By now, I have no doubt completely missed whatever storm of nonsense and malarkey that accompanied the now over-a-month-old Secret Invasion #1, as I have been busy being the kind of hermit that doesn't sit online all day and night. Which would make me basically the opposite of a traditional hermit, but, then, I've always been a bit of an iconoclast.
Anyway, simply because I didn't immediately jump onto the internet and register my opinions by way of electronic text does not mean I did not read the book, no. Actually, I rather liked it, which is a near-miracle as, and you might remember this if you used to read my old blog or listen to the now-utterly-covered-in-cobwebs-and-tears podcast, I don't really like all that much. Especially event books. Man, they drive me crazy.
But this one was solid, I thought. Pretty; reasonably well-written; also, there are dinosaurs in it. Can't ask for much more. I got to thinking, though, that maybe it was an impenetrable mess to people who don't have twenty- or thirty-odd years of comic book readin' under their belts.
And so I conducted an experiment.
My long-suffering girlfriend has been made to read some comics before - she's read all of Y in trade, is about halfway through the collected Fables, and really likes Empowered - but doesn't touch too much superhero stuff. I had her read Invincible Iron Man #1 the other night, as she saw and enjoyed the movie, but other than that, whatever she knows about superheroes, she's either picked up from cartoons, movies, and the horrible form of osmosis that is Listening To My Beardy Ass Talk About This Stuff Constantly. This, I thought, made her the perfect control group.
Also the fact that she was handy and I'm lazy.
I told her to read it and ask me whatever questions wandered into her little noggin, and I would answer them to the best of my ability. Below you will find highlights of the transcript of the conversation.
Her: 'Secret Invasion' sounds like a bad porn title.
Her: Like it should be about buttsex, or something.
Me: It's... not about buttsex.
Page Four, Panel One:
Her: Elektra? Daredevil-Elektra Elektra? She's an alien?
Her: So where is Elektra?
Me: I don't know. That's kind of the point, I guess.
Her: But if the alien is Elektra, who is Elektra?
Me: Elektra is. The alien pretended to be her.
Her: But then, who is Elektra?
(Ed. note: This descended into a Who's On First sort of routine for a while. )
Page Four, Panel Two:
Her: Who're these people?
Me: You know Iron Man. The other ones are Reed Richards -
Her: Oh, fishguy.
Me: Fishguy? No, that's... wait, what?
Her: The guy that plays him, he has a fishface.
Me: Fair enough. Okay, so Reed Richards and Hank Pym. Hank Pym's Ant Man, Giant-Man, Yellowjacket... Hank Pym is a lot of guys. He can shrink. Also grow.
Her: That's stupid.
Me: Kinda, yeah.
Page Five, Panel One:
Her: What's SWORD?
Me: SHIELD, but for space. It stands for... something stupid. Sentient Worlds something something.
Her: That's dumb.
Me: Actually, it's... yeah, it's kinda dumb.
Page Five, Panel Five:
Her: The Savage Land?
Me: It's a jungle. In Antarctica. With dinosaurs.
Me: I don't know. Comic books. Roll with it.
Page Eight, Panel Three:
Her: Wait, Spider-Woman?
Me: She's... complicated.
(Ed. note: And here is where I had to explain the difference between the New and Mighty Avengers, and also the fact that Spider-Woman is bafflingly important apparently entirely because Brian Bendis really likes her.)
Page Nine, wherein I had to explain Echo, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Ronin, as the girlfriend knew them not. Ronin was easy, as she knows about my weird Hawkeye crush, but the others are veritable cyphers to non-superhero-readers, I guess.
Page Ten, Panel Five:
Her: Hah hah, "bonk."
Me: Sound effects really get you, huh?
Her: Why'd he throw nunchucks?
Me: I think he just doesn't know how to be a ninja, so he throws crap. It cracks me up, though.
Page Eleven, Panel Three:
This is just commentary by me, but, Jesus Christ, Echo is so totally not deaf.
Page Fifteen, Panel One:
Her: Who's Ka-Zar?
Me: Like Tarzan, but with dinosaurs.
Her: Is he affiliated with any of the teams here?
Me: Nah, he just lives in the jungle. I don't think he even appears in the issue.
Her: Than why mention him?
Me: I think sometimes they mention stuff like that to prevent people like me from going "they should've called up Ka-Zar; I mean, he freaking lives there."
Page Twenty, Panel Five:
Her: He Loves You?
Me: I think the Skrull god? I don't know.
Her: So hat-guy is a Skrull?
Me: Dum Dum Dugan. Yeah.
Page Twenty-Two, Panels One-Four:
Her: The butler?! Oh no! (Ed. note: She was utterly serious, here; Jarvis turning heel got to her, for whatever reason.)
Page Twenty-Two, Panel Five; Page Twenty-Three, Panels One-Four:
Her: Why's [an alien computer virus] hurt Iron Man?
Me: The armor's connected to his nervous system.
Me: Well, if I rip my pants, I don't poop.
Me: I don't even know. I just say things.
Two Page Ad for Some Car Talking to a Parrot:
Her: Hah hah, I thought this was part of the comic.
Me: God, just keep reading.
Her: Who's he?
Me: Captain Marvel. He's (ed. note: I attempted to explain Captain Marvel here. Her eyes glazed over and she admitted that she stopped paying attention two sentences in. Captain Marvel is both confusing and a little boring.)
Page Thirty-Four, Panel Five:
Her: Is he a Skrull, too?
Me: No, it's the Human Torch. He's just on fire.
Her: Oh, no! They're all Skrulls! (Ed. note: For the record, I had to tell her who Skrull-ship White Queen, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Mockingbird and Ms. Marvel were.)
Pages Thirty-Eight and Nine:
Her: Are [the stranded-in-space SWORD agents] all going to go glug glug gel?
Me: Or burn burn atmosphere, I guess, yeah.
Page Forty, Panel One:
Her: I like how it says 'Stark Laboratory - Location Confidential.' Like we're going to tell.
Page Forty, Panel Five:
Her: Hah hah, [Hank Pym's] head is GIGANTIC.
So, yeah, there you go. People who don't read Marvel comics can read and enjoy Secret Invasion, but they probably won't recognize several Bendis pet characters, an organization Joss Whedon saddled with a ridiculous pun name, Captain Marvel or the Savage Land. She read the second issue, too, and her combined review was "they were good, but they both felt like they were only one scene long." Which is entirely true - unless there's a major jump forward at some point in the series, the whole run is going to end up covering about seven hours at this pace.
Also, midway through the big fight setpiece in the second issue, she asked me if the point of this was to reunify the Avengers, and I gasped a little, choked back a manly tear, and said "yes, that's the most prescient thing you've said this entire time, well done, dear."