Marvel at 80: Secret Invasion
He Loves You.
In the year 2008, a small dilemma arose in the Marvel Universe. Electra, the former lover of Daredevil and infamous assassin, was killed. The dilemma wasn’t over her death, but the fact that she was revealed to be a Skrull alien posing as Electra.
The Avengers, already split by the recent Civil War, was further troubled by the fact that the Skrull were now invading, and likely had been for years. People couldn’t trust one another, and even longtime friends started being suspicious for more than just reasons of heroic registration.
And then Brian Michael Bendis unleashed the Secret Invasion. Joined by artist Leinil Yu as a co-credited conspirator, Mark Morales on inks, Laura Martin and Emily Warren on colors, and Chris Eliopoulos on lettering, this event promised to change Marvel forever. And this time, it would stick for at least a few years.
With the crash of a Skrull spaceship in the Savage Land jungle of Antarctica, the renegade Avengers rushed to see what the issue was. Joined eventually by the legal avengers, tensions ran high as both teams were about to face off in yet another post-Civil-War beatdown. And then the Skrull ship opened up.
A veritable ton of heroes in out of date costumes, some dating back real-world decades, emerged. This immediately brought up questions: who was real? Who was a Skrull? And who was now a sleeper agent for the Skrull Empire?
The invasion began in earnest with tie-in issues. Miniseries for the Fantastic Four, Thor, and Spider-Man all featured the supporting casts for those normal books dealing with the opening acts of the Skrull invasion. Half of the Fantastic Four nearly died in the Negative Zone, Thor and Beta-Ray Bill dropped New Asgard on a Skrull abomination as battle brothers, and professional not-Mary-Jane red herring Jackpot tried to keep the staff of the Daily Bugle safe from a Sinister Six empowered Skrull.
Meanwhile, Skrulls invaded worldwide as Tony Stark’s Systems were all sabotaged beyond quick repair by a computer virus, and SHIELD was paralyzed because of it. Nick Fury (the old white guy, not Sam Jackson) had gathered up obscure heroes to fight as Secret Warriors while Norman Osborn’s Thunderbolts did their best to prevent the country from falling into chaos.
Yeah, Tony Stark put the Green Goblin in charge of Marvel’s version of the Suicide Squad. Not a good decision in retrospect.
Finally, all the players were gathered in New York. With the Skrull Queen revealed to be hidden as Spider-Woman, the objective was to take her down and shatter the ranks of the Skrulls. While cheesy and simple, it did result in some great lines:
The battle was long, fierce, and banter-filled. However, it all came down to one shot that took out the Queen. Fired by the one and only…
Norman Osborn. With the vast majority of the Skrulls killed, and their human captives rescued, the fallout of the Secret Invasion began before the final issue even ended. You see, Norman Osborn was put in charge of SHIELD, now renamed HAMMER to sound more menacing. To make matters worse, the final pages of the issue ended with Norman meeting with a dark version of the Illuminati from World War Hulk, featuring the likes of Namor (again), Doom, and Loki.
This event was actually really enjoyable by Marvel Event standards. The action was fast and frantic, and the mystery of who was a Skrull actually wound up being compelling when the Skrulls kept trying for subterfuge. Reading the event as a full book prevented any of the pacing issues that cropped up with a monthly release schedule, and helped the book flow easier between chapters. Luckily, none of the tie-in books are required to read the main story, and only enhance the experience if you choose to sample them. Especially Thor, which is swords and sorcery in Oklahoma fighting an alien invasion.
The writing is very Bendisian, for better or worse. A lot of the character interaction actually plays well, and Bendis has many characters down well by this point in his Marvel career. However, he does make sure the heroes spend way too much time in the Savage Land, which undermines a lot of the action going on elsewhere. As a result, the original release felt disjointed and slowed down what could have been a more enjoyable event. However, it is an utter delight to see heroes finally put aside their grievances after two full years of registration and fight alongside villains to make sure the world stays in one piece.
The art is also spectacular. Leinil Yu’s pencils straddle a line between cartoon and realistic that works incredibly well for the story. It remains overly expressive, even when compressed into a small panel, leaving the reader able to see facial expressions and body language easily. Action sequences are also a delight, with Yu making sure to keep the panels as frantic as the action he’s conveying. What results are, some panicky pages that feel like what the hero is going through.
Thanks to Yu’s exaggerates pencils and subsequent artwork from everyone else, it also becomes incredibly easy to tell everyone apart in a close shot without relying on costume alone. That’s rare for a modern event comic, though several men do suffer from an odd “long face” condition.
The after effects of Secret Invasion were actually long-reaching. With Norman Osborn in charge of the world’s security force, all the heroes of Marvel were now at risk of being taken down whenever Osborn felt like it. This was especially true in Spider-Man’s book, where he had to fend off legal attempts to capture him every few issues. Norman would also obtain one of Tony Stark’s old armor, becoming the source for the Iron Patriot.
Marvel was even so happy with the results of the event that they would hold off on another event until 2010, letting this feel like the new status quo for over a year. In short, it was one of those rare events where it did wind up leaving a lasting effect that couldn’t just be forgotten about the next month and its worth applauding just for that.
Secret Invasion does require a touch of a primer before cracking into, but it’s one of those rare events that stands alone really well. Since it’s been collected multiple times, it really is one of those events that can be picked up easily, and while it probably won’t make any new comic fans, it’s a fun punch em up that current comic fans will completely enjoy.
After that year hiatus from events, Bendis would be back for another one. This time, Norman and HAMMER were taking aim at Asgard. Can they survive… the Siege?