skrullgirl400.jpegForgive me if I’ve written this before, but with the impending end to Marvel’s Secret Invasion crossover, it seems time to take stock. I’ve been generally enthusiastic about the series from the start — Skrulls have taken over the earth! Four-plus years of erratic Marvel characters’ behavior becomes explicable! Religious fanaticism is the engine of Skrull imperialism! — but it delivered on little of its early promise.

Most importantly, the main Secret Invasion book is disappointingly executed, particularly considering that Brian Michael Bendis writes it. The very first page promises that Bendis explore the religious aspect of the invasion as a central motif, as does the Embrace Change website and (to a lesser extent) Twitter feed. And yet, for the first three issues, all you get is the occasional invocation that the Skrull god loves humanity; there’s a prophesy for the earth to become the Skrull throneworld; and the Skrulls fight for that prophesy. It’s classic tell-don’t-show.

Nor do you get any significant feel for how the human leadership opts to react to the declaration of Skrull conquest and occupation. The books are disappointingly heavy on punch-ups and light on, you know, rationale.  So many interesting questions have been left unexplored. What are the implications of religious dictates on governing the new throneworld? How do human religious authorities attempt to reconcile the new Skrull religion with their own? Why aren’t there any collaborationist superheroes? What has religious-based Skrull rule meant for other conquered races? And what’s the Skrull religion all about, anyway?

Then there’s the larger problem. Let’s say you executed the concept of religious-based occupation flawlessly. How would you have anything beyond the New Caprica storyline from Battlestar: Galactica’s third season? It’s uncharacteristic of Bendis to write something so blatantly derivative. And even more uncharacteristic of him to execute the concept poorly.

All that said, there are some bright spots. A few of the individual books have gone pretty far with the concept. Black Panther‘s account of the invasion of Wakanda is a case in point, especially since it introduces a Skrull commander who doesn’t care about his mission. The Secret Invasion: X-Men series, set in the new mutant sanctuary of San Francisco, presents a mutant insurgency that succeeds with a very clever moral inversion of a seminal moment in American history. And Bendis has promised in Wizard — I can’t find the link right now — that the Secret Invasion conclusion will vastly simplify the Avengers franchise, which I hope means reigning in the proliferation of Avengers books. Whatever missteps the series may have committed, you can trust Bendis not to cheaply return to any status quo ante.

That said, Secret Invasion ranks as a wasted opportunity. People were pretty equivocal about Civil War, but at least that was a novel concept for the Marvel Universe, and one that really did separate Marvel into before and after epochs. Secret Invasion just reads like a thin excuse for a universe-wide crossover with little, actually, in the balance — which is a pretty depressing sentiment for a story about the alien conquest of earth.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Marvel’s Agent M.