This weekend’s light-hearted and escapist superhero blog post here at Balladeer’s Blog will examine the first three installments of the 9-part Avengers classic tale The Kree-Skrull War (1971-1972).
THE AVENGERS Volume One, Number 89 (June 1971)
The Only Good Alien … Is A Dead Alien
SETTING: The Kree race and the Skrull race are a pair of alien races who have been at war for untold thousands of years. Both races were introduced in the pages of the The Fantastic Four in the 1960s and became staples in the Marvel Comics Universe, which I will once again praise for being as enjoyably detailed as the Star Trek or Doctor Who universes.
Synopsis: The story opens up in Miami, where a trio of Avengers – the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and the Vision – track down and engage in a battle with the Kree superhero called Captain Marvel. (THIS IS THE ORIGINAL MARVEL COMICS CHARACTER CAPTAIN MARVEL, A MAN.)
NOTE: There is often confusion between the Marvel Comics figure called Captain Marvel and the Fawcett Comics figure of the same name. The Fawcett Comics figure dated back to the Golden Age and was one of the victims of DC Comics’ legal attacks on ANY superhero that they felt was too similar to their character Superman.
Fawcett Comics eventually went under and nearly all their characters were bought by DC. DC doesn’t mind an alleged Superman ripoff as long as they OWN the character so the Golden Age Captain Marvel is still being published but because Marvel Comics over the years acquired the rights to the character NAME Captain Marvel the original Captain Marvel now goes by Shazam.
Anyway, the Marvel Comics Captain Marvel, who debuted in the 1960s, was an alien Captain of the Kree Starfleet ships sent to conquer the Earth for the Kree Empire. His real name is conveniently Mar-Vell so when he identified himself in his early adventures the media mistook “Captain Mar-Vell” for Captain Marvel, hence his superhero moniker.
Like many other aliens in pop fiction the good Captain came to feel grudging sympathy for us Earthlings and tried to save us primitive schlubs from conquest by the Kree Empire. He thus became labeled a traitor to his own people but was also distrusted by Earthlings because of his alien nature, hence his old Marvel Comics tagline “The Man Without A World.”
Somewhere along the way Marvel Comics made the bizarre decision to make THEIR Captain Marvel a bit more like Fawcett Comics’ ORIGINAL Captain Marvel by “fusing his atoms” with the youngster Rick Jones. This made it so that young Rick could transform into Captain Marvel just like young Billy Batson could transform into the Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel.
Billy Batson accomplished the transformation by uttering the magical word “Shazam.” Rick Jones accomplished the transformation by clanging together the Nega-Bands (more on them later) worn on his and Mar-Vell’s wrists. Those Nega-Bands then caused Rick to be banished to the Marvel Comics Universe’s Negative Zone, the buffer realm between the Matter Universe and the Anti-Matter Universe.
When Mar-Vell was done with his superhero antics he would clang the Nega-Bands on his wrists together and POOF, Rick Jones was back while Captain Marvel was now the one banished to the Negative Zone. As a human, Rick Jones would die if left in the Negative Zone for more than three hours, so Captain Marvel was limited to a maximum of three hours of Earth time per each transformation.
Needless to say, neither Rick nor Mar-Vell were happy with being chained together like this, especially since their minds were melded, too, leaving them absolutely NO privacy. So God knows how Mar-Vell would feel when rock singer Rick was having fun with his groupies.
Back to the story. The battle in Miami between Captain Marvel and the trio of Avengers went on until the Scarlet Witch drove off the Kree Captain. Mar-Vell (whose Kree physiology gained a variety of super-powers from the Nega-Bands) flew to a nearby rooftop where he was zapped into unconsciousness by a ray-gun held by a shadowed figure who turned out to be – impossibly – Rick Jones.
From here readers got a flashback to let them know what the hell was going on. During one of his rock concerts Rick Jones was forced to abandon the stage in the middle of his performance (Maybe Jim Morrison’s eventual unreliability was really caused by having his atoms fused with an alien space captain. I’m kidding!). The reason: Captain Marvel had discovered a way to physically escape the Negative Zone so that he and Rick could have separate lives and minds again.
