Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Never Ending, Ever Event-ing

Posted by Don MacPherson on December 3rd, 2008

Secret Invasion #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Leinil Francis Yu
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists:
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Back in February 2007, I wrote the following about the final issue of another Marvel event book, Civil War: “We’re missing an ending, which is something that happened at the end of House of M as well.” After making my way through this oddly tidy and rushed final chapter of Secret Invasion, I was left with the feeling that this story lacked an ending as well. In fact, it really feels as though the larger narrative of the Marvel Universe just keeps going on and on and on. Ultimately, if Secret Invasion #8 does anything, it provides a long overdue ending to Civil War, but even that seems like more of a footnote than anything else. The main purpose of the entire series (and the long-running Hood subplot in New Avengers) seems to be to set up yet another new status quo for the Marvel Universe, and while it’s intriguing, it’s far from inspired. A lot of super-hero comics readers have complained as of late of event fatigue. After reading this comic book, it seems as though some creators might have reached that same point.

An army of Super-Skrulls continues to wage war with Earth’s superhuman heroes and criminals in New York, and for a time, it seems the invaders’ backup plan, involving sabotaging the Wasp’s powers, will put an end humanity’s last ditch effort to repel the alien invasion. The heroes overcome, of course, but that doesn’t bring the fight to an end. There’s an entire armada of warships in orbit to contend with, not to mention the question of what’s to be done with the Skrull Queen. In the aftermath, the heroes mourn a fallen friend and celebrate at being reunited with lost friends, while the people look for someone to blame for the chaos and someone to credit with victory.

Right off the bat, the book is hampered by unclear storytelling, both from Bendis’s script and Yu’s art. We’re told that the Wasp’s powers have been sabotaged, that she somehow presents a deadly threat, but we never learn how or even what’s going on. The art shows a lot of characters writhing and screaming in pain, but there’s no sense of what’s causing it (other than some Kirby dots). Any chance of resonance for the entire issue really relies on that opening scene, and instead, the creators leave their audience confused.

The artwork for the standard-edition cover is underwhelming, to say the least. It says nothing about the nature of the larger plot or development in this issue, and it features the new Captain America prominently even though he’s a minor player in the events of this final chapter. The variant cover is a bit more on the mark, but perhaps to too great an extent, at least for those who want to avoid potential spoilers.

Yu’s art is pretty sketchy throughout this issue, and that lack of definitely leads to some confusing moments. Of course, given the number of characters and the scope of the action, a looser, less defined look isn’t entirely unexpected. Even so, I was left with the impression that the art was a bit rushed, and the fact that this final issue shipped to retailers late reinforces that belief. We’ve definitely seen stronger work from Yu in the past (Superman: Birthright comes to mind immediately). I found the colors were a bit flat here, but given the tone of the plot, darker and muted tones really do fit the bill, one could argue.

Just as the art seems rushed, so does the pacing of the plot. The big battle is wrapped up rather conveniently, making for an anti-climactic feel, not something you want for a series climax. The resolution seems a little too easy, truth be told. Furthermore, a lot of space in this issue seems dedicated to tidying up the Marvel Universe. Three pages alone are dedicated to wrapping up loose ends from the Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four limited series, for example. Housekeeping rather than real drama seems to be the focus for much of the issue.

That being said, I do like the new direction for Marvel unveiled by the end of the issue. It doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense, but it’s such a simple, Silver Age idea that logic isn’t such a big requisite. I think the effectiveness of the ending (and appreciation of the aforementioned continuity housekeeping) relies a little too much on one’s previous knowledge of the Marvel Universe, and I worry that the line as a whole will become so interconnected that enjoying select titles will be a bit of a challenge. 4/10

Note: Further spoilers are mentioned in the comments thread below.

24 Responses to “Never Ending, Ever Event-ing”

  1. HipHopHead Says:

    Without reading the “conclusion” of Secret Invasion, I already knew it would not “end”, but lead into the next “event”. Marvel needs to issue an edict, that “event” must have an ending, especially for $3.99 a pop. With all the books Marvel is publishing, the best books (imo) Captain America, Daredevil and Amazing Spider-Man had/have nothing to do with the latest “event”. Those books are doing something that drew me to comics in the first place. They are telling good stories.

    I hope the Ultimatium “event” leads to streamline (read: afforadble) universe of books.

