I've read the exclusive online prologue, I've seen the animated trailer, I've read the preview pages, and I've laughed at the viral marketing, and now I hold a copy of "Secret Invasion" #1 in my hands. If Brian Michael Bendis and Joe Quesada are to be believed, the events of this series have been foreshadowed since Bendis first launched the "New Avengers" title several years ago. It's certainly possible, since the initial story arc from that series promised a shadowy mystery that was never resolved. "Civil War" seemed to derail the plans of that series, but now it seems that the plans were just postponed, leading to this inevitable revelation: the Skrulls are among us.
And by "us," I mean fancy Marvel heroes and their fancy butlers. Not to give anything away, but Jarvis is totally a Skrull. And I assume all the other famous butlers in the Marvel Universe are Skrulls as well. Is Wong a butler?
Before I get into the plot details and Bendis-isms, I'd just like to point out that either Leinil Yu's penciling is tighter on this issue than his recent "New Avengers" work, or inker Mark Morales does an excellent job restraining Yu's spastic line, because this is a slick-looking comic. I've always enjoyed Yu's figure drawing, but sometimes his storytelling can be a bit obtuse. Here, everything seems clearly presented and appropriately energetic. There are still a few typical Yu bits, like when Moonstone tackles Norman Osborn and we can't really tell what's happening, but even that sequence plays into the chaos and uncertainty of the moment. It's a well-drawn story.
Bendis does a nice job introducing the scale of the Skrull infiltration, deftly flashing from the S.W.O.R.D. satellite to Stark Laboratory to the Savage Land and many other locales around the globe. The series will clearly feature a vast array of characters, and unlike Civil War, it doesn't feel like we're just getting the highlights of a larger story. It feels like Bendis is telling us everything, or everything he wants us to know at this point, and building the appropriate amount of suspense. There are still seven more issues for this series to catch the life-draining mega-crossover-itis that we've seen befall even the most well-planned event comics, but if the first issue is any indication, it might have the strength to make it to the end with its dignity intact.
As a single issue, it's all just set-up, though. It's what you want for a first issue, sure, but there aren't that many surprises. Skrulls are revealed, and they spell bad news for our heroes (Avengers both New and Mighty), and we find out that the Skrulls have big, bad plans. We don't know exactly what those plans are, but since the title of the comic has "invasion" in it, we can pretty much figure out where this thing is headed, even without looking at the end of the issue. Plus, as cool as it is to see that group of Marvel-looking heroes with their late 70s, early 80s costumes who pop up in the Savage Land, it's impossible to believe that the company would be so bold as to say, "hey, these guys you've been reading about -- "the Spider-Men, Wolverines, and Luke Cages -- "they've been Skrulls since 1983." They wouldn't go that far, right? Right?
"Secret Invasion" #1 offers just about what you'd expect, but it's well-executed and offers a solid launching pad for what could turn out to be an excellent little gigantic crossover event.