Epic is a word that gets bandied about a lot these days, often used on things that lack scale and/or ambition, but The Kree-Skrull War is a story which truly fits the definition. While it might start off akin to most Avengers stories, it slowly escalates with every issue. What starts as a battle against Ronan the Accuser grows to the Avengers being caught in between a war two galactic empires, with plenty of obstacles in between.
With the Captain Marvel movie taking inspiration from this Avengers classic, it’s never been a better time to read the Kree-Skrull War. So strap yourself in, as we’re in for a wild ride.
The Kree-Skrull War is a nine-part story written by Roy Thomas, with art by Sal Buscema, Neal Adams, and John Buscema. As was common for extended stories in during the bronze age of comics, it was broken up into much smaller stories which all have connective tissue with each other.
It all begins with Captain Marvel. Although, this is not the Captain Marvel you might be familiar with from the MCU. Back in 1971, Carol Danvers wasn’t a hero yet. This is the original Kree hero, Mar-Vell, instead. In his attempt to free him from the shackles of the Negative Zone, he accidentally embroils the Avengers into Kree-related drama with Ronan the Accuser.
While stopping Ronan from de-evolving the human race into vicious cave-people is high stakes, this only the first act. It only gets bigger from here. We soon find out that war has broken out between the Kree and Skrull Empires. Apparently, Earth has the misfortune of being strategically situated between the two empires and must be claimed.
In a similar fashion, the team’s roster also builds up as the story progresses. As the story gets bigger, more heroes are introduced into the fray. So while we might only start with Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Quiksilver, by the end the team will double in size as well as feature many of other heroes along the way. The changing size of the team opens up new doors and allows for conflict within the team, especially with some of the challenges they face which cannot be solved through punching.
The story might be called the Kree-Skrull War, we don’t witness much of the actual conflict between the two alien empires. Instead, it’s used as a background for multiple conflicts for the Avengers and to explore many interesting themes. What makes these themes even more interesting is that they’re themes that while were written about in 1971 are still relevant today.
Through his writing Roy Thomas explores the concept of fear-mongering generated by public figures. While it would eventually become a staple for the X-Men later down the track, it was something completely different for comics at the time. While I couldn’t find any proof, I would hazard a guess that Thomas would’ve been inspired by recent events of the time including the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.
In the Kree-Skrull War, this is reflected in a public figure’s setting in fear in the general public that aliens could lurk around every corner. It’s a fear that would eventually turn on the Avengers, who were affiliated with the alien hero Captain Marvel. It’s also a new threat to the Avengers, who cannot solve the issue by punching at it.
This transitions into the next theme, which Vision describes as “trial by television.” Thomas explores how the media can influence public opinion – whether that opinion is right or wrong – and how that can affect the justice system. Without spoiling anything, these themes climax with a surprising sense of irony.
In a post-911 world of social media and 24-hour news cycles, these themes are still relevant today – even if they’re presented in a different package.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s still plenty of fun super heroics to enjoy. There’s the Avengers taking on Skrulls, robotic suits known as the Mandroids, as well as trips into both outer space and the Negative Zone.
One of the highlights, though, is Ant-Man’s (Hank Pym) journey into the battle-damaged Vision. While his adventure doesn’t really push the story forward, it’s a visual feast thanks to the combination of penciler Neal Adams and inker Tom Palmer.
The pair have dreamed up a world within Vision that looks like
Fritz Lang’s Metropolis meets Jack Kirby. It takes the organic concepts of the human body but translates it into a futuristic city. Adams fills this with as much detail as possible, whether it be energy bursting off in every direction or the way he uses shape to turn into something otherworldly.
With all that detail around, there’s the danger that the pages would be too busy, but Tom Palmer has done an exceptional job at making sure that this doesn’t happen. Palmer varies the thickness of his inked lines to prioritise elements on the page and gives additional detailing in the form of his rendering of shadows. The result is art that can have a lot going on in it, but still has plenty of depth to it.
Palmer also does a fantastic job at keeping some visual consistency between the changing artists throughout the story, especially on issues where there were more than one artist present.
While Sal Buscema is not as detailed as Adams, he’s great in his own right through his dynamic action. When the action ramps up, Buscema knows how to frame the action within the panel to show the most exciting depiction of the action possible. He chooses various angles to show the fast pace of fights and his characters are expressive throughout them. You won’t find any bland looking heroes throughout.
With some panels, Buscema leans heavily into a visual style that adopts a few Jack Kirby elements. This is most noticeable in the way he draws characters like the Kree Sentry and Ronan, using similar shapes and thick patches of black for shadows. I love anything Kirby inspired so I have absolutely no issue with this at all.
While the Captain Marvel movie will certainly not follow the same structure to this Avengers classic, there is plenty of meat on the bone for it to take inspiration from. Everyone involved has tailored an exciting read with a massive scale, but it through the exploration of fear-mongering and how the media plays into public opinion there’s plenty to think about as well. It’s also a visual feast from start to finish with Sal Buscema and Neal Adams doing some of their finest work. It’s with the combination of all of these elements that makes the Kree-Skrull War worthy of being called epic.
Kree-Skrull War ran through Avengers (1963 series) #89-97 and is available in trade paperback and digitally.