    DC on the other hand has “events” that lead no where. Enough with the “Crisis”. Final Crisis is telling one story, while Superman, Batman, Green Lantern books are going along with different directions.

  2. Don MacPherson Says:

    HipHopHead wrote:
    Marvel needs to issue an edict, that “event” must have an ending, especially for $3.99 a pop.

    Issue an edict to whom? It can’t do so to itself. To suggest Marvel needs to straighten someone out is to suggested that Bendis, Tom Brevoort and others involved in the creation of these comics are the ones calling the shots. The higher-ups clearly want never-ending events; that’s the edict that’s being followed.

  3. Dave Lynch Says:

    The conclusion to “Batman RIP” gets a 7. Yet Secret Invasion #8 gets 4? Oh, yeah…

  4. Don MacPherson Says:

    Dave wrote:
    The conclusion to “Batman RIP” gets a 7. Yet Secret Invasion #8 gets 4? Oh, yeah…

    Clearly, we don’t agree.

    Wait a minute… it’s almost as though one’s appreciation of storytelling is, well, subjective! Wow, what a discovery! :)

  5. errolmorris Says:

    Marvel fans are so defensive…

  6. LurkerWithout Says:

    MarvelComics fans are so defensive…

    Fixed!

  7. The Mighty Rob! Says:

    Regardless of whatever Marvel’s edict is, this was yet another poor conclusion to a comics “event.” At least “Batman RIP” had an ending of sorts (albeit somewhat clichéd) – but the story of Secret Invasion had no suitable ending at all….just a lead into another event – COMING SOON!

    “Dark Reign” doesn’t look very appealing though, in my opinion.

  8. Brent Says:

    I have been reading comics for over 30 years now. I can honestly say this is the first time that I have considered giving them up. The recent story lines for both Marvel and DC seem to lack continuity and a clear story to follow. Secret Invasion is not the exception. I enjoyed the “off titles” of Secret Invasion more than the series itself, and that is really not saying a whole lot. I whole heartedly agree with the review given for this title, however, giving it a 4 is being too nice. If it were up to me this issue deserves a 2.

    P.S. the only thing keeping me going right now is the Green Lantern storyline, which seems to be the best story to be had at the moment. I hope it can deliver on the hype.

  9. Drew Says:

    Don, long time reader, first time poster…
    I found the ending rushed, nebulous and too tidy. With everything that occurred in this issue, it needed one or two issues more to fully explain or explore the story it attempted to tell, which is interesting when you contrast that with how much time was spent setting the stage for SI. Bendis sowed the seeds for SI for years in his books to show what a threat the Skrulls were to the Marvel U. The final victory was too quick and easy, undercutting the grand effort made to move the skrulls from a side joke to a credible threat. In like a lion, out like a lamb? It almost feels as though Bendis got bored with Secret Invasion before it ended or perhaps becoming too excited about getting to “Dark Reign.” From issue one, Secret Invasion had so much promise yet, I feel it lost its focus along the way or perhaps making it ripple throughout the whole Marvel U. simply made it too hard to focus on its own story, instead having to touch this that and the other in addition to attempting to tell its story within the confines of 8 issues. I hate being so negative, so I will state: I acknowledge the vast effort made to make this event (I believe everyone tried to tell the best stories that they could tell), the initial “Who is a skrull?” made me remember how fun it can be to read comics, I am interested in seeing how Dark Reign plays out, there are some interesting changes/additions to the Marvel U. that have spun out of SI.

  10. Don MacPherson Says:

    Brent wrote:
    I have been reading comics for over 30 years now. I can honestly say this is the first time that I have considered giving them up. The recent story lines for both Marvel and DC seem to lack continuity and a clear story to follow.

    You might find more satisfaction if you venture outside Marvel and DC super-hero titles. Why not try The Umbrella Academy, The Walking Dead, Courtney Crumrin or any other number of strong titles from smaller publishers?

  11. Don MacPherson Says:

    Drew wrote:
    From issue one, Secret Invasion had so much promise yet, I feel it lost its focus along the way…

    I think part of the problem is that for a title called Secret Invasion, the invasion stopped being a secret quite early on.

