Bruce Castle Presents: Skrulls VS X-Men & Inhumans

Secret Invasion: X-Men #2 (****)

We get more entertainment from the SI tie-in machine. This feels like a genuine invasion book that provides much merriment. What’s a perfect side dish for an invasion book? The X-Men should taste exquisite. You get to see how your favorite mutant crew handles the green meanies complete with some Cuckoos (Yay Morrison!) and some intriguing Nightcrawler business. Did I mention I have a soft spot for Cary Nord’s art? It’s not for everyone, but I really dig it. My only complaint is that this is a four issue mini instead of three. So, it’s not as tight as I’d like it to be, but that doesn’t detract much. If you’re looking for some good old fashioned alien squishing fun with a twist, pick this up.

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #2 (***1/2)

I was about to write about how fun this comic is, but there was quite a bit of torture included. Even though torture is often seen as entertainment these days (cough…24…cough), I still find it a bit too unsettling to refer to this issue as “fun”. However, this is still entertaining. Tom Raney’s art still manages to impress (more historic stained glass windows yay!), we get to see the Inhumans kick plenty of Skrull ass, and Joe Pokaski presents a well-written and amusing Inhumans yarn. I just wish he would lay off the torture a bit (What? Do they tell TV writers that torture sells nowadays?).

Bruce Castle Presents: The Skrulls Get Around

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1 (****)

This book should have come out a lot sooner. That’s really the only complaint I have about this. The two main things that a tie-in has to be concerned about is one: have something to do with the event it ties into and two: spend at least a little time introducing the characters because you want to bring new readers into your story. I know little about the Inhumans. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of their books before so all I know is their names and a little about their powers. Not only did this issue tell me who the Inhumans are, it did so in a very creative way through stain glass windows. This gave Tom Raney the opportunity to show his prowess as an artist. His Kirby-esque rendering in those windows is an artistic treat. The characters are written wonderfully and we get to know all of them quickly. But this is still a tie-in, and when the Skrulls do show up they kick some ass in cinematic fashion. Due to the great work from the creative team, SI Inhumans is worth the price of admission.

Secret Invasion: Thor #1 (****1/2)

If you haven’t been reading Thor Ages of Thunder from Matt Fraction, you really need to do yourself a favor and pick up those two issues. I have a friend who has been reading Thor for almost 30 years and he feels that Fraction has written the best Thor since Walt Simonson’s legendary run. So I was both excited and a bit nervous reading this because his other two issues of Thor were so good. But thankfully, this doesn’t disappoint. I’ll give a quick shout out to Doug Braithwaite who does the art on this fine issue. He brings us breathtaking images and genuinely godlike portrayals that leave you breathless. We get to see some cool things we rarely see like Donald Blake’s duties as a Doctor and of course the return of Beta Ray Bill which shows Fraction’s obvious affection towards the aforementioned Simonson run. The action was absent in this issue, but there was plenty of material to keep you entertained and the last page leaves you wanting more.

Secret Invasion: X-Men #1 (****)

This was a hell of a first issue. I’ll first mention what drew me to this issue was Nord’s art. I’m a big Conan fan and since he’s off that book I have to get his pretty art anyway I can. So when I saw this I thought: X-Men, Skrulls, Nord art, and a pretty Dodson cover, I’m there! In addition to the glorious Nord art, I had quite a lot of fun with this issue. So the Skrulls invade San Francisco because remember, California was near defenseless until recently. The Skrulls land and start slaughtering until the X-Men arrive!  A lot of action ensues. So this is fun and has stunning art. What was interesting though is how serious the Skrulls were. They acted like they came right out of some bloody war. They had Skrully priests blessing the troops with the commander saying “These soldiers are saints already”. Who is this Skrull commander? He’s a pretty crazy character. He even refers to the Skrull invasion as a crusade. Oh and he executes another Skrull for messing up. The only thing that keeps this issue from being the best out of these tie-ins is the absence of an aforementioned tie-in ingredient. This isn’t a book for new readers at all. But if you like the X-Men, gorgeous art, and some extremely intriguing Skrulls, pick this up!

