Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Secret Invasion 6

So in my last few reviews for Secret Invasion tie-ins, I became frustrated and annoyed by the slow-moving, elephantine and simplistic plot of Skrulls invading. We've seen so many different aspects to the invasion, from the smallest to the biggest, and we've heard many different reasons for the invasion itself. Bendis has created a major event that has its roots from the beginning of New Avengers to even further past that, going to Secret War. It seems like such a good idea for a story. But sometimes, the nugget of a good story idea does not necessarily translate or extrapolate into a good story.

I decided with this post that instead of simply reviewing
what happens in this issue of Secret Invasion, instead of simply reviewing what plot unfurls, I would try to decipher exactly what the story that Bendis is telling and whether or not he's successful at telling the story he's trying to tell.

Secret Invasion tells the story of a long-gestating invasion that is secret and insidious. An alien race called the Skrulls, who have the power to shape shift have switched essential superheroes and people with Skrull agents. In the limited series, we follow the heroes of the Marvel Universe as they pick up the pieces of the eventual large scale full frontal attack by the Skrulls. In the tie-ins, Bendis examines the hows and the whys of the invasion; the main title explores the what happens next of the invasion.

Bendis is telling two different stories in three different titles. In the main title, Bendis shows the audience how the superheroes
react to the proper violent invasion. On the other hand, the core of the entire story, the actual secret invasion itself, is explored in the secondary titles. In both cases, Bendis is telling us how the heroes emotionally respond to the danger and then physically react against the invasion.

This is a story of the psychological damage the Skrulls have caused by creating mistrust and breaking friendships and allegiances. Bendis wants to explore what the emotional cost of this secret invasion is, and what one does when one can trust anyone.

That sounds fascinating and three-dimensional. I'd like to read that please.

Instead of that, in
Secret Invasion 6, we get a bunch of angry wide-jawed people yelling at each other and then fighting for two double-page spreads. This story does not or will not mine the emotions of the characters and figure out what the psychological damage is. This is not a story about people fighting mistrust. This is a story of muscled madmen and violence.

Bendis wants to tell a wide-angle action story with plenty of explosions, fights, and shocks, but what he has delivered is a tired and creaky tale of the heroes being broken and then coming together to fight a common enemy.

The best comparison I can think of is the early nineties crossover
Infinity War by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim. In this series, Four Freedoms Plaza gets blown to smithereens:

and the heroes are replaced with evil duplicates:

Except, in this case, Jim Starlin was already a ways through a massive and giant epic tale about Adam Warlock and the pains of being a god. Starlin was trying to illustrate the absolute mind boggling size of the universe and how ultimate power can never be wielded by those without complete knowledge of the entire universe. It was a dense read, entertaining and filled with all those great nineties-era moments.

The difference between
Infinity War and Secret Invasion is that one has a labyrinthine plot that expertly uses its tie-ins to expand on little plot points in the main title, and the other has a slow-moving pace slower than the steady expansion of the edges of the universe. Bendis is not successful in telling his story because it's not really that interesting or three-dimensional. It's the same tired plot that's been seen before, but with a modern use of dialogue and decompression. In six issues, Jim Starlin managed to pack a billion characters and numerous dense subplots, including Kang and Doom going to the edge of the universe to try and steal the Infinity Gauntlet from Adam Warlock's "id": The Magus. Sounds confusing? Yeah, but man is it fun. In six issues of Secret Invasion, Bendis had the Hood (lame) and his society of C-listers go from discussing the invasion to standing on a roof watching the fight. That's it. Literally.

I'm not against decompression. In fact, the slow burn on Bendis' run on
Daredevil is one of its many strengths. Decompression can let a story breathe. Just ask Neal Stephenson and his two and a half thousand page epic The Baroque Cycle. However! However, Bendis isn't telling a substantial story. The heroes break apart, a couple people die, then they band together thanks to Reed Richards and Iron Man and save the day.

At least in
Infinity War, Starlin manages to turn that formula on its ear near the end: At this point, I'm highly unsatisfied with Secret Invasion and would rather revisit Jim Starlin's thousand page, twenty year epic starring Adam Warlock. So see ya later, Bendis.

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