Fantastic Four: Secret Invasion #1

With the main series now well into Millar and Hitch's run, this mini-series is the explanation of what the Fantastic Four (or rather, three, or even two now that I think about it) are doing during the events of Secret Invasion. Chances are, it'll follow the "Civil War" model of tie-ins and occur in a continuity gap before their reappearance in the main series.

Even so, former Marvel Knights Four writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has apparently found a way to tell a decent story that will easily stand alone. He uses the opportunity to tie up a plot thread that's been dangling for no less than eleven years â€" the whereabouts of Lyja, Johnny Storm's Skrull ex-wife, who last appeared in February 2007's "Tales of the Marvel Universe" one-shot. Continuity buffs can start grinning like madmen now.

Aguirre-Sacasa makes instant use of Skrull paranoia by having Lyja-Sue attempt to convince Johnny that Ben is the one who's a Skrull, and that she opened the portal to protect the Four. Even with the advance knowledge that this was a lie, it was actually a convincing explanation, though it's slightly let down when we find out that, once again, the definitive "Skrull test" appears to be little more than asking your suspect something only they would know. It's hardly a foolproof effort in these times of rampant Kirbytech and telepaths on every corner.

With half of the Fantastic Four out of action, after Reed and Sue were both removed from the game in "Secret Invasion" #1, the draw here is mainly the relationship between Lyja and Johnny. We do get some background on Sue's initial ambush here, but despite the title it seems fairly unlikely that the entire team are going to show up in these pages.

The first half of the book, in fact, is dedicated to the Sue-based flashback, so just as the story really gets going, it grinds to a halt. Aguirre-Sacasa does have a decent handle on Johnny and if it ultimately turns out to be a Johnny Storm miniseries guest-starring Ben Grimm, it wouldn't be a massive shame.

Kitson's artwork is standard superheroics, appropriate for the title and consistent with Hitch's redesign. There's a page of talking heads that doesn't really work very well, but this feels more like a problem with how Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the scene rather than a purely artistic misfire. A better matter to ponder is why this book needed four inkers. Luckily, it doesn't suffer noticeably, but the mind boggles at what production bottleneck made that necessary

Even if it's unlikely to set the world alight, there's nothing at all wrong with this comic. The inclusion of Lyja might be a barrier to some, but for people like me it's a welcome reward for what is literally a decade of waiting. Part of me suspects that Lyja's not going to make it out of this story alive precisely so that her particular loose end can be considered tied up. Either way, we're going to get a decent story, and a tie-in to "Secret Invasion" is the perfect time to tell it. In my book, that's two perfectly good reasons to pick this up.

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