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Review of New Avengers 45 (3 stars) September 30, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Well, even if this issue didn’t turn out to be all that important, at least it was pretty entertaining. The story was hyped to seem as though there would be some big reveal involving House of M and the Skrull invasion. While the Skrulls were trying to get things back to normal just as much as “we” were, this finally gave us the perspective of seeing Skrulls at their weakest. Even the mighty Empress Veranke had a breakdown as she woke up to find an already alien world transformed around her. Of course, this scene also showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that Veranke truly did take the place of Spider-Woman. In the back of my head, I suspected that perhaps Jessica Drew was somehow able to stop the switch and act as a “double agent” only pretending to be Veranke. (C’mon, we all know Jessica would be the only person able to pull this off.)

Really the only thing I was left wondering was how the Skrulls were able to sense the change, and didn’t believe everything was continuing as normal. Perhaps their altered “Super-Skrull” DNA somehow protected them? I don’t know.

Aside from seeing Skrulls at their weakest, the best part of this issue was definitely Jim Cheung’s art (well, most of it). His scenery, facial expression, and action were all brilliant. His only real flaw is the actual faces. He can convey emotion rather well, but many characters had similar looking faces, even amongst men and women.

As reality returns to normal, the Skrulls on Earth finally learn of the Annihilation wave, and the destruction it has caused. Having only read parts of Annihilation myself, I don’t know how much of it may have directly affected the invasion, but I do know that countless worlds were destroyed, many of which were controlled by the Skrulls. If anything, I’d like to see Bendis give us an issue showing more of the ramifications of the Wave on the Invasion. Until then, we have next issue to look forward to, which presumably will show how the Hood uses his distinct methods to fight the Invasion.

-LOTRKing

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Review of Secret Invasion 6 (4.5 stars) September 11, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I don’t know how Bendis does it. Very little actually happens in this issue. As with every previous issue, there seem to be panels and pages that serve as nothing more than an ad for various tie-ins. And yet, this still manages to be a spectacular read. I’ll start off with the first thing I wondered: the Skrulls seem very happy that the heroes have the Wasp with them; what exactly was in the formula that “Hank” gave her back in Mighty Avengers 8? And why is Veranke so sure that it guarantees their victory, but wishes to use it only as a last resort?

Now concerning the new speech that the Skrulls made on all of our media, that was a brilliant move. I could see how many humans would be swayed to accept the Skrull’s promise of peace and prosperity. No matter how this story ends in two issues, the Skrulls will have still left a huge scar on Earth. Seriously, if we thought the aftermath of Civil War was big, the Skrull’s attack on Earth will definitely have much larger ramifications. And what is this Dark Reign that Marvel is hinting about?

Of course, the best part comes at the end (SPOILER WARNING), as Thor finally meets the new Captain America, and summons as many people as he can to make a last stand against the Skrull army. I won’t lie, seeing an army of heroes and villains united together to take on a legion of Skrulls caused my little nerd heart to almost burst with excitement. Once again, the parallels here between Secret Invasion and Civil War are amazing. Once more, the call of “Avengers Assemble!” is given to rally the troops, but it is no longer a war of ideas, now it is a war of survival. The battle begins on the final page, but this will not be fighting to disable, with a few accidental deaths, as occurred in CW, this is a battle to the death, and I expect the casualties to be high. (Oh, and I still think Dr. Strange will show up to pwn some Skrulls before this is all over.) Secret Invasion just may be Marvel’s most epic crossover yet.

-LOTRKing

Review of New Avengers 44 (4.5 stars) August 28, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Now that’s much better than this week’s other Bendis-Avengers title. (Given, I still prefer Mighty to New Avengers as a whole, but seeing as how all of the Secret Invasion tie-ins of both series have had little to nothing to do with the respective teams, I’ve actually enjoyed the NA tie-ins a bit more.) Not only does this issue bring to light what actually allowed the invasion to happen, it also gives the closing scene of Secret Invasion 1 a bit more meaning.

