This book has the Secret Invasion: The Infiltration banner on it (much like issue three should have had), and it continues exploring just what Mar-Vell is dealing with concerning both the sudden revelation of the Skrull invasion as well as the problems he’s been having with his memory since returning to the past. So we’ve got the return of a hero from prior to his death. The cancer in his body has metastasized. He knows that he is fated to die and must return to the past in order to keep the space time continuum consistent. When Marvel first decided to bring back Mar-Vell, there was a lot of consternation in the comic fan community. The Death of Captain Marvel is one of the most celebrated graphic novels out there, and is widely considered some of Jim Starlin’s best work. To bring the guy back, even in the way they did so he wasn’t actually resurrected, would very possibly invalidate a fantastic piece of comic work. Luckily, Brian Reed knows exactly what he’s doing.
I love the way that Reed has decided to tie in the history of the way Captain Marvel is perceived by a lot of fans to the way he is acting in the present day. The Jim Starlin run on the original Captain Marvel (issues 25-34) is very highly regarded. Once Starlin left the book, the prevailing opinion is that the quality just kept reducing until the ongoing (and Mar-Vell, really) was given a mercy killing at issue 62. And then The Death of Captain Marvel is released, and it is by far the best and most widely read story starring Captain Marvel. This leads to the best line from the issue, Mar-Vell’s remark that the only thing he’s truly famous for is dying of cancer. He didn’t die in battle. He didn’t die trying to save a busload of children or because of some honorable wounds. He got cancer from a freak run-in with Nitro and died because of it. It humanized him and made for a great story, but this was not the death of a hero. Mar-Vell wants to earn his keep, and regain his true hero status (“The world is watching us. And it is time to stand up. To say that I am Mar-Vell. That I will do something more than die in bed.” That’s some excellent work). And this is his motivation throughout both this specific issue and the series as a whole. I like the way that he decides to pitch in and help the Cult of Hala because regardless of their motivations in worshipping him as a Christ figure, they’re still doing good works. And yet there’s a growing conflict concerning what happened at the end of issue 3. And this conflict is causing Tony Stark and the Mighty Avengers to worry, even to the point of taking a trip to Titan to take some truly desperate measures. The ambiguous ending frees up all sorts of questions as to what Mar-Vell’s last words are, which means that there are at least five different ways this final issue can go, all of which sound extremely interesting.
The art from Lee Weeks has been very good throughout this mini, but Reed’s the real star here. He has built up a few subplots throughout the four issues and continues to work them into the overall story. Whether it’s the reporter whose job was to expose the Church of Hala as a sham and is slowly believing in their mission, or it’s Ms. Marvel’s continued dealing with the return of Mar-Vell, or the painting of Alexander the Great, all of it is continually brought back and expanded from issue to issue. Plus, he’s writing Captain Marvel. He’s writing Ms. Marvel. He wrote the Young Avengers Presents Hulkling issue that heavily featured Captain Marvel. It’s always good when you get a dedicated writer to cover an entire corner of a comic universe, because you can count on continuous stories and characterization over a slew of books. And this is one of the things that excites me about Secret Invasion, because so much of it is being covered by Bendis and Reed. It’s an exciting time to be a Marvel fan, and series like this are a perfect example of why that’s the case.