  12. Sean R Says:

    I bailed on this early, but I’m curious, did anything come of the Skrull religion angle? While threatening to be derivative of the new Battlestar Galactica, it at least held some promise of a more layered tale. Oh well, at least we got a pretty good Incredible Hercules arc out of it…

    I second Don’s advice to Brent – I too was on the verge of quitting comics, but have found my interest renewed and my wallet thicker since shifting my focus away from the Big Two’s events & “tentpoles” and going with books that tell their own stories, whether they be mid-list titles from DC and Marvel, indies or manga.

  13. Dave Lynch Says:

    Errolmorris wrote:
    Marvel fans are so defensive…

    Just because I didn’t like “Batman RIP” doesn’t make me a Marvel Zombie. Yes, I’m buying more Marvel titles lately since well, there is a reason why Marvel keeps beating DC for sales each month and it’s not just because they put Wolverine on almost every title. I did enjoyed Sinestro Corps (and looking forward to “Blackest Night”), the original and the best Crisis, Batman: No Man’s Land, All-Star Superman and many more from DC.

    Now Don can give SI #8 a low score for all I care, but just surprised that last ish of “Batman RIP” got a high rating. Maybe, it got a “Grant Morrison” bump.

  14. Tim Johnson Says:

    I liked the ending of “RIP” a LOT more than SI, and for this reason: While I was reading Batman, I chuckled evilly to myself a few times, knowing that Bats was going to come out on top. Morrison sold me on Bats being prepared for everything, and by the end, I wanted to see him punching Hurt into next week. Was I confused still? Heck yeah I was! But at least I felt something, and there was resolution of sorts to be had amidst the confusion.

    SI, on the other hand, started off by switching to flashback mode, sucking any sense of drama right out of it. Seriously, from the first page, you know that there is no danger any longer and everything is ok. Then there’s some housekeeping and everyone gets in position for “Dark Reign.” Oh, and “The Baby!!!!” happens. And, then happens again in New Avengers for good measure. But at no point do I feel like I really WANT anyone to succeed, I just felt like they had and so what? Even Clint and Mockingbird feels pretty hollow, because hey, the Skrulls kept everyone alive, isn’t that great?

    Neither one really ends, but I thought “RIP” at least drew me in emotionally and ended, setting the table for what’s to come. SI just gave me the box score from the invasion and moved on to DR without a second’s hesitation.

    Oh, and I think the Hellboy books would be a good place to find some relief from the big 2 if anyone needs it!

  15. errolmorris Says:

    Dave, I hope you’re not suggesting Marvel beats DC in sales because their product is of a higher quality. Marvel books have regularly outsold DC books since… well, basically since the ’60s (with a few exceptions). It’s got little to do with quality.

    Marvel caters to its base. The company knows how to get its fans excited and it does a pretty decent job of keeping them that way. I do think, however, that Marvel fans are Marvel fans first and comics fans second. The characters are what’s important to them, not the medium (not that DC fans are any different, there’s just a lot less of them).

    I think Don scored “RIP” higher than Secret Invasion because the series simply aimed higher. “RIP” may have been half-baked and confusing, but at least Morrison was attempting to SAY SOMETHING about the character. Secret Invasion was a summer blockbuster — big, dumb and (arguably) fun. I think Bendis’s mistake was in not aiming high enough (and including far too many characters). He also overextended himself with too many tie-ins, which diluted the impact of the main series. In the end, though, what was Secret Invasion trying to say? Nothing. It was what it was, and that wasn’t much.

  16. Matt Clark Says:

    Secret Invasion may well see me completely finished with Marvel “events”, or at the very least, Marvel events with the name “Bendis” in the credits. An absolute waste of time and money, and a great high concept discarded in favour of meaningless punch-ups.

  17. Dave Lynch Says:

    Errolmorris, certainly helps that Marvel lured better writers and artist working for them. While DC, is losing great talents like Waid, Dixon and Diggle. It does not help that majority of DC comics are not reader-friendly these days, thanks to the constant Crisis-resets. Marvel might be the same but DCU is more so.

  18. Tokyopop82 Says:

    DCU is also guilty of initiating the opening salvo of the event craze which has been going non-stop for the last 2/3 years. Remember Infinite Crisis? It was such an important event in the DCU that DC had to release four tie-in books – OMAC, Villains United, Day of Vengeance, Rann-Thangar War — prior to the release of the mini-series itself. While it may be true that events have existed since the original Crisis, DC was the first to push the idea of event overkill, and we’ve all been paying for it ever since (literally).

