Saturday, November 27, 2010

Secret Invasion (comics)

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Lenil Yu
Collects: Secret Invasion #1-8

Well now, that was certainly a waste of time.

Marvel doesn't exactly have a great track record with events in the 2000's. Most of them sucked. Harsh, maybe, but it's true. Some did have redeeming qualities, but I can't think of one that was genuinely good.

I thought this would be the one to break the trend. It had a good setup - hell, if we're being honest the entirety of New Avengers up to that point had been leading to it - a decent hook and it had readers completely engaged. People were scrambling about, searching past Bendis comics for hints or clues; that's pretty much when you know you've got everyones attention and interest. It should have worked.

Should have.

Bendis and Marvel promised that you could read just the main miniseries and get a complete story, so I put that to the test. Well, the claim certainly holds up, mostly because there's nothing here. Skrulls invade and the heroes fight back. That's it. This comic is one giant brawl between heroes and aliens. A brawl that someone decided it should take eight issues to tell. Even on a payoff level it doesn't deliver.

At one point, the entire event was going to be split between Mighty and New Avengers, showing characters abductions and replacements by Skrull agents in the past while the battle raged in the present. Think what DC did with Sinestro Corps War. But eventually they went with a standalone miniseries, with all the abductions relegated to the tie-ins. The reason boils down to money, but it damaged the integrity of the event; eight issues of fighting could have been eight issues of deftly plotted invasions, reveals, answers as to when people were abducted and all the trimmings. Instead, we get filler.

Now lets be real here; the question of who was a Skrull and who wasn't comes out to about ninety percent of the buildup to Secret Invasion, including the ad campaigns. With all the explanations held elsewhere, the most interesting part of the story is gone. It's like they stripped the meat off a bone and then handed it to us. As a result, we get eight issues of fighting in the Savage Land and New York City. Eight issues of fighting that had the entire line tying into it for upwards of ten months.

Worse still, after all that buildup, the Skrull reveals aren't even all that interesting. There are maybe four major reveals and they all happen in the first issue. Half of them aren't even superheroes. There was a very real fear going around at the time that the event was going to be used as a cop-out for the actions of certain characters over the past couple of years. Turns out Secret Invasion didn't pull any of that at all - Bendis pokes fun at it with a few fake-outs - but the flipside is that we went through months of characters braying about how they couldn't trust anyone - to the point where fans were saying "enough already, lets get to the invasion" - only to have almost all of the heroes be the real deal. All that hysteria over nothing. Moderation is good - and if the story went too far in the opposite direction I would have been pissed about that - but it felt like the infiltration didn't have the impact that it needed.

Secret Invasion is also packed with filler. Lots of it. Seriously, there are sequences where it's so obvious wheels are being spun because "holy crap I have to fill eight issues". This is at its most noticeable when characters seem to flit in and out of the story at random, ultimately doing nothing of consequence. One of the most ridiculous involves Marvel Boy. We see him from time to time in the course of the story before he's inspired to join the battle. He then makes his presence known on the battlefield, telling the Skrulls that the battle is over and they've lost. We don't even see him again after that aside from him being present in a crowd scene. He just vanishes from the story. That's just one example; they're all over this book.

There's also an occasion where a scene just straight up does not make sense. The climax of the book involves some last resort doomsday weapon the Skrulls had. What it is or how it's actually resolved, I really don't know. Bendis doesn't tell us anything about it, much less how it's resolved. It looks like a tornado hits the character in question and they dissolve on impact. Whatever it was, it happens and then the story goes on its way with no explanation in sight.

I'm not even going to touch the ending, because it's simply insane and makes no sense whatsoever; I realize Marvel - and Bendis - wanted a certain status quo, but what they went for is more like trying to shove the meat clever in a slot made for the steak knife.

It's written, well, like a Bendis comic. Which is to say that it's at times overly quippy. Better people than I have pointed out Bendis' flaws as a scripter - there are times where everyone sounds the same, it's all too fixated on cool lines and so on - but the man can write a good comic. I've read some of them. This isn't one. Most of his bad habits as a writer are on display here.

Lenil Yu does the art; I can't say I'm a fan, but I don't dislike his work either. He does well enough - and packs detail into the fights - but there are times when his art is too scratchy for my liking. I guess it comes down to my personal preference. Others seem to get more mileage out of it than I did.

At any rate, this story is deeply, deeply flawed. There is so much wrong with it that I simply cannot recommend it. Bendis had a good thing going here, but whether it's the format getting in the way or otherwise, it just didn't work. Damn shame too; part of me thinks it should have worked. I hate it when potential is wasted.

My Opinion: Skip It

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