Month: March 2008

Going down the Skrull memory lane

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.


It’s time to kill it off, so to say.

You may recall my rant after the first issue of the new X-Force came out. After expressing concerns for the first issue and the premise as a whole, I finished up with the line, “[O]nly one issue’s come out thus far. I’ll keep getting it to see where it goes …”

Turns out I was lying. Two issues into X-Force and I’m getting out.

The more I look at it, the more I think that I stuck with Kyle and Yost through New X-Men for so long because I enjoyed the characters (created by Nunzio DeFillipis and Christina Weir) and the premise. Yeah, it started off dark after M-Day – and for all sense and purpose, it should have – but surely the youth book would get lighter and happier like it used to be. Nope – instead we got death after death after death to the point where you really stopped caring anymore. In their first six issues, the writers’ death count hit double digits. They didn’t get through a single arc without at some point leaving a character dead/dying at the end of a cliffhanger. It was the drawing point of the book.

So now that the ‘youth’ aspect is gone, Kyle and Yost get to keep the ‘death’ part, and use less-than-appropriate characters to crank it up to 11. Three of the book’s cast (thus far) of four have claws, the other has twin knives. They’re good for stabbing. Stab, stab, stabby stab, stab. After two issues of stabbing and killing with a very weak plot basis (Cyclops is all for this against Emma Frost’s wishes?) I’ve had enough. Turns out that if I don’t enjoy a title enough, I will actually drop it. Hell, New Excalibur lasted four issues before I realized I wasn’t going to keep paying for it.

To pull off an extreme-violence book, you need to back it up with well-done storytelling. Garth Ennis has been doing this forever with his Punisher series. Sure, there’s a lot of gruesome violence, but it’s a compelling read as well. X-Force lacks the latter. It’s violence for violence sake – that’s the premise of the title, and for me, that’s rubbish – and finally I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is – or more like back in my pocket and quit buying stuff I don’t like.

So X-Force‘s spot will go to Captain Britain and MI: 13, which I am very interested in. After all, it can’t be as bad as New Excalibur, right?

Spider-man Blue

I just finished reading Spider-man: Blue for the first time today. I liked it. I came in without having heard any opinions on the book, and was able to enjoy it. It goes on the list of Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale works that I like. Sure, maybe not as much as The Long Halloween, but I do like the Spider-man that Loeb portrayed in this story.

For the record, I have not read a current Spider-man book in quite some time, but this is the characterization that I think of when I think of Spider-man. To me, Peter Parker/Spider-man is a character should always be on the verge of getting what he wants, but is never able attain and hold onto what he wants. That lovable loser type of character. A happy Spider-man is not interesting to me.

I will admit that the underlying story of Spider-man being stalked and hunted down by Kraven, only to end it in a short fight was a bit contrite. This was nothing more than plot device to setup the plot of Peter/Spider-man always getting pulled away from what he wants. Sure, Peter gets Gwen at the end, but we all know how the Gwen Stacy story ends. So, him getting her at then end of this story leaves a bittersweet feeling, and ends up strengthening that he can’t have what he truly wanted.