Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The New Avengers #43 Review

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Billy Tan

The never-ending premise known as Secret Invasion reveals to us that yet another of the "heroes" that left the Skrull ship three months ago (or twenty minutes ago in Marvel time) was in fact a Skrull. In this case, it is Captain America, who was the one whom Mockingbird assured us could not possibly be a Skrull back in Secret Invasion #2. So far, if I'm counting right, that's six of them that have been shown to be Skrulls and zero that have not been, which has largely removed any interest most of us have in the plot point.

However, despite being yet another page in the book "Previously in Marvel Comics", New Avengers #43 is actually quite a successful comic. In fact, what makes this piece of backstory so interesting and what makes this book so successful is precisely that it is completely irrelevant. The death of the Skrull Captain America is a truly pathetic event, and actually horrifying, as you realise that he doesn't even realise that he is a Skrull when he is murdered.

Basically, the story is the one we've seen several times now: a Skrull promises to join the mission by impersonating a superhero. He has fake memories implanted so he believes he was captured at some point in the '80s (we can tell because She-Hulk is on the Fantastic Four). He then is sent to Eath genuinely believing that he is Captain America, leads the group, and then is revealed to be a Skrull by a paralytic poison used by Sheena and then murdered by her, as she explains that the Geneva convention is only relevant in Manhattan coffee shops.

The whole book builds up to the last few pages, as we realise that this Skrull, in fact, has no idea that he is a Skrull. He is, in a lot of ways, an analogue of the new Captain Marvel, who is also a Skrull that had come to believe in his own false memories. In a way, when he dies, it is like seeing Captain America die again. Even though we knew Steve Rogers was dead, most of us still held out the slightest bit of hope that the Skrull Cap was really him. And, in some ways, he was. He had the personality and memories of Captain America, and maybe could have gone on to be a hero.

As it was, he was murdered. I say murdered, because Bendis doesn't seem to believe in war crimes, but the rest of us should. His death is truly pathetic. His mission was always basically hopeless, as Cap was dead and clearly did not revert to a Skrull. He lasted about fifteen minutes as Captain America before he was shot down and he didn't even realise what was going on. It was a truly sad moment, even if not exactly an original one (Buffy Season Eight did something similar with one of Buffy's imposters in Issue #7 or so).

So, overall, this is a good comic book. It is self-contained, as all Secret Invasion crossovers need to be lest they accidently advance the non-existent story. And as that, a short book whose primary purpose was to move the audience with the sense of waste in war, was a successful one.

B

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