She Hulk: Time Trials

By Dan Slott, Juan Babillo & Marcelo Sosa and various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-78511-795-7

Let’s re-cap: She Hulk is the cousin of the Incredible Hulk. Her alter-ego, lawyer Jennifer Walters, got a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner and the inevitable result was a super-powerful, ample-bosomed, seven foot tall green Valkyrie who is the poster-child for “As If…”

For most of her comics career she’s been played slightly skewed to the rest of the Marvel Universe. For a good deal of it she was the only character to refer to her life in comic-book terms, with all the fourth wall comedy that could be wrung out of that situation. In this incarnation (reprinting her five issue miniseries from 2005 – in which #3 is celebrated as her 100th full issue) she returns to the prestigious Manhattan law-firm which specialises in the fledgling legal grey area known as Superhuman Law (see also Single Green Female).

This volume is marginally less tongue-in-cheek, but still follows the delightfully accessible formula, albeit with a slightly darker overtone as the human Jennifer needs artificial methods to transform into her seven foot glamazon form due to psychological traumas incurred as a result of the Avengers: Disassembled storyline and her rampaging destruction of the city of Bone, Idaho.

Nonetheless she is soon back at work on a time-travel murder case with a fascinating underlying idea. As everybody in the potential jury pool has been prejudiced by constant media coverage of the attempted murder (the victim isn’t dead yet at time of trial) Jen’s defence team comes up with the brilliant notion of calling jurors from the recent past – courtesy of the multiversal temporal police force the Time Variance Authority…

It’s all going so well until Clint Barton is selected as a jury member: how can Jen work when one of the twelve is secretly Hawkeye – a fellow Avenger she feels responsible for killing!? Guilt-racked and conflicted, Jen decides to break her oath and the rules of time-travel to warn the Ace Archer of the doom that awaits his return to his own time…

The Time Variance Authority is infallible however and when Jen is accused of the capital offence of time-tampering she faces having her entire existence erased from the annals of reality.

This third chapter is also her 100th anniversary issue and features guest art from Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar, Scott Kolins, Mike Vosburg, Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, Ron Frenz, Joe Sinnott & Sal Buscema, Mike Mayhew, Don Simpson, Lee Weeks and Eric Powell as well as dozens of costumed guest-stars from her jaded career as a hero/villain, whilst #4 is a brief interlude in the greater story (illustrated by Scott Kolins) as She Hulk explores the aftermath of her Idaho rampage with the poignant and rewarding ‘Back to Bone’ before the jurisprudence and chronal carnage concludes with the rescue and return of a dead hero…

This is a priceless, clever romp with devastatingly sharp wit and low, vulgar slapstick in equal amounts plus loads of the mandatory angst-free action: a great read and possibly the Best Whacky Legal Drama since Boston Legal. But don’t listen to me: catch this book and judge for yourself…

© 2006 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wolverine/Ghost Rider: In Acts of Vengeance

By Howard Mackie, Mark Texeira & Harry Candelario (Marvel)
ISBN: 0-7851-0022-9

From that dubious period of “Grim ‘n’ Gritty” super-heroics in the early 1990s comes this slight but entertaining fast-paced pairing of Marvel’s (then) most savage champions which originally ran as the lead series in the fortnightly anthology Marvel Comics Presents #64-70, although dyed-in-the-wool continuity buffs should be warned that the connection to the company’s crossover event Acts of Vengeance is oblique – if not downright tenuous.

From his insalubrious bar on the pirate stronghold of Madripoor the globe-trotting mutant Wolverine is lured back to New York by a blatantly inept attack carried out by ninjas belonging to vampiric super-villain Deathwatch. Meanwhile Dan Ketch, human host of the fearsome Ghost Rider, finds one of his oldest friends also the target of similar ninjas.

The heroes’ paths cross with a karate instructor whose family also has a grudge against the criminal mastermind and all converge on the life-leech’s skyscraper headquarters for a surprise or two and a climactic showdown…

This yarn is just a stylish excuse for a big chase and huge fight – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing – so on those terms, this is a visceral, vicarious, effective use of the creators’ talents, with the added bonus of the introduction of yet another mutant superstar-in-waiting (I think he’s still waiting, even now) in the form of the unstoppable martial arts manhunter code-named Brass.

