Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Yes, I had a revelation. I was like John of Patmos, munching on hallucinogenic mushrooms and seeing cities floating in the clouds, or Saul of Tarsus, hearing voices in a cloud asking why I’m persecuting him, or Sir Isaac Newton, just desiring to take a nap under a tree and getting bonked on the head for my troubles. Yes, ’twas a mighty revelation! I am not here to bash the latest epic, because I haven’t read it. But I am here to give voice to my reasons for not reading it.
One of the dudes at the comic book store was asking me what I usually read, and I was ticking off some of my favorites, trying to stay in the Marvel/DC realm so I wouldn’t have to explain myself too much. He’s a relative youngster, and has shown in the past that he doesn’t venture too far beyond the Big Two. And that’s fine. He asked me if I was going to read Secret Invasion, and I mentioned that I had seen it all before. Yes, that was my big revelation. No, it’s not that groundbreaking, but lemme ‘splain.
Many people have noted how similar this feels to “Millennium,” DC’s big crossover back in the day. I hadn’t started buying comics when “Millennium” hit, so I only know it from buying back issues of certain titles, such as Detective Comics. Someone else mentioned the similarity of Secret Invasion to the Dire Wraiths storyline that started, I guess, in ROM but ran through several Marvel titles, including Uncanny X-Men. I mentioned that to the dude to whom I was speaking, and simply said, “I don’t have any interest in it, because I’ve seen it before.”
I know this isn’t a perfect excuse; much of fiction is recycled. But with Big Event Comics, it seems like the recycling is more pronounced, and I have less tolerance for it. I mean, this event hearkens back to the freakin’ Kree-Skrull War, and that was almost 40 years ago. I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea of Skrulls infiltrating the highest echelons of government and sowing discord among the superhero set, even if it’s a pretty standard idea. If I were younger and hadn’t read as many superhero comics, I’d probably be all over Secret Invasion. Yu’s art is nicer than it’s been recently, and Bendis obviously knows what he’s doing. But with big-time events like this, the creative team seems to take a back seat to the momentum of the event, and it becomes less important that a good team is on the book and more that certain plot points get covered. I have recently finished reading “Messiah Complex,” and despite the presence of good writers – Brubaker, Carey, David – it felt like they were simply trying to get from Point A to Point B to Point C. Now, this is probably a different animal, as Bendis is the sole writer on the main event, and therefore the central mini-series might be more coherent. But the fact remains that this mini-series, like crossovers before it, is about moving the plot forward. And when I’ve seen the plot before, it doesn’t thrill me as much.
This is one of the reasons why I’ve moved away from traditional superhero comics. It’s not that I don’t like superheroes, it’s that when you have these characters for which nothing ever changes, it’s very hard to come up with new stuff for them to do. A writer I like will alleviate some of that, and so I drop in on Batman because I like Morrison. Once he’s done, I may or may not keep up with the title. I have liked Bendis’ stuff in the past, but I don’t think he’s a particularly good superhero writer, so that’s not a draw. At some point in the development of my taste, I decided I wanted something more than stories of superheroes faced with tough odds. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. The nature of the business, however, means that there’s not really a lot of mystery about what is going to happen. Civil War hasn’t really had that many repercussions, despite all the hype. Yes, there have been a few, but generally it’s business as usual in the Marvel U. This series may have some repercussions, but not many. If we consider something like Invincible, which takes place in its own little universe and is under the sole control of Mr. Kirkman, the difference becomes clear – every event in that book matters, because Mark Grayson’s life can change dramatically. I’m not saying that it’s automatically a better comic, but it’s more interesting to me, personally. Even in the Big Two we can get interesting comics, but they’re always books that don’t sell particularly well, and therefore the creators can take more chances. Since Bendis took over, the Avengers brand has done well for Marvel. Do you really think they’re going to let him fuck with it too much?
I have no problem with Marvel doing Secret Invasion. I have no problem with DC and Marvel doing these Big Events, especially if they’re going to get good talent on the main series. I’m somewhat jazzed by Final Crisis, because yes, I’m a Whorrison, we never get to see J. G. Jones on interiors, and I honestly have no idea where the story is going to go. The biggest problems I have with a lot of these Big Events is, as I pointed out, the writers’ best assets are subverted to the bigger plot, which is never a great idea; nothing much ever changes, because of the fact that these are iconic (and marketable) characters; and because it takes so much attention away from books that need a marketing push, like Blue Beetle or The Order. Again, if you don’t like those books, fine, but very often, they get overlooked because DC and Marvel are so busy pushing the Monster Event. It’s too bad.
I know this is the Nature of the Beast, and that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with people buying Secret Invasion. I do have a problem with people thinking it’s going to be some kind of revolutionary story. It might be good, it might be bad. But for me, I know I’d rather take my four dollars and spend it on something like Fallen Angel, where shocking things happen as part of a long-running and carefully-planned storyline. I’ve seen a Skrull infiltration before. I’ve read too many comics for it to interest me. Am I just too old? Is this just a case of Secret Invasion appealing to the younger comics readers, who haven’t read this before? You tell me, good readers of this blog!
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