Secret Invasion Paperback – Bargain Price, Jan 21 2009
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"Love knows no bounds -- and no borders -- in journalist Greene's ebullient valentine to her family of nine children . . . 'Who made you the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe?' a friend quips, but Greene doesn't apologize. Instead, she shows what it means to knit together a family that 'steers by the light . . . of what feels right and true.'" -- Caroline Leavitt, People (four stars)
"Readers . . . will find plenty of hilarity in this romping account of [Greene's] boisterous brood . . . [she] brings her well-honed research and reporting skills to this very personal story . . . this joy -- experiencing it and conveying it to readers -- is her greatest success." -- Suki Casanave, The Washington Post
"No Biking in the House Without a Helmet is [Melissa Fay Greene's] sprawling, imperfect, courageous and joyful account of the adoption process, warts and all -- the heart-wrenching trips to orphanages, frustrating delays, visits with living relatives, and the way her family welcomed and made room for each child, as well as the inevitable homesickness and culture clashes and sometimes rocky emotional terrain . . . The moral of her story? Just the opposite of the title's warning. Don't be afraid to break the rules, to "steer by the light of what makes us laugh, what makes us feel good" -- especially if it means biking in the house, with or without a helmet. With deep compassion, sparkling humor and an unshakable faith in the power of the whoopee cushion, she leads the way." -- Gina Webb, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Moving, enlightening, and surprisingly funny ... No Biking in the House Without a Helmet ... folds an adoption primer into a meditation on family." -- Sara Nelson, O, The Oprah Magazine
"Joyful and big-hearted . . . This funny and frankly personal book is a departure for Greene, whose previous work has been sober and measured. The title sounds like a madcap domestic comedy in the tradition of Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck, which it sometimes is. But Greene's humor is less acerbic, her persona less addled . . . Greene is such an open and self-deprecating narrator she makes every addition to her family seem like the most natural and beautiful move in the world, 'each child -- whether homemade or foreign born -- a revelation, a treasure.' The ability to write brilliant books with a houseful of children is clearly the least of Greene's gifts." -- Jennifer Reese, NPR.org
"There are funny parenting books and wise parenting books. Rarely a funny and wise parenting book. Melissa Fay Greene really does have nine children, five of whom were adopted from foreign orphanages -- but this book isn't a treacly, multicultural 'Brady Bunch.' Neither moralistic nor preachy, this memoir is about what it's like to have heart, and grow children with heart. In another writer's less deft hands, children who herded goats in Ethiopia and then relocated to a big old house in Atlanta could have become a Southern Jewish version of Brad and Angelina. Greene captures the wild vicissitudes of her family's life and how individual difference enriches them all." -- Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune
"For the past 21 years Melissa Fay Greene has been raising nine children, both biological and adopted. In her memoir No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, she writes of the many parenting obstacles she has encountered, overcome, and met again as the rules change completely for her second wave of children. Talk about a story for the ages." -- Town & Country
"A truly heartfelt memoir . . . [Greene] resists the urge to be cloying, however, infusing each chapter with a strong dose of humor and not shying away from the difficulties presented by adopting older children . . . It's all one big, happy family but also a very real one. Call them the twenty-first-century Waltons, and revel in the joy they have found and brought home for keeps." -- Colleen Mondor, Booklist (starred review)
"Greene is a writer of emotional impact . . . Her words are flush with humanity and all the messiness and comedy that humanity trails in its wake. She goes the distance, which is a beautiful thing to behold . . . Eventually, an enveloping sweetness and involvement swept away all but what is elementally grand about being a parent and nursing a child. An upbeat chronicle of a life that has been lived on the bright side of the road, its ruts beveled by naked love." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Joy to the world. Line by glorious line, with raw honesty and unforced hilarity, Melissa Fay Greene tells the story of the true mega-family of the millennium, which is not some reality-show curiosity shop, but her very own nine children: those who came home from the hospital and those who came home from the airport. People often assure me that I'll laugh and cry reading a book. I may smile; I may feel a lump in my throat. But I wept a dozen times reading No Biking and woke my own kids up with my laughter, as I stayed up all night with this, the Cheaper by the Dozen for a new planet. Melissa Fay Greene never set out to raise the world, only to raise her children. With this book, she raises the bar, wherever the word 'family' is spoken, for every single one of us." -- Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and Second Nature: A Love Story
"The funniest part of this book is not the fact that several of Melissa Fay Greene's nine children were once Ethiopian goat herders. The funniest part is that she has nine children. She not only loves and appreciates every one, she brings them all to vivid life with affection, exasperation, candor, and (indispensable, under the circumstances) humor. I went from Are you kidding? to I love these people! in four pages flat." -- Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book Is Overdue!
