Reviews: Secret Invasion Part 10B: The Avengers

As of tomorrow I’m off to the Comic Geek Speak Super Show (woop woop!) for the rest of the weekend. I’ll write up a report of what I saw and got there, and I’m very much looking forward to bumming around with about 300-400 crazy comic geeks and 50+ artists and picking up the sketches I preordered of random Marvel Cosmic characters (Thanos, Lockjaw, Karnak, Ronan the Accuser, and AIR-WALKER!). Hopefully I’ll have time to put up the final SI tie in part Sunday night or Monday, but things are going to get super crazy and busy next week with the move, so I might not be heard from in a while.

New Avengers #44 (****1/2)

This is definitely a novel way to deal with the problem of how the Skrulls learned to become undetectable. We’ve known the mechanics of what is done for some time (well, those of us that are reading New and Mighty Avengers do at least), but it was never adequately explained how the Skrulls came up with the idea in the first place. Turns out that they didn’t. This is the furthest back in time we’ve gone since New Avengers: Illuminati #1. In fact, this seems to take place hours/days/weeks after the events of that book, where we find out that one of the things the Skrulls did to the Illuminati while they were captured was to perfect a way to create flawless clones of the six Illuminati members. Why would they do such a thing? It’s simple: they can interrogate Reed Richards without actually interrogating Reed Richards. The entire Illuminati makes their appearances here (well, technically none of them do, but you know what I mean), but Reed is at the center of things here, as the Skrulls attempt to attack his mind from various avenues and perspectives. Of course, they eventually crack him, and Reed rationally surmises how the Skrulls could potentially elude detection, which leads to the eventual invasion however many years down the line.

So this is really the first time in the history of Marvel comics that the Skrulls come off as actually smart. It’s important to keep that thread alive considering their less than stellar track record, because this is easily a situation that could fall into the realm of an unimpressive threat. A book like this is what is needed to reinforce the ideals at the core of Secret Invasion that these aren’t the kind of Skrulls that are going to be hypnotized into thinking they’re cows. This book also puts Reed Richards at the absolute center of the entire event, because he’s the cause of it all. His getting captured along with the rest of the Illuminati gave the Skrulls the ammunition they needed to get the ball rolling. But at the same time, it’s not perfect. The Skrulls were successful in completing their objective, but it sure took a couple tries to get it done, which further explicates the cracks in the armor that Bendis and the other Marvel writers have been seeding into this event from month four on. The plan may have been perfectly realized, but the execution hasn’t. Looking at what happened between the panels in Secret Invasion 5, it’s quite apparent that Reed not only knows the “how” that led to their improved cloaking abilities, but he also knows what they did to him to get there. Reed’s not going to be happy. These books are so layered and satisfying that I just can’t get enough.

Mighty Avengers #17 (***1/2)

It seems Hank Pym is Bendis’ anti-Hawkeye, as he’s been doing a lot of work in Mighty Avengers to attempt to redeem the poor bastard, and that continues here. There are two kinds of Skrull agents on Earth during this event. The first kind is completely stripped of any memories, emotions or feelings that tie them to being a Skrull to the point that they’re completely convinced that they are who they look like. This would be the model used for the folks that crashed in the Savage Land, and is mostly designed for diversionary purposes. The second variety it designed for the higher ups of the infiltration force, and they still retain their own thoughts and feelings through the transformation process, which allows them to carry out specific objectives that would be impossible had they gone completely undercover. Look at Queen Veranke/Spider Woman and Jarvis as examples of this kind of Skrull. Hank Pym is the latter version. But these agents still go through the process of having their DNA melded with that of their “host” (as it were), and in so doing, it’s impossible not to pick up on some of the physical and mental traits that come with the territory. And in this case, Hank Pym is just too smart for his own good.

It’s a good concept, but the book is a bit choppier than usual. I think the fight in the middle is a bit overlong, but the conversations that pepper the beginning and the end, and the slowly building mix of paranoia, fear and dementia that grips the Pym Skrull before he goes off the deep end are something special. So you’ve got the dual purpose of the Skrulls knowing that the replacement of Hank Pym undeniably necessary for the success of their plans combined with the various Pym Skrulls always figuring out that the plan isn’t going to work, and you’re left with chaos. I would have liked it more if it were structured differently, but it was still a solid story.

Avengers: The Initiative #16 (***)

I like 3-D Man. Not too fond of the Skrull Kill Krew at this point. We’ve only seen one issue, and they do go into the back story of the SKK (which is a bit of a problem in itself, as the events that led to the Skrull Kill Krew being formed didn’t exactly jive with the events of the Kree Skrull War so many years before it, but there might have been some kind of explanation at some other point), and I certainly understand why they’ve been pulled into the universe, but Slott and Gage don’t really give us a reason to care about them. I still like the writing, and Caselli’s art is more than adequate, but there was definitely a disconnect here that took me out of the story.

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