After all the build-up and the hype, Secret Invasion finally kicks off next week and the Marvel scene is ablaze with Skrull fever. The Skrulls, to me, have always been a “Let’s invade and take over!” group to soundly be defeated by the heroes and be on their ways. Of course, I just recently (within the past five or so years) began reading Fantastic Four and Avengers, so I still have a ways through my Essential volume trudging before I get to some of the more classic Skrull stories. The 60s versions didn’t exactly have me cowering in fear.
But I’m an X-Men fan, and one of the (mainly forgotten) stories that I hold near and dear to my heart – the story that was taking place when I first became a fan – is my favorite Skrull story to date, and it’s really what I think about when I think Skrulls. The story was an effort by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee running briefly in Uncanny X-Men #273 and 274, before taking up all of 275 through 278.
The setup was classic Claremont. Back in the 160s of Uncanny, Deathbird has usurped the throne of the Shi’ar with the help of the Brood. In issue #200, Professor X had been taken aboard the Starjammer to heal his body, and was unable to return to Earth. Nothing had been done with either character since. With the to-be launched X-Men #1 approaching, I guess it was decided that Professor X needed to be back on Earth, so this quickly wrapped up both storylines in a somewhat unfulfilling manner, in the scope of the big picture. Lila Cheney teleports the X-Men to Deathbird for no real reason, they break free of her trap, beat her and the Imperial Guard up, and Lilandra’s got her throne back. It took less than half an issue. But ignore that and follow the story afterwards.
At the party celebrating the victory, Psylocke gets attacked from her chambers and dragged off. Jubilee and Gambit stumble upon Professor X ordering Gladiator to rip Deathbird’s wings off. When they attack, Jubilee gets caught and Gambit escapes. As the X-Men investigate, Wolverine cuts down Professor X, and is attacked by Psylocke and also taken prisoner. Now with just Storm, Banshee and Forge (with Gambit working in the shadows) the X-Men have to decide whether they can trust Deathbird and go against Lilandra, who has apparently been doing horrors to Shi’ar worlds under the control of Professor X, who may not be dead after all.
Turns out, Xavier (as well as the Starjammers) have been captured by War Skrulls, who have created a nexus that allows them to duplicate powers. The Psylocke that struck down Wolverine was a Skrull, as was the Professor X that was killed (who in turn was replaced by another Skrull). As Wolverine and Jubilee are copied, the remaining X-Men prepare to fight against their own (of course – it’s a Claremont story) and the ending works out, everyone’s happy and Professor X returns to Earth to wrap up the longtime Shadow King build up.
There were a lot of things I loved about this story. For one, it was the first story with an actual X-Men team since the Australian based group disbanded back in the 250s, and it was such a mish-mosh of characters (Storm, Wolverine, Banshee, Forge, Psylocke, Gambit, Jubilee), it was an interesting set of interactions between them – though they for some reason had chosen to wear matching uniforms for the first time since the late 60s.
But mainly it was just how bad-ass the Skrulls were. I had no clue what was going on until the big reveal at the end of 276, and by that point (long before, actually) I was intrigued. This group seemed like a viable threat that could in fact conquer a galaxy-spanning empire and do horrors in somebody else’s name. Of course, the good guys would win – the good guys always win. But this one is a story I can repeatedly go back and read, happily, whenever I want a decent story.
And also 275 had what is still on my favorite covers list:
So while this may not be a story that goes down in many memory books, if Secret Invasion pulls off Skrulls like this one did (and as of right now, it’s already made them a loooot cooler), I’ll be happy. I just wish they’d drop the “I’ve been discovered, I have to attack like a savage! Grrrraaaarrrrrgggghhhhh!!!!!” bit.
Yeah, fat chance.