Recently the Captain had witnessed part of the Fantastic Four’s latest battle with Annihilus (see right), the alien Lord of the Negative Zone who was always trying to add OUR dimension to his domain. (The Negative Zone was apparently what the alien dimension in the 2015 Fantastic Four movie was SUPPOSED to be.)
Mar-Vell saw Mr Fantastic (Reed Richards) being rescued from the Negative Zone by the Fantastic Four’s friend Agatha Harkness, an elderly sorceress who has been alive since the time of the Salem Witch Trials, when an ancestor of Reed Richards saved her from death. (Though that supposedly keeps getting retconned back and forth.)
Probing around in that portion of the Neg Zone, Captain Marvel discovered a portal that could be opened from the Baxter Building headquarters of the Fantastic Four. Rick, knowing that any problems caused by walking out on his performance were minor compared to the chance to have his own life back, clanged his Nega-Bands together and turned into the good Captain.
Mar-Vell flew to the upper floors of the Baxter Building but had to break in since the Fantastic Four were at Agatha Harkness’ Whisper Hill mansion celebrating their latest triumph over Annihilus. Captain Marvel’s break-in triggered an alarm in Avengers Mansion, part of their and the Fantastic Four’s shared security measures.
The only Avengers on duty at the moment – the Scarlet Witch, her brother Quicksilver and the Vision (who had not yet worked up the nerve to tell the Scarlet Witch about his romantic interest in her). The trio took a Quin-Jet and flew to the Baxter Building, where Captain Marvel’s familiarity with superior Kree technology made him capable of operating Mr Fantastic’s machine which opened the portal to the Negative Zone.
The Avengers arrived just as Mar-Vell had located Rick in the Neg Zone and was opening the portal so that Jones could escape, bringing them both into Earth’s dimension physically, with no more need to swap atoms. Rick Jones was known to the Avengers, since he started out as a sidekick to the Hulk, then Captain America (even temporarily becoming a new Bucky when Bucky was still thought to be dead.)
Rick and Captain Marvel had even shared the Avengers’ first battle with the supervillain team called Zodiac several issues earlier (Number 72). At any rate, it turns out Annihilus also managed to come through the portal just behind Rick. The villain plans to kill our heroes, then ambush the Fantastic Four when they return as the opening phase of his conquest of our dimension.
Captain Marvel – who becomes an official Avenger during the Kree-Skrull War (though that, too, often gets retconned) – joins the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, the Vision and Rick Jones in fighting Annihilus. After an intense battle Annihilus gets banished back to the Negative Zone.
Mar-Vell, feeling his gruff, militaristic Kree Imperial Officer roots again, brusquely flies off in the Avengers’ Quin-Jet, planning on stealing some Earth technology at Cape Canaveral. He intends to modify that tech AND the Quin-Jet so that he can return to outer space, leaving our primitive planet behind.
Unfortunately, some of the equipment in Reed Richards’ lab makes our heroes realize that Mar-Vell is filled with Negative Zone radiation caused by the way Rick selfishly made the Kree Captain languish in the Neg Zone for several weeks recently while he pursued his singing career. (?)
And THAT ends the flashback. The Miami fight between Captain Marvel and the pursuing Avengers broke out because he thought they were after him because he stole one of their Quin-Jets, since he was oblivious to the Nega-Radiation he was emitting.
The Avengers and Rick Jones take the unconscious Mar-Vell to Cape Canaveral, where a few supporting characters from Captain Marvel’s own comic book rig a method of draining the Nega-Radiation from the Kree man’s body. The jury-rigged device nearly runs out of power before the task is complete so the Vision feeds it more power through the solar beams he shoots from his eyes.
The Captain is saved and the Vision is exhausted but will recover. Meanwhile, far off in space on Hala, the home planet of the Kree Empire, we readers join the Kree Supreme Intelligence. That figure is the Artificial Intelligence who rules the Empire (I’ll provide a more detailed description of the Supreme Intelligence below).
