Page 45 Review by Stephen
How can you possibly hope to win a war if you can't trust the person standing next to you? If you can't trust a single ally to watch your back? You can't.
So here it is, the latest Marvel blockbuster in which the entire planet is under threat from an invading, shape-shifting, alien race who no longer have a homeworld of their own and whose scriptures have been interpreted by their religious leaders to mean that Earth is theirs by right. It is 'preordained'. Hasn't stopped them doing their preparatory homework:
"We've studied the human race. We know they'd have done the same. They have done the same. If there's something they want, they take it. If, in the name of their God or money or both, they believe something to be theirs... they just take it. They exterminate the indigenous and just settle in."
Can't argue with that. In fact it often takes an outsider to point out the bloody obvious, doesn't it? Here's a worldwide broadcast by Skrulls who've taken the form of popular TV personalities not to fool Earth's population that they're human - they've already pretty much won by this point - but to appear less hostile:
"We're not here to hurt you. We're here to save you."
"We have travelled across the universe to save you from yourselves."
"You have so much potential, but you're on the brink of complete disaster."
"You are at constant war and living in disease you cannot cure."
"Some of you gleefully wallow in excess while your brother next to you starves."
"And in doing so you are destroying your ecosystem beyond repair."
"What most disturbs us is that you are fully aware of your situation and actions... and though you've evolved to a place to do something about it, you do nothing."
Again, if you put it like that... Of course all is even less as it seems in a book about identity, and although communication is a particular forté of the top military brass, had some of the ground troops bothered to learn our language perhaps more civilian casualties could have been avoided. Still, that's rarely a priority, is it?
What I'm trying to convey is that this is more than just an all-out slug-fest and as ever with Bendis, it's full of heart and riddled with witty one-liners. Yu's actually far better at facial reactions (and there are shocks galore for him to excel at here) than he is at the massive attacks. As so often with these things, the whole reads far better than the monthly instalments with ebbs and flows, conversations, confrontations and even tactical analysis before hitting Conflagration Central* for the most almighty showdown between Marvel's massed ranks and the Empress' Skrullirous hoards. It also leaves ample space at the end to begin figuring out how many pieces still need picking up, because I actually misspoke a few months ago: it isn't the culmination of everything Bendis has been writing from AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED onwards, it's a stepping stone to something worse.
Is it therefore self-contained? Not remotely, no! It can be mostly grasped on its own but a) if you haven't a clue who Mockingbird is and her relationship to Clint Barton, you'll miss several beats and b) you'll still need to read behind the lines. For example, it's hinted throughout that without Reed Richards the Skrulls' infiltration would have been impossible - they'd have been detected earlier. Want to know why? You'll have to read one of the four AVENGERS: SECRET INVASION books and for once it's recommended that you do so, but as usual you can ignore the rest.
* Wouldn't The Generation Game have been more enticing if Bruce Forsythe had announced, "Let's meet the eight who are going to conflagrate!"?