Bendis’ Avengers: Secret Invasion Tie-Ins

Reading big comic book events as a kid, I was never a fan of tie-in comics. To me, tie-ins seemed like filler issues in a regular series like New Avengers, while the main event contained all of the important moments. Since Secret Invasion borrowed characters from New Avengers and Mighty Avengers, it seemed as if tie-ins existed simply to keep the regular titles going. A lot of these tie-in issues featured stories about the Skrulls, which didn’t interest me. At the time, I just wanted to read about the heroes, the main focus of these two ongoing series. The villains, in my mind, were just there to get beaten up by the heroes. While I was not crazy about Secret Invasion tie-ins at the time, I loved the covers to these issues. Most of these covers were classic comic book covers, re-drawn to show the characters as Skrulls. These covers were not just visually stunning, but they also got me wondering just how deep the Skrull infiltration went in the Marvel Universe. Reading the Secret Invasion tie-ins, many of my questions were answered.

Okay, maybe it doesn’t go that far…

During the publication of the New/Mighty Avengers tie-ins to Secret Invasion, the main event was shaking up the whole Marvel Universe. No place on Earth was safe from the Skrull invasion, from New York to Wakanda. Everything was going horribly for the heroes, and it seemed as if no one was prepared for these events. Yet, out of nowhere, emerged Nick Fury, the former director of S.H.I.E.L.D., to save the day. After a four year absence since the events of Secret War, Fury returned alongside a group of superhuman commandos known as the Secret Warriors. This dramatic return in the main Secret Invasion mini-series raised more questions than answers. Where had Fury been for so long, and what was he up to? At the same time, many questions surrounded the Skrull infiltration of the Earth. For years, the Skrulls had apparently worked their way into all of Earth’s major organizations. Yet how did the Skrulls accomplish this infiltration? What were the Skrulls’ goals, and how long have they been infiltrating the planet? All of these major questions remained unanswered during the main Secret Invasion mini-series.

How do cycles convert to years?

Bendis’ New/Mighty Avengers tie-ins, however, filled in a lot of the blanks for this blockbuster mini-series. The primary questions which Bendis answered surrounded the replacement of key figures in the Marvel Universe. For example, when and how were characters such as Spider-Woman, Hank Pym, and Elektra replaced by Skrulls? What was the infiltration like from the Skrulls’ point of view, and what specific strategies were used to sow the seeds of discord in the Marvel Universe? Additionally, Bendis gives a look at Nick Fury’s experiences tracking the Skrull infiltration. The reader is given several glimpses into what Fury has been doing, where he’s been, and Fury’s general perspective on the state of the Marvel Universe. Much of this includes Fury’s recruitment and training of young superhumans, who become the Secret Warriors. The final group of tie-in issues consists of one-shot stories, focusing on events that could not fit into the main Secret Invasion series. For example, Spider-Man encounters Ka-Zar and his people in the Savage Land, the Hood and his gang learn about the Skrull invasion, and the Sentry is driven over the edge by the Skrulls. All of these tie-ins serve to present different perspectives of the Skrull invasion, before and during the events of Secret Invasion.

Assembling the team…

One major perspective which is missing from Secret Invasion is that of Nick Fury. Bendis uses three issues of Mighty Avengers to delve deeper into Fury’s activities between Secret War and Secret Invasion. From the get-go, Fury is depicted as the ultimate spy. Much time is spent on Fury’s investigation of the Skrull infiltration. Bendis shows exactly how Fury got onto the trail of the Skrulls, and how he followed this trail, from his investigation into Maria Hill to his compilation of suspected Skrulls. At the same time, Fury is also a soldier, fighting a war against this hidden enemy. This characteristic is best exemplified in Fury’s training of the Secret Warriors. Bendis is sure to give ample time to the intense training and field exercises through which Fury puts these young superhumans. In doing so, Bendis also shows the reader how this team became the well-oiled machine seen in Secret Invasion. Through both his role as a soldier and a spy, Fury sacrifices much. Fury understands the stakes of the Skrull threat, risking his own freedom, safety, and reputation on his strategy to save the world. As seen in Secret Invasion, Fury’s sacrifice pays off.