Sometimes no-frills cathartic comics combat is all you want from graphic narrative, and if you ever get that feeling this might be the book to buy…
© 1990, 1991, 1993 Marvel Entertainment Group. All rights reserved.


By J. Michael Straczynski, Olivier Coipel & Mark Morales (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-1722-3

I’m always a little dubious about high-profile, big-name relaunches, coming as I do from that curmudgeonly old school which believes that “there are no bad characters”, “Iconoclasm isn’t Creativity” and especially “Famous doesn’t mean Good”.

So it’s rather refreshing to be able to say that the newest incarnation of Marvel’s God of Thunder is a delightfully good read. Collecting issues #1-6 of the monthly comicbook it finds all the entities of Asgard dead and gone (see Avengers Disassembled: Thor, ISBN: 978-0-7851-1599-1 for the startling details) until a mysterious voice summons Thor back to life – and Earth (us fans call it Midgard) – in a crack of spectacular thunder. Revived for an unspecified purpose the solitary Lord of Asgard sets about retrieving the souls of his fellow godlings, scattered and hidden inside human hosts – or perhaps incubators?

There’s a welcome reappearance and significant role for Thor’s early alter-ego Don Blake when the Thunderer rebuilds Asgard in the wilds of Oklahoma and plenty of action as the immortal hero adapts to a world that has radically changed since his demise. Even with cataclysmic battles against former ally Iron Man and the Dread Demolisher, plus a radical new look for the hero’s oldest and most implacable foe, the real joy here is the savvy script, especially the interactions between the resurrected gods and their new neighbours the ordinary folks of Broxton, Oklahoma,.

Beautiful to look at, engagingly written and with a welcome dose of political intrigue and social commentary, this “cosmic comic” has a lot of earthy resonance to balance the scope of its own mythology and, despite ending on an annoying cliffhanger, is a book to recommend to complete neophytes as well as dedicated fans. If you’ve never seen Thor before, you should now…

© 2007, 2008 Marvel Publishing, Inc., a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

The New Warriors: Beginnings

By various (Marvel)
ISBN13: 978-0-7851-2043-8

With the wealth of comics material Marvel has access to it constantly surprises me how poorly served the company’s faithful, mainstream fanbase remains. Whilst there’s always a book or collection with the key stories, name artists, latest edgy hit or crossover compilation available, strong, solid tales comprising pulse-pounding Marvel Madness of the type that made them Number One for so long just don’t seem to make it onto the bookshelves these days.

A perfect example would be this workmanlike gem from 1992, which collected the first unsteady steps of a kid team that grew to be one of the most consistently interesting superhero series of the later Marvel Age.

Created by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz before being assigned to Fabian Nicieza and Mark Bagley to develop, the team consisted of a bunch of failed young super-doers led by a new grim-‘n’-gritty kid millionaire with a grudge, a battle suit and (trust me, it works) high-tech skateboard calling himself Night Thrasher (I still wince at the name).

At their inception the team consisted of hyper-kinetic Speedball, mutant Firestar, telekinetic Vance Astrovic/Marvel Boy, a re-invigorated Nova the Human Rocket, and Sub-Mariner’s niece Namorita: a line-up seemingly designed to flop, but one which swiftly proved the old adage about there being no bad characters, only bad handling…

They made their first appearance in Thor #411 and 412 before launching into their own title, but here, with uncharacteristic consideration for the reader, the editors have led off with that first issue, ‘From the Ground Up!’ an origin of sorts, which sees Dwayne Taylor, man with a mission, gather up a disparate group of super-kids for a mysterious – and as yet unrevealed – project, only to fall foul of a resurrected cosmic powered ex-herald of Galactus named Terrax.

Overcoming the threat the young heroes band together as much to spite dismissive adults like the Avengers as to fight for Justice. This initial helter-skelter romp was written by Nicieza, drawn by Bagley and inked by the legendary Al Williamson.

