It’s been a long week for anyone waiting to see the results of Osborn’s meeting at the end of Dark Reign, but X-Men fans especially have been tearing their hair out hoping for a decent resolution to the White Queen’s inclusion in the closing scene. Thankfully, Bendis has addressed this to a fair degree – even Emma isn’t entirely sure why she’s there. As an issue, it’s far more entertaining than any of Secret Invasion was, and it’s no surprise when it plays so heavily to Bendis’ noir-ish, character-heavy strengths.
The status quo proposed by Norman Osborn is both believable and in-character. Now that DC has torn down Lex Luthor, Marvel seem to be placing Osborn as their own version, moving him well beyond being a simple Spider-Man villain and making him into an antagonist for the entire Marvel Universe. Namor’s position on both the “good” and “evil” Illuminati is a perfect fit, as is Doom’s willingness to work behind-the-scenes with a fellow monarch he respects.
Maleev’s artwork is often excellent, but the polymorphism displayed in the past undoubtedly works against him here. Namor, in particular, gets a real visual butchering. There’s usually plenty to like about Maleev, but this is some of his weakest work for a long time. The tone is largely successful, and no-one illustrates Bendis’ conversations quite as well as Maleev, but while the broad strikes succeed, it’s the small details that fail the issue.
The final scenes in this issue illustrate well where the drama from “Dark Reign” will come from – Osborn can barely hold himself together, so watching him attempt to control a huge organisation will offer considerable opportunities for the kind of public mistake that he’s inevitably going to make. Unlike the endings of House of M and Civil War, the climax to Secret Invasion does, at the very least, seem to be a good springboard for entertaining stories.