Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Secret Invasion No. 8

Ian and I went on a quest today.

It was a very cold day when I picked the lad up after school and enthusiastically told him we were going to the comic book store (Comic Outpost on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco). Ian was quite pleased with the news, as he loves play the Spider-Man arcade game there, which is set on free play. In fact, Ian and I -- after almost an hour -- actually beat the game, something I could never do even when I worked at an arcade in the early 1990s.

A little disappointing, however, is that despite all the comics around, Ian -- despite being a great reader for his age -- rarely wants to buy one. Long ago, I got him his own longbox, and have been stocking it with a couple titles a month since he was one year old. But he rarely wants to read a comic, save for the occasional glance at a Simpsons mag or a Hulk book. At least the kid likes to read other stuff.

As for me, I was stocking up for the first time since before I left for Australia (save for buying four comics at a shop in Sydney when I ran out of stuff to read. It would have been more, but the Aussies charged a premium over cover price). I couldn't, however, find a copy of Secret Invasion No. 8 -- the delayed conclusion to Marvel's 2008 summer crossover, which came out almost two weeks ago. Not wanting to leave a story in the middle, I resolved to acquire the issue today (and not pay the $10 premium Comic Outpost wanted for a "variant edition" with a different cover).

Enter my iPhone. I first did a Google search for "San Francisco comic book shop" and came up with three hits on the map that were close. I touched the shops' entries, and the iPhone offered to call them for me. None of them had it. I then called my "back-up" comic shop in San Bruno, and they were out as well. Finally, I called the comic shop in Pacifica, near Ian's school (and by which I had passed about an hour before). That shop had a copy.

So I loaded Ian in the car. We stopped briefly at a McDonalds for a ice cream (and Ian played a quick basketball game with a little girl, left) and went to Coastside Comics, where I got what I needed. Total money spent on about 20 comics and a new longbox today: $80. Sheesh! My high school days of getting $3 a day from my parents for lunch, then going to Thrifty's to buy three comics -- and still have enough left over for a snack -- are over.

We drove home, just in time for a blackout. So Ian watched a Wiggles video on my laptop while I hunkered down next to a window and read.

The general plot and leadup to Secret Invasion seemed like a good mix between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the new version of Battlestar Galactica. Longtime Marvel alien baddies, the Skrulls, finally realized that their shape-shifting abilities opened up possibilities to infiltrate and take over the planet from within. Writer Brian Bendis did a good job notching up the tension over the course of a couple years before letting go in April with Secret Invasion No. 1.

Once the invasion stopped being so "secret," however, the crossover turned into a pretty generic slugfest, with a couple highlights (the Fantastic Four, Captain Britain and Hercules crossovers among them). It was a good, fun read but it seemed going in that there would've been a denser, more tension-filled story than what we ended up getting.

Secret Invasion No. 8 wrapped up the fighting pretty quickly, with a major Marvel character being a main casualty. But it ended so quickly that it was anti-climatic. It didn't help that the artist, Lenlil Francis Yu, has an art style more attuned toward crime books than full-fledged superhero action. His fight scenes were murky and foreground cluttered. I couldn't help but think a George Perez or Mark Bagley -- action artists who sport good, clean lines -- would've been been better suited for this.

In short, it felt like the Marvel writers spent so much time deftly creating a story's beginning that they forgot to plan a satisfying end.

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