Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Secret Invasion Review (Brian Michael Bendis, Leinil Francis Yu)

Shapeshifting aliens called Skrulls have replaced key figures on Earth, including some Marvel superheroes – who can you trust? Welcome to Secret Invasion aka Duuuuuuuuuuuh: The Comic! 

It’s a Marvel event written by Brian Bendis so I wasn’t expecting it to be good – and I was right, it wasn’t! But ‘tis turkey season so why not scoff down a turkey like Secret Invasion? 

How you feel about this comic depends on whether or not you enjoy emotionless superhero action, particularly the sort that comprises sprawling splash pages where dozens of characters throw themselves at one another, because there’s a helluva lot of that here. I’m not kidding, there’s nearly one of these idiotic scenes in every issue of this book - the penultimate issue is just one long action scene! There might be more big dumb action scenes in Secret Invasion than in Avengers vs X-Men and the latter’s premise is all about big dumb action!

I appreciate the effort artist Leinil Yu puts into these pages, and his art throughout this book is the best thing about it, but this stuff isn’t interesting to me. Watch as characters who’ve tangled a thousand times before do so again without, as usual, any consequences! 

Secret Invasion has some of the worst writing from Bendis yet. Without going into spoilers for why the Skrulls are invading, the story is superficially an analogy of the Spanish and the Aztecs in the 16th century - that’s as far as he takes it though! The premise of characters suspecting who is or isn’t a Skrull is abandoned almost immediately after the Skrulls reveal themselves (so much for “secret”!) and Bendis can indulge in one giant brawl after another in lieu of anything substantial. 

The story has some weirdly stupid plot holes. One scene has the SHIELD helicarrier going down over New York City and the next time we see it it’s somehow in the Bermuda Triangle?! In one scene Vision’s killed and then later on he just appears again, unharmed and unexplained! And what happened to Janet van Dyne/the Wasp at the end is so poorly explained I still don’t know what to make of it! Just shockingly sloppy storytelling from an experienced writer.

You’ll also need to know a lot of what was happening in the Marvel Universe at this time to understand several storylines because Bendis doesn’t provide any context. My knowledge of 2006/07 Marvel is limited so I was lost on all of these. Vision says something to Sentry (aka Marvel’s awful attempt at a Superman character) which sends him running away crying like a little girl for some reason – that honestly felt like a scene from Garth Ennis’ The Boys! Thor had apparently broken up with the Avengers but returns in this one, still pissed but talking to them – no clue why he left or why he’s back! I have no idea what was happening with Noh-Varr or Mar-Vell either but they’re pissed about something too! 

As always with Bendis, he flubs the ending. The Skrulls’ reason for invading was stupid, there’s a Deus Ex Machina that saves the replaced superheroes, and it’s not even a real ending but a prologue to the next Marvel event, Dark Reign – and a piss-poor prologue it is too! Really, THAT’S what started Dark Reign? How weak and unsatisfying. 

Speaking of Deus Ex Machinas, the whole thing was predicated on contrivance with Bendis coming up with ways to explain why Wolverine couldn’t smell the Skrulls’ scent, how none of the psychic characters could detect different minds, etc. It was just a badly conceived story. 

I did like Yu’s art and he pulls off the large set pieces admirably, though I have no idea why Uatu the Watcher is towering over Galactus in the same scene – one guy lives on the Moon, the other EATS PLANETS! And, despite my many reservations, Bendis’ script is a very easy, smooth read if extremely shallow and vapid. 

Secret Invasion is the quintessential Marvel event book: bloated, loud and stupid as well as the turkiest of turkeys - gobble, gobble!

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