"Brimming with humor and love, the story of Greene's ever-expanding family is both unique and universal. Not everyone watches a son spear a Frisbee in mid-flight or weave a bullwhip out of the suburban shrubbery. But everyone at some point asks what it means to be a parent, a sibling, a family. Greene answers these questions with wit and wisdom. I finished her book with a renewed conviction that it is possible to shrink this wide world and to begin to bridge the chasms that have opened between us." -- Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book and March
"About every five years, we get a book from Melissa Fay Greene. I've learned to wait for them eagerly, always excited to know what this thoughtful, sensitive writer is going to do next. Now -- No Biking in the House Without a Helmet. That title tells you in no uncertain terms that you will laugh, but there's a lot more in these pages than humor, including Melissa's trademark generosity, optimism, winning self-deprecation, and high spirits. As a writer, a reader, and -- like Melissa -- the parent of an adopted child, I'm glad to know that this book will soon be out, and I hope it finds a very large audience." -- David Guterson, author of The Other and Snow Falling on Cedars
About the Author
Melissa Fay Greene is the author of Praying for Sheetrock, The Temple Bombing, Last Man Out, and There Is No Me Without You. Two of her books have been finalists for the National Book Award, and New York University's journalism department named Praying for Sheetrock one of the top one hundred works of journalism in the twentieth century. She has written for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Good Housekeeping, Newsweek, Life, Reader's Digest, Redbook, and Salon, among others. She and her husband, Don Samuel, have nine children and live in Atlanta.See all Product Description
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This collection is almost devoid of the set-up. Rather, the eight issue "Secret Invasion" miniseries it collects serves as the culmination of five years of planning and plotting. If you want answers to the whys and hows of the invasion, you'll need to pick up the tie-ins collected in New Avengers, Vol. 8: Secret Invasion, Book 1 (v. 8, Bk. 1), Secret Invasion, Book 2 (New Avengers, Vol. 9) (v. 9, Bk. 2), Mighty Avengers, Vol. 3: Secret Invasion, Book 1 (v. 3) and Mighty Avengers Vol. 4: Secret Invasion, Book 2 (v. 4, Bk. 2). What you'll find here is the fight that settles the matter with as much finality as battles can settle anything.
Your opinion of this volume will likely depend on your familiarity with recent Avengers history and what you're looking for. If you want to see the developments that led to the invasion, you'll need to pick up all volumes of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers, as well as the Avengers Disassembled, House of M (Marvel Comics), Secret War (New Avengers) (singular, not plural) and Civil War volumes. If you want to know how the invasion and infiltration was accomplished, you'll need the New and Mighty Avengers volumes I have already linked to. If you're looking for a great big fight, including a huge number of Marvel heroes and villains, then you're in the right place. Bendis' scripts are adeptly illustrated by Leinil Yu (pencils), Mark Morales (inks) and Laura Martin (colours), but that's as far as this goes. The fight is very well done, and there are a few surprises and thoroughly enjoyable moments scattered within, but without the buildup, it's a whole lot of meaningless combat. It never promised to be more, which is good, because that's not what it delivers.
The first problem is the pacing. The beginning of the book drags as far too much time is spent in the Savage Land. Then the back half of the book is rushed to the point where the final confrontation is just brief afterthought. It's almost as if the authors got through half the issues and then realized they were running out of pages with which to wrap up the story!