Ronan the Accuser, a Kree foe of the Fantastic Four AND of Captain Marvel, launches a lightning-fast coup d’état, overthrowing the Supreme Intelligence and naming himself the new ruler of the Kree Empire. Ronan makes it clear that he will intensify the Kree Empire’s war against the Skrull Federation, and he blames the Supreme Intelligence for the stalemated state of that ages-old war.
Ronan (I’ll provide more details on him, too, below) also plans to follow through on Plan Atavus, a covert plot that the Supreme Intelligence had set in motion against the Earth. But first, the Accuser wants revenge against Captain Marvel, who thwarted Ronan’s previous attempt to take over the Kree Empire in Captain Marvel # 16 (September 1969).
Using Kree technology in the form of an Omni-Wave Projector, Ronan the Accuser tunes in a view of Cape Canaveral, where Mar-Vell and the Vision lie in hospital beds while the Avengers and Rick Jones watch over them. Also at Cape Canaveral is an enormous Kree robot called a Sentry – one of many that the Kree scattered around the universe. (I’ll explain why below.)
That Sentry – Number 459 – previously clashed with the Fantastic Four and then most recently with Captain Marvel, who deactivated it and turned it over to Cape Canaveral for secret study. From Planet Hala, Ronan the Accuser uses the Omni-Wave Projector to RE-activate Sentry Number 459 and the kaiju-sized robot attacks our heroes, announcing Ronan’s instructions that he kill Mar-Vell AND everyone with him. +++
THE AVENGERS Volume One, Number 90 (July 1971)
AVENGERS ROSTER: THE WASP (Janet Van Dyne), THE SCARLET WITCH (Wanda), GOLIATH (Clint Barton), QUICKSILVER (Pietro), THE VISION (Not Applicable), YELLOW JACKET (Hank Pym, PhD), CAPTAIN MARVEL (Mar-Vell, Kree Captain)
Synopsis: We pick up where we left off, at Cape Canaveral, which in Captain Marvel’s own comic book series by Marvel Comics was depicted as an Area 51 type of base. Sentry 459, one of the Kree Empire’s gigantic, kaiju-sized robots scattered throughout the universe, was being studied by Earth scientists at the Cape.
From Hala, the home planet of the Kree Empire, Sentry 459 was remotely reactivated by Ronan the Accuser.
The Avengers battle the Sentry, intent on saving the barely conscious Captain Marvel. This Sentry, which had previously clashed with the Fantastic Four years earlier, out-fights the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and the Vision, who himself was much weakened after draining most of his power to save Mar-Vell’s life last time around.
Sentry 459 grabs the bed-ridden Captain Marvel and announces to him and the other Avengers that he has received new instructions from Ronan the Accuser, who has teleported to Earth via a Kree Omni-Wave Projector. The Sentry is now to simply bring the captive Captain Marvel TO him. The Sentry does, teleporting itself to Ronan’s secret location.
While the Avengers and Rick Jones regroup, they are approached by Carol Danvers, back then the Security Chief at Cape Canaveral, years before she became Ms Marvel. She had been a supporting character in Captain Marvel’s now-canceled comic book series.
After sharing with Carol what information they can, the Avengers and Rick fly off in their Quin-Jet, headed back to New York City. During the flight, away from the prying ears of official U.S. Government security, our heroes ask Rick to share with them everything he learned about Mar-Vell and the Sentry during the time his mind was joined with the Captain’s.
Rick does so, detailing how, in the ancient past the Kree Empire’s exploratory fleet visited the Earth. As per their usual procedure they rounded up thousands of the primitive cave dwellers and experimented on them with Terrigan Mists. Instead of dying the cave people mutated into Inhumans, the early ancestors of the super-group and hidden race in Attilan, their secret city in the Himalayas.
Since Earth people thus proved changeable through evolution the Kree planted a robotic Sentry like they always did on worlds with races which might one day prove worth conquering or a potential threat to the Empire. Sentries could last for millions of years and once a race on any world proved intelligent enough to find and probe the Sentry hidden on their world that Sentry would activate and broadcast a message to the Kree homeworld of Hala.
NOTE: The Fantastic Four story which introduced Sentry 459 was published in 1967, so the idea for the Kree Sentries was obviously a nod to Arthur C Clarke’s original short story The Sentinel. Especially in the way the Sentries were programmed to broadcast a signal upon contact with a sufficiently intelligent species.
