This week’s Marvel Rundown is taking a look at another classic storyline from the House of Ideas. The massive Empyre storyline is on its way, and finds the ages-old alien enemies the Kree and the Skrulls finally joining forces to destroy the Earth. To prepare for that, we’re revisiting one of Marvel’s most classic tales, the Avengers storyline “The Kree/Skrull War!” How well does this nearly fifty-year-old tale hold up after all these decades?
We’ve got a review roundup of that story (which you can read digitally for free right now) ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Avengers: The Kree/Skrull War
Originally presented in Avengers #89-97
Written by Roy Thomas
Pencilled by Neal Adams, Sal Buscema, and John Buscema
Inked by Tom Palmer, Sam Grainger, Sal Buscema, George Roussos, Alan Weiss, and Neil Adams
Lettered by Sam Rosen, Art Simek, and Mike Stevens
Art & Color Reconstruction (Collected Edition) by Tom Mullin, Michael Kelleher, and Wil Glass & All Thumbs Creative
Cover by Neal Adams, Tom Palmer, & Tom Smith
Joe Grunenwald: For years I’ve seen one Avengers storyline hailed as a high point for the team, and for Marvel in general: The Kree/Skrull War. Having never had much interest in the cosmic side of the Marvel U, I’ve never felt a strong desire to seek that storyline out. The absence of new comics from the publisher this week, coupled with the fact that it was literally free to read digitally, removed all barriers to entry for me, though. Now, having read this sprawling nine-issue epic, I’m torn on how to feel about it.
Writer Roy Thomas is the only consistent creator across all nine issues, and his voice is somewhat overpowering. Part of that is just how comics were written — or over-written — at the time (it was the early ‘70s, and Thomas was following in the footsteps of original Avengers scripter Stan Lee, after all). Pages are filled to the brim with overwrought dialogue and thought bubbles, with characters sometimes having to pop in from the bottom corner of a panel just to get one more line in.
In the few instances where Thomas does allow the images to tell the story, The Kree/Skrull War sings. Artists Sal Buscema, John Buscema, and Neal Adams provide the visuals for this storyline, and the result is classic superhero storytelling. Adams in particular pushes the boundaries for what I’ve come to expect from Marvel comics of the era, and getting to see work of his that I’ve never seen before, from a period in which he was clearly in his prime, was a real treat. His first issue on the title, in which Ant-Man travels into The Vision to repair him, was particularly stunning. The transitions between the Buscemas’ work and Adams’s were occasionally jarring, but ultimately didn’t impede my enjoyment of the story.
My main stumbling block with The Kree/Skrull War is how disjointed it felt narratively. The Avengers encounter the Kree and the Skrulls at different points throughout the story, but aside from references to a war between the two alien races we never get to see any of that action. Instead we get the return of the cow-Skrulls, a side story about the Inhumans, and a rescue mission to save a group of kidnapped heroes. Yes, the Avengers do save Earth from destruction at the hands of Ronan the Accuser (which would have eliminated the planet’s strategic value from the conflict), and the story is certainly plenty epic in scale, but it also felt kind of all over the place. For a story called “The Kree/Skrull War,” I expected to actually see the war, though I understand maybe that wasn’t the point.
I don’t regret having read The Kree/Skrull War. I can certainly see why it was so influential, and why its effects are still being felt today. The story plants so many seeds that it barely touches on, leaving plenty of material for later creators to pick up on and run with. It’s definitely a product of it’s time, but artistically it’s a joy to behold. If you’re just interested in the story of it, though, you’d probably be better off picking up the recent Road to Empyre: The Kree/Skrull War one-shot, which is a far more cohesive — and succinct — reading experience.
George Carmona 3rd: For something that has unofficially spawned 4 sequels, this book was not what I expected. It’s a chapter in Avengers lore that is constantly referenced and I was excited to finally read it. Going in I understood that the times would dictate the comics, lots of exposition and very of-the-time dialog, but that wasn’t the case with the art. While dated in its design aesthetic it was still solid — I mean what would you expect from Marvel masters Neal Adams and John Buscema?
If you’re an absolute completist and a student of comics, then I would say yes, read it, knowing that this storyline is all over the place and has an ending that is so eh. If you’re new to comics and you see a reference to this story, just know the art is what will keep you going as you constantly ask yourself ‘what the what?’
Next week: another classic Marvel tale revisited!