One disappointing book and a whole boatload of awesome fit into the eighth installment of Secret Invasion reviews.
New Avengers #42 (*****)
Awesome! Bendis takes one of the biggest questions of Secret Invasion (what the hell is the deal with the Skrull Ship from the Savage Land?) and explains it beautifully. It shows the dedication of the Skrulls, to the point that they’re basically using suicide bombers. The fact that all the Skrulls on the ship are completely and totally convinced that they are the real deal just adds to the madness and confusion, which is exactly why they were sent there in the first place. Skrully Cap refusing to acknowledge his true nature despite having already reverted back to his true form was some powerful stuff. We’ve also got the running background commentary from Spider-Man, and very few people today can write Spider-Man as well as Bendis. The work he has put into building up the Skrull invasion through slowly revealing their machinations and behind the scenes plotting adds an immense amount of enjoyment to the overall story. It’s very subtle and logical storytelling that is perfectly structured in every way.
Avengers: The Initiative #15 (****1/2)
I do enjoy the way that Slott and Gage write 3-D Man here. This is a guy that is certainly in a no win situation. He sees Skrulls as humans and humans as Skrulls, so of course he has no choice but to trust and confide in the exact folks that he shouldn’t. Of course, Crusader is a kind soul, and decides to switch sides and fight against the Skrulls (in a way that is very similar to the end of the Captain Marvel miniseries), and he’s got the added bonus of manipulating the Freedom Ring (made out of a piece of the cosmic cube) so he is one of the few people on Earth that can see through the Skrulls’ disguises. I like the way that the undercurrent of paranoia in the main Secret Invasion books is taken over by the OVERT paranoia of 3-D Man, who’s a guy that is breaking apart at the seams trying to figure out what to do with the false information presented to him. There’s another thing I really like about this (that ends up being a theme of this batch of books), but I’ll get to that during the She-Hulk review later.
Ms. Marvel #29 (****)
Ooooh, baby. I will concede that the first half or so of this book could be considered more of the same. More Ms. Marvel dealing with the Skrull attack on New York. More of her mistreating civilians in a time of war and panic. But she eventually moves on and tries to figure out what’s going on by buzzing by Stark Tower and eventually moving a group of citizens to the Raft for safe keeping, and this is where the issue turns. Something has been going on at the Raft. Whatever that something is, it’s pretty goddamned creepy. I won’t go into it because it’s really the type of glorious WHAT THE FUCK moment that really needs to be experienced freshly and first hand or you lose a lot of the moment. I have no clue what’s coming from the rest of this arc. I also have no clue how this jives with some of the events of Secret Invasion #4, but the timeline is a funny thing, so I’ll give it some more issues to suss itself out.
Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #3 (**)
Well that was…odd. The opening kid drawing pages were certainly strange, but I have no clue what the writer was thinking in writing the narrative from the perspective of Franklin. It doesn’t read particularly well, and it certainly doesn’t seem to mesh well with what I know of Franklin as a character. There were some good moments, and I like the way the resolved things with Lyja, but this book fell off a bit of a cliff here, and it’s certainly disappointing after the first two issues. Ah well.
Black Panther #39 (*****)
Hoo boy. This one’s a doozy. Hello, Jason Aaron. I’ve never actually read anything by you. Turns out, you’re a pretty sweet writer. Talk about EPIC. So apparently there are two things you don’t do in times of war. You don’t attempt to invade Russia in the winter, and YOU DO NOT FUCK WITH WAKANDA. We follow two different plot strains here, from Black Panther preparing the troops for war to the Skrull captain just trying to get through one more invasion so he can retire to a remote planet and be with his family. Turns out it’s not going to be that easy, as the Wakandans are more than capable of defending themselves. I’m quite impressed with the amount of characterization Aaron manages to give this Skrull captain in such a short period of time. Perhaps the fact that it’s a familiar character trope, but it’s impressive either way. I wouldn’t necessarily put it up there with Hercules or Captain Britain yet, but this was a fantastic read. This book also feeds into what I saw in Avengers: Initiative and She Hulk
Thunderbolts #122 (****)
I’ve never read Thunderbolts before. I think Gage does a great job of operating from the assumption that a lot of folks will be jumping on to Thunderbolts for this arc, so he uses the device of Norman Osborne and Moonstone giving the entire team a psych evaluation to introduce us to the team, one by one. And this is certainly a quirky cast of characters. They fight Swarm (yes, he of the random MTU Sinister Syndicate card), and their odd methods for defeating the enemy leads to the best line of any comic I’ve read so far this month (“Why do you think we haven’t been allowed to go after Daredevil? Or Luke Cage? Perhaps because we can’t stop a Nazi made of bees without eating him, while you hide like a shrieking schoolgirl because you ‘don’t like bugs’!!”). We move on for some pretty creepy shit involving Swordsman (that dude’s got issues. And to stand out like that in a book like this is impressive) leading into Captain Marvel busting stuff up, Secret Invasion #1 style. This is a really entertaining book with some seriously engaging and well defined characters. Good stuff.
She-Hulk #31 (****1/2)
Thank you, Peter David, for taking away the bad taste in my mouth that was X-Factor #33. This is a GREAT issue that introduces a seriously cool concept into the Skrull mythos. The Talisman as a character and as an idea is just super cool. This is some high concept shit that I did not see coming. But here’s what I love about this book that I loved about Black Panther and Avengers: The Initiative. We’re starting to see the chinks in the Skrull armor. 3-D Man can see Skrulls. Darwin has revealed the true nature of The Talisman. Black Panther discovered the Skrull agents in Wakanda and gave them what for before humiliating a Skrull invasion force. Captain Britain is turning the tides in England with the help of Excalibur. We’re starting to see just how the humans might be able to beat back the storm, and none of it is coming from the big guns. It’s the fringes where the Skrull forces are spread out and weak that we’re starting to see the cracks form that could eventually expand and take down the entire fleet. This is FANTASTIC storytelling by everyone at Marvel. You can tell that they’re unified and all working on the same massive puzzle, even if they’re confined to their own little corners. This is what happens when you get everyone on the same page but still give them room to tell their own stories.