The issue opens with what appears to be a standard Illuminati meeting (if there is such a thing) as the Illuminati discuss what the Skrulls could possibly do to remain undetected among superpowered humans. As this discussion leads to more distrust, Dr. Strange attempts to use the Eye of Agamotto to calm everyone, only to realize he can’t do it. The plot takes its first big twist as the heroes discover that they can’t use their powers, and that none of them fully remember how they ever escaped the Skrulls in the first place, until it dons on them: they didn’t escape the Skrulls.

With my mind still trying to fathom what the crap was going on, Xavier becomes a Super-Skrull and summarily kills the rest of the Illuminati. We then get our second plot twist as it is revealed that they were all clones, and this was a Skrull experiment being conducted in a lab. And this was only the first half of the issue.

Despite this trial being a failure, the Skrulls did take away one important piece of information: Reed Richards had figured out a way in which the Skrulls could remain undetected, he simply did not have time to explain before the situation fell apart. So the scientists formulate a plan B: clone only Reed Richards, and use any means necessary to discover this method. At first they try something torturous and harrowing, but Reed still does not give in (even when he’s a clone, he’s awesome!) After killing this clone also, they finally attempt a more subtle and sinister approach, and to humanity’s eventual dismay (dismay may be an understatement), it works. You wanna know what Reed means when he says “they used my brain to start this” in Secret Invasion 5? Pick this up.

Oh, and the scene at the end of Secret Invasion 1 where Reed figures out how they did it? Now we know how he was able to do it so quickly, because it was a clone of him that created the process in the first place. This also explains the lack of surprise from Skrull-Pym when Reed does figure it out.

Anyway, an essential Secret Invasion chapter, you’d be foolish to miss it.

-LOTRKing

Review of Mighty Avengers 17 (2 stars) August 27, 2008

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Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

As my long time readers may know, I’ve been complaining about the lack of story in many of the Avengers Secret Invasion tie-ins. However, those lacking in story at least have the saving grace of being somewhat relevant. This issue, not so much. Unless I missed something extremely significant, this issue has not importance whatsoever. The summary is as follows: Skrull-Pym tries to convince Skrull-Dugan that the invasion will not work; Dugan doesn’t listen and has a bunch of undercover Skrulls attack Pym. That’s it. If this had beautiful art, I might say that it was not a complete waste, but as it is, the art is fairly mediocre. Save yourself three bucks, and don’t pick this up.

Believe it or not, I feel bad when I write an extremely short review. I usually try to keep these things between 300 to 500 words, so that you’re not reading an essay, but at the same time, not reading two or three sentences. But when I’m given an absolutely empty issue, I can only give an absolutely empty review. Sorry again for the shortness, check back tomorrow for some regularly scheduled reviewing.

-LOTRKing

Review of New Avengers 43 (3 stars) August 6, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Sorry for being so late in getting this up for review (I only got it in the mail last Friday, when I also got Iron Man 4 which comes out this week. So I got a week late issue and a week early issue on the same day. Go figure. 😐 )

Anyway, this wasn’t exactly a spectacular issue, so I didn’t mind waiting. We get a rather quick resolution to Captain America randomly showing up at the end of NA41 as some Savage Land mutates take him out with tranquilizer darts. These reveal this Captain America to be a Skrull (big surprise) and follows up with the back story of how he ended up here.

This story would have seemed more relevant had it explained all the heroes’ doppelgangers on the Skrull ship, but it only tells the story of “Captain America.” Seeing as how it is not really a “replacement story” (Steve Rogers was never switched out for a Skrull), it really isn’t that interesting. We get a lot more of the same scenes with “Skrull-Cap” giving his monologue (“the blood of a human, the blood of a male…” etc) as he gets a bloody towel placed over his head (where did the Skrulls get the blood of Rogers anyway?)

The only thing of merit we learn in this issue is that the Skrulls can indeed implant memories into the imposter’s heads. “Skrull-Cap” believed himself to be the real Steve Rogers. This still doesn’t explain who, if any, of the other “Skrull-ship heroes” are real. I think at least some of them are truly abducted heroes. I’m guessing probably Mockingbird (how else would she have known the information she shared with Clint?) and either Luke Cage or Jessica Jones.

Personally, I think it would make for a good story if the very anti-Skrull Luke Cage turns out to be a Skrull and doesn’t even know it. Anyway, a fairly run-of-the-mill Secret Invasion tie-in, this really isn’t a necessary purchase unless you want your collection to be complete. Here’s hoping that next week’s Secret Invasion 5 will be much better!

