Secret Invasion #4 Review

The Revolution continues to be summarily unimpressed by Secret Invasion itself, but completely entertained by the Secret Invasion tie-in issues. Secret Invasion itself has been a slow, lumbering, predictable and somewhat boring read over the first three issues. Hopefully, Bendis might actually engage in a little bit of plot development and finally kick this story into gear. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Secret Invasion #4.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Leinel Yu
Inks: Mark Morales

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with the Skrull Queen’s running narration for the beginning half of this issue. We see Mr. Fantastic still a mess of puddy aboard a Skrull ship being poked and prodded by what appears to be some hideous medical machine.

The Skrull Queen talks about how this is war. That what the Skrulls have done is exactly what the humans would have done. That through out time humans have used god or money or both to conquer foreign countries and exterminate the indigenous people. And then the victors write the history books.

The Skrull Queen says that this Skrull invasion was preordained. That the humans will soon realize that this is not a battle. The Skrull Queen says that the humans will not be able to understand what is going on and will freak out. We see the Sentry, a complete and total mess, flying away from Earth. (The result of what the 1970’s Vision said to Sentry back in Secret Invasion #2. Secret Invasion #4 must take place prior to the Secret Invasion tie-in issue of Mighty Avengers #14 that came out in May.)

We see Ms. Marvel arriving in New York to find Nick Fury and his new Howling Commandoes brawling with the Super Skrull soldiers. The Skrull Queen comments how the humans will fight and may have a trick or two up their sleeves, but that it will not matter. Ms. Marvel joins the battle against the Super Skrulls.

Nick barks out to his commandoes to do what they came here to do and then get out of here fast. The Skrull Queen states how this is not a war, because in a war you have to be able to trust the one next to you. And right how the humans need to trust each other and they now cannot. That friends are enemies and enemies are friends.

We see Nick’s commandoes gather up the unconscious Young Avengers. Nick Fury notes that all of his team is ready to roll out. Nick then comments that he is going to take out one more Skrull. Nick then shoots Ms. Marvel.

The Skrull Queen comments how the humans can no longer trust each other. And that tough decisions will be made by people who can make those kinds of decisions. Nick Fury and his new Howling Commandoes with the Young Avengers in tow then teleport out of New York.

Ms. Marvel crumples to the ground and is stunned that Nick shot her. The Super Skrull soldiers led by Skrully Yellowjacket then attack and overwhelm Ms. Marvel. The Skrull Queen comments that the humans had defeated themselves before the Skrulls arrived. That the humans already did not know who to trust.

The Skrull Queen says that the Skrulls just sat back and waited till all the paranoia and built into hysteria. The Skrulls waited till the humans were attacking and killing each other and when they were done that is when the Skrulls will let the humans know that the war had happened and that the Skrulls had already won.

We cut to the Savage Land where we see that the Skrull Queen’s running narration has been her chatting it up with Tony Stark. The Skrull Queen calls Tony the greatest Skrull in the Empire. We see Black Widow just outside of the lab listening in on this entire narrative by the Skrull Queen.

Suddenly, the 1970’s version of Beast and Phoenix approach Black Widow. Natasha immediately blasts away at them and kills both of them. (You absolutely have to be kidding me. The all poweful Pheonix killed by a non-metahuman and a gun? If the Skrull posing as Phoenix has all of the Phoenix’s powers then I cannot imagine that she could be so easily killed.) The two 1970’s heroes revert back to their Skrull form. (Oooh, shocker. Not.)

The Skrull Queen hears Natasha’s gunfire and makes a quick escape from the lab. Natasha then tends to Tony. Natasha then gives Tony a shot of adrenaline that will get him on his feet for about an hour.

Tony says that he is a Skrull. Natasha retorts that the Skrull Queen was just trying to mess with Tony’s mind. Natasha says that the Skrulls poisoned Tony. That Tony is one of five people on the planet that can stop the Skrulls. That they do not want to just take Tony out. That they want him defeated. They want to do to Tony what he did to the Skrulls. Natasha asks Tony “Skrull or not does he want to kill her or the Skrulls?” Tony replies “The Skrulls.”

