“Secret Invasion” #3 seems to return to a storytelling structure that’s similar to issue #1. While the second issue basically stayed in one location — the Savage Land — for the entire issue, this one quickly flashes from location to location, spending two pages in the Bermuda Triangle, two pages in the Thunderbolt’s Mountain, etc. But writer Brian Michael Bendis only maintains that rapid pacing for the first few scenes, just to provide a check-in with some of the bad stuff that went down in the initial attack. Bendis, and artistic collaborator Lenil Francis Yu, gives us a few brief highlights: Jarvis shows up on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier and demands full surrender; Norman Osborn works his verbal magic on a hesitant Captain Marvel; Yellowjacket shows up to drag the Initiative into battle. But once those quick check-ins are over, we get to the two main locales: Times Square, where the Super-Skrull army is mounting its most furious attack, and the Savage Land, where the Skrully Spider-Woman stalks her unsuspecting prey.
I did find a few things peculiar about the opening two-page scenes. Bendis seems to rely on an awful lot of contextual knowledge, but yet the dialogue in the Initiative scene is filled with clunky tags. Characters annoyingly refer to each other by name, to identify the characters to the reader, presumably, but why are their names even important? Isn’t it more important to know that Captain Marvel was recently revealed to be a Skrull in such deep cover that he thinks he’s Captain Marvel? Bendis hints that something’s strange with the character, but unless you read the five issue mini-series that ended a few months ago, there’s no way you’d know that Captain Marvel’s strange behavior — his reluctance to kill — is caused by his internal struggle over not wanting to accept his Skrull nature. This issue is full of moments that I enjoyed because I’ve read everything else Marvel has been putting out — I’ve read all the “New Avengers,” and “Mighty Avengers” stories which give more background on Spider-Woman’s true identity, and Nick Fury’s secret plans.
In other words, “Secret Invasion” is already beginning to suffer from the same problem which plagued “Civil War.” The actual “Civil War” series, written by Mark Millar, was more like an outline of important events, but the substance of those events occurred in various spin-off books. What was left in “Civil War” proper was a collection of cool scenes, but not the proper development of a story all the way through. It was incomplete on its own, and I fear that’s what’s happening to “Secret Invasion.” You could just read this series, I suppose, but I’m not sure what you’d get out of it without reading all of the tie-ins and crossovers. That’s the nature of an event these days, I suppose, but it’s causing me to recommend it a bit less than I would if it were more tightly contained.
Issue #3 does have some great artwork from Yu, and a few of the scenes are going to be the talk of the internet all weekend. Without spoiling anything, let me just say that it looks like a couple of Marvel heroes are dead — not due to heroic sacrifice, but because they are outmatched by this new breed of Skrulls. And the scene where Spider-Woman confronts Tony Stark and thanks him for his work as a Skrull infiltrator is a brilliant bit of business. If it weren’t for the recent onslaught of Iron Man comics these days, I might have actually thought that he’d be revealed as a Skrull. But Bendis is clearly messing with us — Spider-Woman is clearly manipulating Tony Stark and causing him to doubt his own identity. Now that Iron Man is a franchise, he can’t be a Skrull imposter, right?
The final page of this issue is perfect — it encapsulates everything that Bendis has been building toward since he began thinking about this series. I won’t give it away, but it’s what we’ve been waiting for, and just like the Hawkeye-being-Hawkeye again scene from issue #1, it’s a great geek moment. Of course, if you haven’t been reading all of the other Bendis comics, you might be confused about who all those other characters are. But I’m sure Bendis will explain everything, or direct you to the three dozen spin-off titles that will.
“Secret Invasion” continues to be a better-than-average event, but it’s starting to show some weaknesses. But if Bendis can hold it together for the next five issues and tell an actual story in this one series, this still has a chance to be one of the best crossovers in Marvel history. It’s still a heck of a lot of fun.