Marvel Comics couldn’t have called the Kree robots Sentinels even if they wanted to, since Sentinels was already the name for the mutant-hunting androids in the pages of The X-Men. Anyway, kudos for Marvel for doing this so early, considering that the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, famously based on The Sentinel, didn’t come out until 1968.
Anyway, Rick rehashes the way the Fantastic Four battled Sentry 459 and defeated it. Ronan the Accuser, however, soon arrived on Earth in response to the Sentry’s broadcast summons.
The Accusers in the Kree Empire would arrive after Sentries called them to whatever world they were planted on. Accusers would then collect data and pass judgment on whether or not the intelligent species on a given world were prime to be conquered or were so potentially dangerous that they should be snuffed out before they progressed any further.
Ronan judged Earth, with its plethora of super-beings, too dangerous to the Kree Empire and – wielding his incredibly powerful Cosmi-Rod – set out to annihilate all life on the planet. The Fantastic Four defeated him. Later, the Supreme Intelligence overruled Ronan’s verdict about Earth, setting the stage for the increasing hostility between them.
THIS IS RELEVANT BECAUSE THE SUPREME INTELLIGENCE’S CHANGE OF MIND ABOUT EARTH IS PART OF A SECRET AGENDA HE WAS PURSUING, AN AGENDA WHICH IS CRUCIAL TO THIS KREE-SKRULL WAR STORY, THOUGH THAT AGENDA WON’T BE REVEALED UNTIL THE FINALE OF THIS STORY.
Once our heroes arrive back at Avengers Mansion they find an emergency videotaped message from Goliath (Clint Barton. Formerly Hawkeye, but during this period while Hank Pym was Yellow Jacket, Clint adopted Hank’s abandoned Goliath identity since he had begun to feel useless as “just a guy with trick arrows”).
Goliath was summoned to Alaska by the Wasp , Yellow Jacket’s wife at the time, over an undisclosed world-threatening situation. The Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, the Vision and Rick Jones got right back in their Quin-Jet and flew to Alaska, too.
We join Goliath in his Quin-Jet as he arrives in Alaska, where bio-chemist Hank Pym was doing classified work for the government. The Wasp fills Goliath in about the reason for her emergency call.
She and Yellow Jacket (at left) came across a suddenly devolving patch of Alaska, a patch in which all animal, plant and insect life was reverting to the state they would have been in millions of years ago. The pair of superheroes fought a few prehistoric monsters and Yellow Jacket sent the Wasp back for help, then disappeared while continuing the fight.
The “De-Evolution Zone” was expanding at a rapid rate and would clearly – if not addressed – encompass the entire planet. (As we’ll see, Ronan the Accuser is behind this.) Goliath leaves the Wasp behind and sets out alone to investigate, because Clint Barton, whether as Hawkeye or as Goliath, has always been a reckless jerk.
While piloting his Quin-Jet into the De-Evolution Zone, Goliath engages in Soap Opera level contemplation. He is pining for the Black Widow, who recently dumped him.
Goliath encounters and battles a few prehistoric monsters himself and defeats them, but then gets ambushed from behind by Ronan the Accuser. Ronan turns Goliath over to the Sentry for “conditioning.”
Soon, the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, the Vision and Rick Jones arrive in the De-Evolution Zone and fight through de-volved monsters themselves, ultimately spotting a futuristic structure in the very center of the Zone, towering over the surrounding jungle.
Guarding the citadel are Sentry 459 and the now-enthralled Goliath. The two titans do battle with our heroes to keep them from entering the structure.
Inside that citadel we find the bound and captive Captain Marvel arguing with Ronan the Accuser. Mar-Vell pleads with Ronan to just kill him if he must but spare the Avengers and the planet Earth. Ronan refuses, saying he is proceeding with Plan Atavus, based on some information he found the Supreme Intelligence was working on when he overthrew him.
Captain Marvel becomes even more alarmed at the mention of Plan Atavus, since he figures that means the De-Evolution Zone will NOT stop spreading until all of Earth is reduced to what it was millions of years ago. Life will have to begin anew and hopefully – by Kree Empire thinking – will NOT develop life-forms that Ronan judges to be a threat to the Empire.
