The Skrull Invasion of Earth affects all the citizens of the Marvel Universe equally, whether they are a government-sanctioned champion or one of the world’s most maligned mutants. This summer, writer Mike Carey turns in stories starring both. First, in the June one-shot, “Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust?”, Carey and an artist who has yet to be revealed will tell a tale starring Agent Brand, the head of S.W.O.R.D., a secret agency tasked with defending Earth from extraterrestrial threats. Then in August, Carey and artist Cary Nord send Marvel’s mutants off to war in the four issue “Secret Invasion: X-men” miniseries. CBR news spoke with Carey about both projects.
Carey had a great time writing shorter stories for the anthology, “X-Men: Divided We Stand,” and actively sought out the chance to pen one for “Who Do You Trust?” “I knew there was another anthology coming so I talked to Nick Lowe about doing a story for it,” Carey told CBR News. “He said, 'Since you’re a fan of the Beast, why don’t you write a story about his love interest Agent Brand?’ So I put together the pitch for an Agent Brand short with the core idea being that it sort of serves the same function as the last few minutes of the film, 'The Usual Suspects.’ It takes a lot of seemingly innocuous things and put them together in an unexpected way.”
The writer found Agent Brand’s sardonic outlook to be one of her most interesting character traits. “She’s the kind of character who I get a big kick out of because her sense of humor is so dry and she’s so great with the one-liners,” Carey said. “Also she’s got a very interesting back-story, which readers will learn in the final issue of Joss Whedon’s 'Astonishing X-Men’ run. All in all she’s a very compelling character who’s easy to relate to and she’s a great foil for the Beast, not that the Beast appears in this story.”
The Beast may not appear in Carey’s eight-page tale, but other Marvel characters do. “Black Bolt makes an appearance, we see Nick Fury, stuff like that. Really this story is very much a vehicle for Brand herself,” Carey explained, “but it has a whole lot of other events in the Marvel Universe playing out in background.”
The Agent Brand story in “Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust” picks up immediately after her appearance at the end of “Secret Invasion” #1, in which she was left floating in space after S.W.O.R.D. headquarters was destroyed by a Skrull attack. “It expands upon that situation,” Carey remarked. “The story is about the things running through her mind as she floats in the void waiting for death, rescue or some other option to make itself clear. It’s a little self-contained piece that seeds into something larger and illuminates a little bit of the background of the Skrull Invasion in a way that I think is interesting and different.”
After he illuminates the background of the Skrull invasion in June, Carey thrusts Marvel’s mutants into the heart of the fight with August’s “Secret Invasion: X-Men.” It was his work on the recent “X-Men: Messiah CompleX” that earned Carey the chance to send the X-characters off to war. “This is a similar set up in that it cuts across all the X-books and features mutants who aren’t currently on team rosters and to some extent, like 'Messiah CompleX, this is a tale of all-out open warfare,” Carey explained. “It comes at a fairly late stage in the Skrull Invasion when some of their goals are clearer. We’re not dealing with subterfuge and sabotage any more. All the cards are on the table. Because of these thematic similarities, [editor] Nick Lowe asked me to pitch for the series and I was very keen to do so.”
“Secret Invasion: X-Men” stars a veritable who’s who of X-characters. “It’s everybody,” Carey said. “It’s the 'Uncanny’ and 'Astonishing’ X-teams, and the 'New’ and 'Young X-Men’ teams. Iceman, Cannonball and some of the X-students who aren’t part of either the 'New’ or 'Young X-Men’ teams are also in the book. So it’s really everybody who’s available.”
X-Force, Cyclops’ clandestine wetworks team of mutants, will also see action in “Secret Invasion: X-Men.” “X-Force minus Wolverine, since he’s busy in the main 'Secret Invasion’ book, will be in the mix,” Carey said. “At one point, Cyclops uses them to do a dirty and necessary job. That was fun to write.”
Some of the unavailable X-Men include X-Factor, who will not be part of the story, nor will Professor X. “The reason for [X-Factor’s] absence is geographical. It’s because of where this story is happening,” Carey explained. “Because of things that are happening to [Professor X] in 'X-Men: Legacy,’ he’s off the table. He does have an interesting back-story vis-a-vis the Skrulls, of course, because of Cadre K, but we’re not addressing that in this series.”
