Spoilers in review

With the first wave of recruits to the Initiative’s Fifty State programme now graduated and dispersed, we get to see some of the regional teams our heroes have been assigned to. This occurs just as the Skrull sleeper agents in each team are unleashed, causing nationwide havoc across the USA, and destabilising the super-heroic community from within even as the Skrull forces invade from above!

This neatly ties in with Marvel’s crossover event, Secret Invasion, in which it is revealed that not only are Skrulls imitating people with power, whether political, financial or superheroic – but that they have been in place for months, sometimes years, building a power base and manipulating events from behind the scenes. This, let’s face it, is a much more sensible way of gaining ground than slapping on tights and attacking the Fantastic Four!

Theoretically held in reserve by the big guns, the Initiative staff and students rapidly become prime movers, as it is revealed that one of the instructors is a Skrull sleeper agent who invites the Skrull Queen (currently masquerading as Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman) to use Camp Hammond as her base of operations. A previously minor student, Triathlon, moves front and centre as upon his graduation, he’s re-titled the 3-D Man, and given a gift by the original holders of that title – goggles enabling the brothers Chandler, back in the 1950s, to spot Skrull infiltrators, and guess what? The goggles still have the old moxie!

This, of course, throws a spanner in the works of Crusader, the ‘good’ Skrull, as introduced during Killed in Action, who has been posing as human simply to embark on a heroic lifestyle in the post-Registration universe. Does he hide, or reveal his true racial identity? Where do his loyalties lie?

And when all looks bleak, there’s also the delightfully venal Eric O’Grady, Ant-Man by stealth and theft, to make things just that little bit more creepy!

Christos Gage and Dan Slott are clearly having a hoot raiding Marvel’s back catalogue of obscurities and nonentities, not only with the original 3-D Man but also bringing back Grant Morrison’s Skrull Kill Krew, languishing in limbo for over a decade, as a sudden shock troop to augment Earth’s defences. They don’t flourish only with established heroes, but with those they’ve created from whole cloth; in a whirlwind tour of the initiative teams, we meet a myriad of previously-unseen graduates, and many of them are filled out in a surprisingly scant number of panel appearances; the sacrifice of the Spinner, for example, is inventive and poignant.

There seems to have been some deadline-crunching on the artistic front, as no fewer than four pencillers contribute to the finished pages; it’s a tribute to their professionalism and dedication that the final result is consistently clear and attractive.

Secret Invasion itself was a superior contender among Marvel’s frequent, and generally tiresome, company-wide crossover ‘events’, and this tie-in to it is much, much better than the average perfunctory commercial cash-in.

The dust settles in Disassembled.