That’s quite the list of suspects…

Probably the most crucial perspective that Bendis provides during his tie-in issues is that of the villains, the Skrulls. Queen Veranke, the mastermind of the Skrull invasion who posed as Spider-Woman for years, is explored in much more detail in New Avengers than in Secret Invasion. Bendis gives the reader a closer look at Veranke’s background, showing her failed rebellion and subsequent exile. There is a certain sympathetic aspect to Veranke’s history, as she became a pariah for trying to produce change. When Veranke finally takes the throne of the Skrull empire, her people are in desperate times, following the destruction of their homeworld. Motivated to find a new home for her people, Veranke is presented as a more understandable figure than before. Furthermore, as the reader witnesses Veranke’s transformation into Spider-Woman, glimpses are given into the setbacks and frustrations that come with orchestrating such a large-scale plot. Indeed, not only is Veranke the mastermind of the infiltration, but she is a key player, going undercover for the sake of her people. In risking her own discovery by the humans, Veranke shows how far she is willing to go for the Skrull empire. Much of Veranke’s determination comes from her own religious beliefs, such as the prophecy that the Skrulls will find a new home on Earth. These beliefs humanize her, while at the same time making her into a sort of fanatic, in order to show that she is still very much the villain of the story. Yet, it is through misguided beliefs which Veranke acts, rather than pure malice. The Secret Invasion tie-ins show how dedicated the queen is to her people and their cause.

A true, green zealot

In between the examination of larger figures, Bendis gives small looks into some minor characters from earlier in his run. Daisy Johnson, for example, has not been given a significant amount of focus since her debut in Secret War. Johnson may have a larger role than ever during Secret Invasion. Daisy has come a long way from simply being Fury’s hidden asset, creating plot-convenient earthquakes. During the Mighty Avengers tie-ins, Daisy acts as a sort of spokesperson for Fury, recruiting each member of the Secret Warriors individually. Additionally, Daisy is the most experienced member of the Secret Warriors, acting as a field leader and mentor for the other warriors. Bendis makes Daisy the more relatable voice for Fury, communicating her boss’ ideas without his intimidating demeanor. Since the reader has been with Daisy since her first appearance in Secret War, there is a real appreciation for her progression from new recruit to field leader. One enjoyable aspect of Daisy’s character is the slow, subtle development that she has received throughout Bendis’ run. The reader gets small peeks into her character from time to time, but the progression is still there. This development will continue, as Daisy eventually graduates to fully-fledged superhero.

Comfortable in her role as a spy

The final character gap which Bendis fills is that of Bob Reynolds, the Sentry. In this case, it seems as if there simply wasn’t enough space in the main Secret Invasion event to explore the golden Avenger. Of course, the Sentry only really requires one issue of tie-in, so it’s not as if there is a great deal to explore. Still, what Bendis does explore ties into the Skrull infiltration well. The Sentry is a prime example of the dangerous results of the Skrulls’ infiltration. Taking advantage of the Sentry’s fragile mental state, the Skrulls manipulate Bob into thinking that the Void, an evil construct of his own mind, is breaking free. Manipulating such a powerful player off the board in this manner shows just how efficiently dangerous the Skrulls’ manipulations can be. Additionally, the Sentry’s mental breakdown during the invasion continues the character’s spiral into madness. Events such as Civil War, World War Hulk, and Secret Invasion continue to push the Sentry over the edge, leading to his eventual fall from grace. At this point, it feels as if Bendis knows to use the Sentry in smaller doses, as there isn’t that much to explore with the character. If Bendis had included more than one issue featuring the Sentry, it would have been excessive. As it stands, Bendis conveys the character’s descent into madness very succinctly, with no wasted space.

You okay there, Bob?

As a whole, there are no real unifying themes across all of the tie-ins. Still, there are a few ideas which come across during a few key stories. The tie-ins focusing on the Skrull’s infiltration, for example, tend to share a common theme of sacrifice. Indeed, the Skrulls endure quite a bit during their infiltration, doing whatever is necessary to secure a home. For example, witnessing the transformation process into a character like Spider-Woman or Hank Pym, the reader gets to see how completely the Skrulls take on someone else’s essence. Additionally, experiencing events such as House of M shows how the Skrulls had to deal with the unexpected. Following the Skrulls’ infiltration, the reader is also given a second look at previous events, such as the New Avengers’ formation. Seeing these events from the Skrulls’ perspective allows the reader a look at some never-before-seen details, changing the way previous stories are seen. For example, the culprits behind the breakout at Ryker’s Island, the mysterious S.H.I.E.L.D. outpost in the Savage Land, and Hank Pym’s new technology for the Wasp are all revealed to be a part of a grand Skrull design. Funnily enough, there is a greater focus on the plotting of the Skrulls in New/Mighty Avengers than in the main Secret Invasion series. The most important idea which Bendis hits in these tie-ins, however, is humanizing the villains. While the Skrulls are not human, of course, Bendis still gives them a sympathetic background and reasonable motivations. Indeed, Bendis provides the reader a full view of the Skrulls, from the inception of their plans, to their transformation processes, and even to their occasional loss of identity. Indeed, seeing how some Skrulls adapt to life on Earth, such as Hank Pym’s replacement enjoying a cup of hot cocoa, lends some pathos to these characters. Queen Veranke is also seen from a more understandable perspective, and the Skrulls generally are made out to be more than just generic villains.

