Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kree-Skrull War, pt. 9

At last!  We have finally reached the end!

Our deconstruction of the comic book epic that is the Kree-Skrull War wraps up in issue #97 of Avengers.

As per logic, we pick up where we left off.  Rick Jones is back in the Negative Zone, confronting Annihilus.  Lucky for him, Rick finds that he can shoot energy beams out of his forehead that blast Annihilus.  Both Rick and the reader are confused.  Annihilus is none to clear on the matter, either.  "What bedeviling bolt is this?  From out of nowhere?"

Rick basically wills himself back to the cell he shares with the Kree Supreme Intelligence.  The latter explains, in a sort of meta-fiction, that Rick had these crazy powers all along.  All humans do and it's called imagination. “Stored deep within your mind, boy," the Supreme Intelligence continues to gloze. "During the childhood which is the greatest impresser of memories — are heroes to equal even the Mighty Avengers!”

Thus, Rick thinks back to comic books he read while growing up in an orphanage and wills the Golden Age, Nazi-fighting superheroes known as The Invaders into existence to fight Ronan and his Kree soldiers.  His powers also enable him to paralyze all Kree and Skrull forces, whether on foot or in spaceships, across the galaxy.  This even has consequences on Earth.

While giving an alien-bashing stump speech, Senator H. Warren Craddock is revealed to the world as a Skrull.  A mob rushes him and beats him to death...victim of the very xenophobic hate he himself stirred up.

The Supreme Intelligence reiterates that all humans have Rick's abilities inside of them and one day in the future they will know how to best utilize it.  For Rick it's just too much and he doesn't know how to handle it.  Spent, he passes out.  The Supreme Intelligence tells Captain Marvel that the only way to spare Rick is for Mar'Vell to merge with him once more, giving him his "lifeforce." The Captain protests, pointing out that this will render Rick a prisoner once more.  The brainy Supreme Intelligence says it's the only way so Captain Marvel goes through with it.

Then the Avengers go home.

As you can see, there's really no resolution to the Kree-Skrull War.  In fact the conflict will rage on in future Marvel comic books.  All of the subplots, e.g. Rick's new powers, the Skrulls own "game of thrones," the Vision-Scarlet Witch romance, etc. will have to wait for later.  As a story arc, this ends on a weak note as it just...ends.  Sadly, such divergent and permanently loose threads are a prominent feature of the storyline.  In his afterword, writer Roy Thomas cites difficulties with deadlines for much of this.  However, I think there's a reason.  Here's where I really guess at a writer's motivations.

Upon analysis, I posit that Thomas intended this whole epic as a think piece.  That's right.  A think piece not only on the happenings of his times but on the whole of human nature.  There's the McCarthy commentary on racism and the tendency of people to blindly hate.  A nice literary piece of poetic justice is Craddock's end.  There is the underlying grimness, the turbulence, the postmodern realization that "heroes are people too" and have as many warts and flaws as anyone.  What can save us?

In a way, Golden Age values.  Bright characters that turn off the dark.  I won't say that Roy Thomas foresaw the era of non-stop "grim and gritty" comic books on the horizon, populated by semi-psychotic anti-heroes, but boy it's quite a coincidence.  A statement?  A call for a "return to values?" Maybe.  Perhaps more likely is a comment that our salvation as a species must be found in the better sides of ourselves.  Namely, our imaginations and our capacity to create great things.  We must have faith in the goodness of humanity.

What I do know from Thomas' afterword is that he did intend to give us the perspective of a tiny nation as the battleground for the conflict of two other superpowers.  He cites This Island Earth (the novel) as inspiration as well as Pacific islands during World War II.  Mix with the sense of impending nuclear doom of the Cold War, shake, serve, and you've got the nugget of a great idea.

Too bad it didn't quite turn out that way.

Wow.  Glad that's all done.

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