“Who do you trust?”

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Leinil Yu
Published by: Marvel Comics

“And out of nothingness will you outstretch your hand and take in that which needs you. Only then will the doors to the heavens open for you and your brothers.” –The Book of Worlds

The problem with “summer blockbuster” comic books is that, well, they’re comic books. Event comics have to live up to being events which typically means the first issues are about the big reveals rather than the story. Secret Invasion is no different, except for the issue of scale. As event comics go, Secret Invasion is huge. Three years in the making—with clues and hints strewn from various titles from Secret War to the first story arc of the New Avengers to Civil War to Illuminati—Secret Invasion is big, its repercussions felt for years (hopefully in more ways that just a bunch of lame spinoff titles). The hype for the event has been off the scales. And it’s all the brainchild of Brian Michael Bendis.

The story is simple and familiar. Shape-shifting Skrulls (an alien race introduced early in the history of Marvel Comics, so they are longtime foes) have infiltrated Earth. They have secretly kidnapped a number of important figures in the governments and superhuman community and replaced them. The superhero community has been distracted by a number of stressful events (Civil War and House of M to name just a couple), thus the secret invasion. When anyone can be a Skrull, including the teammate you’ve fought alongside for so long, the question rightly becomes “Who do you trust?”

Big event demand big payoffs. If the criticism of House of M was its slow pace (since event comics can’t spend too much time rooted in characterization apparently), Secret Invasion is its polar opposite. One can’t quite escape the feel of this being little more than a storyline within the New Avengers, as the series revolves around them with a few other characters, like the Fantastic Four, making guest appearances (only fitting considering that the Skrulls first appeared back in the Fantastic Four #2 in 1962 and the pivotal Kree-Skrull War depicted in Avengers #89-97 back in 1971-1972).

The back-history of the Skrulls is part of the fun of the book. Longtime fans appreciate the shoutouts strewn throughout the book, like the “classic” Marvel heroes of the Jim Shooter era emerging to battle the current Marvel heroes of the Quesada era. The bit of metafictional play at work here acts as its own commentary on the more innocent days (when Iron Man was called “Shellhead” and Luke Cage shouted what ALL black people must have used as profanity—you know, when he was written by folks who’d never actually met a black person—“Sweet Christmas!”). I’m just not sold on Leinil Yu’s artwork. Maybe the ink work was off in the faces, but most of the guys look like forlorn old men in close up.

“If, in the name of their God or money or both, they believe something to be theirs, they just take it.” –The Skrulls

Secret Invasion is the story of the colonizer run amuck. An aspect of colonialism is its conquest mentality that works by making other cultures less than theirs, debasing one while exalting the colonizer’s. Think of how the western imperialist colonizers viewed Africa as an untamed land with ungodly people, that there was nothing good in this dark and scary continent–other than its resources–and that its people were entirely under the power of the devil. Or how the United States was a revolutionary country in that it threw off the shackles of its own colonial masters.

“And when all is said and done, they write the history books themselves and they make sure they come out the heroes.” –The Skrulls

Without the ability of one cultural story to communicate with another, their interactions become a history of miscues and misunderstandings, then paranoid pre-emptive strikes, followed by the blame game of who hit who first (which justifies the other hitting back). The colonizing mentality then becomes one of cultures moving to eradicate other stories. When stories are reduced to law or dogma (cryptic references in the Book of Worlds), their vitality is drained. When people no longer tell or listen to others’ stories, they become locked in their provincial mindset, cultural ghettos of their own making. In fact, when people become so removed from another’s story, they become compelled to destroy those (other’s) stories for they suggest other ways of living. Their stories become a threat.

“We have travelled across the universe to save you from yourselves. You have so much potential, but you’re on the brink of complete disaster. You are at constant war and living in disease you cannot cure … what most disturbs us is that you are fully aware of your situation and actions … and though you’ve evolved to a place to do something about it, you do nothing.” –The Skrulls

Lastly, Secret Invasion has the same spiritual implications of other Invasion of the Body Snatcher type stories. The fear of evil, of death, of monsters, be they inhuman or entirely too human. We have this sense that things aren’t as they should be, that people aren’t who we think them to be. The people we know and love being … different. Looking the same on the surface but being strangers underneath. This disrupts our fabric of trust. And in a fight, especially among the spandex set, you have to be able to trust the one next to you. Without it, community—the band of brothers—is destroyed.

The monsters, the extra-terrestrial biological entities, represent the unseen power that we suspect lurk around us, are a part of our everyday lives even if we don’t realize it. Metaphorically, they capture the reality of us struggling against our own flesh (our inherent weakness as human beings) as well as powers beyond us. We forget who we really are, what we were created to be, and are left as lost, bewildered, and stumbling through this life as those infected by the alien presence.

“I know something about having voices in your head. Voices pulling you in different directions. And I also know something –this might sound strange, and it is—but I know something about not being sure if youre really pink or green. And I can tell you this … only one person can decide who you are inside and out. And that is you.” –Norman Osborne

Similar to summer event movies, fans can keep complaining about event burnout all they want, but if they keep buying the events in droves, don’t look for the corporate machines to change their strategies anytime soon. All we can hope for is that the story justifies the event (World War Hulk, I’m looking at your massive letdown) or that the world changing nature of the event has time to fully coalesce and be felt by the characters before the next title expansive storyline hits (X-Men, this is why I quit collecting your family of books). For all of the tie-ins, one-shots, and spinoff books, Secret Invasion is a great story that can be enjoyed strictly within the core book. And enjoy it I have.

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