Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On two invasions, one secret and one emphatic

Or: The Invasion! trade comes out tomorrow, and Secret Invasion still doesn't make any goddam sense to me

Tomorrow sees the long-awaited (by me) release of Invasion!, the three-part 1988 series by Bill Mantlo, Keith Giffen, Bart Sears, P. Craig Russell and little known artist Todd McFarlane.

Now, I’m not going to buy it (at least not tomorrow), as I have the originals, and like the way they smell just fine, but I always thought it was kind of insane that DC didn’t have the series collected in trade, if only because it includes pages and pages of McFarlane art, which it seems safe to assume a lot of people might want to check out now that they know who this McFarlane fellow is, and new examples of his art are getting fewer and farther between.

The story itself won’t teach you any great truth’s about human existence or make your teeth whiter, but it’s not at all bad for a superheroes vs. alien invaders story. Sure, there’s probably a bit too much space politics for my taste, but it’s still your favorite DC heroes of the late ‘80s wailing on alien ass. And, like each of DC’s big line-wide crossovers, it provides a nice snapshot of the ever-changing DCU; for that purpose, I think trades of each of these things, good or bad, are worthwhile (at least for fans of DC super-comics, anyway. (You know what would make me buy this tomorrow? If DC collected this, with all 30 of its tie-ins, in a black and white, cheap paper stock Showcase Presents style collection. If I did my math right, that adds up to a 900-page story. So maybe Showcase Presents: Invasion! Vols. 1 and 2. How awesome would that be?).

I’m not sure why DC decided to finally collect this series in trade now (Is it me, or has McFarlane’s star really faded in the last five years or so?), unless they simply saw Giffen’s somewhat resurgent popularity, nostalgia for the era, and the fact that DC and Marvel readers were sufficiently interested in space stuff to support books like Green Lantern Corps, Annihilation, Nova Rann/Thanagar Trade Agreement of 2007, Jim Starlin Draws Hawkman and so forth.

Personally, I think it may just be the same reason that DC decided to finally publish Millennium in trade this summer—just to be dicks to Marvel.

(I don’t mean that as a criticism; I think they should have gotten Legends out in trade the same year as Civil War, and The Flash: Hell To Pay as “One More Day” was going on. Marvel may be selling loads of these books, but it wouldn’t hurt DC to tweak their rivals by saying, “Yeah, great job on that hot new story, guys; remember when we did it, twenty years ago?”)

As I’ve spent probably way too much time already discussing, Secret Invasion shares some surface similarities with the 20-year-old DC crossover Millennium, in that both are about sinister alien forces invading earth by posing as friends and family of the superheroes there.

It also bears some similarity to Invasion!, not simply in the fact that it’s about an alien invasion because, come on, aren’t like, one-fourth of super-comics about alien invasions? It even echoes the title of the DC version.

So maybe after not making a big deal out of the similarities of other highly-hyped Marvel events to old DC stories, DC simply decided they were going to take the time to tweak their rivals here, and get Millennium and Invasion! in front of Secret Invasion readers to, if not rain on Marvel’s parade, at least piss on the corner of a street on its parade schedule.

Now, Invasion! and Secret Invasion are still very, very different stories. The latter is secret, the former is not. Also, the former makes perfect sense, whereas I’m having a hard time figuring out what the Skrull battle plan is in the latter.

In Invasion!, the race of aliens called The Dominators (who look like every sinister oriental villain fro Golden Age comics, only without the noses) convince an alliance of hostile aliens to invade Earth and remove the threat of meta-humans from the universe once and for all. So the Khunds (What if Genghis Khan’s mongol horde was pink?), the Thanagarians (Known fascist asshole Hawkman’s even more fascist asshole bretheren), the Durlans (shape-shifters familiar to Legion nerds), the hilariously named Gil’Dishpan (someone for Aquaman to fight) and several races form the Vega system who don’t use animal products and thus brought vegan culture to earth in the late ‘80s, all unite to invade earth and capture, kill or killpture all the super-heroes. They do so by dropping bombs, and shooting laser guns and suchlike, conquering Australia and hoping to go from there.

It was a pretty straightforward invasion plan. Basically, just step one, invade, step two, accept the enemies surrender, or, if they refuse to surrender, keep invading until they do.

But what the hell are the Skrulls up to, exactly? They’ve spent years planning and preparing for a very gradual invasion and, once they’ve just about rearranged earth politics to the point that they’re practically running the earth without anyone even knowing they’re there, they say, “Screw it, let’s just do it old school with infantry and so on after all.” While also pulling an elaborate bit of mental warfare on some Avengers that doesn’t really make much sense. And also appealing to the people of the world (or maybe just America?) to willingly join the Skrull Empire, while they’re simultaneously sending their shocktroopers to conquer various regions.

Pick a plan and stick with it, Skrulls!

Their main plan—infiltrating the superhero community with their own, undetectable agents—seems like a good one. They may have been involved with engineering the superhero civil war, the ejection of Hulk into space, the assassination of Captain America, the SHRA that made half of Marvel’s heroes outlaws, the Fifty-State Initiative. With a few more agents in the right places—one in for President Bush, one in for Maria Hill, one in for Tony Stark—they could rule the world without anyone being any the wiser, although they seem to shoot this idea down on account of wanting to make the likes of Tony Stark and Reed Richards suffer in a way that doesn’t include replacing them.

