Secret Invasion reading order: How to read the crossover comic ahead of the new MCU show

Secret Invasion
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Marvel's Secret Invasion will jump from comics to the small screen when the long-awaited streaming series debuts on Disney Plus in 2023. Captain Marvel (2019) laid the groundwork for the infamous event to take over the MCU, though there's no better place to learn more about Secret Invasion than the comics that started it all.

From 2008-2009, Secret Invasion challenged the entire Marvel Universe with a simple, but loaded question: "Who do you trust?"

The premise is that Skrulls - the alien shapeshifters Captain Marvel helped find a new home in the MCU - have been slowly invading Earth for years. They've secretly replaced multiple superheroes in addition to government officials and even regular citizens, and now they're committing to an overt invasion. 

When it's impossible to tell whether a Skrull is wearing the face of a friend or not, it's just as impossible to fight the threat they pose - but the heroes of the Marvel Universe have no choice unless they want to give up Earth to the Skrulls.

Ahead of Secret Invasion's Disney Plus debut in 2023, here's how to read the crossover comics event in order.

Secret Invasion explained

image from Secret Invasion

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Following the Kree-Skrull war, Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Namor, Black Bolt, Professor X, and Doctor Strange form the Illuminati and attack the Skrull Empire. Their goal is to warn the Skrulls against invading Earth, but they're captured and studied before escaping.

Meanwhile, Skrull princess Veranke claims a prophecy has foretold the destruction of the Skrull homeworld, and she's exiled to a prison world by Skrull emperor Dorrek for inciting religious extremism and causing panic. When Galactus does destroy the Skrull homeworld, Veranke becomes empress and guides the Skrull's invasion of Earth, hoping they can turn it into a new base for their species. They capture multiple superheroes, shapeshift into them (Veranke poses as Spider-Woman), and break through Earth's defenses.

Tony Stark is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. at this point, and when it's discovered that the newly-dead Elektra was actually a Skrull, he and the other heroes of Earth are faced with a massive problem. There are no tools or superpowers that can tell Skrulls apart from the people they're impersonating, and more Skrull ships are entering the atmosphere at an alarming rate.

Eventually, Mister Fantastic develops a device that can detect Skrulls, but not before multiple battles in Manhattan and the Savage Land sow mass chaos all over Earth. Heroes and villains team up to wipe out the Skrulls and stop their invasion, aided by this new device. 

What to read before Secret Invasion

The eight-issue Secret Invasion limited series written by Brian Michael Bendis, penciled by Leinil Francis Yu, inked by Mark Morales, colored by Laura Martin, and lettered by Chris Eliopoulos debuted in June 2008 and concluded in January 2009. The bulk of the Secret Invasion story can be understood just by reading this self-titled limited series, but nuance gets lost and the full scope of the event is hard to understand.

Annihilation Omnibus (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Technically, Secret Invasion begins with the 2006 Annihilation event, which officially kicks off with the 48-page Annihilation: Prologue one-shot written by Keith Giffen and drawn by Scott Kolins. However, Thanos #7-12 (2004) and Drax the Destroyer: Earthfall #1-4 (2005) are preludes to Annihilation, meaning readers need to go back even further for complete context. We recommend reading Thanos and Drax first, then Annihilation: Prologue.

Annihilation: Prologue is followed by four concurrent limited series: Silver Surfer written by Giffen and drawn by Renato Arlem, Super-Skrull written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and drawn by Gregory Titus, Nova written by Dan Abnett and drawn by Kev Walker, and Ronan the Accuser written by Simon Furman and drawn by Jorge Lucas.

These lead into the actual Annihilation limited series, which debuted in August 2006 and was written by Giffen with art by Andrea Di Vito. The two-issue Annihilation: Heralds of Galactus follows, as well as Annihilation: The Nova Corps Files. All of these are collected in the Annihilation Omnibus hardcover.

Why start with the Annihilation event? Well, Annihilation chronicles Galactus's destruction of the Skrull homeworld, which is what prompts Veranke to lead her people to invade Earth during Secret Invasion. Therefore, Annihilation provides context for everything that occurs in Secret Invasion and provides a solid entry point for new readers.

Secret Invasion: The Infiltration (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

After Annihilation, we recommend reading 2007's Secret Invasion: The Infiltration. The collected edition linked here includes Fantastic Four #2 (1962), New Avengers: Illuminati #1 and #5, New Avengers #31-32 and #38-39, Mighty Avengers #7, and Avengers: The Initiative Annual #1.

From there, it's time to jump into the meat of the actual Secret Invasion event. You'll have all the historical context you need to truly understand the Skrulls, their motivation for invading Earth, and why their attempts to find a new homeworld - making them refugees or invaders, depending on who you ask - are so dangerous to the heroes of the Marvel Universe.

How to read Secret Invasion in order

A logo for Secret Invasion

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

As mentioned above, it's possible to just read the Secret Invasion limited series and have enough information to work with going into the Disney Plus Secret Invasion streaming show. However, the full breadth of Secret Invasion will be difficult to grasp if you go this route.

Like all crossover comics events, Secret Invasion straddles a number of tie-in titles and ongoing titles, as well as one-shots and limited series. Reading every possible tie-in would take ages, and likely won't be necessary for the casual comics reader. That said, those interested in the nitty-gritty details should check out Marvel's suggested reading order, which features nearly 100 single issues.

To wit, Newsarama largely agrees with Marvel's reading order for Secret Invasion, though we encourage you to read the events above (Annihilation and Secret Invasion: The Infiltration), then dive into Secret Invasion proper. We also think it's possible to pare down this massive list to a few key series.

In addition to reading the Secret Invasion limited series, readers who want to know what's coming in the Disney Plus streaming show should pick up New Avengers #38-47 written by Bendis; The Mighty Avengers #12-20 written by Bendis; New Avengers: Illuminati written by Bendis and Brian Reed; Avengers: The Initiative #14-19 written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage; and Secret Invasion: Front Line written by Reed. These can be read concurrently or in the order listed here, with Secret Invasion falling between Avengers: The Initiative and Front Line.

To wrap things up, we recommend reading Secret Invasion: Dark Reign #1 written by Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev. This introduces the next major Marvel event, Dark Reign, in which Norman Osborn leads S.H.I.E.L.D. replacement H.A.M.M.E.R. and recruits Doctor Doom, Namor, Loki, Emma Frost, and the Hood to join him in his newly-acquired power over the Marvel Universe.

Since Norman joined the MCU in Spider-Man: No Way Home, it seems possible that the upcoming Disney Plus Secret Invasion series will open the door for a Dark Reign storyline. Either way, the Dark Reign one-shot is a great way to end your Secret Invasion reading spree. 

Secret Invasion is one of the most impactful Marvel Comics events of all time.

Samantha Puc
Editor, Newsarama

Samantha Puc (she/they) is an editor at Newsarama and an avid comics fan. Their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., The Beat, The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School.