Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

So you’ve got to admit- an army of Super-Skrulls made for a nice, weird, climactic end to Secret Invasion.

I feel like Secret Invasion is going to go down in the history books as terribly, TERRIBLY under-appreciated. It isn’t that people didn’t like it- I think most people were dorking out when all those would-be Skrull infiltrators walked out of that spaceship and looked like Marvel all 1980’s style. The fact that they were sleeper agents and that they didn’t even realize that they weren’t who they SAID were was a nice touch.

Oh, did you miss that? Yeah, that was part of what was going on- the Skrulls our Marvel heroes were dealing with had been brainwashed to really believe they WERE the people they were impersonating. Just part of what made the whole ‘invasion’ so scary.

That, and the real gravity that Brian Michael Bendis finally gave to the prospect that Skrulls COULD do this- that they could overthrow entire societies through this kind of infiltration. After all, after learning some harsh lessons about war from the now seemingly civilized but war-driven Kree (back when the Kree didn’t even have the “civilized” part down), the Skrulls set out to forge their own interstellar empire. And what we saw in Secret Invasion was a little taste of how they did it.

But yeah, that was part of what was going on.

And really, that’s part of the problem with the whole story (although I am very hesitant to use these words). They wanted so badly to convey the confusion about what was happening, to show you so many different points of view with one small piece of the puzzle. You’d probably really have to read almost the entire collection of Marvel comics being published at the time to really make sense of what was going on! (And Deadpool- just for fun). The Baxter Building disappears into the Negative Zone, a bunch of people start walking around saying "He Loves You," Nick Fury rolls out with a bunch of superpowered kids he calls Commandos and shoots Carol Danvers in the head without twitching.

And that was the point, really- that you would see the confusion from the angle of the comic you were reading. So, if you were reading Fantastic Four, Johnny and Ben were sitting around in the Negative Zone wondering what the hell happened. If you were reading Young Avengers, they were staring at the big gaping hole that F.F. HQ used to be at wondering what the deal was.

But I sensed that the final issues of Secret Invasion, while climactic, still left a lot of people with confusion about WHAT exactly happened and WHY it happened. People knew the Skrulls had invaded but the hows and the whos were a little vague. The main book just covered the big action; the explanations were parceled out in the pages of New, Mighty, and Young Avengers (that’s three different comics, by the way- although personally, I like the idea of a comic entitled "The New Young Mighty Avengers") and others.

Case in point in New York. All those Skrulls with the superpowers, that looked like weird smorgashboard’s of your favorite heroes?

Those were Super-Skrulls.

Skrulls can’t just imitate any old superpower they want (Earth would have been conquered a long time ago if they could)- although they have a few neat tricks to make it APPEAR like they’re using a such and such superpower (mild hypnosis is a lesser known innate Skrull ability, for example). What people might not remember is that the Skrulls used to be one of the most technologically enlightened races in the universe (before the whole constant warring with the Kree thing). Consequently, the Skrulls know a thing or two about genetic engineering. They have their own sort of Super Solider program, a la Project Rebirth and Captain America.

The original Super-Skrull, A.K.A. Kl’rt, has evolved to be one of my FAVORITE characters in the Marvel Universe (I just love the whole bitter, maybe-my-career-is-over thing; afterall, Kl’rt was never exactly a Skrull success story). Imbued with the combined powers as the F.F., Kl’rt became well known for stretching his big, rocky, flaming invisible hand out to wack people. (Actually, Kl’rt would be a perfect candidate for the New Young Mighty Avengers comic I’m going to pitch? You know- he’s like the poster boy for excessive associations?)

See, and that’s just another thing that was going on in Secret Invasion. All this stuff with the Illuminati getting captured and the infiltration- the Skrulls weren’t just refining their methods to make sure they couldn’t be detected- psychically, magically, technologically, or otherwise- they were getting their hands on mutant-superhuman DNA/ readings/whatever the heck. HENCE- big hordes of Skrulls wearing optic blast visors and gamma-radiation-bristling muscles. They were Super-Skrulls. In case you missed that.

Part of the reason I love this kind of storytelling is because it IS unwieldy and hard to follow- I admit that. I just liked the idea that Marvel DID this- they would tell these ridiculously ambitious stories, integrating what was happening into (LITERALLY) every comic they had available. Go buy the Secret Wars II Omnibus. Right now. It’s ridiculous.

But it’s also kind of ridiculously AWESOME, isn’t it? That you watch the Beyonder evolve from this foreign entity with no understanding of the human race to a being that has literally experienced every facet of being human (and even had some experiences that are just childish fantasies- hey, if you had the power of God, wouldn’t you?), all in the span of forty or so collected issues, spread out across a year’s worth of comics?

It certainly doesn’t make for the cleanest storytelling- even if you are following along, in the chronological order (YES, there seriously was a semi-plausible continuity to the whole thing- issues would end with, follow Secret Wars II in F.F. # (whatever) or Spider-man # (you get the idea)!), integrating the overall story into the flavor of every comic at the time and across different writers doesn’t always make for a very coherent feel to the whole thing. Some books feel like they got hijacked for an issue, other books feel like the events of Secret Wars II are barely applicable, just kind of thrown in because, well, the writer of the book got ordered to do it.

But see, it doesn’t really matter to me that the story of Secret Wars II wouldn’t boil down easily into a published novel-adaptation or a movie screenplay. It’s just a different KIND of storytelling. One that only comic books CAN do. Marvel kind of got famous doing this sort of stuff; the intention behind stories like these is to tell a big cross-over event through the medium of comic (and, of course, to make you neurotically buy more comics than you usually do).

And I like that. I like that you can’t represent the strange "it kind of works, it kind of doesn’t" integration of the whole thing in some other form- a book, a movie, even a series of television shows. That’s a comic-only kind of thing. (Well, and maybe a few Star Trek and Joss Whedon shows and their spin-offs picked up on this trick. But still.)

So, I think everything Bendis did these last few years has been a bit of a throwback to the glory days of this kind of stuff. Bendis has had a knack for doing it a little cleaner and a little clearer than, oh I don’t know- ‘Acts of Vengeance’ or ‘Atlantis Attacks’.

(These are OLD SCHOOL crossovers. There’s a What If? comic I own where the Marvel superheroes sort of ‘lose’… ‘Atlantis Attacks’? And it’s easily the scariest &*%$ comic I think I’ve ever read. By the end of it, the Atlantian God Set, a giant, seven-snake-headed monstrosity, is sitting in New York, ruling a dying planet whose inhabitants are slowly mutating into snake-people. Really pretty &*%$ up stuff. But I digress).

But I think Secret Invasion is where Marvel really just said "let’s go crazy, on this one. Let the pedal hit the floor. Like we used to."