So this plan makes sense. If they keep it up, a good PR campaign could surely sell the American people and or the population of Earth that joining the Skrull Empire voluntarily is actually a pretty good idea.

But then, the Skrulls do their Savage Land psi-op thing, which consists of taking a group of brainwashed suicide soldier Skrulls who think they’re Marvel characters from the ‘70s, putting them on a spaceship, and crashland-ing them in the Savage Land. This sends both teams of Avengers scrambling there, and they are suddenly very confused for, like, an hour. Oh man, who do they trust? Are the heroes on the ship Skrulls, or are the heroes not on the ship the Skrulls?

You can see how this will mess with the Avengers’ minds a bit, but so what? What’s the point exactly? Especially if the Skrulls don’t even know they’re really Skrulls, like Captain Skrullmerica and Skrullckingbird? Wouldn’t they end up joining forces with the Avengers to fight off the other Skrulls?

While they’re doing that stupid little gambit, the Skrulls also attack as Skrulls. They don’t pretend to be X-Men and Avengers teaming up to destroy New York, and push public opinion against the superheroes even harder, they just start pouring Super-Skrulls into New York City (and, if you read the tie-ins, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, Wakanda and England) to start blowing shit up and fighting superheroes. Oh no, the average citizen of earth might think, alien invaders are invading and they’re completely destroying everything!

And then the really, really stupid part. There’s a weird two-page spread in Secret Invasion #5 with a million little boxes on it, and in each box, a well-known earth celebrity is shown smiling on a TV screen, each saying a snippet of the same speech: “We’re not here to hurt you. We’re here to save.” They say they want the Earth to join the Skrull Empire, and in return they will end “poverty, hardship disease and greed.”

This might be a convince argument, if the Skrulls weren’t also in the middle of a violent invasion. At the center of the spread, we see a Skrull shaped like Tony Stark speaking on one of those Times Square jumbotron screens, and he says “We wish no harm or bloodshed…” and the building the screen is mounted on has a big smoking hole in it.

I was rather confused by this whole sequence, not only because it seemed to contradict the other two major aspects of the Skrull plan (secret infiltration to run the world behind the scenes, and open military attack), but because I was unsure why the Skrulls took the shapes they did. Some are celebrities here in the real world, some are Marvel characters (Dr. Doom, Namor, Magneto) and two are Marvel characters we know isn’t a Skrull (Tony Stark, Reed Richards).

So does that mean that all of these Skrulls simply took these shapes for this address, or that these people have been Skrulls all along?

See, we’re talking Ann Coulter, Stephen Colbert, Paris Hilton, Barack Obama, John McCain, The Pope, Tom Cruise, Osama bin Laden, Tiger Woods, Chris Rok, Opra, the Dali Lama, Kim Jong Il, and some others I’m less sure of (Mitt Romney? Hilary Clinton? South Park’s Cartman and Homer Simpson for some reason?).

If all of those people were just Skrulls all along, why come out and say, “Hey, we’re Skrulls! Join the Empire or die!” wouldn’t it have made more sense for them to stay in character? Like Skrullprah do some shows about how it’s time for one world government over the course of the year, and then, when a Skrull delegation comes along, start talking about how it seems like the smart thing to do? Have Skrullbama and John SkrullCain both insert “Joining the Skrull Empire” into their political parties’ respective platforms?

That is a much better plan, Skrulls!

But, like I said, it’s unclear if these are just Skrulls adopting faces they know earth people like to look at while they make their pitch, or if Tom Cruise has actually been a Skrull since Days of Thunder.

Either way, the plan is overly complicated, and each prong of attack seems to be at odds with itself. The majority of the superheroes could probably just sit the rest of this one out and watch the Skrulls defeat themselves, the way things seem to be going.


LurkerWithout said...

Its like you can writer a better story than Bendis. Shocking!

Sadly, when Invasion came out I was a Marvel Zombie. So I only saw the Claremont written parody in an issue of Uncanny X-Men...

Phillyradiogeek said...

So in 1988 The DC heroes had to deal with two alien invasions, this one and Millenium? Boy, 1988 was a busy year for them!

SallyP said...

"Now INVASION and SECRET INVASION are still very different stories. The latter is secret, the former is not. Also, the former makes perfect sense whereas I'm having a hard time figuring out what the Skrull battle plan is in the latter".

This actually made me giggle out loud. Because it's funny, and because it's TRUE! DC had a nice straightforward Invasion, with lots of action and stuff. I can't even begin to follow what is going on with the Skrulls,they're all over the place, and their tactics are just...bizarre. That and the fact that it takes three issues to cover a twenty minute time period or so.

Unlike Millenium, I already have Invasion, and boy howdy, it's a dandy.

David page said...

Hey caleb have you actually seen the cover for the trade?!?

I think your thoery of dc pissing on marvels parade is spot on!

Caleb said...

Hey caleb have you actually seen the cover for the trade?!?

I did! Mystery solved.