Secret Invasion

A couple of things...

One. People who don't read Marvel comics will have no idea what is going on.

Two. So what if it ripped of Astro City? It becomes different when you set it in the Marvel universe. While Busiek, Ross and the gang did quite well in building a complex mythology in their series, the focus is still on a handful of characters. The invasion happens in the background. By contrast, the Marvel universe is bigger and more vibrant. You can do the widescreen epic invasion because the characters are established and so developing them and making them interesting requires less work.

Speaking of epic, this was pretty Lord of the Rings in scale. It definitely surpassed last year's Civil War. And the action stuff was spot on. A whispered "that's awesome!" escaped my lips on several occasions -- usually the explosions and charging armies. This is what comics were made to do. Nevertheless, it makes you wonder where it can go from here. More Star Wars? I think Marvel might have to reign it back next year, a la Identity Crisis.

A small caveat. The comics page can't really portray fight sequences very well, so the battle splash pages were a little flat. A lot of stuff was going on, but you didn't get the sense of movement. To be fair on Leinil Francis Yu, there's not a lot you can do about that. His artwork on the whole was great. Much better that the streamlined stuff in Civil War and House of M.

Four (is it four?). I like how the event wasn't taking itself too seriously. See the Watcher gag. The Marvel universe is very silly. We shouldn't fight it. That's why it's great.

And apart from the mayhem and funnies, there were moments of real pathos. The Captain Marvel and Marvel Boy scene is one example. Tony Stark's silence at the end is another. You get the sense that these are real characters. The only problem was the Janet Pym twist, which was very sudden. You didn't have any reason to care about what happened to her. However, Hank asking after his wife when the smoke cleared had a lot of power, so it wasn't a bad oversight. It does get emotionally paid off.

But most importantly, there's the throwaway line of the defeated Skrull soldier. Bendis never leaves his villains as villains. For a while, I feared the whole thing was only gonna be a wish-fulfillment fantasy of pro-American terrorist bashing. Nothing particularly wrong with that, but it's to Bendis's credit that he doesn't just leave it there. And there is extra weight to the Skrull's lines as we know that the terrorists are partly of our own making.

I hate myself for saying this, but reading this now after the Obama victory makes the thing slightly dated. The war on terror is over now. Still, it's great how superhero comics have managed to engage with what has been going on. It has led to some very mature storytelling. One wonders how the Marvel capes will deal with the economic crisis...

The cliffhanger is a little weak. Everything changes, does it? I don't really care very much. I'm a little worried that the writers at Marvel will run out of ideas very soon. How many pan-universe developments can you push through before it gets a little tired? I think the next event needs to be smaller -- focusing on a selection of characters rather than trying to fit everyone in.

In all, haters be damned. Crossover events are great. Superhero comics are designed for them. Nowhere else can you so easily get do epic plus the background mythology that gives it weight. And Bendis is talented enough to deliver the awesomeness while not losing sight of the characters. And he manages to make the whole thing about something. It's no Watchmen, but imo Secret Invasion is still one of the better superhero comics out there.

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