Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #1

Background

Secret Invasion is the big Marvel summer event of 2008. Like previous summer events, the main story is told in a limited series—Secret Invasion, natch—with crossovers into several other Marvel titles. Unlike previous summer events, those crossovers don't intrude into the main books, where they might disrupt ongoing plots. Rather they are hived off into separate mini-series; mini-series like this one.

In Secret Invasion #1, one Skrull infiltrator incapacitated Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards while another impersonated Sue "the Invisible Woman" Storm and sabotaged Richards' Negative Zone portal. That sabotage wrenched the remaining members of the Four—Johnny "the Human Torch" Storm, Ben "The Thing" Grimm, and the Richards children—into the Zone itself... along with the upper stories of the Baxter Building.

I suspect we'll learn more about Reed's fate in the main miniseries, but not that of the rest of the family, because their story seems to be unfolding here, in Secret Invasion—Fantastic Four.

Story 'Negative Energy'

  Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #1
Summary: Spider-Man reference
Arc: Part 1 of 'No One Gets Back Alive!' (1-2)

In prologue, we see Susan in Vancouver, where she seems to have just finished delivering a motivational speech at a conference. Returning to her hotel by cab, she telephones Johnny and Ben at the Baxter Building, but fails to connect with Reed. Where could he be? Why, he's in Sue's hotel room, of course, with his shirt off... rowr! Sue's hot to trot, but before things get steamy, 'Reed' drops his façade and reveals himself as a Skrull infiltrator, one with her own forcefield powers, to boot. Taken by surprise, Susan is unable to defend herself, and the Skrull easily knocks her out. She sprawls onto the bed, unconscious, bosom heaving, while the shirtless Skrull leans over her, his taut muscles flexed and his face contorted in a sinister leer.

Ah, the primal rape scene. Nothing like the implied threat of sexual assault to liven up your comics! Classy, Marvel, real classy.

So much for what happened to Sue. Let's move on to what happened to the others. We race through the events familiar to us: the fake Sue entering the Baxter Building, throwing open the Negative Zone portal, and pulling the Four's living quarters it. There is one small revelation, namely that Johnny was able to reach the lab and just managed to implore his 'sister' to stop, which of course she did not. But she did beg his forgiveness, which is certainly an odd thing for a Skrull infiltrator to do.

Afterwards, the fragment of the Baxter Building floats in the Zone. Fortunately for the inhabitants, the fragment still boasts light, electricity, and gravity; golly, that Mr. Fantastic is a genius! Too bad he didn't give it armour plating, though, as almost immediately the remnant's window-panes are smashed open by the Zone's indigenous inhabitants—ant-like creatures, the size of dogs, with fangs and compound eyes. Imagine Annihilus crossed with a Rottweiler, and you'll be pretty close. On his own, the Thing would probably be more than a match for these beasts, but fending them off while keeping Val and Franklin safe from harm will pose a challenge.

Elsewhere, 'Susan' rouses Johnny, who's understandably upset. She soothes him; this was all done for the family's own good, to protect them all from Skrull infiltrators. (Said infiltrators supposedly include Spider-Man: his portrait, displayed on a computer in the background, provides his cameo appearance for the issue.) Johnny is dubious that the N-Zone is the best place to hide from Skrulls, but Sue assures him that coming her is a stratagem, one that aims to quarantine the Skrull impersonating... Ben!

With this accusation, 'Susan' overplays her hand. Johnny was just willing to go along up to this point, but he can't accept this. On his guard now, he challenges 'Susan' to name her favourite movie. Is it The Graduate? No, says Johnny; it's West Side Story.

Her favourite movie is West Side Story? I guess Susan is too busy being an adventurer and 'imaginaut' to go to the cinema more than once a decade.

Johnny flames on, but it's too late. The Skrull confesses all: she aimed to trap them all in the Zone, to neutralize them and prevent them from imperiling the Secret Invasion. The controls are damaged and in Reed's absence it's impossible to fix them. Johnny is horrified, but also suspicious, because this Skrull seems to be awfully familiar with the Fantastic Four, and with him in particular. And there's good reason: this Skrull isn't the shirtless wonder we saw earlier in the issue, as we might have suspected. Rather, it's...

...Lyja, Johnny's Skrull ex-wife! Awk-ward...

General Comments

There's not a lot here. No plot development—we already knew that Johnny et al. were castaways in the Zone. No action—a few times a fight threatens to break out, but none actually materializes. And no surprises, until the final page. And while that surprise is a good one, it's utterly meaningless to any reader not familiar with a fair bit of FF continuity.

Overall Rating

This whole issue, save the last page, is lighter than air. The Lyja reveal is an interesting revelation, but it doesn't justify an issue that is otherwise gratuitous. And while the confrontation has potential, given that only two issues remain to get them all back to New York, I don't expect that potential will be fully actualized.

Footnote

This issue is padded full of large panels and splash pages that take up space but don't advance the story. The worst example is page 12: a SpiderFan No-Prize to anyone who can justify its inclusion in the issue.