Friday, September 20, 2013

With Secret Invasion The Marvel Universe Is Attacked From Within And Without!

The Good: Most of the artwork, Interesting plot
The Bad: Low on character development, Very crowded panels
The Basics: Marvel’s Secret Invasion seems to be a final act in a very long arc that plays well, despite having some annoying gaps in storytelling.

As my She-Hulk Year has progressed, there have been a few instances where Jennifer Walters has interacted with major super heroes to participate in the big crossover events. When I read She-Hulk: Secret Invasion (reviewed here!), I actually found myself intrigued by the whole concept of the Secret Invasion. As it was, She-Hulk: Secret Invasion is a tangent story and one that has no interaction with Secret Invasion. This is an unfortunate and unfathomable situation as She-Hulk interacts with one of the highest religious figures of the Skrull Empire. Regardless, I sat down to Secret Invasion very excited about its potential.

And, for the most part, Secret Invasion did not disappoint. While it is very plot-centered and does not take time to reflect upon the frequent betrayals major characters in the Marvel Universe suffer, Secret Invasion is engaging and intense and honestly left me wondering how the situations would be resolved.

Following the discovery that Elektra, recently killed, was in fact a Skrull agent in disguise, Reed Richards, Hank Pym, and Tony Stark begin to study the corpse to discover how Elektra fooled everyone for so long. When Tony is called off to help deal with a Skrull ship that is crashing in the Savage Lands, Pym is revealed to be a Skrull and he captures Richards for torture and study. In the Savage Lands, Iron Man’s armor succumbs to a lethal virus and Tony Stark is left defenseless and ill. When the Skrull ship opens there are a slew of heroes – several of whom were in the rescue effort already facing the downed ship! – who insist they are the actual versions of the heroes they appear to be. A fight breaks out and while Natasha Romanov is able to rescue Tony Stark, the apparent mastermind behind the conflict, Jessica Drew, manages to escape.

As the bulk of the heroes are tied up in the jungle conflict, Thunderbolt Mountain, New York, Wakanda, and several other super hero centers of power are attacked in coordinated attacks by the Skrull. With Earth’s heroes unable to stop them, the Skrull invaders declare themselves to the citizens of the world and they conquer Earth with surprisingly little resistance. As Norman Osborn, Tony Stark, and Reed Richards regroup, they work desperately to liberate Earth with only a few wild cards to turn the tide!

Given how my focus for the year has been on the She-Hulk character, it is unsurprising that there are some gaps in my Marvel Universe knowledge. That said, it is exceptionally easy to go from Civil War (reviewed here!) to Secret Invasion. The sense of paranoia in Secret Invasion actually hinges on understanding just how divided the superhero community was at the end of Civil War. As well, Secret Invasion works because major players like Captain America and the Hulk are absent from the narrative and trump card characters like Thor and Nick Fury have been away for some time, making moments that hinge on them more unsettling than cathartic. In fact, with every reversal comes the question of “is this familiar character a Skrull?”

For their part, the shape-shifting Skrull are an intriguing adversary and Secret Invasion goes where Star Trek: Deep Space Nine only insinuated the show could. Secret Invasion in ripe with paranoia and the horror of loved ones turning on each other and heroes and villains struggling with the fear that anyone on their team at any given moment might turn into an unstoppable enemy.

Therein also lies the two main problems with Secret Invasion. First, Secret Invasion is packed with characters, many of whom are loaded onto the page in jumbled sequences that make no visual sense. For all the good things about Secret Invasion, the fight sequences are not the strength of the book. In fact, while penciler Leinil Yu might make some truly exceptional still panels, there is a horrible sense of movement between panels and within them. In other words, going from panel to panel there is little in the way of rational flow. The artwork tells a poor, painfully choppy story that undermines the action sequences.

Equally important, the script by Brian Michael Bendis moves along at such a rapid clip that there is almost no time for reflection on the part of the major characters. Outside Reed Richards, none of the characters have genuine moments of intense introspection. Richards is tortured and knows his wife has been replaced by a Skrull agent, so he comes out of his off-Earth experience pissed. That works. But with so many betrayals, the missing element in Secret Invasion is the human one where the heroes are actually shocked that those they care about are reverting to aliens bent on world domination. While some might operate with professional detachment, the fact that all of them blithely respond the same way to the latest revelation of a Skrull sleeper agent is just sloppy and unfortunate.

Even so, Secret Invasion is not a disappointment. The book is satisfying much the way a good action movie is. The character elements are painted in broad strokes, but the story is in the plot and Secret Invasion works well on that front.

For other Marvel Universe crossover events, please visit my reviews of:
Road To Civil War
Civil War: Marvel Universe


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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