    Want to see an end to the events? Ask someone to wave the white flag (right now I’m looking in Didio’s direction). Then we can move on.

  19. Kirth Says:

    Pure satisfaction. I KNEW this book was going to end up as garbage after issue THREE demonstrated a lack of forward energy.

    How bout THIS edict:

    Brian Bendis sticks to crime comics. Face it, some writers JUST CAN’T HANDLE team books.

    Also: How many tie-in books were required to tell this non story? A very expensive exercise that I am GLAD I didn’t buy into.

  20. Greg Manuel Says:

    Reading about this “overall direction” of Marvel’s over the last few years, I really have to wonder if this is how Joe Quesada and his favorite buddies (Bendis, Millar, etc.) plan their roadtrips: with no regard for traffic law whatsoever.

    I mean…if I could sum up my feelings about that final page of SI #8 in two words, it would be “Oh, PLEASE.” The Green Goblin now in charge of SHIELD? I’m sick of writers not doing their homework with regards to Marvel characters. “Dark Reign” may as well be called “The Story where Doctor Doom Betrays Everybody.”

    It’s a good thing I stopped trying to figure out what it is they think they’re doing over at Marvel after Civil War. I’d have had a stroke after this one.

  21. Murray Says:

    But how did Wasp die? I agree with Don when he says, “We’re told that the Wasp’s powers have been sabotaged, that she somehow presents a deadly threat, but we never learn how or even what’s going on. The art shows a lot of characters writhing and screaming in pain, but there’s no sense of what’s causing it”.

    At the same time, I’m not sure how the Wasp died. We’re told she died. Thor tells Janet he will avenge her. And then… what? He swings his hammer? A tornado eats her leg? Thor throws his hammer through her? Thor sends her to some death dimension? What caused the death?

    I’m not generally a Marvel reader, and my knowledge of Thor’s powers are sketchy at best. But it’s not really an issue of this issue not being new reader friendly so much as it is an issue of not telling the story clearly.

    Similarly, there are a lot of characters running around the book. They probably all get some face time and a label on the first page, but there isn’t anything compelling about these characters that makes me want to explore their back stories (or ongoing stories).

  22. Nick Piers Says:

    I’ve pretty much given up on both DC and Marvel in general. They’re just plugging in event after event, “shocking change where everything you know is a lie or nothing will be the same again” after “shocking change”. I’m getting tired of it. I just want good stories, not a flow chart and a spreadsheet just to follow along.

    Recently, I realized that for all the “big changes” that are promised, the status quo pretty much stays the same or shortly returns to it. The only thing that changes is the mythology of the character that is eventually worked into character’s origin or backstory (Luthor living in Smallville, for example). None of these big changes matter. Hell, the very MINUTE that it was announced that Captain America was going to be killed off, people started taking bets on when he’d come back.

    That said, I find I’m starting to try more titles that are self-contained (Criminal, Iron Fist to a point, Invincible, etc.) or even independent titles (Blankets, Zot!). At some point, I’ll get the trades for Johns’s run on Action Comics, since some of those stories interest me. Ditto for his run on Green Lantern. But they’re the same giant events where things will eventually return to the status quo.

    Other than that, I’ve barely even glanced at the major crossover stuff since about the beginning of Countdown. Never bothered with House of M or Civil War. Though I did enjoy the two Annihilation events, but they were also self-contained.

  23. fanboy d Says:

    Don wrote:
    it really feels as though the larger narrative of the Marvel Universe just keeps going on and on and on

    madness! madness i say!

  24. Dave Says:

    I also found Secret Invasion #8 to be disappointing, but I do feel that the storyline as a whole will read greater in a collected format. The concept was excellent, the art solid, the plot was pretty good… but certain details weren’t ironed out. (ie WHAT exactly happened to Jan?? I got the impression that she was turned into an unwilling suicide bomber of sorts but on a much greater and chemical scale. Assuming I’m right, then the book did it’s job. But I don’t KNOW if I’m right.) I think this story would have been exceptional if it were a full 12-issues to really explain some of these details and create more emotional investment. It’s comparable to a Michael Bay film… plenty of style but it didn’t have enough substance to make it classic.

    I gotta say tho, as much as I want these big events to ease up, I love what’s been happening to Tony’s character.