Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kree vs. Skrull: When the heavens raged

Pictures have dribbled out over the past few days of The Avengers being filmed in Cleveland.  Avengers is one of my all-time favorite comic book series, so the photos plastered on the Internet are certainly enticing.  Then inspiration struck me.

I have posted a few times before about my favorite science fiction comics.  While I would not place Avengers inside the realm of sci-fi comics, one of my favorite storylines from the book is definitely steeped in the trappings of the genre.  It was called "The Kree-Skrull War" and I thought I'd use today's post to tell you about it.

Writer Roy Thomas said that he wanted the story to be basically a space opera with the Earth caught between two alien races embroiled in a bitter conflict.  In fact, our world would be to the Kree-Skrull War what Pacific islands were to World War II.  Thomas was even said to have been inspired by the Raymond Jones novel (and eventual film), This Island Earth.  A word first about the combatants.
The Kree are human in appearance and masters of an interplanetary empire.  They are merciless and fascistic, almost like spaceborne Nazis.
The Skrulls are green guys with big ears and wrinkly chins.  They are capable of shapeshifting into almost any form and like the Kree, they are imperialists.
Eons ago, these two empires collided into war and the Earth has become a locality of strategic interest for both sides.  It's up to the Avengers to protect humanity from becoming collateral damage.  Boasting a line-up of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Vision, and several other supporting cast members and cameos, Earth's mightiest superheroes square off against two opposing battlefleets.  And the outcome of the entire conflict may come down to two key figures, Kree-born Captain Marvel and honorary Avenger Rick Jones.

There's just so much to like in this epic storyarc.  Space battles, multitudes of superheroes, and the introduction of the ill-fated romance between The Vision and The Scarlet Witch.  The Vision crashing through Avengers Mansion, exclaiming, "Three cows shot me down!" (a reference I don't have the time to get into at the moment.)  The "devo" ray the Kree deploy in the Arctic in an attempt to return the Earth and everyone on it back to prehistoric times.  The battle in space where a massive nuclear weapon is launched towards Earth by The Skrulls and Captain America orders Goliath to "stop that ship at any cost...including your own life!"  As if that were not enough to satisfy, there's also a fair amount of social commentary.  The storyarc took place between 1971 and 1972.  This is around twenty years on since Sen. Joe McCarthy and the awful HUAC hearings.  When it is discovered that there are aliens among us that we can't quite trust, Sen. H. Warren Craddock founds the "Alien Activities Commission" in Congress, bent on rooting out all aliens hidden in our midst and preventing them from destroying the American way of life.  Public opinion turns against aliens, even those like Captain Marvel who are here to protect us.  Protests, violent mobs, and racial slurs ensue.  Sound familiar?

Yeah, they just don't make comic books like this anymore.  Impeccable art by Neal Adams, fun storyline, and a tinge enough of social statement to make you think.  The whole saga is available in a collected trade paperback edition.  You have no excuse.  Go get it.

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