Ronan also plans – as he announced last time around – to intensify the ancient war between the Kree and the Skrulls. As his Villain Rant continues, the Accuser sadistically draws Mar-Vell’s attention to the viewscreen showing that the Wasp has been rendered unconscious during the ongoing fight between the Avengers and the Sentry and the enthralled Goliath.
Her fallen form is being approached by a slavering cave-man whose tattered costume indicates that he is her own husband Yellow Jacket, now reduced to primitive savagery. With this glossed-over insinuation that the cave-man version of Hank Pym will drag Janet off and rape her, we get our cliff-hanger ending for this issue. +++
THE AVENGERS Volume One, Number 91 (August 1971)
AVENGERS ROSTER: THE WASP (Janet Van Dyne), THE SCARLET WITCH (Wanda), GOLIATH (Clint Barton), QUICKSILVER (Pietro), THE VISION (Not Applicable), YELLOW JACKET (Hank Pym, PhD), CAPTAIN MARVEL (Mar-Vell, Kree Captain)
TAKE ONE GIANT STEP … BACKWARD
Synopsis: We pick up right where we left off last time around. In the northernmost reaches of Alaska a “De-Evolution Zone” is spreading. Every life form in that zone, be it plant, insect or animal, is devolving to what it would have been millions of years ago.
The De-Evolution Ray causing the zone was put into use by Ronan the Accuser because he thought (mistakenly, as we’ll learn in a few installments) that this De-‘Vo assault aka Plan Atavus was why the Supreme Intelligence was studying Earth’s evolutionary past when Ronan overthrew him.
The Accuser feels the Supreme Intelligence’s goal was to eliminate Earth and its plethora of super-beings as threats to the Kree Empire by setting back the planet’s evolutionary clock.
Ronan the Accuser has been bragging about his plans to his new captive, Captain Marvel, the traitorous Kree Captain who years earlier sided with Earth against the Empire. On one viewscreen Ronan and Mar-Vell see Rick Jones and three other Avengers – the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and the Vision fighting the enormous Sentry 459 and the enthralled Avenger called Goliath (formerly Hawkeye).
Sentry 459 and the unwilling Goliath are preventing Wanda, Pietro and the Vizh from entering the Citadel and trying to rescue Captain Marvel. Meanwhile on another viewscreen, Ronan and Mar-Vell behold the Avenger called Yellow Jacket – now devolved to cave-man levels – approaching his fallen wife the Wasp, who was just rendered unconscious while fighting the Sentry and Goliath last issue.
Before the action resumes here is some vital data on the Kree Supreme Intelligence, a long-standing cornerstone of the Marvel Comics Universe.
The Supreme Intelligence is really a very high form of artificial intelligence created by the Kree thousands of years ago. It became the practice to transfer data from as many freshly-dead Kree as possible into the Supreme Intelligence’s biochemical memory banks, so that nearly all Kree knowledge and a little bit of nearly all passing Kree survive in the S.I.
As artificial intelligence is so inclined to do in sci-fi pop fiction the Supreme Intelligence eventually took over as dictator, but since the figure’s genius proved almost flawless militarily the warlike Kree basically said “Meh” and were happy to have him rule them all. I will say again that the fictional history of Marvel’s various alien races is as strong as other pulp sci-fi stories, like in Doctor Who or Star Trek.
The ambitious Ronan the Accuser wanted to overthrow the Supreme Intelligence partly because he blamed the S.I. for the current stalemated state of the Kree Empire’s ancient war with the Skrulls, another prominent alien race in the Marvel Comics Universe. (For the “senses-shattering” origin of that war see The Celestial Madonna Saga.)
Back to the story: Devolved Yellow Jacket doesn’t harm the fallen Wasp (his wife at the time) but drags her off to “mate” with her in a glossing-over of the true implications of that in his current caveman state. He winds up having to fight over her with the other horny cavemen with him. These men were U.S. government scientists who had been studying flora and fauna in Alaska.
