“Secret Invasion” has been an interesting experiment in telling a sprawling story within an extremely tight time frame. Although the series started half a year ago, the “Secret Invasion” proper has only been going on for a day or two, from what I gather. Thus, Brian Michael Bendis, who sometimes gets knocked for his decompression, takes a condensed time frame and, well, decompresses the heck out of it. Or so it would seem.
But like most company-wide event books, there’s a lot going on here — a zillion characters and just as many small, important moments. Bendis doesn’t have time to dwell on each of them, so what we end up getting are isolated bits of plot and character. Previous issues have cut between the Savage Land, the Super-Skrull invasion of New York, and a variety of other locales (like Thunderbolts mountain, the orbiting S.W.O.R.D. satellite, and the downed S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier), but “Secret Invasion” #6 brings most of those concurrent plotlines together, with the scattered heroes joining together to form an offensive front. It’s the Marvel Universe version of D-Day, and it’s going to get bloody, for sure.
Yet even here, up until the final few pages, Bendis lingers on some of the less obviously spectacular moments. It’s not all punching and zapping and superheroic maneuvers in this series, and I think that’s an interesting choice for an event book. Interesting and worthwhile. Because what we end up with are the tense moments between the battles. Whether it was the Ka-Zar and Shanna bits from previous issues or the Noh-Varr and Mar-Vell moment in this one, we spend much of the series on the outskirts of the conflict, dealing with the human (or Kree) anxiety. Bendis adds those moments together to provide a tapestry upon which the Skrull invasion plays out. It’s a more successful approach than the one taken in “Civil War,” for example, because that series seemed to be missing a lot of the transitional sections. It seemed more like a cool highlight reel than an escalating narrative. Here, Bendis weaves the highlights together, and except for a few pages here and there, most of the highlights focus on character and emotion, rather than on visceral thrills.
That approach has its downside as well, as the stakes somehow seem a bit lower here than in “Civil War,” even though a full-on alien invasion would seem like a greater threat at first glance. But there’s nothing in this series to match the power of the death of Bill Foster, for example. All the Super-Skrull onslaught seems to have done is intimidate most of the public (except for a few hippies in issue #6, who learn that Skrulls aren’t the cute little E.T.s they promote themselves as). The shocks in this series, after the initial Skrull reveals, are epitomized by the Mockingbird “reveal,” which went like this: everyone suspected she was a Skrull at first, then Ronin said she wasn’t, but, oops, turns out that she was. As a shocking reveal, it was a failure. But as a corkscrew in Clint Barton’s heart, it was brutally effective. And that’s how Bendis played it, as a character moment, rather than an audience pleaser. The subtext of Ronin’s anger lingers through this issue, even if it’s not explicitly emphasized.
The art in issue #6 is as excellent as it has been all series, with Mark Morales restraining Lenil Yu’s inherently sketchy line. And both of them had some serious work to do on the final few pages as the battle for New York City, and, presumably, the world, kicks into high gear. While it was a bit jarring to see Howard the Duck pop up between Stature’s breasts in the climactic scene, it was a spectacular moment as the heroes gathered together on a series of double-page spreads and let slip the metaphorical dogs of war.
Although a few interesting moments in this issue, like the Thor/Captain America meet-up, are shortchanged because of the escalating battle, Bendis seems to have kicked it into high gear now, racing toward the fast-approaching finale. If you’ve had the feeling that “Secret Invasion” has been moving slowly since issue #1, I think you’ll be pleased by this issue. I know I was.