-LOTRKing

Review of Secret Invasion 4 (4.5 stars) July 10, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I don’t think I realized how big this was until this issue. I mean, I knew that this was Marvel’s big event for 2008, and that it was going to have a massive amount of tie-ins, but I figured it would probably go along the lines of: Skrulls try to invade, heroes quickly discover this and kick their butts in a cool way, no harm done (aside from normal amount of destruction that results from super-battles). It wasn’t until the almost-entire-issue monologue by an unknown Skrull (I’m guessing Veranke), that I realized the Skrulls had a good chance of winning this. Heck, if Marvel really wants to pull a gutsy move, the Skrulls will win this. Could you imagine the next year or two of all of Marvel’s issues being published while Skrulls ruled the Earth? The epic rebellion that would inevitably occur? Now, I’m not saying that Marvel will do this. Likely, our heroes will find some way to win, but it will probably involve a change in Marvel’s status quo. Look at how much Bendis changed the status quo after Avengers: Disassembled, and then again after House of M. Do you really think good ol’ 616 will walk away unscathed this time? If nothing else, this issue really opened my eyes to what’s at stake here. This isn’t just a cool battle story like World War Hulk was. Win or lose, we are facing some major ramifications.

Now that I’ve rambled on long enough about my slow-coming epiphany, let’s get to what you guys and gals all want: the spoilers. Typical “decompression, keep ‘em waiting until the end for everything” Bendis hasn’t progressed the story too much. Given, the NYC battle that began in issue 2 finally ended – stealing a line from Spider-Man himself, Nick Fury’s new Commandoes could say: “We came, we saw, we stole a line from Ghostbusters!” (That means they kicked some total Skrull butt, for those of you still waking up.)

However, the other battle in the Savage Land, which also started in issue 2, looks like it’s still in full swing. Black Widow got some much needed spotlight as she took out Skrull-Beast and Phoenix, and rescued Tony from Jessica/Veranke, but not before (somewhat) convincing Tony to ignore Jessica/Veranke’s tripe from last issue. (We all knew that Tony wasn’t really a Skrull, right?) She also sent Wolverine on a “find and kill” mission for Veranke, who escaped.

Just a couple of other brief side-notes from this issue: we see that Reed Richards is still alive, though captive and being quite literally poked and prodded (and stretched) for Skrull scientist study (try saying that five times fast!) Agent Brand (that green-haired S.W.O.R.D. agent chick from issue 1, for those not in the know) does indeed survive to sneak onto a Skrull armada ship, only to be captured. Skrull-Jarvis reveals the helicarrier to be full of Skrull agents, and commands Maria Hill, now acting head of S.H.I.E.L.D., to surrender on behalf of humanity, or be executed. But the two most tantalizing teasers come at the very end of the issue. The Hood, still alive and kicking, realizes that a Skrull-ruled world is bad for crime business, so he sets out to assemble a supervillain army (oh, heck yeah!) And in the aftermath of the NYC battle, Thor shows up in all his awesome godliness, and who should be watching this, none other than Captain America (presumably James/New Cap).

As you can see, there was a lot of promise in this issue. Aside from the occasional minor complaint about some of Bendis’ dialogue, he is a master storyteller, and his skill is evident here. Any regular readers here know that I am no huge fan of Yu’s artwork, but there’s really not to much to complain about here. True, I still don’t like the way he draws his (human) faces, but his work here isn’t annoying like it was in New Avengers, and his Skrulls are pretty darn awesome.

For more of my opinion on Secret Invasion in general, see this handy dandy comic book industry report card.

-LOTRKing

Review of Mighty Avengers 15 (3 stars) July 3, 2008

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Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This issue probably has the shortest summary ever: Hank Pym, in Britain shortly after Avengers: Disassembled, is left by Jan after she has a drunken episode, and hooks up with a young and beautiful student. The student seduces him, finds out all about him, reveals herself to be a Skrull, and replaces him. Much later, we learn that the Ultron attack from MA 1-5 revealed to the Skrull’s Tony Stark’s weakness (Iron Man is now biological) and that Hank’s “growth formula present” to Jan in issue 8 is something ominous.