That’s gotta hurt

The tie-ins focusing on the Skrull infiltration certainly get better as they continue. Reading the initial replacement stories is a standard affair, doing little besides showing when and how characters were replaced. Things get interesting, however, when the Skrulls go further into the infiltration process. Bendis gives a fascinating look at the manipulation strategies which the Skrulls employ, the strange experiences of the Skrulls, and the personal thoughts and motivations of the Skrull infiltrators. As a side note, I did find it very funny that the formation of the New Avengers was an unforseen consequence of the Ryker’s Island breakout. This illustrates how the Skrulls could not anticipate everything perfectly. The Nick Fury stories were also very entertaining, feeling like a backdoor pilot for the Secret Warriors series. These issues do an excellent job looking at Fury’s journey from Secret War to Secret Invasion, leading him to form the Secret Warriors. Furthermore, all of the major characters of the Secret Warriors and their abilities are introduced very well. Seeing the team work together for the first time fleshes out the characters, providing some background to their appearance in Secret Invasion. Finally, the one-off stories, such as the Sentry issue, Spider-Man in the Savage Land, and the issue about the Hood and his gang were pretty fun as well. What I enjoyed about these issues in particular is how they briefly return to the main cast of the New/Mighty Avengers series. It feels like checking in on the regular cast, seeing how larger events affect these characters on a personal level. Additionally, it does make sense to include these stories as tie-ins, since there isn’t enough space for them in the main Secret Invasion series.

Didn’t see much of him in the main series…

After re-reading the Secret Invasion tie-ins, these issues should be read in tandem with the main mini-series. Since Bendis does write both the main series and the tie-ins, there is a connective tissue between Secret Invasion and New/Mighty Avengers. Indeed, these tie-ins complete the Secret Invasion narrative, including more on the Skrulls’ perspective, the background of the Secret Warriors, and smaller stories which the main series doesn’t have room to explore. Bendis also alternates between the different stories very well. For example, one issue of New Avengers will focus on Queen Veranke, the next will focus on Spider-Man in the Savage Land, and then Bendis will return to Queen Veranke’s story once again. The alternating stories help the pacing, breaking up each individual story into little segments. By breaking each story into smaller pieces, Bendis doesn’t simply insert large chunks of backstory, such as three or four issues in a row focused on the Skrull infiltration. I did feel, however, that some tie-in issues were simply written out of necessity. For example, one issue shows how the Skrulls replaced Elektra, while another shows how the Skrulls managed to make themselves undetectable. I can see why these issues were included, as they answer some necessary questions. Yet there isn’t as much nuance or intrigue in these issues as the ones focusing on Queen Veranke or the Skrull replacement for Hank Pym. Perhaps including the replacement of Elektra or the development of Skrull technology as smaller parts of another issue would have been helpful, rather than devoting an entire issue to each idea. Overall, I still enjoy how much these tie-ins supplement the Secret Invasion narrative.

Yeah, yeah, another failed experiment…

As small-scale as the Secret Invasion tie-ins seem, they will still have a serious impact on Bendis’ Marvel Universe. The Secret Warriors, for example, are going to continue their operations beyond Secret Invasion. During Dark Reign, this band of young superhumans will get their own series, focused on Nick Fury’s ongoing war with HYDRA. I personally love Secret Warriors, as written by Jonathan Hickman, as it is full of action, intrigue, and everything else a spy comic should have. Bendis also collaborates with Hickman on the first few issues, helping the series get off the ground. Furthermore, the Sentry is going to continue his descent into madness after the events of Secret Invasion. After the Skrulls manipulated Reynolds’ mind, he will be more vulnerable than ever. This vulnerability will be taken advantage of by Norman Osborn during Dark Reign, leading to catastrophic results. Finally, the Skrull infiltration will continue to impact certain characters, such as Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. In this case, the Skrull posing as the Avengers’ butler, Jarvis, takes off with their daughter at the end of Secret Invasion. For the next couple of issues of New Avengers, Cage and Jones will desperately search for their daughter, continuing their ongoing struggle to have a family in the dangerous Marvel Universe.

Getting ready for prime time…

That’s all for today. How do you feel about tie-in comics? Did you like the Secret Invasion tie-in issues? Were they just filler? I want to hear from you on Twitter, @book_column, and share this blog with your friends! Thanks for reading! Check back on Monday, when I get into the next batch of New Avengers issues, beginning the Dark Reign era!

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