Secret Invasion: Front Line #1

"Front Line" returns for its third run around the block, following previous appearances during "World War Hulk" and "Civil War". The idea, owing more than a little to Kurt Busiek's "Marvels", is to show the Marvel Universe from street level, specifically during times of great crossover.

While Paul Jenkins has handled the series on previous occasions, this time Brian Reed has taken the writer's chair and immediately flings himself head-first into the concept, introducing a host of street-level characters, all of whom find their days interrupted by the Skrull Invasion.

Of course, sharp-eyed readers will notice that the initial Skrull Invasion of Manhattan has now been going on since the first week of April, and we seem no closer to anything that resembles a resolution of that battle, so it's hard not to feel a little bit jaded by the events of this issue. Had this issue of "Front Line" come out the same week as "Secret Invasion #1", it would've been easier to forgive, but currently it's part of the same problem suffered by many of the "Secret Invasion" tie-ins, simply spinning the wheels of a fight that still feels as if it's barely even started.

The art from GG Studios is one of the book's stronger elements, maintaining a largely realistic tone while still incorporating the occasional superhuman element of the Marvel Universe without jarring the reader. My one criticism is that amidst all the regular-looking folk, there's a doctor named Molly Young who, judging from her "uniform" appears to have stepped out of a more, er, specialist publication. Readers have no doubt come to expect a certain level of gratuitousness in comics, but given the tone of the book, the fact that she's a medical professional, and the survival situation the characters are in, her depiction actually became a distraction from the story, tarnishing the otherwise textured artwork.

Despite a lot of good elements going into the creation of "Front Line", something about it fails to click with me. Reed does a good job of quickly introducing and humanizing the cast. With an extended pre-attack opening sequence, a focus on a wide cast of nobodies, and a street-level view of larger-than-life disaster, "Cloverfield" feels like a definite reference point. Unfortunately, the problem seems to be one of familiarity. Where the "Civil War" version of the series included some big superhero names and recognizable civilians, this incarnation tries to engage you purely on the strength of a largely new and unknown cast -- and that's going to be a hard sell for anyone.

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