Well, maybe not quite as short as I thought, it sounded shorter in my head, but still pretty short for a full-length comic. The majority of the issue was Hank getting questioned by the Skrull with large amounts of almost-nudity that should never be in an “A-rated” comic. Seriously Marvel, if Fantastic Four had to be bumped up to T+ for less sexuality than is often found in either Avengers title, why are they both still rated A? Anyway, really short review today, partially because of yesterday’s announcement, and partially because there wasn’t much to review. In summary: if you don’t normally follow Avengers or Secret Invasion, there is no reason to pick this up, otherwise you may or may not want to depending on how much of a “completist” you are.

-LOTRKing

Review of New Avengers 42 (3.5 stars) June 25, 2008

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Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This issue, while extremely vital to the Secret Invasion storyline, and very informative, could have been better. I can’t really think how though, it just feels as if something was missing. Perhaps it was the lack of any major reveals. Sure, we learned exactly when Jessica Drew was replaced (during her “operation” to regain her powers, which was a Skrull ruse all along) which is something that I’ve been wondering for quite some time. This is followed by some very cool art as Veranke “becomes” Spider-Woman for the first time. We also learn that the Skrulls staged the Raft breakout, in order to ensure the escape of Sauron and the Silver Samurai, though this latter detail could have been very easily guessed once we learned that Secret Invasion tied in with the first New Avengers arc. Indeed, once I learned of the tie-in, I assumed it was a given that the Skrulls hired Electro, and I was right (big surprise).

The unintentional part, of course, was the formation of the New Avengers, which the Skrull’s hadn’t planned on. Still, this seems to help their cause more than hinder it, as it allows the Empress of the Skrull Empire to not only spy on, but be a part of, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. (I’m also assuming that Jarvis was replaced either during or shortly after Civil War so the Avengers Tower could still have a spy. This also accounts for Jarvis and Aunt May developing romantic feelings for each other, though with the OMD/BND retcon, this may no longer have happened.)

The most interesting aspect comes toward the end, as we see the one thing the Skrulls could have never planned for: House of M. The issue ends with the “big white flash” that started it all focused on Veranke/Jessica. I’m intrigued to see how they handle this next issue. After all, in Wanda’s Mutant Utopia, how does a Skrull Invasion fit in? And, if my memory serves me correctly, which it likely may not, wasn’t “Jessica” the one who was skeptical about changing the world back because this might be “how mutants become the dominant species.” (Or was she the one who made the analogy and said “we shouldn’t try to stop the bomb after it has gone off”?) Either way, assuming that Jessica was also a Skrull, why would she want the House of M to stay intact? Surely, Earth would be much harder to conquer if it was full of mutants? Didn’t she say earlier in this issue that the current number of mutants was threatening enough?

While this may not have been the most entertaining Secret Invasion tie-in, the story was still essential, and the storytelling was fairly well done, after all, it was written by Bendis. Besides, next issue looks to be much better, so you have two factors making this a must read. One small complaint on the art: while montage at the beginning looked really cool, did anyone else notice that everyone had the same face? Heck, Jessica and Madame Hydra standing side by side looked like twins. Likewise, Tony Stark and Wolverine looked exactly the same except for their facial hair. Mehh, at least Jim Cheung’s New Avengers art is more pleasing to look at than Leinil Yu’s was.

-LOTRKing

Review of Secret Invasion 3 (4.5 stars) June 5, 2008

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Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

After a slight drop in quality last issue, we go back to full-fledged awesomeness this time. First, we get three brief scenes in succession. Jarvis arrives on the crashed helicarrier and asks Maria Hill for surrender. (Anyone else find this cool yet comical to see an unarmed “old man” ask a helicarrier full of highly trained people to surrender?) Next we see Norman Osborn attempt to confront “Captain Marvel” to stop his attack on Thunderbolt Mountain. Lastly, we see that no one at Camp Hammond has any idea what is going on before “Yellowjacket” rallies the troops and tells them what is going on. (What could be his motivation for doing so, I wonder?)

