Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Secret Invasion #6 Review

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Leinil Francis Yu

Why am I still reading this comic? I've been reading comics for so long that I've always tried to get myself involved in their "major events" every summer. I was so excited about Secret Invasion that I even told my non-comic friends about how exciting it was going to be, leading to the puzzled looks people get when they try to explain any comic book story to a non-fan (though, admittedly, they looked less puzzled than when I tried to explain Infinite Crisis a few years ago). However, Secret Invasion continues to be one of the most disappointing comic books I have ever read. It is boring, repetitive, clich├ęd, and mean-spirited. It had one good issue, and then has completely petered out in a way that I genuinely didn't believe was possible.

Brian Michael Bendis has convinced me that he has absolutely no idea how to pace a story. At the end of Issue #3, Nick Fury and his new Howling Commandos showed up. At the end of Issue #4, Thor showed up. In this issue, issue #6, they all show up again. The reason they all show up again is that no time has elapsed in New York in three issues. That's right. The reason we have a repeat of the introduction of these characters, this time narrated by the Hood and his villains, is that Bendis's New York story has been looping for three straight issues now. He is literally repeating scenes so as to ensure that the story is not moved forward. I joked in my review of the last issue that the entire invasion would be over in less than twenty-four hours. I was wrong. This comic is actually developing so slowly that it is going backwards in time. It is as though this comic accidentally got crossed with the script of Memento. I have never seen a comic story so badly developed or paced before.

Since the introduction of softcover collections, decompression has become a problem in comics. Rather than writing to the issue, the author writes to the collection. As a result, one finds stories that feel quite slow when read on a month-to-month basis, but that read rather well in a six-part story. For Bendis's Ultimate Spider-man book, he has actually used this decompression quite successfully. Rather than simply develop the story, he has taken time out to develop characters in a way that has made that story quite successful. However, this book is the flipside of decompression. There really aren't any great character moments and the ones that exist tend to be dreadful, turning everyone into the same angry killer. Instead, all of that extra time is spent recapping what happened in previous issues. It has become apparent that Bendis simply cannot tell a fast-paced story, and simply can't stop himself from packing every issue with filler.

At least it looks like something will happen next issue. Maybe. Everyone stands around in Central Park at the end of the issues and threatens each other for six pages. That sounds like something will happen. We get two splashes at the end, one of which includes a big fight, so that's good. Wasp is some kind of traitor who somehow bypassed Reed Richard's new detection device. Maybe it's really her? Either way, I'm sure we'll find out at some point in issue #8. The big final page seems to have two Spider-Men on it, which could be an interesting clue, especially since the cover of next issue seems to have Spider-Man and Wolverine fighting. There are hints of some progression, and that is something positive, but the story is now 75% finished, so it is too late at this point. They have two issues for a fight that has been accumulating since Issue #3, and they have yet to rescue any of the kidnapped heroes except Mr. Fantastic.

One other thing that needs to be mentioned is that somehow this issue fails to incorporate the death of Kly'bn in Incredible Hercules #120. In that issue, Hercules and the rest of his God Squad killed Kly'bn, the god whom the Skrulls in Secret Invasion worship. The book that they are always referring to is destroyed and all of the Skrulls are disheartened. This is an interesting omission, since it would seem directly relevant. It seems that in spinning its wheels, Secret Invasion has even fallen behind its crossovers in the storyline. There seems to have been some sort of editorial gaffe here in keeping the stories straight. When Incredible Hercules actually progressed the Secret Invasion story, I was very happy, and I was disappointed here to see it ignored.

I'm going to finish this story, if only because I've already read three-quarters of it and want to see it end. It is a real shame to see such a great premise go to waste.


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