From there we jump to those aforementioned Thor issues. ‘The Gentleman’s Name is Juggernaut!’ by DeFalco, Frenz and Joe Sinnott, was actually part of the Acts of Vengeance company event, wherein a coalition of villains arranged to trade enemies in a concerted attempt to wipe out the heroes. The Thunder God was targeted by the mystically enhanced X-Men nemesis, resulting in a spectacular, catastrophic battle that devastated much of New York, and the Asgardian Avenger was on the verge of losing his life until the woefully overmatched teens injected themselves into the battle…

New Warriors #2 ‘Mirror Moves’ found Taylor training his new team with his own adult mentors Chord and the enigmatic dowager Tai, when his mysterious past came back to haunt him in the form of old friends Silhouette and Midnight’s Fire, super-powered siblings who battled Korea-Town crime in their own rather unpalatable way. Also debuting were the human-weapon builders of the unscrupulous Genetech Company – destined to be a long-running thorn in the team’s collective side. When Silhouette was crippled in an ambush her brother instigated a murderous gang war that threatened to engulf the entire city…

As Larry Mahlstadt assumed the inking chores, ‘I Am, Therefore I Think’ further explored the budding relationships of the team whilst old Fantastic Four Foe the Mad Thinker took a decidedly deadly pop at the heroes courtesy of a little Genetech prodding, culminating in the New Warriors taking the battle back to them in the all-action ‘Genetech Potential’, which introduced the exceedingly odd gengineered combat force known as Psionex…

Whilst never going to the broadest of audiences these tales are a superb example of what Marvel used to do so well: cultivate a market and instill brand loyalty by producing the kind of thrilling action stories that always satisfied whilst keeping us hungry for more. This bread-and-butter approach ensured a following that was loyal and caring. They’re still there, but so much of what they want simply isn’t any more…
©1989, 1990, 1992, 2006 Marvel Characters, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

House of M: Avengers

By Christopher Gage, Mike Perkins & Andrew Hennessey (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2750-5

In the company crossover event House of M reality was rewritten (yes, again!) when the sometime Avenger Scarlet Witch had a breakdown and altered Earth continuity so that Magneto’s mutants took control of society and where normal humans (“sapiens”) are an acknowledged evolutionary dead-end living out their lives and destined for extinction within two generations.

Collecting the ancillary miniseries House of M: Avengers this volume is set in a world of perfect order, but one where certain malcontents and criminals are determined not to go quietly. Rallying around escaped convict and artificial superman Luke Cage, a gang of criminals calling themselves the Avengers fight to survive and get by however they can, inadvertently becoming a rallying point for Sapiens in a world only too eager to see them all gone…

With the likes of Hawkeye, Tigra, Mockingbird, Moon Knight, Iron Fist, Misty Knight (no relation, not even close), Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu, Mantis, Swordsman, White Tiger and the Punisher on hand, as well as villains such as Kingpin, Elektra, Bullseye, Taskmaster, Black Cat, Typhoid Mary, the brotherhood of Evil Mutants and Gladiator among the cast there’s plenty of familiar faces and lots of action, but as the countdown ticks towards a big climax and the re-establishment of “real” continuity it’s hard to muster any sense of connection.

Marvel has used this plot to kill off and resurrect our favourites purely for momentary cheap effect so many times its difficult to care…

Weaving established Marvel continuity skilfully into their portion of the overarching epic Gage and Perkins tell an intriguing but frustratingly quick and facile tale that just can’t stand alone (so you will need to read at least some of the other House of M collections for the full picture) that doesn’t fairly reflect their great talents nor deliver the punch we were all hoping for. Pretty, but not for the casual or occasional reader

© 2007, 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Immortal Iron Fist volume 1: The Last Iron Fist Story

By Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2489-4

Iron Fist sprang out of the 1970s Kung Fu craze, by way of a heartfelt tribute from originators Roy Thomas and Gil Kane to Bill Everett’s golden Age super-hero Amazing Man (who appeared from 1939-1945 in Centaur Comics).

Young Danny Rand travels with his parents and uncle to the mysterious Himalayas. Searching for the “lost city of K’un Lun” which only appears once every ten years, the boy’s father is murdered by the uncle, and his mother sacrifices herself to save her child. Alone in the wilderness, the city finds him and he spends the next ten years mastering all forms of martial arts.

A decade later he returns to the real world intent on vengeance, further armed with a mystic punch gained by killing the dragon Shou-Lao the Undying. When he eventually achieves his goal the lad is at something of a loose end and – by default – a billionaire, as his murderous uncle had turned the family business into a multi-national megalith.

