If you’re itching to catch up on the Skrulls before the MCU TV show Secret Invasion comes out, fear not, as Marvel has released a new trade paperback. There are many places you could start by catching up on the Skrulls, but Secret Invasion: Meet the Skrulls may be the best. Contained here are the excellent miniseries Meet the Skrulls, classic Fantastic Four altercations with the aliens, as well as the excellent Illuminati. You essentially get both the most important and the most recent looks at the Skrulls.
This book opens on Meet the Skrulls #1, written by Robbie Thompson with art by Niko Henrichon. This story is quite special introducing readers to some sleeper Skrull invaders who were fortunate enough to have a family. Now living in the suburbs, they must choose between following orders and doing what’s best for their family.
This series grabbed me from the very first page and didn’t let go. It opens with regular teenagers attending a butterfly exhibit for school. Bullies prod one of their classmates who, after enough pressure, disappears. We soon learn one of the butterflies was the girl, and we later learn her name is Alice and she’s a Skrull. It’s a surprising turn especially since most Skrulls that we know of are angry beings who strike first and ask questions later. As the story unfolds, we learn about the family dynamic of the Skrulls and why they are here. It’s all laid out, but at the same time issues between family members become clear. This isn’t a perfect family, but at its core one has to imagine, is any family?
One of the more fascinating aspects of this issue is how Robbie Thompson reveals how each family member is on a mission of their own. Alice’s sister, Madison, is a bully at school and uses it to her advantage. The way she speaks about the other kids at school is alien and disconnected. It’s how one might imagine an alien pretending to be a human would talk about others. It’s also interesting to see how angry these characters are. We’ve seen Skrulls exhibit empathy in the past, but at the very least the father and mother in this unit are your typical diabolical Skrulls.
Niko Henrichon is very good at depicting the ordinary. The house and its car in the garage to the dining room that opens up to the living room is rendered very well. You believe these aliens live among us. The action gets kicked up a notch in the flashbacks scenes with great detail while the domestic scenes are equally intense and absorbing. Color artist Laurent Grossat is particularly good with lighting and skin tone. The flesh of these characters is complex in a way that humanizes and yet alienates them. It helps sell the narrative.
Next up is Road to Empyre: The Kree/Skrull War by Thompson with art by Mattia De Iulis and Javier Rodriguez. The beauty of this lead-up issue is how it balances Thompson’s excellent Meet the Skrulls characters with Javier Rodríguez and Álvaro López’s unique History of the Marvel Universe backstory abilities in the flashbacks. It’s a way to lead into Empyre while respecting the past.
You will be blown away by the art in this book. Mattia De Iulis draws and colors the present-day scenes with a gorgeous Alex Ross level of realism. The detail in the lighting, skin tone, and atmosphere is incredible. Match this with Rodríguez and López’s clean and deeply thought out layout design, and it’s a match made in heaven. De Iulis draws you into the high-stakes situation the Skrull family is in while Rodríguez and López give us the necessary backstory to understand the war that has raged between Skrulls and Kree for eons. One story informs the other, and the art styles are different enough to make the jump between flashback and present-day easy to follow and natural. This is one of the best-looking books I’ve read in some time.
Next up is a blast from the past reprint of Fantastic Four #2–the one where the FF turns the Skrulls into cows–Fantastic Four #18, Avengers #93, and Fantastic Four #257. These tales are a nice hop, skip, and jump across Marvel history showing us the first encounters with the Skrulls. This all leads to Illuminati #1, which featured the Illuminati (Xavier, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, Mr. Fantastic, Captain America, Black Panther) threatening the Skrulls to never invade Earth again. It’s a nice look at diplomacy gone wrong and yet the Skrulls come off as evil jerks in a great torture sequence.
Secret Invasion: Meet the Skrulls is the best way to experience Skrulls in the modern era of Marvel. It not only reprints key Skrull stories from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby but reprints recent tales showing a more human and complex side to the characters. Because of that history being retold, it’s a great way to see how the Skrulls evolved and changed over the decades.
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