Wolverine then appears on the scene. Natasha shoots Wolverine full of bullets. Natasha then asks Wolverine to give her the word. Logan replies “Carrot sticks.” Natasha then apologizes for shooting Wolverine, but that she is now on a shoot first and ask questions later mode.

Tony tells Black Widow that Ms. Marvel is on her way to New York City. Natasha tells Tony to reboot his armor and that they have to get out of here immediately. Tony then says that they need Reed Richards.

We cut to Agent Brand still floating in space where she was back in Secret Invasion #1. Brand floats her way over to one of the Skrull ships in their armada. Brand sneaks into the Skrull ship and makes her way to a main control room where she sees a wall full of monitors. The monitors are showing the Skrull attack on Earth. We also see a monitor screen showing Reed Richards being poked and prodded. Suddenly, a Skrull scientist and a Skrull guard arrive on the scene. The Skrull guard draws his gun on Brand.

We then cut to the SHIELD Helicarrier where evidently all time has stood still. Jarvis is still requesting that Maria Hill surrender to the Skrulls. Suddenly, all the SHIELD agents next to Maria turn into Skrulls. (We knew that was coming.) Even though the reader is not stunned, Maria Hill sure is.

We shift to Brooklyn where little red riding hood, I mean the Hood and his lame band of no-name villains decide to join the fight against the Skrulls. (Ooooh, I am sure the Skrulls are now petrified. This is what you call the writer introducing cannon fodder into the story.) The Hood comments that no more Earth is bad for business.

We slip over to Central Park where the Super Skrulls are rampaging through the area and attacking the locals. Suddenly, there is a massive bolt of lightning that fries a couple of the Super Skrulls. We see the mighty Thor arriving on the scene in dramatic fashion.

We then see Captain America using a pair of binoculars to watch Thor’s arrival onto the scene. Captain America then begins running toward the battle scene. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: *Yawn* Secret Invasion #4 was a pretty average read. Still, there were some positive aspects to this issue. Bendis gave us a fair amount of mindless action. And that kept this issue from being terminally boring. I would imagine that Secret Invasion #4 offers up enough bullets and blood to satisfy most action fans.

It was definitely cool to see Nick Fury operating out in the public once again. I have to admit that Bendis surprised me with having Nick coldly take out Ms. Marvel. This was an excellently timed scene that meshed well with the Skrull Queen’s narrative about how the Skrulls are going to go against tough humans who can make tough decisions. There is no doubt that Nick is as tough as they come and has no qualms making extremely difficult decisions.

However, even the great Nick Fury can be wrong. Carol does not appear to be a Skrull since her eyes don’t turn green and the other Skrulls, including Skrully Yellowjacket, attack Carol with great ferocity. This was a nice way by Bendis to show that mistakes are going to be made even by characters as qualified and talented as Nick. This emphasizes how dangerous and devious this Skrull invasion truly is.

Bendis did do a nice job matching up the Skrull Queen’s long-winded narrative nicely with various scenes going on around the globe concerning the Skrull invasion. This was a smart way to make Secret Invasion #4 extremely new reader friendly. Bendis does everything he can to spell the Skrull’s plan out to the reader in terms that even a six year old could follow.

I am glad that we finally got a little plot progression with Agent Brand’s plotline. I was beginning to think that she was going to spend all of Secret Invasion floating in space. It was unbelievably convenient that out of all the ships in the Skrull armada that Brand picked the one with Mr. Fantastic on it, but it serves to keep the story moving. I am glad that Bendis finally is kick-starting this plotline and hopefully we will get to see Brand kick some Skrull ass and rescue Reed.

Bendis serves up an absolutely fantastic hook ending to Secret Invasion #4 with the appearances of Thor and Captain America. I loved it. We have seen the dirty Skrulls gloating how lucky they were that both Captain America and Thor died before they pulled off their invasion. Well, won’t the Skrulls be surprised by this little turn of events. I cannot wait to see these two Marvel icons join the battle against the Skrulls.

