What Wonders Doth the Imagination Hold?

September 14, 2004

Avengers: The Kree-Skrull War TPB

Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: Sal and John Buscema, Neal Adams

By Avi Green

In the early 1970’s, it was decided that two of Marvel’s most notable alien adversary races, the Kree and the Skrulls, had come to the time when they should go war against each other. Stan Lee, who’d created both of these alien forces, was becoming busier and busier with being an editor at Marvel Comics at the time, and so, the daunting task of plotting a story revolving around their plans to declare war on each other, with earth’s fate in the balance, was taken up by then writer/editor Roy Thomas, who’d been working with them since the mid-60’s. And the result? A very fine and memorable suspense tale, detailing the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ fight to prevent a high-scale disaster from taking place, both on earth and between even the Kree and the Skrulls themselves. And who should be the main ones to triumph over evil here but honorary member Rick Jones, and former Kree army captain Mar-Vell, for whom Rick had served as an earth based “host” for a few years then, in a nod by writer Thomas to DC’s own Captain Marvel, Billy Batson.

The story starts out with how Mar-Vell, who’d hoped to see his home planet again after being exiled, and having been stuck in the Negative Zone for a time, which is why, until then, he’d arranged for Rick to “host” him in the regular universe, he’d now gotten him to help bring him back to the regular universe via some transportation equipment in the Fantastic Four’s headquarters. The FF themselves are out of town, and the Avengers, which include Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, Vision and Hawkeye, then working as Goliath courtesy of a growth serum devised by Hank Pym, alias Ant-Man and Giant-Man, arrive to investigate, which is actually a good thing, since Annihulus, a villain from the Negative Zone, tries to hitch a free ride into the regular universe on Rick’s tail. Vision manages to push him back in, but the group are then forced to pursue Captain Marvel to Florida, since he’s infected with radiation, and requires surgery. But a Sentry robot of the Kree, sent by the wicked warlord Ronan the Accuser, arrives later on the kidnap Mar-Vell, since he wants to let the defected captain see the sinister plot he’s got in store for earth’s population in effect at the base he’s erected in the North Pole, which is to cause man to digress to beast, and the polar ice has changed to tropical heat. Three government workers who were running a science research station up in the North Pole are turned into cavemen as a result of this, and so too is Hank Pym, at the time having taken up the guise of Yellowjacket, whose come to investigate along with his then wife, Janet Van Dyne, alias the Wasp. And when Clint Barton comes to investigate, the Kree Sentry drone knocks him unconscious and then Ronan has him brainwashed into helping them battle the other arriving Avengers.

It’s a very exciting battle and suspense story to start off the book, and serve as a prelude to the coming events surrounding the war planned between the Kree and the Skrulls. Ronan is one very enjoyably flamboyant villain here, as he watches and comments in amusement all the going-ons taking place within the perimeter of the artificial tropical resort he’s erected in the North Pole, including the Avengers’ clash with the Sentry, Hank Pym’s brief clash with the three technicians while in “primitive” form, and also the Vision’s growing affection and love for Scarlet Witch, after they’ve been captured and tied up in his headquarters. Indeed, this was one of the first places where the Vision’s ability to emote like a human, and to express feelings of love, could be seen. And it was such a facinating and touching development, for which Thomas and Sal Buscema deserve a lot of kudos for starting it off. Ronan also makes an interesting comment that could reflect what the “establishment thinkers” think of FOX News: “A planet which can produce such a race – which can go from steam power to atomic power in less than a century – is a potential threat to Kree supremacy in space – a threat which cannot be allowed to grow and fester.” Or, in terms of this analogy, any network that can go from small and with not much of an audience to begin with to one of the biggest-rated networks in the country – cannot be allowed to grow and develop. That must be what they think, or could.

And who should save the day, other than Rick Jones himself, after he manages to use a beam transmitting device carried by Mar-Vell to destroy Ronan’s power supply generators, and in the ensuing destruction of his laboratory, Ronan retreats in defeat, and Hank Pym and the scientists return to their normal shapes and sizes as the polar ice begins to return to effect again (don’t worry, that’s exactly why the heroes provide the four of them with capes to keep warm!).

