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Ms. Marvel #29 (Secret Invasion) – Capsule Review

Brian Reed, (Writer) Adriana Melo, (Pencils) Mariah Benes, (Inks) Paulo Siquera, (Art Pgs. 11-16) and Chris Sotomayor (Colors)

You know what? I am really digging this new, more badass direction that the Ms. Marvel series has taken. Secret Invasion has given this book a much needed shot in the arm and now it ranks as one of my favorite reads every month. This latest issue is another round of Ms. Marvel Vs. Skrull action, but it’s hard to complain about the lack of true story progression when the writing is crisp and everything looks so nice.

Brian Reed wisely lets the visuals do most of the storytelling, but that doesn’t mean he simply sits on the sidelines. Ms. Marvel’s well written mindset/attitude is proven when Reed throws a nice curveball into the story that made me really look forward to what’s ahead. As for the artwork, Adriana Melo and her team do some outstanding work. Ms. Marvel looks great and the well coreographed action is surprisingly brutal. My only complaint is that Adriana couldn’t handle the whole book – leaving the rest to Paulo Siquera. While Siquera’s work is decent enough, the cartoony style just simply doesn’t work well within the context of the issue.

If the Black Panther tie-in hadn’t gotten off to such an incredibly entertaining start, Ms. Marvel #29 would easily be the best SI related story of the week. While it doesn’t add a whole lot of narrative to the Invasion story (though it might, given how it ends), it brings the goods in the action department. Well worth checking out. (Grade B+)

-Kyle Posluszny

Secret Invasion: Front Line #1 – Review

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-)

-Kyle Posluszny

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

Ms. Marvel #28 (Secret Invasion) – Capsule Review

Brian Reed, (Writer) Adriana Melo, (Pencils) Mariah Benes, (Inks) and Chris Sotomayor (Colors)

I have to admit that I enjoyed Ms. Marvel #28 quite a bit more than I expected to – even though it was nothing other than one extended fight scene. After the disappointing turn of the events last issue, I was fully prepared for an issue full of regret and angst. Instead, I got a action-packed issue of Ms. Marvel kicking some Skrull ass all around Manhattan and that, my friends, is a good thing. The writing consists mostly of Ms. Marvel doing some trash talking and narrative, but it works given the context. As for the art, Adriana Melo shows why she is a rising star. Her Ms. Marvel looks awesome and she capably handles an issue long fight scene with no problems. This issue does one thing, but does it well, so check it out if you are in the mood to see one of the Secret Invasion battles. (Grade: B)

-Kyle Posluszny

Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? #1 – A Review

Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust? is an anthology, gathering together vignettes that concern the Secret Invasion, but didn’t fit in any of the regular books. As anthologies have always been since the first publisher crawled from the Precambrian sea, it’s an uneven mix—with A-listers, B-listers, and some folks I didn’t think were on any list at all.

Going from worst to best (IMHO):

Marvel Boy: Master of the Cube by Zeb Wells (Writer) and Steve Kurth & Drew Hennessey (Artists)
Who is this guy? Seriously. I first encountered him in the Young Avengers/Runaways miniseries. I didn’t like him then, and this story gives me no reason to reassess my opinion. For a character with the stupidest name and the ugliest costume in the Marvel Universe, he sure has a more-badass-than-thou attitude. The Skrulls invade the superhuman detention center—the Cube—that Marvel Boy has taken over, and Marvel Boy fights back. That’s the whole story.

Agents of ATLAS: The Resistance by Jeff Parker (Writer) and Leonard Kirk & Karl Kesel (Artists)
The 1950’s Avengers versus the Skrulls. A minor skirmish, but I enjoyed the contrast of these stupid old characters in a desperate modern setting. The best thing about this story is that the Agents hand the aliens their heads (in one case, literally). With the rest of the Marvel superheroes getting their asses kicked right now, it’s a nice change of pace.

Agent Brand: In Plain Sight by Mike Carey (Writer) and Timothy Green III (Artist)
This is a relatively subtle piece, one that requires a little thought… and when you think, you remember that the Trojan Horse is from the Odyssey, not the Iliad… but no matter. Like Hawkeye, I dig a woman with green hair and lips. Agent Brand, agent of SWORD, is assigned to the Peak, to watch over the various alien ambassadors stationed there, and she knows something is up with that shifty Skrull, but she just can’t figure out what it is. Until, of course, it’s too late.

