Where “Secret Invasion” #1 was all about shocking reveals and Skrull infiltration, “Secret Invasion” #2 slows down a bit to show the disconcerting effects of seeing two batches of Marvel heroes. The “classic” Marvel heroes of the Jim Shooter era, who emerged from the downed spacecraft in the last issue, battle the nu-Marvel heroes of the Quesada era. There’s certainly a bit of metafictional play here, as the thrills in this issue mostly come from callbacks to past Marvel moments, like the days when Iron Man was called “Shellhead” and Luke Cage shouting, “Christmas!” The biggest geek thrill, though, comes when Ronin grabs the bow and quiver from his presumably Skrull doppelganger and begins targeting the “evil” Marvel characters from the cover of the dense jungle. Seeing Clint Barton pulling back the bowstring would be meaningless for a non-Marvel reader, but anyone who has longed for his return as Hawkeye would enjoy the moment immensely.
Unlike issue #1, “Secret Invasion” #2 doesn’t jump around to multiple locations. Brian Michael Bendis and Lenil Francis Yu focus on a single Savage Land sequence for much of the issue, with a brief Manhattan epilogue in the final four pages. The Savage Land sequence gives Yu a chance to draw all sorts of action shots, as the heroes from the two eras battle each other in various combinations: Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man, Sentry vs. Vision, Beast vs. everybody, as Ronin snipes from behind the fronds. And, it is the Savage Land, and Yu certainly knows how to draw a mean T-Rex.
Bendis also gives us the aftermath of the battle, where we see the uncertainty and paranoia that comes with fighting shapeshifting Skrulls. And the classic Marvel heroes do mostly turn out to be Skrulls, even if they don’t seem to know it. As a recent issue of “New Avengers” explained, the new breed of Skrulls are so effective that they even think they’re the heroes they pretend to be. That’s apparently what’s going on here, as neither faction of heroes admits to their Skrully-ness. It’s only in death that their true nature is revealed. Since the heroes were all split up following the rude T-Rex interruption, who can say whether the bald Luke Cage is really Luke Cage? Or if Wolverine is really Wolverine? That’s the paranoia that Bendis allows his characters to feed on, and even if the heroes agree to work together, they can never fully trust the guy or gal standing next to them.
The Savage Land sequence ends with the apparent return of a character long thought dead. I won’t spoil the surprise, but the moment’s emotional power, laced with an undercurrent of doubt and suspicion, makes “Secret Invasion” more than your average alien invasion comic. Bendis knows how to play character moments, and he does it well in this scene.
And wait until you get to the final, double-page spread. The Skrulls who have showed up on Earth to do battle are not your daddy’s purple-shirt wearing, bug-eyed, easily-tricked-into-turning-into-cows Skrulls. These are some intimidating Super-Skrulls, and half the fun of that final image is figuring out which powers these monsters have replicated.
Is that a Dr. Strange/Black Bolt/Iron Man/Mr. Fantastic Super-Skrull? Yes. Yes, it is. And who among us hasn’t dreamt of such a concoction?