Bendis amazes me how he can waste an entire issue doing little to nothing and boring me in the process and then deliver an ending that gets me all excited for the next issue. Despite my lack of enthusiasm over this meandering and predictable issue, I am totally looking forward to the next issue. I have to give Bendis credit, it takes real talent to come up with an ending that hooks a reader who largely was unimpressed with the majority of the issue.

The artwork was average. I am just not a fan of Yu’s style of artwork. I find the way he draws faces to be hideously freakish.

The Bad: Secret Invasion #4 was a relatively dull read. Technically, Secret Invasion #4 was a poorly written issue. It suffers from slow pacing and poor and unfocused plotting. It also has dialogue defects and meager character work. This all combines to make Secret Invasion #4 a thin superficial read that lacks any depth or richness found in other titles on the market.

Secret Invasion continues to lumber along at such a slow pace. The story appears to have no real point. The story is certainly not progressing with a sense of urgency or purpose. Seriously, Secret Invasion has just been brutally slow. We are already four issues into this eight issue story and I feel like we are pretty much exactly where we were at the end of Secret Invasion #1.

Bendis employs some mindless action scenes in order to trick the reader into thinking that the story is actually progressing at a quick pace. The action scenes are flashy enough so that the reader ends the issue thinking how much fighting there was and not realizing that there was truly no substance to the story itself in Secret Invasion #4.

I get the feeling that nothing at all happened in Secret Invasion #4. Fury’s appearance was short and only used to rescue the Young Avengers. We do see Brand stumble onto the ship where Reed is being held. We see Natasha help Tony. Then we have an ending that brings Thor and Captain America into the story. That is about it. The fact that I can sum up Secret Invasion #4 in a couple of sentences shows how shallow the story is that Bendis is giving us with each issue. I would need several paragraphs to sum up the dense story that Morrison gave us in Final Crisis #2.

Bendis has always struggled mightily when writing a comic book that deals with a roster of characters rather than one or two central characters. And Secret Invasion has been no exception. Bendis’ dialogue was very ordinary. None of the characters had much of a unique or nicely developed voice. Instead, everyone is reduced to a rather generic voice.

And there has been absolutely no attempt at anything even closely resembling character work on Secret Invasion. All the characters seem like lifeless mannequins simply going through the motions as we chug through this story. The shallow character work and ordinary dialogue makes it so that there is a complete lack of chemistry between the various characters.

The Queen’s monologue was dull at best. We had to sit through the predictable speech about how humans are nasty creatures who invade each other and conquer the indigenous people of different lands and exploit them. That human hate each other and don’t trust each other. That humans only look out for only themselves and are driven by nothing more than their own greed or their own religion. Blah, blah, blah.

I have read this before plenty of times in other books and comic books and in a much better written fashion. Quite frankly, the Queen’s monologue that served as the spine for the first half of Secret Invasion #4 was rather predictable, unoriginal and quite hackneyed. It did nothing more than practically make me fall asleep by the middle of this issue.

We do not learn anything new at all in from the Skrull Queen’s longwinded monologue. Instead, the monologue simply continues to beat to death the same tired concepts that we have been getting for months. I get it already. The humans cannot trust anybody. That anyone can be a Skrull. It was not that interesting, complex or intriguing concept in the first place. I don’t need it hammered into my head with each issue. Just move on and start actually showing me the result of all this deception and scheming.

And that is another defect with the Skrull Queen’s monologue. This is a case of the writer telling the reader rather than showing us. I don’t need this same tired dialogue over and over ad nauseum. I would much rather Bendis show me how the Skrull’s plan has impacted our heroes rather than talking me to death about it.

Secret Invasion #4 was also rather repetitious. Bendis is simply serving up more of the same dialogue and themes that we have seen over and over again in the previous issues of Secret Invasion and the myriad of tie-in issues. It feels like every issue reads just like the one that we got before.

Bendis treats the reader as if they are too stupid to figure anything out on their own. This further bolsters my belief that Bendis asks very little of the reader when it comes to Secret Invasion. There is no need for the reader to think or engage their mind in any manner. Bendis will spoon-feed the reader everything that they need to know or think.

