30 Day Comic Book Challenge Day 17 – Useless Villians
It’s day 17 of the 30-day comic book challenge! Every day I cover a different comic book question, along with the other members of the IGN Assemble Facebook group.
Day 17 – Most Useless Villain
I found this a peculiar section of the challenge. I wholeheartedly subscribe to the belief that there are no bad characters, anyone can become brilliant under talented penmanship. Therefore I really struggled to find a villain I’d class as ‘useless.’
But then it occurred to me there was one storyline where the blatant incompetence of the villains really affected my enjoyment of it: the Skrulls in Secret Invasion.
I’ve mentioned a few times how throughout my teenage years, all the way up to 19 in fact, I was a massive, massive Marvel fan. Secret Invasion hit right where my enthusiasm was at its peak. The Avengers franchise, under Brian Michael Bendis, was far and away my favourite line of Marvel books. So an event with them in the middle and building off of plotlines from both Avengers books? I could not have been more excited.
Spoilers for Secret Invasion follow!
Secret Invasion was an okay event. It wasn’t great but it did start out strong and the backstory provided in both Avengers titles was actually very interesting. I want to start by saying I’m not criticising Bendis’ writing. I think he’s very talented and I’m a fan of the vast majority of his work, a lot of the reasons I’ve picked the Skrulls for this are nerdy tongue-in-cheek reasons, where the majority of them where completely unfeesable in a publishing environment like Marvel’s. With that out of the way, here’s why the Skrulls were so useless during the invasion:
My main gripe is that Skrulls, after orchestrating a carefully planned invasion for years, are defeated in 24 hours. How can an entire alien empire that’s so advanced be that incompetent?
I understand there’s a lot of logistics involved that dictated rules that the Skrulls couldn’t break. For instance, when it was revealed some of the characters in the Marvel universe had been replaced with Skrulls that was a pretty exciting idea. But obviously anybody with their own Marvel series couldn’t be a Skrull, it’d butcher months, or even years, of storytelling. By extension anyone who was playing an important role as a side character in that series was also off-limits. Leaving only a very limited amount of characters worth a damn that the Skrulls could kidnap.
This meant the Skrulls looked even more like idiots. If they had the ability to carefully switch out familiar characters with nobody realising- until they wanted them to anyway- then why not take more? Why not slowly take out key members of Earth’s defence until barely anyone remains? Why not replace every world leader? These are very simple ideas you’d have thought would occur to them.
In the end the Skrulls come together for a final brawl in New York against Earth’s defenders. Now, the Skrulls have been defeated pretty much every single time they’ve fought the Avengers directly, so why do this? Why not just bombard the place from orbit? Why try to lure the Avengers away in the first place? Why not abduct or just incinerate them before they know what’s going on?
Now of course, as I’ve mentioned, there’s logistical reasons why a lot of this stuff can’t happen. It wouldn’t be a very entertaining event if the entire Avengers cast were melted to steamy goo in the opening pages. But surely something could have been done to make the whole ordeal look much more desperate and challenging. I was expecting the entire event to last a couple of weeks or even months. Having them defeated in a day just makes the whole event seem like a tiny blip in the history of the Avengers rather than a noteworthy threat.
I think Secret Invasion was strong idea, kudos to Marvel for making it come together, but it was limited by too many factors leaving the Skrulls looking like they were good at planning but horrendous at anything else. I think it would have worked a lot better as a graphic novel set out of continuity. Then the Skrulls could just take their time and surgically take over the Earth before anyone realised… although again that probably wouldn’t have been very entertaining to read. I suppose it was a difficult story to write in general. How do you write about a plan years in the making by a huge alien empire, but make sure they still lose without making them look incompetent? I don’t know how to pull it off, but it didn’t happen in Secret Invasion.
Anywho, I’ve ranted on long enough. But in short: due to the many odd decisions they made, the Skrulls during Secret Invasion are my choice for most useless villain.