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What Marvel’s Secret Invasion Owes to the British Spy Classics


Secret Invasion is a gritty espionage thriller series from Marvel that owes plenty to the British spy classics of the past.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in Secret Invasion
Photo: Marvel

This article contains spoilers

Secret Invasion is not the first time the MCU has dipped its toe into the spy genre; Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been a fan favorite among MCU films since it was released in 2014. But Secret Invasion, a show following not superheroes (Rhodey aside), but human spies and aliens posing as humans, embraces the spy genre more than anything we’ve seen yet. With Russia back in the bad guy role, the show draws on the best spy dramas of the Cold War, and with London featuring quite heavily in its story and the British Prime Minister having a major role, a lot of those dramas are British spy classics.

The best known British spy dramas are, of course, the James Bond novels and the films inspired by them. Author Ian Fleming had worked for the British Naval Intelligence Division in World War Two, so he had genuine spy experience and some of that is reflected in Bond, especially in the early stories.

However, the tone of the James Bond novels and especially of the films based on them leans more towards an adventure story. James Bond’s megalomaniacal scientists and objectified female characters have more in common with your more typical superhero movie than with Secret Invasion. The novels did have some grittier spy elements, and the Daniel Craig films, inspired by the success of The Bourne Identity and its sequels, re-introduced harder spy elements like more realistic torture scenes involving just a chair and a bag of bricks, rather than tanks of piranhas or sharks. But Bond is still overwhelmingly associated with glamour and with gadgets, both of which are distinctly lacking from Secret Invasion so far. Even Maria Hill traded in her Bond-style black catsuit for a much more normal-looking black T-shirt under a hoody for this series.

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