Indeed, it seems as if this final phase of the Secret Invasion is resolved over the course of 24 hours (Marvel U time), when readers have been following the build-up over the course of several years! How much richer could this book have been if the whole thing wasn't tidily resolved with 4 pages of illustrations featuring every character Yu could squeeze on a page simply shaking their fists and glaring at each other?
The second problem is the way the characters are used. There is virtually no invention or creativity in terms of the way the characters interact, either dramatically or when the fight scenes and battles take place. The witty banter is rehashed and too drawn-out, and worse, the fights are just "scenes" in which one or two panels of a lot of characters posing stands in for a sequential illustration of a true battle.
The book is full of nonsensical plot elements. For example, early in the story a spaceship full of Skrulls impersonating a gaggle of superheroes (some dead? some duplicates of the living? some older versions of the living/dead?) crashes to earth in the Savage Land, and our present-day heroes investigate. This episode dominated the first half of the book, but the reader is left mystified as to the point. It isn't even clear what the motivation of the Skrulls was in creating such a ship full of obvious impersonators.
Another mess is the confusing existence one group of Skrulls who are apparently brainwashed into thinking they actually ARE the people they are supposed to be impersonating, vs. the other group who are simply made to LOOK like the ones who they are impersonating. The two different groups apparently have completely different characteristics, abilities, and methods of concealment/detection. It is impossible for the reader to tell the difference, however, and the differences seem to be arbitrary and constantly shifting and contradictory in any case. Finally, the plot mechanics of how the heroes at last detect and reveal/defeat the Skrulls is lazy and unconvincing, to say the least.
Bendis' biggest problem throughout this story is that nothing much happens, and what does happen, happens at the wrong pace. The narrative thrust gets completely bogged down in a series of "witty" interactions that ultimately are meaningless, alternated with the usual (and utterly boring) bragging, boasting, and threatening that simply rehash classic super-hero/villain blab fests. It seems hard to believe that this is the writer who gave us the cleverly plotted and inventive House of M.
Possibly most offensive of all, is the terrible work of the artist, Leinil Francis Yu. He indeed has a unique style, with an interesting use of line, and, looked at individually, his drawings might be considered good. However, he lacks any ability to tell a sequential story from panel to panel. Page after page is filled with repetitive pose-downs between heroes, or between heroes and villains. The battle scenes are simply a series of posters, processions of static images. The battles are not illustrated sequentially and logically. One of the biggest missed opportunities in this work is that we don't get any sense of the various characters' powers and abilities interacting with each other. The characters just pose and flex and execute their most basic moves in jumbled panels of frozen action. Eventually, the book becomes a procession of halfway decent cover art.
I will say that the individual Secret Invasion tie-ins, the issues involving the Secret Invasion story in New/Mighty Avengers and Ms. Marvel series, for example, were very well done, and are consistent with the basic problem that I and other reviewers note: effective build-up, lousy payoff. In fact, the issues of the Avengers written to tie in are a series of stories looking back at the past few years of Marvel History with an eye to showing how cleverly the Skrull invasion was plotted and carried out. It is clear that Bendis was more excited about revealing to readers his labyrinthine build-up to this story in the Avengers books than he was in actually executing the denouement in this Secret Invasion limited series.
This following is for fans of old school Fantastic Four:
- Reed Richards: "You -- you killed my family. You're not here to save us. It's all lies. You're here to punish us."
- Skrull Queen: "Well, you should have thought about that before you found it funny to turn our brothers into cows."
You've got Jim Shooter to thank, yeah, for the Big Company Crossover Event-itis which has been plaguing both the DC and Marvel houses for years now. Shooter started it off with 1984's quite friggin' awesome SECRET WARS maxi-series. DC's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS promptly followed, and the glut was on. More than two decades later and me feeling a mite crossovered out, here cometh SECRET INVASION, which links the more recent Marvel's big events into one extended, semi-cohesive story arc. Years in the making is Secret Invasion, remarks bald-pated writer Brian Michael Bendis. It has ties with House of M and Civil War, and extends back to the very first issue of the New Avengers title and to who knows how much further back and how all-encompassing. Personally, I'm now thinking, Jack "King" Kirby... SKRULL!!
