See here is the thing - Alien scared the crap out of me. People kept telling me how scary it was, over and over. I was so freaked out that the first time I tried to watch it, I was eight or nine, I didn’t make it past the opening credits. It was just a few notes of that Jerry Goldsmith score and I was gone. To this day my parents and siblings give me a hard time about it.
When I was finally able to sit back down and watch the movie I was still freaked out. I was still terrified. I loved every minute of it, though. It’s dark, there are heavy shadows, and what minimal light is present is a dingy, washed out florescent. It was so much more than just than visuals - it was the characters’ ignorance. They weren’t fighters, they had no idea where the alien was and, most importantly, they had no idea what they were dealing with. That unknowing was what made the movie so great. Holy crap, it’s popped out of his chest! Holy crap, it has acid blood! Every minute there was something new.
Secret Invasion #1 had that same vibe, which is why it was such a great first issue. Dum-Dum Dugan is a Skrull! They blew up S.W.O.R.D.! Jarvis is a Skrull! Jarvis! Any and everyone could be a Skrull, we just didn’t know what was going to happen next. There was a tension in the universe and in the story-line - especially after that final reveal. The “secret” part of Secret Invasion was at full blast because the heroes, as well as the readers, had no idea what was going on or on what scale.
See here is the thing - Aliens is only o.k. I mean it has good parts: more aliens, some good action, a cute little girl and a sweet ass exo-frame at the end. In comparison to the first one though, it is a pale reflection. I was not as scared or as on edge as I was when watching Alien. Maybe it was the presence of Paul Reiser. It’s no longer about dark ducts but motion scanners and machine guns.
Secret Invasion #2 and #3 basically have the same problem. There was no Hank Pym blasting Reed Richards. No top of the Baxter Building being sucked into the Negative Zone. Instead you just have Ares going all Bill Paxton and yelling, “Game over, man.” You have Vision biting it ala Bishop and some who cares Initiative dame dying like some who cares space marine. There is no nuance any more, just one big fight and one big fights are boring. I have found myself flipping pages going, “punch, kick, blast, oooh, Jarvis is back!” There is no more Secret - merely Invasion and we know how well that worked out for DC. In that seen in issue two when Luke Cage was debating about fighting or not, was I the only one who felt like it was Bendis speaking? Almost like he was going, “I know I should be playing this mellower, maybe a little scarier...but I...can’t...resist the urge to FIGHT!!” Then a dinosaur shows up.
The thing is Marvel knows better. Iron Man might be the best superhero movie made in a decade and it was almost all talk. In a two hour movie there was fifteen or twenty minutes of fighting. The rest was character development and world building and that was why it rocked. Marvel should be taking a page from their cinematic endeavors. Some of the tie-ins have been, Ms. Marvel and Captain Britain and MI: 13 have been the MVP of the series. When Ms. Marvel loses her mini-carrier and then sleeps with Wonder Man out of grief - that is how you tell a story. Action and mood all in one. The two Avengers books have been good but are really just exposition and back story for the main title.
One time in my grad program I had a writing teacher who said, “Ben, I would rather have a story that attempted a triple axel and fails than sticks a double.” So far, it feels like Secret Invasion was setting up for a triple axel, it had the speed, the body position, the crowd was stoked, but then decided to go the safe route of a double instead. Bendis knows he can write a fight and so we have two issues of it. In the end I expect Tony Stark to show up in a bigger and better Iron Man suit and yell, “Get away from my planet, bitch.” and that will be that. Which will still be fine, but it won't keep me remembering that feeling forever.