The series ran in Marvel Premiere #15-25 (from May 1974 to October 1975), plagued by an inability to keep a creative team (writers and artists included Len Wein, Doug Moench, Tony Isabella, Larry Hama, Arvell Jones, Keith Pollard, Pat Broderick and Al McWilliams) before Chris Claremont and John Byrne steadied the ship and produced a superb run of issues for his own title (Iron Fist #1-15, November 1975 – September 1977). After cancellation the character drifted, until paired with Luke Cage following a splendid three-part try-out in Power Man #48-50.

Power Man & Iron Fist ran from #51 until the book was cancelled in 1986 (#125). The K’un Lun Kid has died, come back and cropped up all over the Marvel universe as guest star, co-star and even in a few of his own miniseries.

This volume contains issues #1-6 of Immortal Iron Fist as well as excerpts from Civil War: Choosing Sides, and follows the directionless hero as he struggles to find his place in the world. Discovering a plot by subversive super-terrorist organisation Hydra to steal his company Danny also learns the secret history of his dragon-power and the lives of previous Iron Fists when he stumbles across his renegade predecessor Orson Randall, on the run from K’un Lun since the First World War…

The book also includes the eight-page prequel from the Civil War: Choosing Sides one-shot, guest-starring Daredevil, plus a fascinating sketch section that describes the design process for the reworked and new characters and superb covers.

A lightning-paced, sleekly exotic thriller blending contemporary costumed drama with gritty period battles (illustrated by a phalanx of talented veterans including Russ Heath, John Severin, Sal Buscema and Tom Palmer), Brubaker’s compelling script and the stylish, compulsive art of David Aja (with Travel Foreman & Derek Fridolfs) carries the reader to a superb climax but no conclusion. Ending on a strangely satisfying cliffhanger, I’ve no doubt that every reader (even new ones – the script is wonderfully inclusive and assumes you don’t know the characters well) will gladly seek out the second volume. I’m certainly going to…

© 2006, 2007 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Captain Britain: Vol. 3 The Lion and the Spider

By various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN13: 978-1-84653-401-0

In this third volume collecting the complete adventures of Marvel’s Greatest British super-hero we see the end of his initial run from Super Spider-Man & Captain Britain Weekly # 239-247, continue with the good Captain’s first American tour in Marvel Team-Up #65 and #66 and latterly begin reprinting the seminal fantasy strip he shared with the Black Knight in Hulk Comic Weekly. I fear that as with any decent British hero, the publishing history and back-story has to be as complicated as the Gordian Knot to satisfy our inherent sense of the absurd…

By the time of Super Spider-Man & Captain Britain Weekly # 239 the writing was on the wall. In the best tradition of British comics, a merger of two titles inevitably led to the eventual disappearance of the one after the “&”. Moreover it was clear that the US department responsible for these 6-7 page segments (Editors Larry Lieber and Danny Fingeroth, writer Jim Lawrence and art-team Ron Wilson, Pablo Marcos, Fred Kida and Mike Esposito) were devoting less and less creative enthusiasm – if not effort – to the dying feature.

‘Five Tickets to Terror’, ‘To Shrink in Fear!’, ‘…A Madman’s Whim!’ and Hell Island Climax!’ (# 239-242) detail how the Captain and a plane-load of travellers became the diminutive captives of a mutated madman on a tropical island, whilst the last saga from issues #243-247 ends the English adventures on a relative high-note in a deadly, extended duel with a super-assassin and assorted monsters beginning with ‘When Slaymaster Strikes!’, ‘Dogfight with Death!’, ‘While London Gapes in Horror!’, ‘Tunnels of Terror!’ and concluding with ‘The Devil and the Deep!’ The stories had become increasingly slap-dash, an uncomfortable blend of Marvel House Style and Fleetway generic drama, which couldn’t help but disappoint.

When the Captain reappeared it was in the comfortable style – and home – of the company’s greatest triumphs. ‘Introducing Captain Britain’ by the hero’s original scripter Chris Claremont, appeared in Marvel Team-Up #65, illustrated by John Byrne and Dave Hunt, and found Brian Braddock, on student transfer to New York the unsuspecting house-guest of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. Before long the heroes had met, fought and then teamed-up to defeat the flamboyant hit-man Arcade.