Another problem with Secret Invasion #4 was that it feels like the reader is simply just waiting for things to happen that we already know about. Part of that is due to the fact that the Secret Invasion tie-in issues have surprisingly and seemingly hi-jacked this event from Secret Invasion itself. At this point, most of the interesting action and plotlines all occur on the tie-in issues rather than on Secret Invasion itself.

We see the Sentry flying away from Earth in this issue, but we already know from a couple of months ago when Mighty Avengers #14 came out that the Sentry comes back as the Void Sentry and ready to kick ass. The fact that Bendis cannot synch up Secret Invasion with the tie-in issues is irking. And it furthers the impression that the story on Secret Invasion itself is moving at a snail’s pace.

The scene with Jarvis on the SHIELD Helicarrier was another example of the reader simply waiting for Bendis to show us something that we already know. In this scene Maria Hill is surprised to find out that her SHIELD agents are actually Skrulls. While Maria was quite stunned, the reader certainly was not. We have known that there were Skrull SHIELD agents for months now over in the Secret Invasion tie-in issues. And we knew months ago that the Skrulls were setting up Maria to take the fall.

This scene with Jarvis was largely a waste of a page. Bendis has failed to progress this plotline. Seriously, this plotline has almost achieved perfect stasis. This plotline is moving slower than a Rex Morgan, MD comic strip.

The scene with Tony and Natasha was a total miss with me. At this point I have no clue how Bendis thinks Tony’s Extremis powers work. Bendis has an adrenaline shot miraculously cure Tony from this poorly explained virus that took over Tony. Then Natasha mentions how the Skrulls have poisoned Tony.

Obviously, Bendis has not bothered himself to actually do any research on Tony’s powers or maybe even read Ellis’ incredible 6 issues story arc on Iron Man where Ellis brilliantly creates the Extremis virus. And that is no surprise since Tony is not one of Bendis’ pet characters. Therefore, Tony doesn’t matter and it not worthy of Bendis’ effort to properly research Tony’s character and powers.

It is of no surprise that Tony is not a Skrull and Skrull Queen just trying to mess with him. At no point have I ever believed that Marvel would go back on their word and reveal Tony to be a Skrull.

I found Natasha’s shoot first and ask question later rather unoriginal and predictable. The scene where she blows away the 1970’s Beast and Phoenix was dull and uninteresting. And it was absolutely laughable that Bendis has Phoenix so easily killed off by a couple of bullets. To think that all the X-Men, the Shi’ar and the Imperial Guard had to do was simply get a handgun and shoot the Phoenix in order to stop her. Seriously, the Phoenix force is supposed to be one of the strongest powers in the universe. This was extremely sloppy and lazy writing on Bendis’ part.

Bendis has completely unimpressed me with his use of these 1970’s heroes. It appears that Bendis had no other use for these characters other than to provide this story some generic cannon fodder. The 1970’s heroes had the potential to be something interesting. Unfortunately, Bendis has failed to do anything special with them and are just using them as characters to kill off in action scenes.

Inclusion of the Hood and his fellow D-list villains into Secret Invasion did absolutely nothing for me and was just a waste of a page. If Bendis wants to play with the often used theme of a attack by outsiders that bands together heroes and villains then at least use villains that would actually interest me and that I care about.

Overall: Secret Invasion #4 was another pedestrian read. Secret Invasion continues to completely unimpress me and is by no means even one of the top 10 titles that Marvel is currently publishing. I continue to find Secret Invasion to be an slow, unoriginal, predictable and shallow story.

However, I totally understand that I am probably in the minority when it comes to Secret Invasion. I think that the average fan will completely enjoy Bendis’ summer blockbuster event. There is enough mindless action in this story that will keep your average comic book reader entertained. If you don’t mind a slowly paced story and are just looking for some cotton candy for the brain then you will probably get a kick out of Secret Invasion #4.

Secret Invasion’s weaknesses are also its strengths. Secret Invasion is extremely new reader friendly. Bendis spoon-feeds so much of the back-story and information to the reader that even a reader who has not read a single Marvel comic book prior to Secret Invasion can still completely understand and enjoy this story.

Secret Invasion also requires no effort at all on part of the reader. This is a title that can be read with the reader’s brain on auto-pilot and the reader will completely enjoy the story. And these two reasons are exactly why Secret Invasion will be popular and will post great sales numbers.

