Editor's Note: Secret Invasion: X-Men #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, August 13.
Mike Carey has been writing wonderful X-Men stories in the main title book. Can he replicate the magic that he has had writing the trials of Professor Xavier as he searches for his own history and purpose in life in a mini-series connected to a massive cross-title summer event? If this first issue is any indication, I would have to say yes.
Whereas the main Secret Invasion is dealing with intrigue and betrayal leading up to the main invasion, this story picks up with the Skrull invasion well underway. The Skrulls are after the west coast, and who wouldn’t be? They have sun, surf, mountains and beautiful people. Counting on most of the superhero types dealing with the trouble in New York, the Skrulls in charge of the west coast are counting on an easy "by the numbers" planetary invasion. I am not actually sure what that means, but it seems to mean very well organized.
Unfortunately, the Skrulls did not get the latest change of address card for the X-Men. In the middle of the Skrulls' spree of wrecking San Francisco, the X-Men show up to stop them. They not only show up, they show up in force with a battle plan and everything. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, these aren't your daddy's X-Men. These are battle-hardened soldiers who are sick of people stepping on them and wrecking their home every time they just unpack the boxes!
In all seriousness (as serious as you can be in a book where mutants fight aliens), this is a really fun comic book. It is a classic mix-up of good guys versus bad guys. The X-Men are convincing as heroes, without a moody muffin among them. They are ready for action, and their characterizations are dead-on. Cyclops is acting like a general commanding his troops, with Emma Frost acting as his second-in-command. Field commanders Cannonball (former leader of X-Force), Colossus and Nightcrawler lead the younger team members into combat. Finally, you have Beast working as the science geek with his own team of younger members. These are the X-Men I have wanted to see for years! There comes a time when you need characters to grow up and take charge, and these X-Men--my X-Men--are being written that way finally after all this time. I am … wait … what is the antonym of bitterly disappointed? Giddy? Yeah, let's go with giddy.
The Skrulls on the other hand are written just as well. Carey manages to infuse these villains with real malice. They are not just nameless Skrulls who are bent on destruction. The commander of the Skrulls is like an ordained Knight bringing the war to Jeruselem (indeed, Carey even goes as far as to use the word Crusade), spurred on by the clerics of the church of Skrulliness. This is the attitude that I feel has been missing from the main series: a real feeling of entitlement from the Skrulls. The world truly belongs to them, and they know exactly what they need to do to get it.
Mixed in with all of this is some fantastic humour and wit from the various X-members, and some great action scenes. Mike Carey has the same talent as Brubaker for using the X-Men's powers in clever ways. While Colossus can smash stuff, he also works great as a paperweight holding down a ship. Iceman actually uses his powers cleverly to keep the visual aspects of the battle under control. It is so great to see writers who are not just using the "BAZZOT" fallback plan of power use in comics.
The art in this book is gorgeous. The X-Men look exactly like they did in Uncanny X-Men #500. The costumes are almost identical to that work. The characters have personalities in their faces, even through fur and teeth and visors. The Skrulls are all unique in their facial construction and in their costumes. The construction lines are consistent enough, however, that they all look like they are from the same planet and even the same subgroup, and yet they are all unique looking. In my opinion, that is a huge demonstration of talent on the part of Cary Nord.
Beyond the characters, Nord delivers amazingly beautiful cityscapes in which the battle occurs. Indeed, I think that the page that shows the Skrulls invading the city in drop ships--with the massive Skrull head shaped mother ship--is possibly one of the best panels I have seen all year. It is gorgeous, with the inks and colours nailing the feel of the invasion: otherworldly ships descending in the setting sun of humankind. It was a powerful image indeed. This type of talent is showcased throughout the book with some of my favourites being the ice fog over the city, the scene with Cannonball charging into battle and the scene of psychic interference on Emma and her Cuckoos.
Overall, this was a fun book filed with classic superhero action. I highly recommend it to any X-fan.
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