Review: Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust?

June 11th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Over the past few years, with all the various comic mega-events shoved down our gullets, the idea of the tie-in comic has been make-or-break to the main series. House of M seemed to do it the best, where all the tie-ins were completely unnecessary to the main series, but were mostly well-written and made for a good expansion to what was going on. Annihilation dodged the bullet by having seemingly no real tie-ins at all. Infinite Crisis became a huge mess where you had to know a lot about what was going on in the smaller books to truly get the story. Civil War, as far as I’m concerned, is the worst offender. The main series was competently-written, if a little convoluted, and Millar wrote very fair versions of Captain America and Iron Man. Then you look at all the tie-ins where Captain America is the perfect god of morality and Iron Man is the king of all assholes. The only truly good tie-ins were the two Captain America/Iron Man one-shots.

With Secret Invasion, the issues of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers, whether good or bad, are in a class of their own. After all, Secret Invasion is Bendis’ big cumulative storyline tying together a lot of loose ends from those series. They’re more like extended scenes and extra issues to the miniseries than anything else. Discarding those, I honestly haven’t read too many of the Invasion tie-ins. Yes, Captain Marvel was completely amazing and Hercules is a blast regardless of what story it’s linked to, but I’m not a regular reader of Ms. Marvel and I haven’t picked up Captain Britain yet, so I can’t comment on them.

That brings us to Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? This one-shot, based on five different stories, gives us more details on certain characters and their roles in the series. The five writers, Brian Reed, Mike Carey, Christos N. Gage, Zeb Wells and Jeff Parker keep things extremely competent and diverse in topic, while staying true to the series.

First up is Reed’s follow-up to Captain Marvel. This gives us more of an explanation towards Marvel’s actions in the first and third Invasion issues. When people read the first issue, they initially figured that his programming was making him attack the Thunderbolts. Then Captain Marvel #5 came out and made people think that Marvel was out to kill one or two Skrulls that had infiltrated the Thunderbolts. The brief scene in Invasion #3 outright confused people and forced speculation. Finally, we have a better idea of what’s going on, while looking forward to what his dealings with Norman Osborn will bring.

It answers just enough questions and succeeds in the same way as Reed and Weeks’ miniseries. You may think you know where the story is going to lead, but it swerves you in a way that seems almost natural and a breath of fresh air. Then you have to wonder what will happen next. It cements just what a great character Khn’nr is. He’s a Skrull traitor based on the soul and appearance of a Kree traitor. Now it goes even deeper.

The second story, featuring Mike Carey’s take on Agent Brand, takes place between the end of Invasion #1 and the upcoming fourth issue. It’s low on action, but works in a way to give more background to the invasion lead-in. What really helps out this story is the timing. The last couple issues of Astonishing X-Men pushed Brand into a far more likable character than the first installment of Invasion, adding to the list of easily dropped Marvel characters that Bendis has decided to latch onto. With the latest Astonishing still fresh in our mind, fans should look forward to getting to see more of SWORD’s director. Had this come out a couple months earlier, I doubt it would have come off as exciting.

Gage writes yet another Invasion side-story taking place in the Savage Land after the random dinosaur attack. This time it’s about the Mighty Avengers version of Wonder Man and Beast from the Skrull Throwback Brigade being stuck in an underground cave. The true Beast and Wonder Man are longtime friends, so the obvious distrust burns like a torch. Simon wants to believe Hank so hard, but just won’t let himself. It’s a well-played scene and the ending fits well, but I honestly haven’t read much of the Beast/Wonder Man team-ups in old Avengers to truly appreciate it. Plus I just find Wonder Man to be a tremendous tool. But that’s just me.

Next is a story about Marvel Boy, written by Zeb Wells. Since Marvel hasn’t gotten around to reprinting Morrison’s initial miniseries about the character, I only have his one issue of Illuminati and the mediocre Runaways/Young Avengers crossover to go on. What I get is that he’s a wild card in all of this. Bendis kept it very non-descriptive for Marvel Boy’s brief appearance in the first issue of Invasion #1, where he just says, “Time to go,” and leaves. Okay, now what? Two issues later and nothing’s happened with him. What’s his angle?

