Secret Invasion #2

Background

In the wake of Galactus' devouring of the Skrull throneworld, and the devastation wreaked on the Skrull empire by the Annihilation Wave, the Skrull leadership has embraced a new reading of their sacred texts, a reading that has led them to regard Earth as a sort of Promised Land. Like the original Promised Land, however, it has indigenous occupants who must be expelled. Fortunately the Skrulls have been preparing for war with Earth ever since the end of the Kree-Skrull War, when the Illuminati issued an ultimatum to the Skrulls to stay out of Earth's affairs. Misadventures surrounding that ultimatum gave the Skrulls the tools they needed to perfect their shapeshifting abilities. It took years of work, but the Skrulls are now able to perfectly mimic Earthlings, even including Earthly superpowers, and remain perfectly undetectable as Skrulls while doing so.

Some time ago the Skrulls launched a Secret Invasion, disposing of key members of the superhuman community and replacing them with sleeper agents. Those agents have now struck, sowing chaos throughout the world, most notably by disabling all Stark technology, felling both Iron Man and SHIELD in one blow. The Avengers, both Mighty and New, are too distracted to follow up on this: deep in the Savage Land, they have encountered a crashed Skrull spacecraft, out of which have poured a group of super heroes garbed in 'classic' costumes. These new arrivals claim to be escapees from Skrull prisons, finally returned to Earth after a long absence...

Story Details

  Secret Invasion #2
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Leinil Yu
Inker: Mark Morales

The two groups of superheroes stare at each other. The Avengers are almost certain the newcomers are Skrulls in disguise, trying to fool them. The newcomers feel the same way, or at least their dialogue suggests they do. Some personalities—Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, and more—are present in each group, so there must be some Skrulls on hand.

Ares announces that this meeting is a trap, one that aims to keep the Avengers busy while bad things happen on the mainland. Luke Cage knows it too, but his blood is up. There's a Power Man among the newcomers, complete with tiara, silk shirt open to the waist, and jive talk: "Word!" and "Christmas!" Cage knows this is a deliberate provocation—on at least two levels—and he's unable to restrain himself. "I wish I was a strong enough man to walk away from your disrespect, but you all really need your asses kicked!"

An eight-page-long battle ensues; that's one-third of the book, for those keeping score at home. Some highlights:

  • Spider-Man tangles with Spider-Man. "Well, I do hate myself, but I don't know if I feel like smacking myself around." "Ugh! Please tell me I'm not this annoying." "You are." "I know."
  • The newcomer-Vision, pulled aloft by the Sentry, shapeshifts into the form of the Void, and suggests to Bob that all of the confusion is a product of Bob's superpower run amok, and that Bob is deliberately making all of this happen to punish his friends for their abandonment of him. This suggestion is too much for the Sentry, who flees. The Void, with a smirk, shapeshifts back into the form of the Vision.
  • Ronin (Clint Barton) strangles Hawkeye (Clint Barton) to death with his own bow. Looks like the good guy won, because the body reverts to Skrull form.
  • Ronin tries to shoot Captain America with the bow, but Cap swats the arrow aside. Ronin starts to wonder if this Cap might be the real thing.
  • A dinosaur appears out of nowhere, scattering the combatants and bringing the battle to an uncertain close.

Ms. Marvel escorts the disabled Iron Man to the mutate citadel, noted last issue, where the New Avengers had their first battle. It's a smoking ruin, filled with the corpses of the Savage Land mutates, the indigenous people of the Savage Land. There's a mystery here, but Tony has no time to probe it. With all of his tech damaged, he needs to rebuild from scratch. He orders Carol to return to the mainland to rally whomever she can, while he gets to work. "I built my first armor," he reminds those readers who haven't seen the movie yet, "from a lot less than this."

Back at the battle site, the real (?) Cage and Wolverine regroup. Neither trusts the other to be whom he appears to be, but they're pleased to find the corpse of the newcomer-Spidey, which has reverted to Skrull form: Cage thinks it's prima facie evidence that all of the newcomers were Skrulls. Wolverine isn't so sure, but is happy to see an enemy dead, I suppose.

The two men try to work out what the Skrulls are up to. They get as far as piecing together that the Skrulls want to kill all the people on Earth but keep the planet intact—hence the Skrull forebearance from dropping nukes or space-rays from orbit—and that they are driven by bitter hatred of Earth's superheroes, so much so that it's not enough for the superheroes to die; they have to kill each other.