So after long teases and build-ups and massive promotion by the House of Ideas, we finally get to it: SECRET INVASION, eight issues written by the Bendis and drawn with awkward, jangling energy by Leinil Yu. And it's... okay. I thought Bendis did a terrific job setting things up in the first issue, rendering me all kinds of intrigued. Briefly (and I'm lying when I say "briefly"), in issue #1, a Skrull spaceship crashlands in the Savage Land, necessitating a look-see by both New and Mighty Avengers. By the way, I do like how the renegade New Avengers gain transport to the Savage Land, as it's so a poke in the eye at the Mighty Avengers. Anyhoo, Avengers, New and Mighty, bump into each other, get to squabbling but before that comes to a head, Tony Stark collapses and a horde of surprising someones pour out of the Skrull ship.
One wonders why it took this long for the Skrulls, given their shape-shifting nature, to hit on this particular ploy. But they finally have. And because of the Skrull's long-range, carefully contemplated behind-the-scenes tweaking of events and their thorough infiltration of the super-powered community, paranoia and dissent have greatly weakened Marvel's mightiest heroes. The Scarlet Witch has decimated mutantkind. The Hulk is out of commission. And so the Skrulls finally come out of hiding. Skrull sleeper agents, long in place, engage in simultaneous assaults on the Baxter Building, on key facilities run by Stark Enterprises, and even on Thunderbolt Mountain. Reed Richards and Tony Stark, deemed to be two of the biggest threats to Skrull Happyville, are dealt with. Second stage is global invasion, as armies of Super Skrull variants pop up all over the world, although the comic book tends to focus on Skrully doings in New York. With the main Avengers stuck in the Savage Land, the Young Avengers and the Initiative scramble to take on the New York invaders. They don't do so well, and are lucky to get their behinds saved by...
Okay, if it seems dire for the good guys, that sounds about right. Bendis is perfectly fine in how he sets up the conflict, and you can feel the peril and can cut the tension with a knife. Predictably, the Sentry - possibly the most powerful being on Earth but, to me, a useless tool - is easily disposed of. Skrull Queen Veranke, in her guise as Spider-Woman, mindf*@%s Tony Stark so convincingly that it had me wondering, is he Skrully? Ronin is reunited with a loved one (but is she Skrully?), and retro-costumes make a comeback.
I do like that the Skrulls also wage a media assault on the Earthlings, in which they justify their actions. Their shapeshifting ability rendering them experts in espionage and subterfuge, it makes sense that they would also resort to more cerebral gambits, and not just restrict themselves to blatant displays of force. Their TV air time (probably sponsored by RC Cola, if you're up on your "Super Skrull" song) assures us that they have come to save us from ourselves. And it's realistic to me that there are actually folks who buy into that, as Bendis demonstrates in issue #6. Having said that, other than many uttered "He loves you"s, there's barely a mention here of the prophetic Skrully Scriptures, which have long guided the Many-Clefted-Chinned-Ones in their staging of the invasion. You pretty much have to check out the past year's issues of NEW AVENGERS to get the lowdown on Skrull religion. By the way, I did get a chuckle when Reed is being taken out and the Skrull sleeper agent tells him: "He even loves you."
There's a lot of stuff going on here, a host of sub-plots. And I guess that's one downside to large company crossover shindigs, that these little sub-plots get kinda glossed over. The Bendis just has too many spots to cover, and in only eight issues, most of which apparently has to be devoted to punchfests (issue #7 alone is essentially one extended "You hit me, I hit you"). Or so it seems. The impression left is that it all feels too busy, too rushed; Bendis doesn't slow down enough or allow enough reflective moments to give the reader time to let all this sink in, before the brouhaha picks up again. Nick Fury (and his huge honking gun) and his spanking new Howling Commandos pop in and out to save New York, but since I don't get a peek at the times in between the fighty fights, I'm not as invested in them. For someone whose long-awaited return I've been anticipating, my reaction to Nick Fury was surprisingly "meh." As well, I would've liked to have seen more of the Hood and his criminal posse and how they fared. Thor shows up for a mo, with his hammer and his thees and thous, and I dig that he disses Tony. Alas, Bucky Barnes, one of my new favorites, gets even less screen time. And did I see Daredevil in the background? I guess, if you want the full Secret Invasion flavor, you have to pick up the various tie-ins and associated mini-series. Corporate Marvel is really intent on maximizing their profits here.
