Review: New Avengers #41

by

Or – “Sheena?  Shanna?  Shawna?  Shanaynay?  Shirley?”

The Secret Invasion is on, which means that, until further notice, every story in the Marvel Universe is going to be a maddening vignette that will only make sense in retrospect, AFTER the rest of the limited series is printed in six or eight months.  Or, as I call it: Marvel Comics in the summer.  You have been warned…

Previously, on New Avengers: Luke Cage’s underground team has had to deal with a lot of obstacles…  Crashing planes, Japanese crimelords, hordes of ninjas, defecting members, World War Hulk, Peter Parker’s life imploding, Danny Rand’s life exploding, Venom bombs, and something to do with shape-changing aliens.  In Secret Invasion #1 two months ago, Avengers both New and Mighty arrived in the Savage Land to investigate a crashing saucer, only to find… themselves.  Sorta.  It’s a Skrullapalooza!  *cue guitar solo*  Depending on whom the duplicates are, The Beast may still be an ape, Wolverine may have adorable little whiskers, Jewel may not have become Purple Man’s butt-monkey and Mockingbird may have returned from the dead.  Oh, and this just in: Former Captain America Steve Rogers may no longer be dead!

This issue starts in the midst of Secret Invasion #1… or perhaps #2, I dunno.  The combined Avenger forces are suddenly overrun by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and only real Spider-Man and whiskery Wolverine manage to react in time.  Spidey is thrown away by the creature, and crashes to the ground hundreds of yards away… at the feet of Kevin Plunder and his wife Shanna (known to their friends as Ka-Zar and the She-Devil.)  Spider-Man responds quickly and hilariously.  “You sure do know your superhero trivia.  I mean, Ka-Zar, now?”  Heh.  Spidey calls them skrulls, they call him a skrull, and then they begin the process of trying to trick the other into giving away their identity.  Spider-Man tells them that turning into Ka-Zar and Sheena is silly, and Mrs. Plunder corrects him, reminding him that it’s ‘Shanna.’  “Ah aha HA!  CAUGHT YOU!  It’s Sheena!”  She tries to correct him, and a “Sheena!  Shanna!” fight breaks out, ending with the She-Devil irritably announcing “I know my own name!”  “Do you?” replies Spidey, and I officially love this page.

Parker and Plunders finally clear everything up, and Ka-Zar explains what’s been going on.  Waaaay back in New Avengers #3, when the team came to the Savage Land to find SHIELD mining vibranium and then forgot to ask important questions like “Why?” they also left the native at the mercy of alien booger-monsters.  Lord Plunder and his lady had investigated, and accidentally discovered the Skrullian nature of the beings mining stealing their precious metals, only escaping through the interference of Zabu the sabertooth tiger.  This mean, oddly enough, that ersatz Tarzan and his pro-wrestler in a leather bikini knew about the alien invasion months before the rest of the world.  Spider-Man doesn’t quite believe the whole story, and Ka-Zar swears on his father’s honor that it’s true.  Suddenly, Zabu growls, as a familiar figure steps out of the woods, red-white-and-blue shield at the ready.  “Honor?” snarls Captain America, “What do YOU know of honor?”

Needless to say, to be continued…  This issue reveals some of the longest running secrets in the New Avengers title, namely what the hell happened in the first five issues.  This is good, in a way, in that it’s fascinating to see the story behind the story, but it’s also indicative of what’s wrong with Marvel right now: Bendis was allowed to drag this story out for over four years.  After all that build-up, the payoff better be MASSIVE, and I’m not talking “Spider-Woman is the queen of the Skrulls” massive, I’m talking ‘Galactus is marrying Aunt May’ massive.  Secret Invasion has a couple of things going for it, though, the primary being that it’s not nearly as nauseatingly all-encompassing as Civil War, and the second being the interesting hook of the Skrulls being able to replace anyone.  This issue flies by, with Billy Tan’s art giving us an excellent old-school Spider-Man, a sexy Shanna, and some credible action sequences, but the breakneck pace works against the book as well, making it seem less like a meaningful chapter and more like a tiny portion of the overarching universal story.  The overall effect is a 3 star affair, with some wonderful Spidey dialogue, and a very intriguing cliffhanger. 

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