Hype is a sharp, two edged blade. I can’t think of a story more hyped in the last 15 years than Secret Invasion, and understandably so. The build up for this was incredible, taking years to sow seeds before paying off. Every reader was excited for Marvel’s next big story. Too bad it failed to deliver.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Leinil Francis Yu, Secret Invasion had a fascinating story in concept. The shape-shifting Skrulls, thinking the Earth was theirs by religious right, invaded. With new technology making them undetectable, the Skrulls began to supplant various heroes. The set up for this was fascinating and easily the best part of the story. It’s a little dense so I’ll try to streamline. Little status quo detail: there were two Avenger teams, New and Mighty. New consisted of Captain America (Steve Rogers is dead, Bucky is Cap), Spider-man and the like who were criminals thanks to Civil War. Mighty was Iron Man’s team. Good to go?
While the New Avengers battled the Hand in Japan, Echo violently kills Elektra, their leader. Her corpse changed, revealing a Skrull. They take the body to run tests, discovering Wolverine’s smell, Spidey’s sense, Dr. Strange’s magic, or any other means could detect a disguised Skrull. While deciding what to do, Spider-Woman takes the corpse to Iron Man, and joins the Mighty Avengers. This took place a year before the Invasion began, in 2007. Continuing to build momentum, more was revealed before and during the series, explaining how everything happened.
New Avengers #7 revealed a secret group, calling themselves the Illuminati. This was a bit of smart retroactive continuity. Comprised of Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Reed Richards, Blackbolt, Namor, and Professor Xavier, they formed after the Kree/Skrull War (1971-72). While they had many behind the curtains adventures, their first was an attempt to intimidate the Skrulls. In their hubris they were captured and studied before eventually escaping. The Skrulls used this information to go undetected.
New and Mighty Avengers continued to reveal more information as the main series released. All three were written by Bendis. The first issue of the invasion was a major salvo. A prison break occurred at the Raft, the Baxter Building was teleported to the Negative Zone, the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier was disabled, and the Skrulls came out of hiding. Blackbolt, Jarvis, and Hank Pym were Skrulls, with Spider-Woman revealed to be Veranke, the Queen of the Skrulls. This first issue blowout was amazing. Sadly, it was down hill from there. We’ll circle back to that in a minute.
New Avengers showed how Veranke put her plot into motion, and was the shadowy figure way back at the end of New Avengers #6. The effects of House of M to the Skrulls were also presented. The most important of these showed how the Skrulls were able to get past Earth’s defenses. They cloned Reed Richards, and after failing many times over, they finally tricked the clone into creating a means. Mighty Avengers showed how Elektra and Hank Pym were abducted, which was fun.
The best issues out of anything Invasion related was Mighty Avengers #13 & 18. White Nick Fury knew what was coming, discovering his lover, Contessa de Fontaine, was a Skrull. He began recruiting unknown heroes from a list of potential future threats he created to keep tabs on. Phobos, the son of war god Ares, Druid, the son of Doctor Druid, Quake, former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and daughter of Mister Hyde are just a few members. They become the Secret Warriors. They help turn the tide in the war.
Now, for the main series itself. Not much happens that’s worse discussing, which makes all the hype and build up sting more. The Avengers are trapped in the Savage Land for most of the series. The book was a giant set piece full of dump action. This was the first time Iron Man, Cap, and Thor had fought alongside each other in some time. Thor had been dead, Bucky is now Cap, and Tony pissed everyone off with the Registration Act. Their meeting should have been a grand moment but was relegated to one panel. Bendis said while the build up was full of intrigue, the main series was always met to be an action piece, hence the big reveals in issue one.
I don’t understand this change in gears. Everyone was buying into the story based on the hype, why change? This was a bait and switch. I was unimpressed and let down by the book. The last page ushered in a new status quo, which seemed to be the point of everything. During the final battle, Norman Osborn put a bullet in Veranke’s head while the world watched. He used this fame to catapult himself into power. S.H.I.E.L.D. was disbanded, and Osborn run H.A.M.M.E.R. took it’s place. Osborn formed a secret group with Emma Frost, Namor, Loki, the Hood, and Doctor Doom. This brought in the Dark Reign story line where the villains were in charge, before leading into Siege.
Oh, the Wasp died during the fight because we needed a token death. Not a single tear was shed.
While House of M and Civil War had ripples in Marvel for years, Secret Invasion quickly fizzled out. There’s a reason why the first two are still mentioned and this one isn’t. It ultimately amounted to nothing. Maybe it was the hype that killed this for me. I’m interested to see what others who didn’t read the setup material think. If you want to see this done well, watch the first half of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes season 2.
All flash and no substance? Did you read the series sans supplemental material? Comment below!
Did not see this one turning out so long.