The stakes are huge, and there's even an Uatu joke to that effect. The scale is epic, and I guess that's my beef with tapping Leinil Yu as SI's penciller. I liked him on the NEW AVENGERS title, as he added an interesting quirky twist to the storytelling. But, on a massive, widescreen venue like SI, Yu to me just doesn't have that polished style and appropriate sense of grandeur. I don't dig how he draws the Skrulls when in their mid-change, either. And there are times when Yu's storytelling gets a bit murky, to the point that I found myself having to go back to see what exactly he was trying to convey. Bryan Hitch, Salvador Larroca, Stuart Immonen, I can't help but feel that any one of these cats would've rocked this series.
I'm not sure that this next thing is even a complaint, as much as it is a resigned observation. The Skrulls have accessed techonology which now renders them undetectable to Earth's warning systems, magical, mutant, or technological (just how is chronicled in NEW AVENGERS #44). Yet Reed is able to pretty briskly whip up a countermeasure device, and, just like that... detectable. Seeing as Reed himself was sorta instrumental in the Skrull's newfound undetectability, I guess this is apropos. Still, it smacks of too convenient a deux ex machina.
By the end, there's a shuffling of the status quo (And if you're not a fan of Tony Starks, then you'll relish this series, as start to finish dude gets kicked around). New comic book titles will spring from SECRET INVASION, formerly dead characters will resurface, etc. But the rawest punch in the gut is the death of a major classic superhero. I don't mind it when a character dies, by the way, so that an "event" can be even more relevant. But please do it right. CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS did it right and with verisimilitude with the deaths of Supergirl and Barry Allen. In SI, I don't feel that the character's death is given the weight and moment it deserves. Bendis carries this out almost in a nonchalant manner. And, for some reason, one panel bugged me to bits. So this character croaks, and an ensuing caption reads that, because of this death, "whoever survived... whoever was left... would be insanely ticked off." Norman Osborn, the Hood, and Bullseye are in this panel, with many of Marvel's superdupers, but why would these three particularly give a hoot regarding this hero's passing? Yeah, I know, this is nitpicky stuff. But I don't buy it (And Daredevil in this panel looks really, really anguished). Anyway, I still think that Steve Rogers is coming back. Same with this character.
As someone who doesn't bleed money, I'm having to ease off on purchasing comic books. Not that big of a deal since, for a while now, both Marvel and DC haven't been impressing me with these company events. SECRET INVASION ends as an ominous set-up for the next big Marvel extravaganza, called Dark Reign, and I'd be more into this if Lex Luthor hadn't already walked this road. As it is, as I've said, I'm scaling back.
But, despite the artwork and Bendis's underwhelming execution, SECRET INVASION does have its moments. Bendis still has his knack for dialogue, so there's some snappy banter going on here. Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Luke Cage, and Clint Barton get a lot of screen time, with Spidey here and there doing his wiseacre schtick. Clint, especially, gets a chance to cut loose. There's one awesome sequence in which he takes up the bow and arrows from the fallen Young Avengers' Hawkeye and rapidly takes out a gaggle of Skrulls. There's a nice reconciliation scene between Luke and Jessica (in the middle of a massive Skrull throwdown, natch). And the return of one favorite female crimefighter has got me pumped, as this hints of an addition to the New Avengers' roster. But, mostly, I'm just relieved that my main man Spidey isn't a Skrull... or is he?
There were so many wasted moments with potential for something grand ,but NOPE.
it will forever be a "what if" in your mind. Heroes are all confused and they just say "cool things" in the middle of battle. the editing is so bad it seems everyone is making a cameo over and over.
and the Skrulls planned this for decades and they failed miserably. hybrid Skrulls are cool and all but when you see a Galactus Skrull its like WTF.
even the art seemed rushed.
overall, after this and Civil War, being so close to greatness, and yet to see them fall on their faces, it has made me drop some Marvel titles.