Thursday, April 9, 2009

Some Thoughts on Marvel's Secret Invasion

I don't buy monthly comics so I usually catch up on stuff when the paperbacks come out. So I'm now finally catching up on a lot of the Secret Invasion titles from Marvel. I've read a few Avengers titles and the Ms. Marvel book, but these are the two volumes that I want to highlight today.

The New Avengers: Illuminati by writers Brian Michael Bendis and Brian Reed with art by Jim Cheung is a great read that chronicles the discovery of the invasion by the alien Skrulls. The Illuminati are a group of six superheros tasked with tackling the most serious of Marvel Universe crises. The six are Charles Xavier/Professor X, Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, Blackbolt, Tony Stark/Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and Namor, the Sub-Mariner. This slim, 5-issue volume details their exploits in a daring raid on the Skrull homeworld, escape from it, and subsequent alien revelations.

The whole thing feels very cinematic and I was reminded of how much more compact and wordy comics were when I was a kid. Now, quite obviously, a good comic is much more like a film in many ways, with panels and their placement functioning like edits and shots in some director's vision. The events in these 5 volumes would have probably been crammed into one double-sized issue in a Marvel comic of the 1970's.

But, the sequence that stands out is in issue 4 where the guys sit around and discuss their problems with women. This is exactly the sort of thing that Marvel does so well; DC Comics now tries to do this thing but none of their characters fill me with such affection the way these six characters do. By revealing their humanity, the superheroes become even more mythic, more relatable, and then so much more appealing. Sequences like this probably reveal some deep psychological reason about why adults like me still read comics.

Secret Invasion, by writer Bendis and artist Leinil Yu, contains the 8-issue main series. I probably should have read all the related titles first as these 8 issues contain the main story of the Invasion; there won't be any surprises for me in the other volumes, I'm sure.

I was a bit confused in parts but overall this was a fun read. Not quite the cosmic event for me that older Marvel epics were but still a thrilling story. I know the fans probably wanted the wordless, two-page battle spreads but I thought there were too many of those. The art is decent -- Mr. Yu draws Spiderwoman better than anyone, I think.

The sequence where the Skrull queen posing as Spiderwoman confronts Nick Fury is classic; Fury's "Yeah, but my god has a hammer"-line, while standing behind the now-returned Thor, was awesome and hysterical! I cackled like a 12-year-old!

The ending, which I won't spoil, seemed a bit rushed and the final two-page "reveal" was a bit too obvious for my tastes.

Certainly, for whatever their weaknesses, I enjoy Marvel events like this much more than similar "event" books from DC Comics; with those DC ones, I am always lost and trying to catch up on the DC Universe continuity even while said event book seems to be set on rebooting it. Again.

Check our Marvel Comics for more details on all the Secret Invasion books. It's now spun-off into something called Dark Reign. I guess I'll be reading those paperbacks in a year's time.

[All images copyright Marvel Comics.]