This story takes place moments before that throwaway scene, where Marvel Boy’s home, the Cube, is compromised by the Skrulls. While there’s a lot of confusion in the goings on of the story, we at least understand where Noh-Varr stands on all of this. It’s interesting that while Noh-Varr and Khn’nr are each meant to replace the original Mar-Vell in their own ways, they each take a complete opposite stance in terms of the Skrull invasion. I can’t wait to see what happens when they finally cross paths.

The final story features the Agents of Atlas, a mostly-ignored secret superhero team made up of old 50’s Atlas characters. They’d fall into obscurity if it were not for writer Jeff Parker forcing them into nearly everything he writes. The story is more about the idea of a team finally going after Skrulls at their own game. Though the heroes are charismatic and easy to get behind, the story almost makes them look like the bad guys. The Skrulls are shown to not be malicious and the way one of them – the narrator – is dealt with is so harsh and gruesome that you have to feel sorry for him.

Who Do You Trust? is what tie-ins should be. Not only do we stray away from continuity headaches and characteristic discrepancies, but it gives great background to the event and makes you want to read the next issue of Secret Invasion even more than the last issue of Secret Invasion did.

Now give us an Agents of Atlas ongoing already, Marvel. And reprint Marvel Boy while you’re at it!

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10 comments to “Review: Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust?”

  1. I gotta say, the Wolverine : Vendetta tie in for Civil War was pretty fucking great. I hope SI does something along the same lines, less involved charachters still being affected, but not fighting waves of skrulls or whatever.

    Also; I want a Butterball one shot.

  2. This one-shot, especially the Atlas, Noh-Varr, and Brand stories, reintroduces the sort of complex moral ambiguity that readers take for granted in mainstream comics nowadays (and isn’t that strange?) It’s exactly what you’d want from “Who Do You Trust?” That is, you might know someone’s “the enemy” and trust that person more than someone you know to be an ally.

    You nailed it about Civil War: the worst part of the whole thing was how, outside of the limited series, JMS and company seemed unable to write Stark as a fallible good guy willing to take questionable measures to ensure security – or to write Cap as fallible at all. Subtract that, and you turn Civil War’s commentary on post-9/11 America into an unthinking, one-sided rant.

    This book introduces the new Skrull religion’s ideals of universal salvation for Skrull and human alike, demonstrates the Skrulls’ use of non-lethal tactics against civilians, and also shows us Noh-Varr and Atlas as potentially necessary evils against the invasion. While Final Crisis looks to be another fun Morrison jaunt, Secret Invasion promises us the sort of tough slog through the real-world mud we’ve seen from Marvel in its best moments.

  3. Morrison’s Marvel Boy kicks a lot of ass. I have no idea where it fits into continuity though seeing as how the only other ‘known’ character in it was Dum Dum Dugan (who in retrospect was probably a Skrull.)

  4. I doubt that Dum Dum was a Skrull there. Dum Dum became a Skrull only hours after Captain America died.

  5. @zero democracy + Gavok

    Marvel Boy took place in an entirely seperate universe (he didn’t even originate from the universe the orignal story took place in). It was allegedly supposed to be the first Ultimate comic but they’re just recently awardly shoehorned it into 616. Also the whole “Your society is stupid, I have a better way, accept it or I’ll kick you in the teeth.” thing was his schtick way before the Skrulls started doing it.

  6. I’m sure Marvel Boy is just like the Agents of Atlas in that he was created as an alternate universe story (Agents of Atlas are based on an old What If story), but then the writers decided that with a couple tweaks, there’s no reason the events couldn’t have happened in regular continuity.

  7. I never got the impression Agents of Atlas was an alternate universe story, I just thought it was one of those “we’ll put it out, then not use the characters for the next two or three years” story, like Gravity. As far as the tweaks to Marvel Boy it makes him less…interesting? Unique? But those are my beefs. I don’t mean to sound negative.

  8. Like I said, Agents of Atlas was originally an issue of What If from the 70’s based on a bunch of heroes from the 50’s becoming the Avengers. But they had to break up before they could be announced to the public because the people of that time weren’t ready for superheroes.

    They made it apparent that there’s no reason why this story couldn’t have happened in regular continuity. That’s what Agents of Atlas is, except they dropped 3D-Man from the team and took out the part where they were called the Avengers.

  9. Hey, if the main Civil War book was fair Cap would have been able to shut down Slayy Floyd’s stupid out of touch arguement

  10. That wasn’t the main Civil War book. That was Frontline.