Secret Invasion Fantastic Four


By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Barry Kitson (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851

Since Fantastic Four #2 (cover-dated January 1961) the Skrulls have been a pernicious cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. After decades of use and misuse, the insidious intergalactic infiltrators were finally made the stars of a colossal braided mega-crossover event beginning in April 2008 and running through all the company’s titles until Christmas.

The premise of Secret Invasion was simple: the former all-encompassing empire had been crippled and scourged by a devastating catastrophe which destroyed much of their power, and the race subsequently underwent a mass fundamentalist religious conversion. They became utterly resolved and dedicated to make Earth their new homeworld – just as their ancient scriptures foretold…

To this end they gradually replaced a number of key Earth denizens – most notably superheroes and villains. When the plot was first uncovered no defender of the Earth truly knew who was on their side…

Moreover the Skrulls had also unravelled the secrets of Earth magic and humanity’s unique genetics, creating amped-up equivalents to Earth’s mightiest heroes and villains. During this period they hid amongst us, primed, able and waiting to destroy the world’s champions in head-to-head confrontations.

Not all Skrulls were fanatics however. Earth also harboured a few dissidents opposed to the new regime or non-fanatics simply unwilling to get properly involved, and one of them became the unlikely star of the 3-issue Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four (July-September 2008) which makes up the premiere half of this tantalising tome. The rest of the book collects a triptych of her earlier appearances from Fantastic Four #300 and #357-358 (March 1987 and October-November 1991)…

Scripted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, pencilled by Barry Kitson and inked by Mick Gray, Scott Hanna, Paul Neary & Kitson, the main event opens with ‘No One gets Out Alive!’ and sees Invisible Woman Susan Richards ambushed at a most intimate moment and replaced by a sinister Skrull. A little later “she” calmly walks into the team’s top security home/HQ and catapults the entire top of the building into the eerie sub-space Negative Zone, trapping The Thing, Human Torch and the children Franklin and Valeria in an inescapable dimension of horror…

Stuck without their genius leader, Ben and Johnny are stuck trying to fend off the horrific, invasive beasts of the realm as at length “Sue” reveals herself to be Lyja – the Skrull agent Johnny once unwittingly married…

The drama continues as, after initial frantic and unresolved-issue fuelled combat Johnny and Lyja enjoy a sort of rapprochement and determine to join forces to bring everyone out of the Negative Zone. Linking up with Ben and the most formidable little kids in comics, the makeshift family battle their way across the ghastly inner cosmos to one of Reed Richards’ ongoing experiments – a super-penitentiary for super-criminals too dangerous for incarceration on Earth – to find an evil super-genius willing to help them return to save the world from the imminent and possibly already ongoing Secret Invasion…

Fun, frolicsome, action-packed and delightfully entertaining, this slight but charming family furore is counterbalanced with a selection of earlier Lyja appearances beginning with ‘Dearly Beloved…’ (Fantastic Four #300 by Roger Stern, John & Sal Buscema), wherein the Thing returned to Earth after an extended stay in outer space to find his best friend the Torch about to marry his old girlfriend Alicia Masters

After understandable friction and some fist-flinging Grimm sadly accepted the situation and even stood up as Best Man for his pal, but only Alicia’s evil step-father The Puppet Master had any suspicion at the true nature of events…

After a further 50-odd issues of wedded bliss the truth was shockingly revealed in FF #357 with Tom DeFalco, Paul Ryan & Danny Bulanadi’s ‘The Monster Among Us!’ as Puppet Master linked up with manic mentalist Mad Thinker and inadvertently forced Mrs. Storm to reveal her true nature…

This prompted the Fantastic Four to stage a rescue bid into Skrull Space to discover ‘Whatever Happened to Alicia?!’ in the concluding #358…

Heading into deadly danger the team encountered a new major menace in the super-augmented Paibok the Power Skrull but were mercifully aided by his old inamorata Lyja, who had gone native, professing to now love her human husband…

She even claimed to be carrying Johnny’s baby…

With covers by Alan Davis & Mark Farmer, Mike McKone, John & Sal Buscema, Paul Ryan & Danny Bulanadi and despite the cliff-hanging nature of the extra material, Secret Invasion Fantastic Four is a smart and slickly engaging Fights ‘n’ Tights romp that will meet every fan’s ecstatic approval.
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