Mini Marvels: Secret Invasion
Collects: Various Mini Marvels strips (2001-9)
Released: February 2009 (Marvel)
Format: 96 pages / color digest / $9.99 / ISBN: 9780785137177
What is this?: More fun with little Spidey and the rest of the Mini Marvels as they take on Civil War, World War Hulk, and other stories.
The culprits: Chris Giarusso with a few other contributing writers
I really enjoyed the first Mini Marvels volume, so when I heard about Mini Marvels: Secret Invasion, I was really excited. As it turns out, my excitement was well placed. Chris Giarrusso, who drew all the stories and wrote most of them as well, has an outstanding touch with the Mini Marvel characters, who are pint-sized versions of Marvel heroes.
Giarrusso is at his best when his Mini Marvels are reliving Marvel history. The first story, “Conspicuous Invasion,” retells Fantastic Four #2 and #18, the team’s first contact with the Skrulls and the debut of the Super Skrull. It’s amazing how much humor Giarrusso manages to squeeze from a relatively straight retelling of Marvel’s stories, with only a few detours for extra jokes. In another writer’s hands, this could come across as mocking Stan Lee’s early whip-quick plotting, but here Lee’s original becomes part of the warped logic of the Mini Marvel world. His stories lampooning the return of Thor and World War Hulk are similarly funny, although they go off the plot more for their laughs.
Perhaps the best story in the bunch, however, is “Hawkeye and the Beanstalk,” which crosses the first Galactus story in Fantastic Four #48-50 with “Jack in the Beanstalk,” as Hawkeye tries to get superpowers. Giarrusso has the enthusiastic but not terribly bright Hawkeye blunder through the story, managing to outwit Galactus and the overbearing Iron Man to save the Earth and get cosmic power. (Interestingly, Giarrusso’s Silver Surfer looks a lot like Jeff Smith’s Bone, without the large nose.)
In this volume, other writers get a shot at the Mini Marvels, with Giarrusso providing the distinctive and deceptively simple art. Marc Sumerak writes a Civil War parody, featuring Spidey babysitting Power Pack; Sean McKeever brings in Firestar and Iceman in “Spidey and His Amazing Co-Workers”; Paul Tobin contributes a pair of Hulk / Power Pack stories, introducing the TV show “Dr. Hawkeye, MD” to the Mini Marvels world; and Audrey Loeb has a series of Green / Red / Blue Hulk one pagers. Most of these are a little short of Giarrusso’s work but still funny. Sumerak’s Civil War story, the longest of the non-Giarrusso tales, lags when Spidey is actually babysitting but picks up when it touches on Civil War itself.
It’s the details in Giarrusso’s art that drive the humor home. For instance, in one scene, Hawkeye talks to Quicksilver while Quicksilver does dishes; the background goes from a sink full of dirty dishes to a drainer full of clean dishes to an empty drainer, as Quicksilver completes the task between panels without either character calling attention to the fact. In one of the Hulk stories, the multicolored Hulks play on a stack of luggage; when the luggage is scattered and the suitcases fly open, all you see are torn Hulk pants. Or Ms. Lion the dog from the “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” TV show being a level boss in a video game Spidey plays instead of working his paper route with Firestar and Iceman.
This isn’t quite as good as the first Mini Marvels volume, and I still think $9.99, the new price for Marvel digests, is a little high for this slim volume. The book does reprint a few of Giarrusso’s older strips, which is a nice bonus, but it doesn’t make up for the price.
Mini Marvels: Secret Invasion is worth buying — and it’s still worth buying even though Amazon.com doesn’t seem to have it — and I’m looking forward to Giarrusso’s Image digest, G-Man, v. 1: Learning to Fly, as well as his future Mini Marvels work.
Rating: (4 of 5)