The Beat’s Gregory Paul Silber has been accused of having a bit of an… obsessive personality. Each week in Silber Linings, he takes a humorous look at the weirdest, funniest, and most obscure bits of comics and pop culture that he can’t get out of his head.
You may have noticed that there weren’t any Silber Linings pieces the past few Fridays. One might assume that this was due to the fact that I started a new copywriting day job three weeks ago, and I’m still struggling to make room for freelancing and personal/creative writing in my new schedule. But the truth is more disturbing: The Secritic Invasion has arrived at the door of Stately Beat Manor, and I am The Beat’s last hope against the Skrulls threatening to take over the noble world of comics criticism.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: “Secritic,” huh? I guess my offer to participate got lost in the mail with my Hellfire Gala invite. — Overlooked Avery Kaplan]
I’m saddened to report that many of your favorite comics critics have already been compromised and replaced by Skrull imposters, including The Beat’s own Zoe Tunnell and former Comics Beat managing editor Samantha Puc. I can’t hold off the Skrull invaders much longer, and fear it won’t be long before I, too, am replaced by a shapeshifting green alien with a weird wrinkly chin. So while I still can, I’ll tell you what I think about The Mighty Avengers #16 by writer Brian Michael Bendis, penciler Khoi Pham, inker Danny Miki, colorist Dean White, and letterer “Artmonkey’s Dave Lamphear,” with a cover by Aleski Briclot.
All kidding (OR AM I?!?!) aside, I was thrilled when Shelfdust founder/editor Steve Morris reached out to me privately (secretly, even!) to ask if I’d be interested in participating in a cross-outlet celebration of Marvel’s Secret Invasion and, metatextually, comic book crossover events as a concept. It sounded like exactly the sort of wacky fun I started this column for, and I’ve enjoyed working with Steve on all the pieces I’ve written for Shelfdust. There was just one problem: I never read Secret Invasion.
For those not in the know, Secret Invasion was a crossover event published by Marvel from April to December of 2008, a few years before I started following Marvel Comics (and reading comics in general) every single day of my life. The main series, written by Bendis with art by Leinil Francis Yu, follows the Marvel superheroes trying to figure out who among their ranks has been secretly replaced by evil alien invaders known as Skrulls. You may remember them from the 2019 Captain Marvel film, in which the Skrulls turned out not to be evil and inexplicably all had Australian accents.
There’s no particular reason why I never read Secret Invasion, beyond the fact that there’s a nigh-infinite number of other comics in the world and I chose to read a bunch of those instead. I know Secret Invasion has a bit of a mixed reputation, but I suspect I’d enjoy it more than most if I read it. I like Yu’s art, and as I wrote in (the Eisner Award-nominated!) PanelXPanel #33, I’m a bit of what I’ve called a “Bendis apologist.” I planned on reading it for this article, but back when Steve first sent me a Twitter DM about the Secritic Invasion project I was still unemployed and slightly less tired.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Vote for PanelXPanel at this year’s Eisners! — AJK]
But no matter. This wouldn’t be the first time Steve asked me to go in cold to a single Marvel issue mid-arc with barely any context, and I’ve had a lot of fun reviewing comics that way in the past. He assured me all I’d have to read was one of the Secret Invasion tie-ins, and knowing I’m a huge Daredevil fan (the Daredevil comic itself had no Secret Invasion issues), assigned me the Elektra-focused Mighty Avengers #16. Better yet, it’s a mostly-wordless issue, which is great for my tight schedule.
In all seriousness, I love me a “silent interlude,” especially in corporate-owned superhero comics. Due to the assembly-line production style that usually puts writers and artists into distinct roles putting the writer in a position to enjoy the bulk of the glory, it can be refreshing to see writers (especially ones known to be as verbose as Bendis) shut up for an issue and let the art do the talking.
While The Mighty Avengers #16 isn’t an entirely silent issue, as the first few prologue pages consist of a conversation between Elektra and Electro (no relation!), the rest of the issue is essentially a showcase for Pham as he draws Elektra kicking and stabbing a bunch of Skrulls disguised as familiar superheroes like Daredevil and Wolverine. Between that and the fact that I can’t tell you much about how this issue relates to the rest of the Secret Invasion plot, I’m left without a whole lot to say about The Mighty Avengers #16, so I hope you’ll forgive my charmingly-rambling tone.
I do want to talk about Pham’s art though. I must confess to being a bit prejudiced towards it initially, because my first encounter with it was Daredevil #10.1 (remember when Marvel used to do “Point One” issues to indicate new jump-on points, which just ended up making things more confusing?) from 2012.
That 2011-2015 Daredevil run written by Mark Waid is my single favorite superhero comic of all time, boasting art from Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin, and primarily Chris Samnee, among many others. It’s not that Pham’s art is bad, but for a run that included the names I just mentioned as well as incredible guest artists like Mike Allred, Emma Rios, and Marco Checchetto, Pham’s contribution didn’t quite measure up. It didn’t help that Waid’s story was comparatively weak in that issue too. For a series that felt so vital every month, it read more like a throwaway issue, and I got in my head that Pham was a mediocre artist.
After reading Mighty Avengers #16, I can tell you I was wrong. I get the impression that Bendis’ script read something like “Elektra fights a bunch of dudes the next few pages, I dunno, go nuts.” Even if Pham wasn’t given the amount of leeway I’m imagining, it’s clear that he’s having a ton of fun here. The action is thrillingly kinetic, and since the Skrulls’ green blood probably meant Pham could get away with more overt violence than a mainline Marvel title could otherwise allow, it’s delightfully brutal too. And there’s a nice little homage to the classic Frank Miller/Klaus Janson Daredevil run in there too.
Beyond that, I don’t have much to say about The Mighty Avengers #16. It’s fun. I enjoyed it. I’ll probably forget most of it by next week. But that’s fine. Not every comic needs to change my life like that Daredevil comic about depression. Sometimes a comic just needs to be about a hot ninja lady stabbing space aliens.