Sunday, December 07, 2008

Surviving ‘Secret Invasion’

Spoilers ahead. Eight issues of Brian Bendis and Leinil Yu’s Secret Invasion don’t tell the whole story. For the whys and wherefores of this latest Skrull attack, you’re going to have to read eight months’ worth of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers. Those are flashback or concurrent stories that disappointingly interrupted those books’ regular “programming.” Very few of those issues focused on current Avengers members, and some of the stories could’ve been compressed to fit into the SI mini, which mostly deals with the event highlights. Oddly, the ramifications were often rerouted to those two titles.

Secret Invasion, then, is a style-over-substance, slambang epic that repeats itself until a resolution is reached. Like Bendis’ House of M, which was unnecessarily stretched to several issues, SI is slowly paced. Scenes leading to some big reveals, contrastingly, are choppy and abrupt. And you never see who “He,” the much-mentioned Skrull god, is. You’re going to have to check out the Incredible Hercules issues to find out what that’s about (but in doing so, you won’t be disappointed!).

The Skrull’s plan to openly invade the Earth while offering friendship is puzzling. Super-Skrulls beat up your beloved superheroes on live TV and they expect you to accept them with warm and fuzzy feelings? Dumb plan, Skrulls. They keep declaring that they already won. But their threat was felt most in the Avengers: The Initiative title, where writers Dan Slott and Christos Gage revealed that the aliens actually had two main battle plans (sleeper agents are poised to attack the 50-state Initiative teams; there’s a secret, country-wide Negative Zone portal), which aren’t mentioned at all in SI. The convenient and accidental discovery of the original heroes and other abductees in issue # 8 is another puzzler.

There’s a new status quo for the Marvel Universe once again, and it looks like many of the company’s titles will be affected by the change. The quick switch feels forced, but if previous tie-ins by other writers are any indication, there will be interesting, even entertaining stories that will be told. These big events as precursors to other big events, however, can be exhausting.

Those problems aside, SI works as an action-packed equivalent of a popcorn movie. There are big dramatic moments, particularly during the Savage Land conflict and the rallying of Earth’s defenders. Bendis doesn’t resort to his usual dialogue tics, thankfully. And Yu’s cleaner, more detailed art injects grandiosity to the bigger-than-usual slugfests.

It would’ve worked better if, instead of using the cardstock cover, several pages of story were added. Backstories that were isolated into Mighty and New could’ve expounded on important bits, had they been included in the main mini. But again, SI is finally over. It’s clearly imperfect, but it does have its moments.

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