Thursday, May 22, 2014

Kree-Skrull War, pt 6

Still with me?  Or is this more of a "never here to begin with" kind of series?

I thought it might be.  It was a risk deconstructing the classic comic book epic that is the Kree-Skrull War but I thought I would allow myself this weekly indulgence.

Avengers #94 opens (more or less) with the Vision sneaking aboard the Super Skrull's spaceship as it carries away Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and Captain Marvel.  Once aboard, the Vision learns that the ship is headed for the Sanctuary of the Inhumans in the Himalayas.  Super Skrull figures it would be a good tactical move to wipe out the super-powered beings known as the Inhumans as they were originally created via experimentation by the Kree.  They could possibly therefore be used against the Skrull as weapons. Super Skrull brings the energy beam cannons of his ship to bear on the Sanctuary as Roy Thomas writes:

"Finger on the button: In the end will it matter if that hand was alien--or green--or Protestant?"

Wow.  Allusions to the both the Cold War and the "troubles" of Northern Ireland in one...slightly forced...metaphor.

Super Skrull fires the beam weapon but the Sanctuary remains unscathed, protected by a force field shield.  The Vision then fights him to a draw and then decides to retreat as he can seemingly do nothing to rescue his comrades.  Flying back to Avengers Mansion, Vision wonders, "First Kree...then Inhuman...the web spawns new strands." Indeed.  Earth is crowded enough with just us humans.  Now there are several alien races competing over a backwater world that is ostensibly of strategic importance.  In another Cold War analogy, does that make us a galactic version of Vietnam or Korea?  Two superpowers are fighting and we're going to be the battleground?

After a warp jump through space, Super Skrull's leviathan spaceship returns to the homeworld of the Skrull Empire.  Upon his return we learn that he was actually exiled by Emperor Dorrek and Super Skrull's real motives are to marry Dorrek's daughter Anelle and claim the thrown for himself.  Even on alien worlds it would seem we are not free from courtesan politics.  Bummer.  In fact, Super Skrull's greeting is downright hostile and battle ensues.  It's short lived, however, as he informs the Emperor of his passengers.

The prisoners of Earth are delivered as tribute to Emperor Dorrek who then instructs Captain Marvel to build a Kree device known as the Omni-Wave Projector.  The Kree use this machine as a means to communicate across the vast distances of space but it apparently can be used as a weapon as well.  Marvel naturally refuses.  To get him to comply, the Skrull tosses Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch into an arena of sorts where they must battle alien monsters.  The fight goes pretty well until these little fuzzy pink guys show up.  Every time you hit one, they multiply.  Sort of like masochistic Tribbles.  Anyway, even Quicksilver can't move fast enough to stop them as both he and his sister are eventually overwhelmed by the sheer numbers.  Fearing for their lives, Captain Marvel relents to the Skrull's demands and agrees to build the Omni Wave.

Back on Earth, H. Warren Craddock orders SHIELD to move against the Avengers.  Mandroids, men inside robot-like suits of power armor, attack Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Goliath.  It should be a fairly one-sided fight, especially against someone with the strength of Thor, however Iron Man points out that the suits were designed and the men were trained by Tony Stark (Iron Man's true identity) to beat the Avengers.

Now if you were an Avenger at this moment, you'd be forgiven if you asked "Hey Tony, just why the hell are you building weapons and training people to beat us? What gives?" Perhaps this is more of a Malcolm X, "the chickens have come home to roost" metaphor.  By that I mean that Iron Man...aka Tony an arms manufacturer and dealer.  If you put things that kill out into the world, how long before they whip back to kill you?  The Iron Man movie touched on this but I think it's visible here as well, again symbolic of the anti Cold War/Vietnam War sentiment of the time.  Oh yeah...Iron Man has roller skates as part of his armor.  Go figure.

The battle rages and Triton of the Inhumans shows up.  End part six.

You could call the structure formulaic.  The superhero characters fight each other, learn something more about the plot that's afoot, and then move on to the next battle.  This is a tedious method of plot advancement and thus far the Kree-Skrull War has been just that.  By the same token, the intervals of combat have long been a criticism of the comic book medium, especially at the time of these issues' publication.  The phrase "comic book violence" exists for a reason and is often times employed as an accusation in terms of what causes children to be violent.

And yet...and yet...

Joyce Carol Oates, writer and Professor of Humanities at Princeton, once said, "When people say there is too much violence in [my books], what they are saying is there is too much reality in life."

While you could hardly accuse this Avengers story arc of being "reality," we keep seeing reality intrude.  We see the political upheaval of that era of history and we see the kind of physical and social violence that humans are capable of committing against one another.  That, certainly, is very real.  Writing lets us hold icky, painful issues at a safe distance where can try to figure them out.  In a muted way, the Kree-Skrull War helps us examine the consequences of real life war.

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