Written by Brian Bendis
Art by Leinil Francis Yu
There are just so many things I want to say about how bad this final chapter of Secret Invasion was that I'm not even sure where to begin. It is, by far, the worst conclusion to any story I have read. Wait, that's not right. That would imply this was a conclusion. This consists of past tense narrative telling us what happened, features the entire Skrull invasion being wrapped up in two to three pages and then ends with some Tony Stark bashing and a reveal of the Illuminaughty / Dark Reign bad guys. Saying this was a conclusion would be an insult to stories that have proper beginnings, middles and endings. You know, real stories.
I can just imagine going over the outline for this last issue and the only thing anyone talking about is the Dark Reign reveal at the end and completely ignoring the non-trivial dismissal of the entire goddamn plot we spent the past year or so beating around the bush about and building up as some kind of threat. It's like one big, "Screw you.", from Bendis and Marvel as they tell us they're done with the Skrulls and moving on to the next event and to please prepare our wallets to give them more money.
Honestly, you ask, it couldn't be that bad, could it? You all know I've been less than thrilled with Secret Invasion since it began. However, while I disliked the way the story was being told, I could at least understand why others could enjoy it. It had that big, widescreen popcorn summer movie feel going for it and there was constant action and twist and turns as Bendis broke out every Skrull / shapeshifter cliche possible for what most were expecting for a summer event.
He threw that all out the window with this issue. We spend half the issue with some past tense narration telling us how the Skrull invasion ended. That shocking 'Wasp is a ticking time bomb' ending from last issue was promptly kicked to the curb and ignored as Thor simply teleports her away to die somewhere off panel and then the heroes simply dog pile on top of Skrull Spider-Woman in an attempt to kill her. Yes, they all are out for blood and want to kill now. In the end, Norman Osborn is the one to get the killing blow on the Skrull Queen and thus ends the Skrull Invasion.
What about the Skrull armada and occupation of most of the Earth, you ask? Well, that gets taken care of in one or two pages and is simply explained away as the Skrulls falling apart when their leader, who has been in hiding and not commanding any troops for most of the invasion, dies. Thor and a few other big hitters went off into space and destroyed all their ships in the span of a few panels and the invasion was over.
Finally, with nothing left to do, Bendis moves on to blame everything on Tony Stark. First, he has Thor snub him, which I don't mind as it at least makes some sense in regards to their previous encounters. Next up, Bucky, who has a fairly good relationship with Tony, as seen in Captain America and the Knaufs written Iron Man, turns his back on Tony and leaves him hanging and, finally, the US government and the world turns on him as the USA disbands the United Nations run SHIELD, fires Tony, promises investigations into his time as director and promptly places all the blame for the Skrull invasion on Tony, despite SWORD being the extraterrestrial defense branch for the world and Tony having no control over the Skrull infested Initiative, which was run by the US government. Hate Iron Man all you want, but there are limits to how much you can beat a dead horse.
On top of all this, they appoint Norman Osborn as the new leader of the Thunderbolts Initiative, which will replace SHIELD, effectively giving the most batshit insane person on the planet, which everyone and their mother already knows, the most powerful position on Earth. The reason? He killed the Skrull Queen. Makes sense to me.
After revealing Norman's new seat of power, we are treated the lone highlight of this issue - the Dark Reign reveal. We knew most of these people going in based on the previews from past comicons, but the story telling potential after seeing this grouping is enough to get any comic fans blood pumping. This evil Illuminati grouping is revealed to be Norman Osborn, who appears to be the defacto leader of this group (the only thing I didn't agree about, especially with Dr Doom there), The Hood, Dr Doom, Namor, White Queen (she has the big X-Men logo on her chest in the ad / preview cover at the end, so I guess it's not the other White Queen like originally supposed), and Loki.
The Secret Invasion: Dark Reign special advertised at the end looks to answer all of our questions regarding this grouping and I hope it addresses Norman Osborn's presence with these other characters, as he's just some goof in a mask that fights and loses to Spider-Man every other week. Why Dr Doom or Loki or Namor or just about any of them would take orders from him or even tolerate his presence doesn't seem to make any sense to me. At best, they'd bring him in after finding out about his newfound position and still wouldn't have him as what appears to be the leader of the grouping as this narrative and brief introduction appears to do.
Verdict - Avoid It. If you've been online, you've seen the final page of this issue. That's all you need to know. Having the conclusion to your summer blockbuster told completely in flashback is the stupidest thing I've ever seen and robbed the story of any impact it could have had and flies completely in the face of the style and tone the rest of the series had. It's like they didn't even care anymore and wanted to end it and move on to Dark Reign instead of going through the paces of, you know, telling the story. Not even the most adamant Secret Invasion fan should be pleased with how this was arbitrarily swept under the rug.