On the other hand, Morrison requires the reader to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the DCU in order to fully understand Final Crisis. And Morrison forces the reader to really work in order to try and piece everything together in Final Crisis’ incredibly complex and dense story.

If you have not hopped aboard Secret Invasion yet, I do think that waiting for Secret Invasion to come out in trade format would be the wisest choice. I would imagine that Bendis’ slow pacing, which is frustrating in a monthly format, would lend to a much more interesting and dramatic read in trade format.

16 Comments

  1. I think when it comes to ‘big events’ DC usually has a better product. Marvel can just create a ‘big event’ by bringing together all of it’s superheroes and not worry too much about a good story since they know it will sell well and they have a sales winner, while DC has a lot more riding. DC can’t just do what Marvel does, they must rely on a good story to sell. They may not get it right all the time, but when they do you get stories on such more of a cerebral level. I mean look at the brillance that was Identity Crisis. I do not think Marvel has ever matched a story to that level than DC did with Identity Crisis… But that’s just my opinion.

    Furthermore, I think Secret Invasion has just been Marvel’s attempt to cash in with their superheroes, and the story is not that special or grandscale to be a big summer event. Now Sinestro Corps from last year was awesome. And next summer with the Blackest Night….I think 2009 looks like a landmark year for good story arcs.

  2. Natasha’s reaction… Seemed like perfectly normal Black Widow to me. I’d have loved to see her turn around and shoot, say, Ronin. Clint falls over dead, doesn’t go all Skrully, Black Widow and Tony look horrified, end of issue.

    Oh, let’s be honest, Clint’s probably a Skrull, anyway.

  3. I have to say that I’m still not sure the Skrulls plan will work if they decide their leader can best be in the middle of things by being Spider-Woman.They even replaced her when she was still a zero,not even a New Avenger. Isn’t that a little like replacing a seargent to direct the outcome of World War II?

  4. @ Thetguay
    You bring up a really good point. Why wouldn’t Wolverine (for example)just cut people in half until the Skrulls got the message and surrendered. After all….THIS IS WAR!

  5. Pat, isn’t that what Ms Marvel (or whatever she’s calling herself this year) did? Just attacked everyone to figure out who the Skrulls were?

  6. I have a list of specific problems with the handling of details in the issue that I posted elsewhere, but your overall evaluation is accurate enough to make mentioning them unnecessary.

    One major aspect of the storyline I haven’t seen commented on is how much of a sideshow the Savage Land material has become. The characters in the Savage Land, heroes and returnees alike, aren’t relevant to the invasion per se; they exist only to stoke speculation among fans about who’s a Skrull and who’s not. Most of the returnees have been ignored. Given what happens to “Phoenix” and “Beast” in SI #4, there’s no reason to think that *any* of the returnees, Mockingbird included, are human. Making a minority of the returnees human wouldn’t be believable. The Spider-Woman-Stark material could have been done with both in NYC.

    The material with Hill is also irrelevant to the invasion per se. It serves only to show how distorted Bendis’s views of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hill are. Given her impotence, it doesn’t matter what she or anyone else present does—she can hardly surrender Earth to the Skrulls. The reader is apparently supposed to react to (enjoy?) Hill’s humiliation at being set up to fail. If he doesn’t, the page space is wasted.

    SRS

  7. Rokk, I could not agree with you more. This thing has been a huge disappointment for me. I guess I was sort of thinking in the back of my mind that this might give the Marvel heroes a chance at reconciliation after Civil War. Four issues in, I can’t tell what the point of this whole exercise is. The hook ending didn’t even impress me all that much. I mean, Thor and Captain America just show up out of the blue? I guess I’ll get the explanation for that in another tie-in. And The *&$%# Hood? Of all the villains you could include, we get the damn Hood?

    And, I’m sorry to all the Yu and Morales fans out there, but the art in this has been terrible. Half the time, I can’t tell what the hell is going on. I’m glad you explained that was Captain America with the binoculars at the end because I would’ve never figured that out.

