Propaganda is seeing little green men everywhere – Secret Invasion # 1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Leinil Yu
(Steve McNiven’s variant cover to Secret Invasion issue 1. Published Marvel Comics 2008)
Secret Invasion is the much hyped 8-issue Marvel event of the year. If you haven’t heard anything about it or don’t want to know any of the surprises, just skip the review. It’s been out for a while now and the spoilers have been all over the Internet so I don’t think it’s spoiling the fun to give some of them away here.
The tagline for the saga is “Who Do You Trust?” and it promises to radically rewrite a lot of Marvel history. I believe the phrase is “Nothing will ever be the same again”.
Basic story: The Skrulls (shapeshifting alien race) have infiltrated all levels of Marvel’s superhero and supervillain society and are masquerading as all sorts of characters. Brian Michael Bendis started off by revealing that Elektra was a Skrull in the pages of the New Avengers. But he also makes it clear that the Skrulls have been planning this for a long time and anyone in the Marvel Universe could be a Skrull. By the end of the first issue we see that the Skrulls have definitely replaced Dum Dum Dugan (S.H.I.E.L.D.), Jarvis (the Avenger’s butler), Hank Pym (Giant Man, Ant Man, Yellowjacket) and Susan Richards of the Fantastic Four. But an encounter with a Skrull ship in the Savage Land reveals that a host of Marvel heroes have escaped from Skrull captivity, implying that they too have Skrull doppelgangers at large. The list of suspects includes Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Thor, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Scarlet Witch, Phoenix, Vision and many more Marvel stalwarts.
(Elektra a Skrull or just having some seriously bad reactions to Botox treatment? a scene from Secret Invasion #1, art by Leinil Yu, (c) Marvel)
The first half of the comic works really well. Bendis’ staccato dialogue and easy conversational writing works really well here, with lots of jump cuts making the first 10 or so pages a fun, interesting introduction with real cinematic flair. But once the real action starts and Bendis settles down to write the tale of the two Avengers teams in the Savage Land it rather loses its momentum and stalls slightly. Which is a real shame because I’ve always liked Bendis’ writing; he has a great turn of phrase and establishes intelligent, thoughtful and funny conversations amongst his characters. But here, I think the desire to move the story on, to tell the big story, has rather overwhelmed all of the things I like about his writing. But it’s still entertaining enough and promises to be at least a fun series for us grown ups who’ve been around Marvel comics for a long time.
(Who’s green and has a wrinkly chin? Everyone. Art from Secret Invasion: Infiltration by Leinil Yu. Published Marvel Comics 2008.)
However I do have major problems with the whole concept. Although I like the idea of Bendis using the shape-shifting Skrulls as a sinister infiltrating alien race, rather than just another alien horde I can’t help but feel it may be a bit of a betrayal of Marvel’s younger readers. It potentially could completely destroy any faith a child can have in the characters they’ve grown to love. If I read that the character I loved was a Skrull all along it wouldn’t be my character anymore. I’d feel cheated. And I don’t know if I’d be bothered to carry on reading.
Or to put it another way:
Timmy: Dad, who’s this?
Dad: That’s Wolverine Timmy.
Timmy: No Dad, that’s Wolverine over there. But why is he green and what’s wrong with his chin?
Dad: Ah, Timmy. That’s because your Wolverine isn’t really Wolverine at all. He’s a horrible alien Skrull, secretly pretending to be Wolverine and was really evil all this time.
Timmy: That blows Dad. I don’t want to read Wolverine anymore.
Of course, I could be completely wrong and my inner 12 year old may well be way out of touch with today’s comic reading kids.
(your utterly gratuitous naked shape-changing alien Skrull/Elektra pic for the week from Secret Invasion #1, art by Leinil Yu, (c) Marvel. Naked superwomen who turn out to be shape-changing aliens will never be the same again...)
I actually quite like the idea of it as an insidious plot for alien invasion by stealth instead of force. It’s going to be interesting to see how it develops. And of course there’s always a perverse sense of nosiness with any book like this. Who can you trust indeed?
Richard Bruton is a lifelong comics fan and former Comic Book Store Guy; you can read more of his thoughts on comics and life on his blog Fictions.