Embrace change! Shelfdust has been invaded! For the next eight weeks, we’re looking back at Marvel’s 2008 event storyline “Secret Invasion” and how the eight-part storyline changed Marvel. It’s a “SeCritic Invasion!” taking over comics criticism this Summer! But… are we working alone? Is Shelfdust the only place the Skrulls have taken over? Who do you trust…?
By Zoe Tunnell
I remembered Secret Invasion fondly, before writing this. It hit when I was still in the early days of my comic fandom – and as a devotee of the Ultimate Universe I was down for whatever Brian Bendis was dishing out. The core idea, that Skrulls have been secretly replacing heroes for years and laying the groundwork for a takeover of Earth, is so strong its been adapted into a half dozen different media properties and is even getting its own dang TV show. So, it was probably good, right?
Secret Invasion #4 is a nothing issue. It is all of Bendis’ worst flaws as a writer laid bare for the world to see for 22 pages. As a middle issue, you would hope that it would feature some sort of turning point or major revelation to drive the back half of the story. Instead you get 10 (!!) pages of narration monologue, a handful of tiny character moments and an ending that teases the ACTUAL exciting stuff happening in the next issue. It’s a summary of everything that has happened prior in this event with the only actually significant plot development being Tony Stark deciding he wants to do things.
This was their BLOCKBUSTER EVENT OF THE YEAR, folks!!!
Diving into the actual meat, as lean as it is, the entire opening half is a monologue from the Skrull Queen over how humanity never stood a chance. It’s exactly what you would expect from a 10-page Bendis monologue, hammering home the same idea in a dozen different ways and, for some reason, making the alien monarch talk like she could be a blue collar Spider-Man villain. It’s all placed over a montage of previous story events, most memorably an absolutely disgusting Reed Richards stretched so thin he should be yelling “MOISTURIZE ME”. Just really great, nasty stuff from Leinil Yu, an artist who I normally think plays it way too safe. I truly wish there was more to say here but that’s the opening of this issue. A lot of words, a little substance.
The most interesting thing that happens is the first substantive appearance of the Secret Warriors, Nick Fury’s top secret squad of young heroes who would go on to star in their own series that launched Jonathan Hickman’s Marvel career. As someone who owns the entire run of Secret Warriors and loves it to death, this should be a neat little moment that I dig… but it can’t escape the “all filler, no meat” curse that plagues this issue. Despite being the big end reveal of Secret Invasion #3, the Secret Warriors have a grand total of 4 pages of appearance in this issue, and largely spend it punching non-descript Skrulls in some rubble. I can’t help but feel that having a brand-new superteam make their debut in a big issue ending splash creates a certain level of expectation for their usage, and having them barely appear and do absolutely nothing sure ain’t meeting that.
The rest of the issue jumps between a handful of scenes: Skrull-Jarvis mocking Maria Hill, Abigail Brand sneaking on board the Skrull mothership and finally Iron Man, Skrull-Spider-Woman (TWO Hyphens now, take that Parker) and Black Widow in the Savage Land. I lump these three together because they’re all equally treading water. Each plot moves forward by inches over the course of an entire issue, having made a slight change by the end. Brand goes from outside the Skrull ship to inside. Hill realizes there are more Skrulls than just Jarvis on the helicarrier. Tony shakes off the fear that he’s a Skrull and decides to go actually do something. But not until next issue, of course.
Re-reading this, it’s hard to feel anything other than Secret Invasion laying the groundwork for the next decade-plus of forgettable crossover events, many of them also written by Bendis. It takes a core premise, Sneaky Skrulls, and stretches it over an entire miniseries while sprinkling one or two Big Shocking Reveals in the middle and end to capture buzz and make the whole affair seem important. Age of Ultron, Fear Itself, AXIS, Civil War 2, the list goes on and on of similarly terrible-to-middling events that can all trace their roots back to Secret Invasion’s structure. Even Bendis’ prior effort, House of M, managed to maintain momentum and tell a structured story over its run, even if it was one that ruined a Marvel mainstay to this very day (sorry, Wanda).
I really wish I had some nicer things to say about Secret Invasion #4. I remember loving this series! Skrulls! They were everywhere!! What a time to be alive!!! But it is the most dull, uneventful event issue I’ve read in some time an-oh wait, sorry, one second someone’s ringing the doorbell. Be right back.
Hello, readers. It is me, The Real Zoe. You can tell by my human words and my love for Comicked Books of all varieties. Please disregard every other part of this piece, I ate some bad Italian Noodles With Tomato Sauce and my brain got sad.
Secret Invasion #4 is amazing. It has Skrulls. It has Earthlings, of which I am one of course, being Beaten Up. It has pictures AND words. There is nothing more a reader could ask for. And if you do want more than that, please comment with your address and the hours you are home for no reason. Thank you for reading my words, and remember the classic Human Saying: always answer your doorbell!
Secret Invasion #4
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Drawn by Leinil Francis Yu
Inked by Mark Morales
Coloured by Laura Martin
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
He loves you.
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