By Ben Morse
As a writer on the hit NBC television series "Heroes," Joe Pokaski has gotten to know about the best humanity has to offer, but this summer he gets up close and personal with an even stranger group as the writer of SECRET INVASION: INHUMANS.
A four-issue limited series beginning in August, SECRET INVASION: INHUMANS teams comics newcomer Pokaski with veteran artist Tom Raney (ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST) for a tale that cuts to the heart of Marvel's most powerful outcasts as they attempt to cope with the Skrulls' abduction of their leader, Black Bolt.
Marvel.com spoke with Pokaski about how he got tapped for the project, his take on the characters and how the events of SECRET INVASION will forever alter the Inhumans and their already tenuous relationship with the rest of the Marvel Universe.
Marvel.com: How did you get approached to write SECRET INVASION: INHUMANS and why did you say yes?
As with most great stories, it all starts with ["Heroes" writer/Executive Producer and Marvel writer] Jeph Loeb. As Jeph tells it, he was at the winter creative meetings at Avengers Tower and the Marvel Illuminati was laying out the next year. Brian Bendis' SECRET INVASION was obviously the big deal, and given that Black Bolt was revealed to be a Skrull, they were interested in telling a [limited series] about the Inhumans during the [event]. And looking for some fool to write it. Mr. Loeb, hearing the word "fool," thought of me. Knowing that I was a huge fan of the Inhumans, he put my name forward and nobody knew enough about me to take offense.
So I talked with [Marvel Executive Editor] Tom Brevoort for a bit and we were on the same page as to [the] tremendous potential of such a story. It really felt like a story that needed to be told, that was important to the Inhumans as characters. Black Bolt was a Skrull and that would shake up the kingdom and the family. I love writing family stories—so the potential was there to tell a great one. So Tom passed me along to [editor] Bill Rosemann, who's been a lot of fun to collaborate with.
Writing for Marvel [is] a dream come true and so far it's been such a fun ride with very cool people and an opportunity to play with some classic characters.
Marvel.com: How does this story spin out of recent events with the Inhumans?
revealed as a
This story takes place a little while after [writer] David Hine's SILENT WAR ends. The dust has settled a bit from the destruction of Attilan. Maximus is still king. Reconstruction is almost complete and the kingdom is finally getting back to normal. Until the Inhumans are let [in on] the secret that the Illuminati—and the rest of us—already know….
Marvel.com: so the Inhumans learn about Black Bolt being replaced by a Skrull imposter during the series?
I wanted this story to begin with their finding this out. So one of the first scenes in the first book is of Tony Stark showing Crystal and Medusa the Black Bolt Skrull. Needless to say, Medusa doesn't take it well.
Marvel.com: What other breadcrumbs can you give us on the plot of the book?
Well, now you know how it starts. And the "Black Bolt is a Skrull" [revelation] will have serious political and personal ramifications on Attilan.
Maximus will certainly take advantage of it. And [it] will stir up some mistrust in the Inhuman population—even within the royal family. And by the end of
the first book, there are two pretty big events that propel the rest of the story.
And then stuff happens—in no particular order: A family torn apart. A battle to begin all battles. An unexpected reunion. A deal with the devil. A suicidal plan. The theft of a space ship. More battles. A heart-wrenching tragedy. Maybe a marriage proposal. And, oh yeah…a battle to end all battles.
Marvel.com: How closely will this series tie into the main SECRET INVASION book?
Pretty darn close. Hopefully, if we pull it off, SECRET INVASION: INHUMANS will do what [limited series] that I admire do: tie into the mothership book in a way that stays true to its spirit and expands the epic adventure of it all, but also [has] enough of a story engine and unique tone to live on its own as well.
Brian Bendis was kind enough to let me read the first few scripts of SECRET INVASION and was ridiculously cool about letting me tell the story I wanted to tell on the Inhumans' side. But the two stories eventually dovetail in a really really cool way. That's probably all I can say.
Marvel.com: How does the Inhumans' position and situation during "Secret Invasion" differ from normal humans?
The most interesting distinction, I suppose, comes from the history of the Inhumans. They were created by the Kree, millions of years ago, for one purpose: to infiltrate and destroy planets of the Skrull Empire. But the Inhuman/Skrull fight never happened. Better late than never, I suppose.
Marvel.com: How do they react differently?
Well, I think the Black Bolt infiltration is more a personal affront. So we start from there, giving Medusa an extremely personal agenda to the point of myopia: To find out what happened to Black Bolt. To avenge whatever happened to him. It's not so much about the invasion of the planet as it is about a family whose father figure has been stripped from them. How do they react? How do they seek answers? Not to mention vengeance.
Marvel.com: Which Inhumans will take center stage in this story?
I wanted to refocus on the royal family. Despite the fact that they don't look at all alike, the Inhuman royal family is arguably the most loyal family in the Marvel Universe. And from there came the fundamental question that guided me in laying out the series: If Black Bolt, the pillar of the family is pulled out, does the otherwise loyal family fall apart? Who becomes the leader? And as a family unit, can they get it together when they are needed to work together the most?
Medusa is obviously the one hit hardest. And Black Bolt's absence kind of puts her in charge. Also, I really wanted to explore her relationship with Crystal. It felt like there
Triton, Karnak &
was such an older sister/younger sister dynamic to explore. And on the guys side, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the characters of Karnak, Gorgon, and Triton. Each are dealing with Black Bolt's absence differently. And of course, there's a whole lotta Lockjaw— because what is cooler than Lockjaw, really?
Marvel.com: How will this story plant the seeds for what comes next with the Inhumans?
I'm not sure how much I can give away, but it is not hyperbole to say this story should be seen as the beginning of a radical shift for the Inhumans, helping usher in the next era of the Inhumans saga.
You know, if I don't screw it up.
Marvel.com: What do you think of your artistic collaborator, Tom Raney?
I couldn't be more excited to work with him. I was a huge fan of his work—although I had no idea who he was. Being relatively new to comics—I lacked the ability to look at a book and say, "that's a Yu, a Grummet, a McGuinness or an Adams." But I know what I like, and there are certain images so striking, effective or beautiful that they stay with you long after you read a book. So when Bill Rosemann brought up Tom Raney's name, I immediately looked up some of his stuff and smiled broadly. Not only did I remember loving his art when I saw it, but he seemed perfect, tonally, for this book.
In fact, while cyberstalking some of Tom's art, I came across an Inhumans/Alpha Flight crossover that I remembered seeing a few years back. And I remembered simply loving the way he drew the Inhumans. It was very reminiscent of the original [Jack] Kirby take on them. So it felt like some awesome kind of fate that Tom landed on this book. I feel very lucky to have my first Marvel book in his hands and have no doubt he will knock this out of the park.
Who do you trust? Learn more about Secret Invasion now at Marvel.com/SecretInvasion! Also, read the SECRET INVASION PROLOGUE in Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited and watch the Secret Invasion animated short!