Finally we enter the all out war as the Super-Skrulls fight the Young Avengers and the Initiative. As hard as our heroes seem to fight, the Skrulls continue to give them the beat down, with Wiccan and Hulkling getting heavily injured in the battle. From here, the scene cuts to the Savage Land where “Spider-Woman” runs into Echo and we get a line of pure evil: Echo – “I’m not a Skrull!” S.W. – “I know.” and Spider-Woman proceeds to give her a severe beating, I’m not sure if she’s just heavily injured, but it looks like Spider-Woman may have even killed her. The next scene is undoubtedly the best as “Jessica” plays a mind game with Tony (or BMB plays a mind game with us, if you prefer) as she thanks him for all his hard work and sacrifice, and tells him he will go down in history as the greatest Skrull hero. Tony, of course, is freaking out because he is convinced he’s not a Skrull, but Jessica assures him that that is what he was meant to think. (Of course he’s actually not, do you really think Marvel would make one of their most popular characters a Skrull? Especially right after he just had an insanely awesome movie come out?)

The scene shifts back to NYC as we see the Super-Skrulls pwn all of our heroes, killing Vision and Proton in the process. Just as they are about to kill Annex, one of the Super-Skrulls explodes, and the next thing we see is Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos, come to save the day. (Sweet!) Not only was this issue more action packed than last time, we also get to see the tides turn in the NYC battle twice. I can even say I enjoyed Yu’s art this time around (though I still wish it was less line-y and angular), as I must admit, his Super-Skrulls are just plain awesome. As for Nick Fury and his new team, I can’t wait until next time when we get to see him kick some Skrull butt. Secret Invasion is in full swing, and I can’t wait to see where Bendis takes us next!

Make Mine Marvel!

-LOTRKing

Review of New Avengers 41 (3.5 stars) May 29, 2008

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Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

After a Skrullish interlude, we get back to an issue actually about the Secret Avengers (well, sort of). It begins in the middle of the battle featured in Secret Invasion 2 just as the T-Rex pops in to mess everything up and Spider-Man gets separated from the rest of the group. Here, he runs into Ka-zar, Shanna, and a whole bunch of Savage Landers. After a rather humorous scene in which Spidey believes they are all Skrulls, we finally get a flashback explaining the events in the Savage Land arc in the early New Avengers issues (3 – 6, I believe).

In the past, we see that Ka-zar and Shanna discover the rogue division of S.H.I.E.L.D. mining vibranium. When these two see the cruel way that mutates are being forced to work as slaves, they infiltrate it, and attempt to take it down. While they don’t succeed, they do discover that this division is a bunch of Skrulls and that Skrulls have infiltrated every major world organization. They leave to gather an army and they return weeks later just in time to see the New Avengers attacking the S.H.I.E.L.D. base. The story then leaves off where earlier New Avengers picked up. (In other words, go back into your long-boxes to fill in the gap.)

Back in the present, Spider-Man says parts are missing from their story, and therefore he finds them very suspicious (I must say, I didn’t see anything missing, so perhaps I better dig into my long-box as well.) But before this confrontation goes anywhere, who should come bounding through the jungle but … Captain America! *bwah bwah bwaaaaaaaah* Okay, cheesy sound effects over. Of course this Cap has to be a Skrull (real Cap has to be dead, no way Brubaker would cheat and say the dead Cap was Skrull), but this makes what, four Captain Americas running around? New Cap (James), Old Cap from the past (In Avengers/Invaders), 50’s Cap (aka Grand Director, currently brainwashed by Dr. Faustus and working for the Red Skull), and Skrull Cap, man what’s next, Captain America 2099 visiting from the future? Already superfluous Caps aside, I’m looking forward to both confrontations, because I want to know exactly what parts are missing from Ka-Zar’s story (though I trust him and do not think he is a Skrull), and I want to see whether this Cap truly thinks he is the real thing, or if he is just pretending.

Overall, this was a pretty fun story, though it was mostly action as Ka-Zar and Shanna took down Skrulls. Likewise, there weren’t any major reveals, sure we did learn that Skrulls were behind the strange Savage Land activity, but as soon as we were told that that early NA arc tied-in to Secret Invasion, that could have been easily guessed. Still, it was an entertaining Ka-Zar and Shanna story, these are hard to come by (we’re talking about a Tarzan rip-off living in the “Land Before Time” after all!)

-LOTRKing