Well, that was a disappointment. The first issue of Marvel’s Secret Invasion mini-series wasn’t nearly as dreadful as I’d hoped. It’s not good by any standard I currently hold for comics, but it’s far from the stupidest thing I’ve ever read.
What struck me most about it was that all of the soap opera is political instead of interpersonal. Tension comes from differences in philosophy or the suspicion that people they don’t like are Skrulls. (Nobody catches his or her breath long enough to say, “Well, that would explain why you’ve been such an ass for the last three crossovers.”) I miss the days when characters could spew scathing, entirely personal reproaches at each other while fending off alien invaders.
The plot moves surprisingly quickly, with a number of minor characters revealed to be Skrulls, several big explosions, and a handful of other twists of varying levels of impact. With so much stuff happening, there isn’t much room for dialogue to turn execrable. The notable exceptions are scenes with super-geniuses Reed Richards, Tony Stark and Hank Pym. Brian Bendis seems more interested in making everyone talk in a way that he thinks is conversationally natural, so smart people don’t quite come across with that quality intact.
I seem to be in the minority in being generally unimpressed with the pencils of Leinil Francis Yu. It’s hard to create a palpable sense of paranoia when the portrayal of character acting is so weak. Facial expressions are more blank than intriguingly ambiguous. His style and storytelling seem too sketchy for the big set pieces. With so many characters in play and so much happening, an emphasis on clarity and detail would seem to be in order.
For me, the overall effect of reading the book was what I always imagined would result from attending a high-school reunion. It was vaguely interesting to check in with a group that used to matter intensely, but I’m not going to go out of my way to keep up with them.
I will admit that the big reveal that concludes the comic is intriguing enough to incline me to follow what happens in the series through message board conversations, though not actually by means of buying more comics. (If anyone chooses to start an annotations blog, for example, please let me know.) Spoiler-rich link after the cut.
See, this is the kind of thing that I think would be meaningless to the casual reader who’s absorbed the title’s hype but is a virtual buffet for the dedicated Marvel fan. If even, say, two of the characters portrayed in this splash are the genuine articles as opposed to Skrull feints, then there are genuine possibilities of the “Everything you know is wrong” variety. With a good third of the characters rendered here, I can come up with a healthy list of things i wish had never happened to them. While it’s probably 95% misdirecting tease, I have to give Bendis credit for putting at least part of the joke on himself. He wrote a good 70% of the stories I wish could be wiped out of the Scarlet Witch’s personal canon. That doesn’t constitute actual story-generated interest so much as residual fanboy wistfulness, mind you.