never watched an episode of the show. I know, I know… it’s supposedly great. I might watch it on DVD some day. Please don’t view my admission as a cue to convert me into a BSG viewer. It won’t work.

  9. Conor E Says:

    Basically… BSG has similar ‘trust issues’ storyline, which was COMPLETELY ORIGINAL when they did it, and not at all ripped-off from Invasion of the Body Snatchers or any of the dozens of similar stories since. But when Bendis does it, it’s because he’s a lazy thieving hack.

    It’s sort of like how Civil War was a rip-off of Kingdom Come, which we all know was the first story to ever be told in which former comrades become enemies. Or how The Sinesto Corps War was a rip-off of… name any space opera story you like. I’ll go with Star Wars. But I guess the Jedi were just a rip-off of the GLC to begin with, so it’s a vicious cycle.

    It’s pretty much impossible to find a story that doesn’t feature elements at least vaguely similar to past stories, and the rip-off card is played annoyingly often.

  10. sleeper Says:

    I didn’t pick this up and I probably won’t until we get further into the series and it can be more fully determined if it has legs, but I can say that I’m not surprised by the reviews that I’ve read so far.

    As you mentioned, the most interesting part of this whole event is the opportunity to use existing characters for religious warfare allegory. That’s a clever twist and one that has the potential to make this series more valuable and relevant than most of the summer blockbusters we see lately. However, I picture that symbolism being lost under the dense load of continuity games and Bendisian wordplay.

    I can just smell the dialog from here, by the way. When this project was first announced, I had half an urge to give it a shot, until I heard that it would be scripted by Bendis and not, let’s say, Millar or somebody. Knowing that BMB is on writing duties makes my head hurt as I think about the choppy and obnoxious back-and-forth I’m in for in every scene.

    I love Leinil Yu’s artwork. I was a fan of his before he was Marvel’s big-ticket artist. Everyone should check out Silent Dragon from WildStorm. It’s written by Andy Diggle and I recommend it.

    Given the odds of Final Crisis coming out on time (slim to none) this looks like a weak year for event books and most people are worn thin anyway. It’s time for the Big Two to come up with a better gameplan.

  11. Alan Coil Says:

    Cut and paste job?

    Jeff Vice made an identical post over at Comic Pants about Final Crisis.

    In Jeff’s eyes, Final Crisis is going to suck AND be late. Betcha he posts that every time a Final Crisis thread opens.

    I can’t comment directly on Secret Invasion because I won’t be buying it. I won’t buy it because I don’t like the writing, I don’t like the art, and I think Skrulls are lame, but I sure as heck won’t be saying that it sucks, because I haven’t read it.

  12. White Dragon (I only date Asian girls) Says:

    I’m amazed at the promotions that are involved with these “event” comics. I read somewhere that Entertainment Weekly had a ten-page spread from the first issue. I haven’t checked to see if it’s true because I don’t give a deuce, but my point still stands.

    The promotions also included Brian Bendis doing various interviews including one for a show that I occasionally check out on G4. Blair Butler specifically asked Brian about the “event fatigue” and Brian responded that he didn’t get what people were complaining about. He said he always would get excited about big events and that they are entertaining. He said that’s what comics are about, along with tragic events. Otherwise, there would be nothing to write about. For example, Wolverine can’t drink a cup of water for a whole issue. I don’t want to paraphrase the whole interview here, but it was pretty cool no matter how weak his argument was against event fatigue.

  13. Don MacPherson Says:

    Alan wrote:
    I can’t comment directly on Secret Invasion because I won’t be buying it. I won’t buy it because I don’t like the writing, I don’t like the art, and I think Skrulls are lame, but I sure as heck won’t be saying that it sucks, because I haven’t read it.

    But how can you say you don’t like the writing if you haven’t read it? I think what you’re saying is that you don’t like Bendis’s writing in the comics leading up to this event, and that’s fair.