Captain Marvel: Farewell by Brian Reed (Writer) and Lee Weeks (Artist)
This story is basically a bridge to the Secret Invasion from the Captain Marvel miniseries, and it has the same feel, the same moral ambiguity. Captain Marvel (who, as we learned in the mini-series, is actually just a Skrull who thinks he’s Captain Marvel) tells the Skrull army he wants to help their invasion by taking on the Thunderbolts. What are his real motivations? Does he want to do the right thing? And even if his intentions are good, will he end up making things better, or worse?

Wonder Man and the Beast: Seems Like Old Times by Christos N. Gage (Writer) and Mike Perkins (Artist)
This one harkens way back to when David Michelinie was writing the Avengers. During the Skrull/Avenger/dinosaur fight, Wonder Man and the Beast are separated from the others, and have to fight their way out of a cave filled with King-Kong-style giant insects. The problem is, it’s the modern Wonder Man, but the old, pointy-haired, devil-may-care Beast from the 80’s, and either one of them could be a Skrull. While the Beast takes this all in stride, Wonder Man’s discomfort is apparent from the beginning. He misses his old buddy, but he can’t trust him. Unlike most of the others in this anthology, this story doesn’t lead into anything bigger. It just takes two interesting characters and puts them in a unique situation that causes them to play off one another. Which is what every good vignette should do.

(Grade: B)

- Andrew C. Murphy

Ms. Marvel #27 (Secret Invasion) – Review

By Brian Reed (writer), Andre Coelho (art), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

Up until the end of this issue, a lot of this Secret Invasion story happening in Ms. Marvel made little to no sense. Yes, the story is comprehensible and very straight forward, but compared to the other Secret Invasion tie-ins going on in other titles, it felt out of place, continuity-wise. No more. The last page of this issue clears it all up but left me with that lingering feeling of “Why is this story coming to us so late?!”

You see, this whole story taking place in Ms. Marvel happens just days before Secret Invasion #1. But because of how the story has been presented and feeling way out of continuity, there was no way of telling where this story fit in the grand scheme of things. Simply put, the story carried little to no weight (despite a major revelation regarding a supporting cast member). Now it all makes more sense, and while most of this issue takes place in the form of a wild goose chase, the effects it has on Ms. Marvel is profound. Finally, after years of being a very strong-willed heroine, Carol Danvers is showing chinks in her armor. The emotional toll she’s been through with the constant battles, high levels of responsibility, and the effects of Civil War are beginning to take their toll on her emotional stability. And with that, she reaches out to whomever she can for shelter, be it fleeting or not.

The art team has changed yet again with this issue, giving it an uneven feel. But fill-in artist, Andre Coelho does a very nice job portraying action and emotional elements. Despite the constant rotation of art teams, one thing that’s (thankfully) been consistent is the picking of artists who know how to draw a sweet looking Ms. Marvel. That definitely counts for something. All in all, this issue caps what’s been a lackluster Secret Invasion tie-in with a strong finish. I’m definitely on board to see what happens next. (Grade: B-)

- J. Montes

Captain Marvel #5 (of 5) – Review

By Brian Reed (writer), Lee Weeks (pencils), Desse Delperdang (inks), Matt Milla (colors)

Spoiler Alert

I normally do not like to include big reveals or spoilers in my reviews, but dangit, Captain Marvel #5 is almost impossible to review without doing otherwise. So, for those of you who don’t want to know what happened, stop reading now.

This mini-series has turned out to be one heck of a surprise. What started out as an epilogue of sorts to Civil War gradually morphed into the prologue to Secret Invasion. It’s really the only bridge that’s bound both events together (in a short span of time), and I’ll say, it’s been done masterfully by Brian Reed and Lee Weeks. When this series began, it started at a simmer and as each issue passed, the fire got hotter. Well, with issue #5, we now have a story that can’t be ignored. People are talking about this series and this issue – and for good reason.

Captain Marvel is a Skrull. There, I said it. You happy?

Of course, it’s been eluded to for a couple of issues now, but with this final issue we see what’s happened and how he became who he is. Skrull scientists locked down his form using the original Captain Marvel’s DNA. They also spent an enormous amount of resources recreating his Nega Bands. But when they committed a fatal flaw during the reprogramming of his mind, this Mar-Vell Skrull kept his sense of purpose. For all intents, he believes himself to be Mar-Vell, despite knowing the truth. And it’s very interesting how this dynamic plays out.

