Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mighty Avengers: Secret Invasion Book One

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Alex Maleev, Khoi Pham, John Romita Jr.
Collects: Mighty Avengers #12-15

So, yeah. Secret Invasion. Kinda sucked, sad to say. So what the hell am I doing reading a tie-in? Curiosity, mostly. The bulk of Secret Invasions intrigue had to do with who was a Skrull and when they had replaced the real McCoy. The main series offered almost none of that, so what the hell. May as well read a tie-in volume and see if the whole thing could have been as interesting as I thought, right?

This is the first of two Secret Invasion tie-in volumes for Mighty Avengers. Collects four of the eight tie-in issues. Why only four? Well, if they did the whole eight, they wouldn't be able to milk the consumer for another fifteen bucks SRP, now would they?

The tie-ins are kind of scatter-shot, it seems. They jump around a lot and don't offer any kind of continuous narrative. It's more a snapshot of different characters leading up to Secret Invasion, basically showing in detail how folks were abducted, when and why. As such, much of it is very continuity heavy. If you haven't really kept up with Marvel around this time, you're not going to get a lot out of this; it seems to assume you've been reading a lot of Marvel comics, looking for clues.

The first two issues collected here follow Nick Fury from his disappearance post Secret Wars on. It's really the best story of the volume; and I enjoyed it more than I did Secret Invasion itself, which ended up being a giant extended fight and little else. We see Fury catch wind of the invasion long before the heroes did, quickly settling in to save the world yet again. We see the start of the Caterpillars - who are part of the Secret Warriors series - and even get a playful jab or two at Samuel Jacks-I mean Ultimate Nick Fury.

The only thing wrong with it is that it feels less like a direct tie-in and more a proper prequel to the invasion itself or at least the start of one, seeing as it's two issues here. Perhaps it would have been better served as an actual prequel mini? Or maybe not, I dunno; after all, Fury and his troops ended up being little more than several more bodies in the fray of Secret Invasion anyways. The event should have just been about Nick Fury going undercover and turning back the invasion before the other heroes even knew what the deal was. That probably wouldn't have sold as much though.

These two issues sees Bendis work with one of his best collaborators - and the favorite of many fans - Alex Maleev. His art is dirty and grimy, which is really best suited for crime comics. Thankfully, this story fits right in his wheelhouse. Removed from the colorful superheroics, this story is a bit darker and more street level. Maleev does good work, though it's not entirely my favorite stuff.

The next issue is a one-off about what the Skrulls want to do about the Sentry, which amounts to "shift into the Void and the dude will totally freak". It feels like a waste of an issue to me. It's understandable that the Skrulls would be concerned about Captain Overpowered Schizo, but Secret Invasion made it clear enough that the Skrulls had tricked Sentry - being the easily manipulated wreck he is - without a whole issue dedicated to Skrulls standing around going "dude, we should totally tweak the headcase".

Khoi Pham does the art and it's rather respectable. Nothing spectacular though. Some of his faces are just way too funny, though they're clearly not intended to be. Sentry's "NOOOOO" face late in the issue is just too much.

Rounding out this thin volume is a whole issue dedicated to how the Skrulls totally roped in Hank Pym, got him out of the way and replaced him. We get the gist of his life as it went wrong before the switch - his wife's a drunkard and then leaves him when he gets irritated because she won't take her drunk ass to bed and sleep it off - and then he cheats on The Drunken Wasp with some blond university student. Pym's clearly kind of a sleaze; that or he's a moron who doesn't exactly seem to understand that cheating on the boozer is probably not the best reaction. I won't spoil how he's replaced, but come on, you've probably figured it out by this point in the description.

JRjr. does the art. He seems to be rather polarizing, but I like what I saw here. It's just a shame there isn't much for him to work with here. It's very much a talky issue with only a quick bit of action late in the book; Pym goes down like a wuss before anything interesting can happen.

Here's the problem. While the first two issues are fine, the second two don't work quite as well. They're exactly what I feared we'd get when it became clear the flashbacks would be separate from the main story. They're padded as all get out to fill twenty two pages, all based around continuity minutia and how so-and-so got jacked. There's a lot in the latter two issues that could have been a part of Secret Invasion proper and compressed down to a couple of panels; instead, they take one very minor cog and throw a full issue behind it.

What we're left with is a feeling that a lot of nothing happened with a few little nuggets of gold buried within. I genuinely like the Nick Fury half of this volume - though I've got no clue how much more of it there is - but the other stuff feels like it's been ruined by circumstance. Still, all of it held my attention. I'm not sure how I feel about all of this, because I've got issues with the book and yet I actually feel like I got more out of it than Secret Invasion itself. Yet again, there's the feeling that Bendis might have had a great story on his hands had the crucial elements not been scattered to the four winds.

The Score: 6 out of 10

Okay, but only half of this volume feels genuinely good on its own merits. More evidence Bendis had a grand plan in mind that I genuinely wish had worked out. I really enjoyed the Fury stuff, but I'm not sure it's worth buying this for.

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