As this point they have to stop talking, because they encounter Mockingbird in the brush, weeping over the corpse of Skrull-Hawkeye. She tells them that she knew the Skrulls had infiltrated their band of escapees, but that she hadn't known they had impersonated her husband. Wolverine isn`t having it, though. She's a newcomer, so she must be a Skrull, so she must get impaled on his claws... but Ronin, lurking in the shadows, immobilizes Wolverine (briefly) with an arrow. At arrowpoint, he demands to know about October 12.

Confused—she doesn't recognize the costume—Mockingbird confesses that several years before, she and her husband lost a baby to miscarriage. October 12 would have been the baby's birthday, had it lived. The revelation makes Clint certain that this is the real Bobbi Morse and not an imposter, for the two of them had told no one of this incident. The two lovers, reunited, embrace.

Logan and Cage are wary but are willing to accept Clint's declaration that this is indeed his lost wife. Bobbi adds that if there's one person on the ship she is certain is who he says he is, it is Captain America. "He's the one that got us back to Earth."

Meanwhile, in New York, the Young Avengers, in civilian garb, stare up at the Baxter Building, the upper floors of which are being sucked into the Negative Zone (thanks to last issue's Skrull saboteur). Before they work out what to do about this crisis, a second one emerges in the form of a Skrull warship, which hovers over the city and begins disgorging Skrull warriors... super-Skrull warriors, each one garbed after the fashion, and displaying the powers, of Earth's heroes. There's a Thor-Skrull, an Illuminati-Skrull, a Dr.-Octopus-Skrull, an X-Men-Skrull, and a dozen more.

This looks like more than the Young Avengers can handle...

General Comments

A shorter read this time out, but with plenty of action, and revelations. Mockingbird is back! As an Avengers fan from back in the day (i.e. the mid-1980s) this is good news; while Bobbi Morse started as a Black Canary ripoff, she had a lot to offer, and didn't deserve to be stricken with Gwen Stacy syndrome, a disease that kills off female characters merely to add depth—or should I say 'depth'—to the men in their lives. I'm glad she's back and hope she sticks around, even if it halts the burgeoning romance between Echo and Clint. We get to see Echo reacting to Ronin`s reaction at seeing Mockingbird again, so I`m thinking we`ll explore this plot point some more down the road.

By the way, we can be sure it`s her, Wolverine`s suspicion notwithstanding. The Skrulls don`t know who Ronin is, so when he pulls off the mask to reveal Clint Barton it must mean that it is really him. And we can take him at his word that no Skrull could know the secret she confesses to him, a detail that is both affecting and plausible: miscarriages are far more common than most people suppose precisely because few can bring themselves to discuss or acknowledge these painful events.

I`m not familiar with the manner of her death, so I don`t know how plausible a retcon this is, but frankly I don`t care. Bobbi back makes for better stories than Bobbi dead, so on with the show! Present and future stories matter more to me than past ones... but this is a touchy subject in Marvel fandom right now, so let me tiptoe past it.

Ahem. I'm less convinced that Captain America is back, though. He's a bigger character who hasn't been gone that long, so there's less emotional impact to bringing him back now. The emotional subtext of the Avengers/Invaders maxi-series releasing at the same time as this issue relies on Captain America being dead; Marvel Editorial is canny enough to recognize that fact. Plus, there's the in-story reason that Cap's body got a lot of post-mortem attention. I don't think it was a Skrull in disguise. It is much more plausible that Skrull-Cap deliberately brought a force of Skrulls to Earth, with some real escapees mixed in, with the hope of encouraging Earth's heroes to mistake them for Skrulls and kill them. The emotional impact of killing a long-lost friend would be hard to overstate: imagine Hawkeye's reaction if he'd killed the Skrull impersonating his wife, only to find she wasn't a Skrull but was actually Mockingbird, who had gone through agony in an alien prison, and returned to him from death, only to die at his hands...

So who else is not a Skrull? Classic Beast? The White Queen? The Scarlet Witch? Maybe none of them? I wonder...

By the way, I hope Agent Brand, left last issue floating in orbit without a spacesuit and only ten minutes' of air, hasn't suffocated yet.

Overall Rating

Lots of thinking-person's action, as the Skrulls reveal their penchant for psychological warfare at its nastiest, from taking out the Sentry to offering up Mockingbird to be killed by her friends. The cliffhanger ending, with the not-so-secret invasion of New York by super-Skrull warriors, looks promising too.

Footnote

If you're reading this book, you really should be reading Mighty Avengers and New Avengers also. Bendis writes all three, and is using the Avengers books to provide a lot of the backstory behind this invasion, from why and how the Skrulls are doing what they're doing, to what Nick Fury has been up to in response.