The original US tale concluded in #66 with ‘Murderworld’ and the entire story is reprinted here in full-colour. As a temptation for Marvel completists however, I should mention that when reprinted in Super Spider-Man & Captain Britain Weekly #248-253, the story was divided into six parts and the necessary extra four splash-pages (by Byrne & Hunt and Wilson & Esposito, it looks like) are included here in historically accurate monochrome.

And then the Lion of Albion disappeared on both sides of the pond until March 1979, when a new British weekly, Hulk Comic, debuted with an eclectic mix of Marvel reprints that veteran UK editor Dez Skinn felt better suited the British market. There were also a number of all-new strips featuring Marvel characters tailored, like the reprints, to appeal to UK kids. The Hulk was there because of his TV show, Nick Fury (by babe-in-arms Steve Dillon) – because we love spies here, and the all-original pulp/gangster thriller Night Raven was by David Lloyd, John Bolton and Steve Parkhouse. And then there was The Black Knight.

This last appeared in issues #1 and 3-30 (all of which are included in this volume) plus #42-55 and #57-63 when the comic folded (and for which we must await a fourth volume). The Black Knight was a sometime member of the super-team The Mighty Avengers but in this engrossing epic, costumed shenanigans are replaced by a classical fantasy saga set in modern Britain with Tolkien-esque or perhaps Alan Garner overtones and Arthurian/Celtic roots.

Dispatched on a mission by Merlin (sometimes Merlyn here) to the wilds of Cornwall the Knight and his winged horse Valinor must battle to save the Heart and Soul of England from Modred and a host of goblins and monsters with the aid of a broken amnesiac Captain Britain.

Delivered in three-page, black and white episodes by writer Parkhouse and John Stokes (joined from #6 by penciller Paul Neary) this fantastical pot-boiler captured the imagination of the readership, became the longest running original material strip in the comic (even The Hulk itself reverted to reprints by #28) and often stole the cover spot from the lead feature.

It’s still a captivating read, beautifully realized, and the only quibble I have is that the whole thing isn’t included here. If you’re wondering, the sword-and-sorcery action ends on a cliffhanger with our heroic Captain about to regain his long-lost memories…

With the inclusion of a few pages of fascinating character designs this third volume of the chronicles of Captain Britain is a mostly wonderful mixed bag of comic delights that will charm the nostalgic and perhaps kindle the interest of newer fans of the outlying regions of the Marvel Universe. And let’s hope the next volume’s not long in coming…

© 1977, 1978, 1979, 2009 Marvel Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiaries, licensed by Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved. (A UK EDITION FROM PANINI UK LTD)

Runaways: Volume 4 True Believers (US Digest Edition)

By Brian K Vaughan, Adrian Alphona & Craig Yeung (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-1705-6

I’m warming at last to this series about a gang of Los Angeles kids who discover their parents are a cabal of murdering super-villains bent on World Domination. At the close of the previous volume the kids lost one of their own but actually ended their parent’s plans, freeing the city from years of unconscious servitude and sending the villainous Pride to jail.

This book (collecting volume 2, issues #1-6 of the Marvel comic-book series) takes up the saga a few months later. The kids are back on the streets again having escaped from various Social Services institutions, preferring their own company to a life in “The System.” Their other reason for staying together is more worthy.

When The Pride ran LA, other villains, monsters and super-freaks kept clear. Since their incarceration the city has been plagued by the kind of scum that make New York such a weird, wild place. As the kids are unwittingly responsible for the super-criminal invasion of their turf, it’s up to them to end it…

There’s also a new recruit whose dad is one of the worst menaces of the Marvel universe, a killer time-travel sub-plot and a lot of very impressive guest-stars in this story which solidly carves a place for the kids in the greater company continuity plus a sense of undercurrent that (for me, at least) has been missing from the previous, rather superficial volumes.

Witty and well-scripted, there’s a lot worth looking at here, but I still prefer to read a full sized edition rather than these pokey little digest books. I should have bought the UK edition. Perhaps I will when – not if – I want to read it again
© 2005 Marvel Characters Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Runaways volume 3 The Good Die Young

By Brian K Vaughan, Adrian Alphona & Craig Yeung (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-905239-78-8

The third chapter (collecting volume 1, issues #13-18 of the Marvel comic-book series) in the saga of children on the run from their parents who have been revealed as an evil coalition of mutants, alien, sorcerers and super-criminals kicks the saga into high gear as the youngsters stop escaping and start attacking.

