Last year, the heroes of the Marvel Universe asked each other, "Whose side are you on?" In April, 2008, they'll ask each other "Who are you, really?" in "Secret Invasion," an eight-issue miniseries by writer Brian Michael Bendis. CBR News spoke with Bendis about the series and the actions leading up to it.
"Secret Invasion" is the final chapter in the Skrull infiltration plot Bendis has quietly weaved together in the Avengers books for the past few years. "It first reared its head in 'New Avengers' #1," Bendis told CBR News. "I've been dealing with the story for longer than that, but for people who've been reading the books, seeds have been planted for at least three years."
"Battlestar Galactica" uses the threat of hostile aliens impersonating humans to great effect, but it was a different science fiction franchise that inspired Bendis to plan the Skrull Invasion. "I liked how 'Star Trek' took something originally sort of goofy like the Klingons and made them a serious, legitimate threat," Bendis said. "I'm a big fan of taking that which is cheesy and making it demonic and exciting. Making the Skrulls a threat, and this is the biggest nerd thing, goes back to when I was 10 years old. I remember reading an Avengers comic and going, 'If they can shape-shift, why are they shooting ray guns and attacking with spaceships? Why wouldn't a Skrull turn into my wife and kill me in my sleep?' Those thoughts brought this story to life."
"Secret Invasion" began life as an Avengers story but will soon become a tale that involves all of Earth's costumed champions. "It birthed as an Avengers story because the New Avengers were the ones that found the first hints," Bendis explained. "Then, once the Skrull conspiracy gets unveiled, the information spreads to 'Mighty Avengers', 'The Initiative' and then out to the Marvel Universe. The invasion itself is global. It's big, so it affects all and everything."
The only player in the Skull Invasion force that readers have met so far is the Skrull that impersonated Elektra, but unbeknownst to fans, they've seen the handiwork of other members of the alien cabal "You've seen them do their work on different levels," Bendis confirmed. "We'll reveal who all the Skrulls are. We'll find out what they did. We'll find out to what lengths they went. We'll find out when things happened and where they happened. In 'Secret Invasion' #1 you get to see the plan and you get to see it implemented. You get to see who implemented the plan and what it exactly means."
It might seem like the magical and supernatural forces at the command of some of Earth's defenders would be wildcards in the master plan of the primarily science-based Skrulls, but Bendis says the Skrulls have been working on that for years. "That's what we've been hinting at in 'The Illuminati,'" Bendis stated. "They had access to the Illuminati members and their magic, technologies, and abilities for an unspecified amount of time. They were knocked out and they woke up. How long they were out and what the Skrulls were able to get from them when that happened has not been shown yet but obviously they are undetectable to mutant senses, technologies and magic. It makes them a damn interesting threat."
The Skrull threat to Earth stems from a passage in their religious scriptures which states the planet belongs to them; something many Skrulls didn't believe until recently. "This originally may have been an ideal held by a few but when the Skrull home world was destroyed those few became the most powerful," Bendis explained. "Say, the crazy person yells, 'We've got to get to Earth!' and everybody goes, 'Shut up!' But then he says, 'No the scriptures say this is ours. Our planet will be destroyed and our fleets will be destroyed and then Earth will be ours. That will be the sign.' And then when the signs do happen those who were seen as crazy are now seen as the smartest."
Both Avengers teams will investigate the Skrull threat in the ramp-up to "Secret Invasion," but their separate investigations will lead them in different directions. "As was promised when 'Mighty Avengers' launched, both series have completely different voices and are telling their own stories, but I see them as looking at the same material from different angles," Bendis explained. "If you and I were on an adventure together our points of view would be drastically different except for certain parts and that's the same thing that's happening here. Tony's view of the world and Luke Cage's view of the world are just completely different. Neither one is wrong. It's just how they see the world."
The fate of the entire world is at stake when the Skrull Invasion plot line comes to boil in "Secret Invasion" #1. "It's by far the largest story I've ever crafted, dramatically and structurally," Bendis said. "It's absolutely a huge story and it's been worked on for so long I feel it's immaculate in conception. Whether people like it or not is a different thing but I feel very confident about how it's being produced.
"The first issue is double sized. Lenil Yu is drawing the series. He's leaving 'New Avengers to draw it. We're an amazing team. He was the find of the century for me and he's perfect for 'New Avengers' and the style he's going to bring to 'Secret Invasion' is perfect for that story because he does both the dark and the bombastic with equal verve.
"It's a big deal for me and lots of other people that this book ships on time and the other good news is that Lenil gets the pages with no cheats and no hacking on them. He really draws his ass off. This particular story has to ship on time because of the reveal of who's a Skrull and who is not a Skrull are very large and affect more than just Avengers titles. Those reveals affect a lot of other books as well. To get that done right, it's got to ship on time. That's why Lenil is the perfect guy for this series."
Marvel also recruited the perfect cover artist for "Secret Invasion," says Bendis. "Gabriele Dell'Otto is doing the covers and they're awesome. That piece of art work they showed in Chicago of Spider-Woman and Iron Man making out was one of the covers."
"Secret Invasion" will reward readers who've followed the Skrull conspiracy, but it's also a series with something to offer old school and new school Marvel fans who are unfamiliar with the Skrulls' machinations. "A thing like this deserves the promise that all the answers will be revealed," Bendis explained. "This is a big story with a beginning, middle and an end. This will not drag on. This is an accumulation of all these ideas and threads that we've be planting for so long. So we came up with a story that we thought was a big, giant pay off for those who've been following 'New Avengers' and the other Avengers book and all these other things like Skrull fans from their appearances way back in 'Fantastic Four.' But if you haven't been following those things and are just buying this particular thing, you're getting a hell of a yarn as well. I think it works on both levels and I thought that was very important."
Though not one of Marvel's "cosmic" stories, "Secret Invasion" may appeal to fans of the popular "Annihilation" books. "The story is very Earth-centric but it involves Captain Marvel and some other Kree elements as well," Bendis said.
Fans of a certain Marvel character who's been lying low in recent years will also want to make sure they check out "Secret Invasion." "In this series Nick Fury makes his big return with his eye patch and his guns a blazing," Bendis confirmed.
Of course, the big questions upon Nick Fury's return will be, "Is it really him? And if not, where's the real Nick Fury?" Bendis will reveal the fate of the characters replaced by Skrulls in "Secret Invasion" #8. "A lot of people thought dead show up but are they really dead?" Bendis remarked. "There are a lot of people who show up and it will be revealed who is real and who is not."
The secret aspects of the Skrull Invasion, such as replacing people with Skrull doppelgangers, are going on right now and when "Secret Invasion" #1 rolls around the Skrulls will begin the next phase of their master plan. "The idea is that the invasion already happened and we're the last people to know," Bendis explained. "In the miniseries itself, the cat is out of the bag. All of the psychological and physical damage that can be done happens in the first issue, which then allows the series to become more kinetic -- i.e. violent."
Given the current state of relationships among many Marvel Heroes it might seem like the Skrulls have picked the perfect time to invade Earth but the alien shape shifters could be seriously underestimating their opponents. "This was a seed planted from before 'Civil War' and 'Civil War' was the great divider," Bendis said. "This certainly has the potential to be the great uniter and could lead to the assembling of the Marvel Universe for the first time in really years."