  14. Chris J.Thompson Says:

    I actually have somewhat high hopes for Secret Invasion, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed …. What I’d really like to see is something that hearkens back to the fun comics of yesteryear and playing it over-the-top straight might be just the way to do that – after all, isn’t that what so many comics of the 60s and 70s were like?! Perhaps I was just overwhelmed by that flood of 70s spandex and goodness that flowed out of the crashed ship in the Savage Land, but I really think that in this post-modern comics landscape it is actually time to ‘go back to the well’, so to speak. I’m not sure if I’m mkaing sense here, but for me I found Secret Invasion to be the breath of fresh air that I didn’t expect yet was really looking for …. I guess we’ll see how the next few months of stories pan out. Perhaps Bendis may redeem himself for me after leaving me cold for quite a while now …. ?!

    – Chris

    P.S. Nice to see you back and reviewing, Don! I don’t know how long you’ve been at it here, but I know I hadn’t checked out The Fourth Rail in a couple of years (which I missed) and I was glad to stumble across this site. I don’t always agree with you, but I like the way you present your argument and are prepared to discuss it in the commments section here ….

  15. Don MacPherson Says:

    Chris wrote:
    P.S. Nice to see you back and reviewing, Don! I don’t know how long you’ve been at it here, but I know I hadn’t checked out The Fourth Rail in a couple of years (which I missed) and I was glad to stumble across this site.

    I launched EyeOnComics about a year and a half ago. Thanks for the kind words, Chris!

  16. Robert Says:

    Don wrote:
    “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.”

    I agree with this assessment. I was expecting something more. Something totally over the top. Something completely unexpected. Instead, we get helicarriers crashing. How many times have we seen SHIELD helicarriers crash recently? (Incredible Hercules and Iron Man to name just two). We get explosions, lots of them. Bendis likes to blow things up, alot! (see, e.g., Avengers Disassembled). Nothing new there. The 70s heroes emerging from the ship was not a complete surprise as Marvel had leaked a cover showing just that. Hank Pym as a skrull? Saw that coming a mile away.

    Yeah, a lot of things get blown up and all hell breaks loose. But the length of this “event” (eight issues lasting into the fall and with delays, probably until next Christmas) may be fatiguing. Also, maybe I’m jaded, but I figure that whatever crazy and eventful thing Bendis does in this book will simply be retconned and done away with by using “magic” (see e.g., “No More Mutants” and “One More Day”).

  17. Alan Coil Says:

    Don,

    Yer right. I don’t care for Bendis’s writing. And for all the Bendis lovers, I didn’t say it was bad, just that I don’t see the appeal.

  18. KG Says:

    Enjoyed it quite a bit. I’ll also be buying Final Crisis to see if it can make up for the garbage I had to endure during Infinite Crisis.

    As a fan of Bendis’s writing and Yu’s art, this was always a win-win for me.

    The comparisons to BSG are tired at this point. Being an avid fan of the show, I have to say that even IF Bendis were copying the show… it’s still a winner concept since few people still tune into BSG to begin with.

    This issue alone was better than the entire run of Countdown to date times two.

  19. Steven R. Stahl Says:

    An interesting thing about the “religious” element in the premise for Secret Invasion (SI) is the treatment of the Skrulls in Englehart’s “Origins” storyline in the ‘70s Avengers title. See Avengers #133 for a description of Skrull culture prior to their first contact with the Kree. That issue makes the religious basis for the Skrulls’ invasion false.

    Setting aside larger problems with the plotting for SI: Shouldn’t the dead Skrull body be a bit smelly or have otherwise decomposed more? Maybe the body isn’t real! Maybe there are energy beings masquerading as Skrulls and trying to cause trouble!

  20. steve Says:

    im surprised you didnt say the so called persecution of the jews by the Germans. your wrong on the USA`s war on terror,the civil war that dont exist in Iraq, and the 5 of 10 you gave this issue.most who read it enjoyed it alot more than that.im sick of you glass half empty,always must put America down even in a comic book review democrats.clearly i havent missed a thing by never being at this site before.

  21. Don MacPherson Says:

    Steve wrote:
    im sick of you glass half empty,always must put America down even in a comic book review democrats

    I’m not a Democrat. I’m not an American.

    And you should be aware that a criticism of a ruling administration’s decisions or policies isn’t a criticism of an entire country and its people. Ix-nay on the efensiveness-day.