A few years back, in 2008 (dang, that was 10 years ago), I returned to regular comic reading after about a 10-year break (dang, 10 more years). At that time I was locked into the Secret Invasion storyline, where did that all begin? Here, with some sneaky shapeshifters, known as THE SKRULLS!
The opening tease here is Stan Lee at his best, this is why he gets more credit than Jack Kirby because Kirby is a workman, Lee is a showman. This is the best of Lee the showman.
We begin with the obvious bait and switch. The FF are committing crimes, geez, these guys have been around a month and they’ve already been corrupted by their powers and turned to evil… or are they? It’s a bit of a cliché in comics and cartoons, to have a bad guy dress up as a good guy and sully that good guy’s name. However, looking back it wasn’t as much of a cliché. As I noted earlier, it might be a bit early for this type of story. We don’t really know the FF yet, do we really care? Yes, yes we do.
The Skrulls are revealed and they are freaking gross. Less sort of hunky and powerful as they’d later appear, more insect or lizard-like. I love the modern look, but when you see them today, you think, those dudes look cool. You don’t think that when you see these monsters. Again, early Marvel was heavily influenced by the previous monster comics of the 1950s (Tales to Astonish and all those books were pretty much just monster books at the time).
How are our heroes taking all this? Well, Thing is mad and Reed blames himself, pretty much what they’ll do for the next 50 years and counting until Marvel cancels the book due to rights issues (giant corporate mergers being a few years off in the early 60s… I’m jumping time quite a lot today). The army shows up and the team allows themselves to be taken in, proving they’re heroes. However, they immediately escape to clear their good names, which begs the question, why allow them to arrest you in the first place? You’re just wasting time! Or filling pages, either way.
They gang goes after the Skrulls. Johnny goes with the Skrulls and I might be a bit slow on the uptake, but it’s not totally clear to me: does Johnny know they’re the Skrulls? Do the Skrulls know he’s not one of them? Who is trying to trap who here?
Anyway, Johnny does what Johnny does and raises hell (note: raising hell for the FF is carried out by Johnny or Thing, often both). The rest of the team shows up to figure it out. At this point, it’s clear, these dudes are shapeshifting aliens. The FF poses as them and go to the mothership, which was waiting for the advance crew to set things up for their invasion (a secret one…?). The weird thing is, the FF never change their appearance, saying, “Oh, not right now, it’s so unsafe down there we don’t even have time to shapeshift back!”
There is an awesome Metta Strange Tales reference, these are the things that changed comics from a kids media to one that transcended age (now it’s mainly for old people ironically).
Returning to our story, Reed tricks the Skrull King and gets an AWARD for it! An award! The space Skrulls leave. The FF return to earth, on the way down the radiation, or reverse radiation changes him, he instantly changes back. Poor Ben.
The FF, along with some local cops, why they need them is beyond me, attack the remaining Skrulls. There’s a great callback to Reed’s metal on the last page and what becomes of the remaining Skrulls, a twist ending EC comics (Vault of Horror, Tales From the Crypt and the like) would be proud of… they are hypnotized and transformed into cows!
See you next Monday and issue for more hypnosis (spoiler alert).
Josiah Golojuh is a writer once called “blah-dahda” by his daughter (find his collection of short stories here), he’s also a frequent YouTube commentator (find him there, to the left, your left my right).