Part of me wanted Mar-Vell to revert to his Skrull ways and become a villain, but the direction Brian Reed went – keeping him a symbol of peace on Earth – was much more satisfying. The conclusion of this book was equally as satisfying, giving us resolution to the Church of Hala and the supporting characters. Its open-endedness will undoubtedly echo for some time to come, perhaps giving way for another “Return”. I’m sad to see this series end, but somehow I know we haven’t seen the last of Mar-Vell. (Grade: A)

- J. Montes

Captain Marvel #4 (of 5) – Review

By Brian Reed (writer), Lee Weeks (pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (inks), Jason Keith (colors)

This Captain Marvel mini-series is probably one of the best kept secrets of the year. I realize it’s now getting more attention, with its Secret Invasion tie-in, but it’s not just  relationship it shares with Marvel’s upcoming blockbuster that makes it so worthy, it’s the entire package. Lee Week’s art consistently dazzles the eye each issue, and Brian Reed does an excellent job juggling the various themes that make up this series. And this latest issue is no exception.

If you’re expecting Captain Marvel to be revealed as a Skrull, prepare to be disappointed. Reed does a nice job dancing around the idea, but doesn’t show us his hand just yet. Instead, we’re shown how Mar-Vell and Tony Stark react to this newly found (possible) revelation. On the other end of the spectrum, things finally come to a head with the Church of Hala. It almost seems too easy and predictable that Reed would give us the “evil cult gone bad” routine. But I gotta say, what he does with the Church in this issue is a nice twist – and an eye opener.

With one issue left in this series, I’m very, very eager to see how things will end. There’s still a lot left to be answered, so I hope we don’t get some kind of “To be continued in Secret Invasion” cliffhanger. I’ve never read a Captain Marvel comic before this series, so in my humble opinion, what Brian Reed and Lee Weeks have done with this series speaks volumes. Oh, and the variant cover by Terry Dodson is to die for.  (Grade: A-)

- J. Montes

Captain Marvel #3 (of 5) – Review

By Brian Reed (writer), Lee Weeks (pencils), Stefano Guadiano with Butch Guice (inks), Jason Keith (colors)

This issue picks up with a battalion of Kree soldiers on the SHIELD Helicarrier deck ready to attack Captain Marvel. Iron Man does his standard warning spiel, but it’s no use. A fight breaks out and the twist comes when the two men realize these aren’t Kree soldiers – they’re Skrulls!

The story then gets back it’s more intriguing subplot, the Church of Hala – an organization (or cult), that’s been on the rise since Captain Marvel’s return. They see him as a god of sorts, and it’s creeping out a lot of people, including a journalist for The Pulse newspaper who’s gone in undercover to investigate their motives. Meanwhile, the SHIELD agent who’s been investigating Captain Marvel infiltrates the Church and stumbles upon a corpse of a prominent Church figurehead only to discover he’s a Skrull!

I like how Brian Reed has interwoven Captain Marvel’s story line with the Secret Invasion threat. In fact, this series has done more to facilitate the Secret Invasion story line than any other Marvel book – and it’s fascinating, not to mention well written. Lee Weeks does really strong work with this issue. His art gels well with Reed’s script. I just wish he’d draw the covers, too – I prefer his art over Ed McGuinness any day.

While other heroes languish, debate, and fight amongst themselves when it comes to who’s a Skrull, Mar-Vell wastes no time getting to business. The end of this book leaves us with a hell of a cliffhanger. And it’s about time a character in the Marvel universe questions why super heroes are always coming back from the dead! We now have a good answer, too.

I’m usually not keen when it comes to mini-series, but Captain Marvel, much like last year’s Namor mini-series, is a great story that actually affects continuity. Highly recommended. (Grade: A)

- J. Montes

Ms. Marvel #24 – Review

By Brian Reed (writer), Aaron Lopresti (pencils), Matt Ryan (inks), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

I love stories about the Brood. Yeah, you could say they’re just rip offs of H.R. Geiger’s “alien”, but they’re still a cool adversary (and more intelligent). Ms. Marvel, armed with her Binary powers rushes off to battle the Brood Queen. The culmination of this story comes in the middle of the issue, and what happens is just unbelievable and sad. From there, the action slows down and the story moves into a phase of reflection before building up again to where Tony Stark (yep, him again) reveals to Agent Sum his suspicions of Carol being a Skrull.

Sorry Tony, but you’re wrong.

Brian Reed wraps up his story arc nicely. The Brood fight was over a bit too quickly for my tastes, but that’s okay. I don’t need to see an issue full of fighting. The secondary characters were less than supporting characters this issue, as it’s just Carol’s fight. I did like the moments where she envied the simple things they have. And Aaron Lopresti? He’ll be missed (this is his last issue, I believe). His artwork and storytelling skills are showcased particularly well this issue – the series of splash pages he did in the beginning of the book are excellent.

Next month kicks off the Secret Invasion tie-in. Ms. Marvel’s a major player in the Marvel Universe now, so it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of her. (Grade: B-)

- J.Montes


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