In a recent issue of “Young X-Men” it was revealed that Cannonball was the leader of the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, so some readers might be surprised to see him fighting alongside the rest of the X-Men. “It’s a situation where there’s really no room for grandstanding, rivalries, or personal animosities,” Carey stated. “You’ll see the teams to a very large extent falling in line behind Cyclops, because in times of war you’ve got to subordinate yourself to the cause, or at least there are strong arguments for doing so. But there are some frictions between cast members. They’re just not at the fore at the beginning.”
The X-Men’s battle with the Skrulls begins at the Invasion’s mid point. “This series is set around the same time frame as issues #4 and #5 of 'Secret Invasion,’” Carey confirmed. “There are some climatic events in issue #4 which feed directly into what we see in 'Secret Invasion: X-Men.’”
The book opens with the team having an easier time battling the Skrulls than some of their fellow Marvel heroes. “They’ve got one thing on their side which gives them an easy initial victory,” Carey hinted. “But that situation changes. It’s fluid and the advantage doesn’t stay with them for very long.”
The X-Men’s immediate goals in their campaign against the Skrull invaders are both strategic and tactical. “As the Skrull invasion unfolds, obviously the most immediate and urgent need is to sabotage that process as much as possible; to slow down what’s happening and if possible throw some spanners in the works,” Carey said. “The X-Men’s strategy is to find a weapon that will work against the Skrulls’ new arsenal because the Skrulls have clearly got some very, very potent weapons on their side. So the X-Men are trying to find an ace in the hole to play against these overwhelming odds.
“We get a lot of details on the kind of conventional weaponry the Skrull soldiers are using. We see both Skrull officers and grunts,” Carey continued. “We’ll see a lot of their military technology, but there are bigger threats beyond that.”
One of those threats is the Skrull commander in charge of the forces opposing the X-Men. Said Carey, “His name is H’kurrek. He’s not the overall commander of the Skrull invasion but he is coordinating this part of the invasion. So he’s kind of like the big bad in a way. He’s career military but at the same time he believes fanatically in the cause he’s committed to. So this isn’t just business as usual. In some ways it’s the culmination of a lifetime’s work. He belongs to this extremist Skrull religious sect, so he sees himself as the bearer of a sacred mission.”
The X-Men will employ a variety of tactics in their quest to keep H’kurrek and his fellow Skrulls from accomplishing their sacred mission. “This is a war story and there are different stages. There’s a guerilla war where the X-Men can’t win in a full-on engagement, so they have to use hit and run tactics because the alternative is to make a heroic stand and die,” Carey explained. “But then later on we get all out warfare on a spectacular scale, which is a hell of a lot of fun to choreograph.”
The X-Men may have connections in the interstellar Shi’ar Empire with groups like the Starjammers, but Carey is keeping the action in this series Earthbound. “I did toy with some ideas about bringing the Starjammers in and taking some of the action into Skrull space, but in the end it just weakened the drama,” Carey said. “We have this very compelling and scary situation developing on Earth and it seems like that’s where we should be focusing. So that what we decided to do in the end.”
The situation the X-Men face on Earth is a dire one. “This is very much a story of how the X-men behave with everything at stake. What resources do you find when you’re in a crisis of this magnitude?” Carey remarked. “In the second issue, Cyclops gives a speech where he says, 'By virtue of what we are, we’re better able to deal with this situation than a lot of people. We’ve been fighting since the day we were born. At least now everybody’s on the same side.’”
Carey is very excited to be collaborating with Cary Nord on “Secret Invasion: X-Men.” “As an action artist he’s very hard to beat,” Carey said. “I think if anyone can do justice to this sort of big, widescreen carnage, Cary can do it. I just can’t wait to see what he does with the battle scenes. But at the same time, I know he can handle the character beats and the quieter, more emotional moments too.”
The writer has had a blast writing both “Secret Invasion: X-Men” and his story in “Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust?” “It’s great to be painting on a canvas this big. As a long time Marvel reader, I’ve always loved the cosmic stories like 'The Kree-Skrull War,’ the storyline where Galactus devoured the Skrull homeworld, and the various 'Infinity Gauntlet’ tales,” Carey remarked. “I eat that stuff up. It’s cool to see superheroes -- who are larger than life figures when set against a normal backdrop -- suddenly become everyman figures when they’re set against the backdrop of a cosmic war.”
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