Brian Reed, (Writer) GG Studios, (Art) Giuliano Monni, (Team Coordinator) Marco Castiello, (Pencils) Barbara Ciardo, (Colorist) and Amerigo Pinelli (Asst. Colorist)
Secret Invasion is really the first universe wide crossover event I have read as it actually happens. Since coming back to the comic scene, I (successfully) made an effort to catch up on the most recent Marvel Universe events (Civil War and World War Hulk, specifically), and while doing so have found myself impressed by what the Front Line series has to offer. The street level stories work extremely well within the context of a large event and an event like Secret Invasion most definitely fits the bill.
Secret Invasion: Front Line #1 is really broken into two parts. The first half of the book takes place during a three hour span before the invasion and introduces five characters that will likely be the focus of this series: a cab driver, a Front Line reporter, a nurse, a father, and his daughter. All five characters are shown going about life in some way – the cab driver is having a bad day because he finds out he must pay for the damage to his car that was (sorta) caused by a Spider-Man fight, the reporter is doing a feature on how hospitals deal with gang violence and begins by interviewing the nurse, and the father, an executive working at Stark Tower, has a meeting interrupted when his daughter demands to talk about why her parents are getting divorced. While nothing extraordinary as far as character introductions go, the first half of the issue does a nice job establishing relationships and personalities. The second half of the issue is, as expected, when all hell breaks loose. To be honest, the issue really brought to mind the movie Independence Day – especially during the scenes focusing on the moments just before the attack; I consider this to be a good thing (and all without the horrible Will Smith jokes).
Brian Reed does a great job establishing both the characters and the general sense of awe the public has towards the superhero community. By dividing up storytelling between narration and character interaction, Reed ably allows personal drama to work within the larger, action-packed event of the invasion. All five characters come across as likable, regular people and as a reader, I actually care about what’s in store for these people as much as I care about what’s in store for the Marvel heroes. I enjoy what Reed is doing with Ms. Marvel, and if he keeps the pace he establishes here, I’ll have gained more admiration for him as a writer.
The artwork in this book calls to mind the Caselli/Rudoni work for Avengers: The Initiative. The style is quite similar and, while not quite the same quality, still makes for a good looking book. The characters are well done, the Skrulls look as they should, and the action is easy to follow. Especially impressive is the work done for the moments before the invasion hits. My only major complaint is that there is a considerable dip in both detail and quality from time to time, especially in smaller panels, and it winds up being somewhat distracting when everything else is so well done.
Secret Invasion: Front Line is definitely off to a great start. The alien invasion storyline is perfect for this type of series and, after seeing the situations some characters are left in, I can’t wait to get my hands on chapter two. (Grade: A-)
A Second Opinion
Don’t let that weird, abstract cover deter you. This is one pretty book on the inside. The art team really did a bang up job making New York a living city. The use of glow effects and bright colors coupled with Giuliano Monni’s art style almost gives this book an Aeon Flux (the cartoon) kind of look. I know some people may be turned off by the over coloring, but I think it adds a lot of dimension to the book, given the artstyle.
As for the story, it hits on a lot of beats and plays out rather well. I was actually not enthused about reading this after the disappointing World War Hulk: Front Line series. And while Civil War: Front Line had some interesting stories like the whole “Trial of Speedball” story, the others felt like unnecessary filler. This Secret Invasion themed series may be telling a bunch of different stories and Ben Ulrich may still be the series’ anchor, but I like how everything feels more cohesive and centralized. Brian Reed excels in conveying civilian life in the Marvel Universe (see his Captain Marvel mini-series), so I’m eagerly awaiting to see where he takes these characters from here.
If you’re enjoying Secret Invasion and wish to expand the story with some non-essential, supplimental material, this is a very good first issue that may actually be worth your money. (Grade: B)
– J. Montes