So for newcomers and by way of recap: Six L.A. rich kids with nothing in common except that their parents hang out together discover that those selfsame adults are, in fact, a league of super-villains intent on world conquest. Since no parent can be trusted anyway, the kids band together to use their own powers to bring them to justice. The adults have fingers in every pie, though. As the De Facto owners of Los Angeles it takes little more than a phone call to frame the Runaways for kidnapping each other and for a particularly grisly murder.

From their cool hide-out they rescue another boy with evil parents, only to fall foul of a timeless monster, and super-heroes Cloak and Dagger first hunt, (recruited by a bent cop in the pay of those ol’ evil parents) before teaming up with them. Unfortunately, the insidious adults mind-wipe the heroes as they go for reinforcements…

This volume contains a positive flurry of frantic activity, the kids discover the reason behind their parents’ villainous coalition, find a traitor in their midst, save the world and even clear the way for the sequel in the best manner of bubblegum drama. There’s even room for plenty of fighting and vast bunches of snogging, and a few A-List super-hero guest-stars too.

As a weary old man it’s so easy to be disparaging about a new (-ish) genre-form tailored to the young, hormonal, middle-class and socially advantaged, be it comic books, TV, clothes or music. Yet I’m fairly sure that my discomfort with a lot of modern material aimed at new young consumers is the old one: lacklustre creativity soaked in varnish and dipped in glitter is no substitute for quality storytelling. Even the most naïve newcomer knows “Shiny” is not the same as “Good”.

Soap operas are generally considered to be the ass-end of drama everywhere, yet can often transcend their base origins to produce outstanding quality, shattering depth and lasting worth. And more so in comics where we’ve had this very argument for decades over not just the content but even the very form of our medium. Perhaps I’m just getting tetchy waiting for it to happen.

All that being said there is a marked and consistent improvement in this book, (except with the art which I just can’t seem to warm to, competent though it clearly is) and the story does actually improve with re-reading – especially as this UK edition is printed in the regular trade paperback size and not the annoyingly cramped and cluttered digest format. Perhaps the thing simply needs a decent amount of breathing room to work.

For something that’s a distillation of so many hybrid strands that’s actually not such a bad thing. I’d advise you to read them and decide for yourselves.

© 2004, 2008 Marvel Characters Inc. All Rights Reserved. A BRITISH EDITION RELEASED BY PANINI UK LTD

Secret Invasion

By Brian Michael Bendis, Leinil Francis Yu & Mark Morales (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-405-8

The Skrulls are shape-shifting aliens who have threatened Earth since the second issue of Fantastic Four, and have long been a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. After decades of use and misuse the insidious invaders were 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 is simple: the would-be conquerors have undergone a mass religious conversion and are now utterly dedicated to taking Earth as their new homeworld. To this end they have replaced a number of key Earth denizens – including a number of superheroes. When the lid is lifted no defender of the Earth truly knows who is on their side…

This volume is just one of many collecting the vast number of episodes in this saga, and contains all eight issues of the core miniseries, the one-shot spin-off Who Do You Trust? and the illustrated text book Skrulls which claims to provide a listing and biography for every shape-shifter yet encountered in the Marvel Universe (but if they left any out could you tell?).

Fast-paced, well-drawn and suitably spectacular, this is a twisty-turny tale and quite enjoyable – if overly-complex in some places. When the heroes discover the plot they shift into high-gear, but everything gets really sticky when a Skrull ship crashes releasing a band of missing heroes who ought to be the originals that were replaced: but are they…?

Rather than give anything away let me just say that if you like this sort of thing you’ll love it, and a detailed familiarity is not vital to your understanding. However, for a fuller understanding, as well as the relevant 22 Secret Invasion volume that accompany this, you might want to seek out Secret Invasion: the Infiltration, Secret War (2004), Avengers Disassembled, and Annihilation volumes 1-3, as well as various Avengers: Illuminati issues.

Despite all that this is still a solid light adventure read, the kind of stuff-and-nonsense we all need occasionally and one that can honestly stand on its own two feet – or are those tentacles…?

© 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved. A BRITISH EDITION RELEASED BY PANINI UK LTD