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Marvel’s Secret Invasion Was Even Earlier In [SPOILER]’s Universe

Secret Invasion is a popular Marvel Comics storyline. But did you know a very similar plot happened over a decade earlier in a different comic book?

Thanks to the end-credits scene in Spider-Man: Far From Home, audiences are eagerly awaiting the possibility for the Marvel Comics storyline “Secret Invasion to be adapted for the MCU. The story, about a long-term alien invasion of Earth by Marvel’s shape-shifting aliens the Skrulls, is well-known among fans and has already been told in different types of media, notably in the animated Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

What is not so commonly known, however, is that a storyline very similar to “Secret Invasion” occurred over a decade earlier in Kurt Busiek’s creator-owned independent comic book Astro City. Although Busiek, who has also written comic books for Marvel, took a different storytelling approach to his alien invasion narrative, the similarities between the two storylines are notable, especially when compared next to each other.

Related: Batman Is An Actual VAMPIRE In The Astro City

Marvel Comics’ “Secret Invasion” ran in 2008 and concerned an attack on the superhuman community after the Illuminati, a secret cabal of Earth superheroes, attacks the Skrull Empire and warns them against any more attacks on Earth. The Skrulls manage to study the heroes, however, and later plot a more subversive invasion of Earth. After capturing and studying even more superhumans, the Skrulls begin replacing notable heroes and vigilantes, including Spider-Woman, Hank Pym, and Elektra.

Sowing distrust among the superhuman community, the Skrulls also launched attacks on superhero headquarters including the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building, and instigate a breakout at the supervillain prison the Raft. While Earth’s heroes manage to ward off the Skrulls, the distrust they created allows villains like Norman Osborn to be placed in charge of powerful organizations like SHIELD, starting the “Dark Reign” storyline.

While Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” was told through an eight-issue limited series and multiple tie-in books, Busiek’s earlier Astro City version was much more streamlined and concise. In truth, the alien invasion largely occurred in the background, as Astro City stories tend to focus more on the personal dramas of individual characters rather than large-scale “event” storylines.

The main story was preceded by a single-issue story “Reconnaissance” in Astro City Vol #5 where a seemingly harmless old man named Mr. Bridwell observes a street-level hero known as Crackerjack. Bridwell turns out to be an advance scout for the shapeshifting race of aliens called the Enelsian. Charged with determining if Earth is a suitable planet for invasion, Bridwell almost develops sympathy for humans, but later grows so disgusted by them he beams a signal to his people to start an invasion.

The invasion began subtly in the storyline “Confession” which ran for six issues from 1996 to 2000 (due to production delays). The main plot concerned a young man named Brian Kinney who moved to Astro City, a place famous for a large superhero community (much like Marvel Comics’ New York). Brian plans to become a hero himself by apprenticing himself to an established superhero, and ends up becoming the sidekick “Altar Boy” to a Batman-like vigilante known as the “Confessor.”

However, Brian soon learns that superheroes are not always trusted or held in high esteem by the general public. In one of his early patrols, he learns that Crackerjack has been accused of committing several crimes and discovers he’s being impersonated by an Enelsian (possibly the same Mr. Bridwell who observed Crackerjack earlier). The Enelsian escapes, but Brian later learns that other heroes in the superhuman community are also being looked at with similar mistrust.

Since the story is told through Brian’s eyes, he doesn’t know everything that’s going on – but it soon becomes apparent that the Enelsian are not only impersonating and replacing superheroes but are also replacing key politicians who then call for the superheroes’ arrest. Worse, they use unrelated events (such as a mystical serial killer) to sow additional discord and distrust among the population. Eventually, Brian finds himself “outlawed” (hinting at a similar plotline in Marvel’s first “Civil War”) and must make the difficult decision to continue as Altar Boy in this unfriendly climate or quit his superhero career.

Of course, the heroes eventually rally together and take down the Enelsian (although, again, Brian only hears about this through second-hand news sources). Brian’s own story ends quasi-tragically with his mentor the Confessor sacrificing himself to expose the Enelsian plot, only to be blamed for crimes he did not commit.

In all fairness, alien invasion stories involving shapeshifting aliens and human replacements have been happening long before “Secret Invasion” or “Confession” (notably in classic science fiction movies like Invasion of the Pod People). Moreover, Busiek is a master at identifying and putting his own spin on common superhero and science fiction tropes, meaning it was only a matter of time before his Astro City plotlines preceded those from other companies.

Nevertheless, it is remarkable that Busiek's earlier version of “Secret Invasion” contains so many similarities to the larger Marvel event. If anything, the comparison shows you don’t need to have multiple tie-in books to tell a riveting story as much as you need a masterful understanding of timeless storytelling.

Next: Marvel’s Justice League Started The First Comic Civil War

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