Ronan switches his and Captain Marvel’s attention away from the Wasp and the horny cavemen fighting over her. Now they are focusing on the destructive battle pitting Sentry 459 and Goliath against the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, the Vision and Rick Jones.
The Vision defeats Goliath but then is felled himself by Sentry 459. The Scarlet Witch – who is just beginning to feel attracted to the Vision as he is to her – is so upset at the pain that the Sentry inflicted on the Vision that she is easily defeated herself. Quicksilver grabs Rick Jones and gets the two of them away from the Citadel before Sentry 459 can capture them like it just did Vizh and Wanda.
While trying to find the fallen Wasp, Pietro and Rick come across the tableau of the devolved Yellow Jacket fighting the other cavemen. The watching Ronan says that Hank Pym’s (Yellow Jacket’s) subconscious battle savvy from a lifetime of superheroing is what is letting him triumph against the greater numbers of his fellow raging cavemen and their raging … Nah. Too easy.
Hank’s love – as in tender affection – for Jan slightly penetrates (Again – too easy. Not gonna go there.) the haze of his primordial lust and also helps her to calm him down so that he doesn’t try to ravish her. Quicksilver and Rick decide to renew their attempts to break into the Citadel.
Inside that structure, Ronan the Accuser is still haranguing the captive Captain Marvel – held in place by graviton rays on his limbs. Ronan also has the Scarlet Witch, the Vision and Goliath held captive now by energy-bonds created by Kree technology.
The Vision and the Scarlet Witch are exchanging some of the earliest words of affection that they would ever speak to each other and nearly kiss but the Vision, feeling ashamed at his status as an artificial being made of plastoid flesh, pulls away and tells Wanda he’s not fit to be her romantic partner.
Ronan sadistically taunts the pair of Avengers but Captain Marvel replies with pop sci-fi tropes about how it is humanity’s capacity for “love” which may yet enable them to win out over Ronan and the rest of the Kree, despite the Kree superiority in technology.
Quicksilver and Rick Jones finally burst in, thanks to a fancy trick courtesy of Quicksilver’s super-speed powers. (Don’t bother asking – he’ll apparently never use this very potent trick in the future no matter how helpful it would be. Comic book writers, am I right?)
Quicksilver frees Wanda, the Vizh and the now UN-hypnotized Goliath, while Rick frees Mar-Vell. In the ensuing battle between our heroes on one side and Ronan the Accuser & Sentry 459 on the other, a lot of Kree equipment in the Citadel gets destroyed, unleashing a chain reaction.
In the middle of this chaos Ronan the Accuser gets a sub-space emergency message via Omni-Wave Projector from Hala, the Kree homeworld. Skrull agents have learned of Ronan’s successful coup against the Supreme Intelligence and of his stated plans to intensify the Kree-Skrull War.
The Skrulls have launched a pre-emptive strike against the entire length and breadth of the Kree Empire. Nearly a third of the Milky Way Galaxy is now embroiled in war. Ronan hastily teleports himself back to Hala via an Omni-Wave Projector in his Cosmi-Rod to assume control of the Kree war effort, leaving Sentry 459 alone against the Avengers.
The departing Accuser uses Kree technology to surround the Earth with a Nega-Shield to mark it as a spoil of war for the Empire.
The Citadel continues to crumble and fall apart. The Avengers escape as it AND the Sentry are destroyed. Yellow Jacket and the scientists are instantly back to normal, as is the Alaskan wilderness. The De-Evolution Zone is no more.
Yellow Jacket, feeling almost useless in this adventure, vows to stop being Yellow Jacket and just work with the scientists in his civilian identity of Hank Pym, PhD. The Wasp says she will stay in Alaska with Hank since they are married.
The Scarlet Witch, Goliath, Quicksilver, the Vision, Captain Marvel and Rick Jones fearfully contemplate the next move from the Kree and the Skrulls. +++
NEXT WEEK I’LL COVER THE NEXT THREE CHAPTERS, IN WHICH THOR, IRON MAN AND CAPTAIN AMERICA RETURN.
FOR MY EXAMINATION OF THE 13-PART BLACK PANTHER STORY TITLED PANTHER’S RAGE CLICK HERE
FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
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