The Skrull Empire has invaded Earth and the heroes of the Marvel Universe are on the Front Lines defending their planet, but they can’t be everywhere and save everybody. In July, writer Brian Reed and artist Marco Castiello of GG Studios show readers what happens to those citizens of the Marvel Universe who have to stand up and save themselves from the Skrull invaders in the five-issue “Secret Invasion: Front Line.” CBR News spoke with Reed about the project.
When Reed learned Marvel and “Civil War: Front Line” writer Paul Jenkins had no plans to produce a similarly themed miniseries for “Secret Invasion,” he contacted editor Tom Brevoort and pitched him his idea for the book. “My take on it was to kind of move away from what Paul had been doing and actually taking the title very literally; going, 'This is the Front Line of the Secret Invasion,’” Brian Reed told CBR News. “This is what the man on the street is seeing as everything is going down.”
One of Reed’s men on the street in “Secret Invasion: Front Line” is Marvel’s intrepid investigative reporter Ben Urich. “I had always been a Ben Urich fan. He’s what drew me to this story,” said Reed. “He’s a character I’ve always wanted to use and I never had a way to really use him organically. I had him in 'Captain Marvel’ until I realized what I wanted to do with the reporter character was not something Ben Urich would do, which is why the character of Nathan Jefferson was born.”
“Secret Invasion: Front Line” opens with Ben Urich stepping out from behind his editor’s desk and onto the streets in pursuit of a story. Explained Reed, “He’s following up on the power vacuum from Wilson Fisk leaving town and the Hood moving in by doing an interview at a hospital emergency room. He’s talking with the staff about how they’ve been affected by the rise in gang violence in New York City. So when the Invasion starts, we see him in the middle of this hospital working with a doctor trying to keep the ER running while the Skrulls are in the streets destroying everything.”
Unlike the previous “Front Line” stories, fellow newshound Sally Floyd won’t be accompanying Ben in this series. “She’s not in this story because it started off as very much a Ben Urich story and the idea of it is that we’re seeing a bunch of people caught in the middle of their day. So Ben is our newspaper reporter for this,” Reed stated. “I didn’t really need Sally around. It’s just Ben for us.”
The rest of “Secret Invasion: Front Line’s” street level cast is comprised of all new characters. “Part of that was I wanted to have a group of people who’ve never had interactions with anything on a superhero level before. At the same time we’re seeing things from Ben’s point of view we’re also cutting to different locations around the city,” Reed explained. “We’ll see people like a cab driver, a beat cop, and a guy running a design firm. We’re trying to give you a little something from every possible angle. As the series progresses these separate groups of people will start bumping into each other and their stories will start crossing paths.
“A big part of my pitch was that I want the superheroes to be as big and as powerful looking to the characters and readers as the Skrulls are. When the invasion starts we’re seeing things from sort of our point of view rather than the heroes; because there are plenty of other books telling that story.”
As is the premise of the “Front Line” brand, the Marvel heroes don’t star in “Secret Invasion: Front Line,” but they do make some very big appearances. “There are going to be a lot of cameos. The big trick is that I want those cameos to feel like this big special event,” said Reed. “The first issue opens with a cab driver and then Spider-Man and Menace fall out of the sky and crash into the hood of his cab. We see it all from the cab driver’s point of view and it’s like these two gods have just fallen out of the sky. There’s this awe, it’s like 'Holy Shit! There’s Spider-Man!’
“As a fan reading these stories with characters like Spider-Man or the X-Men you kind of forget what they mean to the average person. They’re called superhuman for a reason. This is the kind of story where you go, 'Oh my God! That woman is flying!’”
The violence that usually occurs when super heroes and villains meet evokes an even stronger reaction from the characters of “Front Line.” “If you’re walking down the street and Doctor Octopus comes through a wall you’re going to react to that in the same way as if the car in front of you blew up while you were walking to work,” Reed stated. “It’s like 'Oh my god! My world just turned upside down!’ Now extrapolate that out to a situation where there are aliens falling out of the sky. So when the heroes show up they are this big spectacular thing.
“Ben is actually special amongst these characters in that he’s interacted with the heroes before,” Reed continued. “He’s the one guy in the story who has a better perception of what’s going on. He’s been in that war zone. So that connection leads him to tell these other characters, 'We can survive this. Keep your head on straight and let’s go.’”
“Secret Invasion: Front Line” begins in July, but Urich and the cast experience the Skrull Invasion from its beginnings. “The first couple of issues are actually the first few issues of 'Secret Invasion’ condensed. The scheduling is because 'Secret Invasion’ was greenlit and going before I realized there was no 'Front Line’ for it. This is a complete story unto itself but the fun I’m having is making sure that I’m showing you bits and pieces going on in 'Secret Invasion’ and the other tie-ins. Some of that goes from as big in scope as a battle in one book; to if you read every thing you recognize the city bus that belongs in this story. I’m trying to hit on every level there is.”
When the Skrull invasion begins, simple survival is the biggest problem for the cast of “Secret Invasion: Front Line,” but as the series progresses, a new host of complications come to the fore. “When you’ve got an emergency room you want to keep it open but you also have to protect it from these shapeshifting monsters. What happens if one of them figures out what you are, makes himself a patient, and comes walking through the door?” Reed remarked. “We’ve also got a group of people at this design firm located in Stark Tower. When the lockdown starts all the windows are covered by steel plates and the building becomes a box. Inside the box are Skrulls who have been there as part of the invasion. They’ve decided they’re going to have some fun and hunt the people trapped inside with them. So we have all sorts of little pieces involving paranoia and putting people into situations they can’t get out of.”
The cast of “Front Line” will also have to contend with the baser instincts of their fellow man. “Once you’re in a situation where you know you’re going to die a lot of people become very different human beings than they usually are,” Reed laughed. “Someone who thinks they’re a good guy might do whatever they can to make sure they get out, even if it is as the cost of everyone else.”
Reed feels artist Marco Castiello has given “Secret Invasion: Front Line” an interesting look, one the writer didn’t initially expect. “Tom Brevoort sent me some of his work and said, 'What do you think?’ and I was like, 'Oh my god! This is going to be so cool!’” Reed said. “Since I’m trying to take a different point of view, it’s great to have an art style that we’re not used to seeing in every other superhero book. It’s got a very European vibe to it.”
The writer is having a great time writing “Secret Invasion: Front Line” and assures fans that even though the series looks at the invasion through a more human perspective, it’s still as epic. “The joke a friend of mine cracked that turned out really be true is that ['Secret Invasion’ mastermind Brian Michael Bendis] is making 'Godzilla’ and I’m doing 'Cloverfield,’” Reed remarked. “They’re both stories about big monsters attacking a city but his stars the military and the heroes and mine stars the people on the street.”
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