Review: Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1

So I was given the surprising opportunity to read SI Inhumans today before I get it in my DCBS Box on Friday (it’s certainly possible that it had something to do with my bitching to everyone within earshot about the agony of having to wait TWO WHOLE DAYS!!!!!! in order to read the thing), and I read through it while I was at work. There was a hell of a lot of anticipation on my end. I think if you had to create a pecking order for my favorite characters in comics, the Inhumans run a close second behind Galactus and his Heralds, with a personal affinity specifically engendered for the Royal Family, as you’d be hard pressed to find a more interesting and diverse group of folks under one roof. I have literally liked every story I have ever read about the Inhumans. The Paul Jenkins/Jae Lee Marvel Knights run is well regarded as a classic (and deservedly so), but series like the Pacheco/Ladronn four issue run, or McKeever’s twelve issues, or Son of M or Silent War are all great stories. So combine that with my love for the characters and love for the Secret Invasion event, and you’ve got some big shoes to fill. Also consider that this is writer Joe Pokaski’s first full length comic work (he wrote some of those Heroes shorts as well), and there’s a lot of pressure here.

Well, my fears or trepidation were put to rest on the opening pages, where we see Karnak (he’s a personal favorite of mine out of all the Royal Family) explaining the history of the Inhumans while preaching in front of these beautifully rendered throwback style stained glass windows to catch up readers new and old alike. The current status quo of the Inhumans is also quickly established, as the events of Silent War have not been swept under the rug as some have feared. Maximus is still king of Attilan, the Royal Family still hates his guts, and Gorgon is still in his more animal-like secondary Terrigenesis form. The characterization of the Royal Family is pretty much spot on. Gorgon is still constantly trying to reconcile his temper with his loyalty to his brothers and cousins. Karnak is still a stone cold badass. Medusa still mixes her emotions of fealty, royalty, pride, and honor with that tinge of vulnerability bubbling underneath the surface. And Maximus is (as always) a MASSIVE JACKASS (who constantly takes pot shots at Triton for no reason other than being bored). It is very obvious that Pokaski is either a legitimate fan of the Inhumans or did TONS of research, so it all works in relation to what came before.

From a story perspective, it’s what you’d expect. Iron Man delivers the Black Bolt Skrull to Medusa, who is kind of a bit upset about it, and the Inhumans proceed to examine themselves from within Attilan to see just what this means for them while they attempt to find their missing deposed king. But the Skrulls are ready for them, and much of Attilan is burning by the end of the issue. I won’t go into specifics because this is a book that really requires a fresh approach to enjoy the way things play out. But I will say that someone is messing with the Terrigen crystals, and whoever designed the Inhuman Royal Family Super Skrull that appears in this issue could potentially be my new best friend. I think that thing may honestly be cooler than the Illuminati Super Skrull from Secret Invasion 2. We’ve got an ending with a very strong allusion to certain events of another recent Marvel event, and we have that undeniable need to read the next issue RIGHT NOW and the long, dark soul searching month of quietude before the next onslaught of awesomeness. And truly, what more is there to ask for from a monthly periodical comic book?

I wanted to end this somewhat haphazard and hastily put together review by talking about Tom Raney. Now, I already mentioned how great those opening stained glass style panels look. And the badass Inhuman Super Skrull. But the rest of the book is drawn in this wonderful clean style that is a pretty big departure from what we’ve gotten used to from an Inhumans book. This book does not revel in the darkness the way that Jae Lee or Landronn or Frazer Irving drew the Inhumans. It’s much more along the lines of of the artists that worked on McKeever’s twelve issue series, but even that was relentlessly dark at times. This book is not done from that perspective. The colors pop. Everything is vibrant and clear as day. It’s VERY different, but not in a bad way. This is also a different style compared to Raney’s work on Annihilation: Conquest, which I think has a lot to do with the coloring as well, so hats are off to the folks at Guru EFX for doing a great job on making this book like no other that has preceded it. That’s not discounting Raney, of course, as his lines are confident and strong, and his expression work from the myriad of Medusa’s emotions to Maximus’ indifference to Gorgon’s rage and Karnak’s frustration enhances the words in a way you can only get from the comic medium.

To say this book lived up to my expectations would be no small feat considering how excited I’m been to read the thing ever since it was announced (or more accurately ever since New Avengers: Illuminati #5 when I desperately wanted to see what the Inhumans would do about Black Bolt), but the combination of the spot on writing and the great art and the little subtleties that come from both the writing and the art really make for a truly compelling piece of superhero fiction. My mind is at ease and still swimming in a sea of Inhumany goodness. Won’t you join me?