But all is not well for long, as the three scientists, despite having been requested not to speak about this incident to the public, turn to the press and the Daily Bugle to talk about what they know of the planned war between the Kree and the Skrulls, with earth’s fate being in the balance, and in turn, this sparks the ire of one Senator H. Warren Craddock, a McCarthy-like politician who calls for a hearing on alien affairs. But when Mar-Vell offers to turn himself in, as [bad] luck would have it, a Skrull, as it turns out to be, disguised as Carol Danvers, who we know today as Ms. Marvel/Binary/Warbird, comes along and talks him into staying at a farmhouse she owns on the outskirts of NYC. And speaking of Skrulls, well, this certainly doesn’t spell out anything good for our mighty Avengers, as soon, not only does the team face a frightening trial of testimony, and some others Skrulls take the time meanwhile to incite the crowds protesting outside the Avengers Mansion to storm and vandalize the place. Then, when the team members get back, sans Rick, who burst out of the trial because he’d gotten a warning in mind that Captain Marvel was in danger at the farm, so three Skrulls disguised as Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, arrive and tell them that the team is disbanded for all time. This is really a trick to lure Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver over to the farm as well, since the Skrulls want to use the two mutant siblings to aid their experiments. And when there, three of the Skrulls are waiting, first in the form of cows grazing in the grass, and then turning into three out of four of the Fantastic Four! Meanwhile, inside the farmhouse, which is actually a spacecraft containing the Skrulls’ lab, as Capt. Marvel later finds out, Carol Danvers is none other than…the Super Skrull!

This story impressively builds upon the bunch of Skrulls who were first seen in the Fantastic Four’s 2nd issue back in 1962, when they first tried to attack the FF while disguised as the stars themselves. Reed Richards decided to retire them from business by hypnotizing them into believing themselves to be but mere cattle. But they were rescued and brought out of their trance by other forces, and the renegade Super Skrull, who was a fugitive on his own planet just like Mar-Vell was on his, planned to not only try and use the two kids of X-Men villain Magneto as ways of gaining power supplies, but to also try and wrest power from the monarch of his planet as well. And while the real Capt. America, Thor and Iron Man learn of the deception and come to the rescue along with the Vision, who’d managed to elude the enemy, they are unable to stop the Super Skrull from escaping in his spacecraft with Wanda and Pietro in tow.

And things aren’t looking much better when it turns out that H. Warren Craddock is going nuts with testing even the three scientists themselves to see if they’re aliens of the Kree themselves, and declares war on the Avengers for not attending his next hearings by sending the Mandroids, whose design was supervised by Tony Stark himself, against them, and it’s lucky that Shell-head knows how to find their weak points. Plus, the Inhumans are in trouble, and so, you could pretty well say that the EMH have their hands tied in all directions with problems to solve.

But in the end, who should be the one to save humanity and even the two battling alien sides from themselves than Rick Jones, who, having been captured by the Kree and brought before Ronan, gets some tips on how to use his imagination as a weapon by the Supreme Intelligence, a being seen on a computer screen in the room where Rick is locked up. That’s right, what happens is that he unleashes his latent ideas, what he read about in the orphanage where he’d grown up in his younger days, the superheroes who fought in WW2, including Capt. America and Sub-Mariner too, and in the end…he brings all the Kree and Skrull alike to a standstill, motionless, like statues.

Wow. The best thing about this story is surely how it emphasizes how our imagination is surely the most powerful and wonderful thing we’ve got. And it’s but one of the many great elements about this book that makes it the grand adventure and escapist fare it definitely is.

The artwork here, by the Buscemas and Neal Adams, is simply wonderful, the latter’s detailing the insides of the Vision, to where Hank Pym, in his Ant-Man guise, goes to fix his malfunctioning systems after the Skrulls attack on him in their cattle disguise, and how he hopscotches around to avoid some of the built-in defense measures is quite enjoyable too. A most amazing precursor to some of the “quasi-realistic” artwork that Greg Land, artist for Birds of Prey and Sojourn excelled in, for example.

The characterization for all the characters by Thomas, even for Rick Jones, is just marvelous. I just wish that Scarlet Witch wasn’t the only prominent female here, but what’s amazing is how this was where the Vision first began to show his developing human emotions, and fell in love with Earth’s Mightiest (and Sexiest) Seductress. The villains are all wonderfully written, with clever dialogue to match their counterparts from the good side, and the Skrull monarch having a daughter who does not approve of his wicked ways is one of the best of classic elements to be see here. She is happily able to take up the throne of rulership on the Skrull homeworld after her father is stopped by Rick’s remarkable intervention.

In a way, this is almost like Rick's very own story, certainly during the showdown, since it shows also the viewpoint of a young teenager in a world of amazing adventure and fantastic characters, where anything can happen, and it works very well as such. And, as per his slang, "faaaan-tastic!"

Overall, the Kree-Skrull War is a most classic adventure and suspense story, something that even makes the reader think, and it’s warmly recommended for everyone and anyone of all ages.

Copyright 2004 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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