  8. We’ll have to let this be a rare disagreement, I suppose. I really enjoyed the Black Widow scene.

    Regarding tie-in pacing, I don’t get the sense that most of them have a precise timing (apart from ones that might spoil reveals from a certain point in the series), so having MA #14 be out a while ago isn’t necessarily a wrench in the works.

    I really liked the framing of Thor and New Cap’s appearances; I predicted they would appear, but I was expecting some kind of big splash page; instead we got more hinting, innovative angles in multiple panels; very cinematic.

  9. Re: eddie and laura, I don’t see how New Cap and Thor appearing needs to be explained or “out of the blue”; the Earth is being invaded; Cap, at least, lives in New York. Where else would they be? If anything, them not showing up would be more questionable.

  10. Secret Invasion to me is typical Marvel product: shameless, gratuitous flashy action. That’s what sells for them and they capitalize on that–good for them.

    But that doesn’t mean I have to buy it or like it. ^_^

    Although there are many, many flaws I can name to Secret Invasion, the one thing that has bothered me the most was the introduction of an army of 1970s heroes and doing absolutely boo-squat-diddly with them except kill them systematically. And by the way: even if Skrull Phoenix possessed her baseline telekinetic powers, there is no way on God’s Earth that she could be defeated by bullets. So basically they created a Skrull to impersonate Phoenix only to give her like, no powers? What the hell?

    I can’t say Secret Invasion is disappointing–because it is precisely what I expected it to be: largely pointless.

  11. Practically every online review I’ve read has noted how silly the notion of killing Phoenix (impersonated or not) with a gun was–but Bendis did it anyway. Why? My best guess is that he just detests doing fight scenes showing heroes using powers–hates that as much as any other aspect of superhero fiction, and will go to extremes to avoid having to do it. I’d guess that the #1 reason he changed Clint Barton’s costumed identity, using “Avengers Disassembled” as an excuse, was that he liked Clint’s caustic personality but wanted nothing to do with his gadget-laden arrows.

    Looking at the heroes he favors using–Cage, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Fury, Black Widow, Cap, Ms. Marvel, et al., all of whom are fighters with very simple powers and equipment–a reader can sense his distaste for other heroes with their g******** complicated powers on most pages he writes. That’s why I don’t take the upcoming appearances of Cap II and Thor in SI #5 seriously. They’re not going to do anything interesting.

    Remember the last two pages of SI #2 with a platoon (?) of Super-Skrulls? Some fans went wild listing the various combinations of powers they had. None of those powers mattered in SI #4.

    SRS

  12. I have to say that i am with islandliberal on this one, i thought this was a good issue. I liked the scene with black widow. I think that if i were in her position, shoot first, ask questions later is a valid response. The earth is under attack, you know you can trust yourself, and tony, everyone else is expendable. As for the tie-ins, i dont feel that they are undermining the story at all. Although the scene on the helicarrier was largely unneccesary, it was still cool. So pumped for next issue, Fury has a small army to fight back with, and thor and bucky get to kick some ass.
    -hobosk8er

  13. Marvel’s big events look like recycled story archs they have already used. I mean the Skrull thing has been done to death, and as much as I loved Civil War, it was too much like the whole Mutant Registration in the X- titles.

    I agree with anonymous (first poster) who said DC tends to do better big events. Identity Crisis was different enough and not as much about action but good story telling.

  14. I have this feeling that when Nick Fury shoots Ms. Marvel with his BFG that it’s not what we’ve been led to believe: that he simply mistook her for a Skrull and had to do what he thought was the best course of action. Rather, it could very well be Bendis setting things up to reveal that Nick Fury, rather than Iron Man, is the real Skrull sleeper agent. Which would really suck for those who got a kick out of seeing Fury back in action.

    -Mike M.

  15. I think that it woould be better if some other writer worked on the actual issues and Bendis just did the plot.Bendis has some good ideas and stories but what he misses is the way to materialize them in a more complete and “mature” way.

  16. This might be considered a plot hole, but does anyone read Runaways? There’s a character in there that’s a Super Skrull. He gets shot once, but he comes through completely unharmed because he was able to shape-shift all of his vital organs out of the way. Shouldn’t these Skrulls be able to do that as well?

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