Killing Skrulls!

I enjoyed reading Avengers: The Intiative:  Secret Invasion over on Jason Marconnet’s thread recently, and it happened to coincide with my very recent reading of X-Men: Secret Invasion for the first time.  I approached the X-Men story with some trepidation as the last few I read that were published after Morrison left seemed very tired and repetitive.  The franchise needs a rest.  Anyway, my inner anal retentive fanboy convinced me that I can’t go on to read any Dark Reign books until I’ve read all the Secret Invasion books that I can get my hands on.  (Sad I know!)  Carey’s X-men story turned out to be quite good and I might get to it later I this thread.

If someone else cares to read Bendis’ boring and nonsensical sales smash hit which these were based around, then all the better!  I don’t think this thread will be comprehensive.

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But I’m going to start with what seems like a prequel to Secret Invasion.  I know the ultimate  prequel to it is Fantastic Four #2 from 1961, but I’m only going back as far as 1995’s Skrull Kill Krew. 

If nothing else, I can tick off another set of Grant Morrison comics from our Morrison reading project.  Join me for some Skrull-guzzling action back here shortly…

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  • Skrull Kill Krew

    5 issues, 1995
    Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Steve Yeowell.


    So I decided to have another look at this short-lived iconoclastic little comic from the mid-nineties.

    The series has a rather high-concept premise. It concerns the Skrulls that Reed Richards turned into cows at the end of Fantastic Four #2 (see above), who briefly became Skrulls again during the Kree-Skrull War, before resuming their life as grazing ruminants.

    We find out that the US government saw fit to send them off to the slaughterhouse where they got turned into burgers. (That pesky gummint! Grrr!) The people who ate the Skrull-infected burgers suffered a few side-effects. First of all, they are now able to change their shape and appearance much like Skrulls can. Also they can see through the disguised forms of Skrull agents here on Earth. The final side-effect is pretty final indeed. Those infected are now doomed to go mad and die in a very short time.

    The Skrull Kill Krew is thus a sort of self-help group that exists to bring these doomed unfortunates together, to help them spend their remaining time on this Earth in as fulfilling and productive a way as possible ...


    I was mulling over what to write about it, when I came across something on wiki attributed to the editor who put the book together. Tom Brevoort was doing great work for his company bringing these young superstars of the future over to Marvel, but Marvel itself couldn’t wait to unleash the footbullet in its all too usual fashion, and it proved a false start. Brevoort had a very good handle on what they were doing with the series – as he should! – so I’ll hand it over to him:

    “As a low-ranking editor, I didn't really have many cards to play in terms of securing popular characters for any project I might come up with. So the best strategy was to come up with something new.
    This was the period when the Mad Cow Disease scares were taking place in the UK, so it was a short leap for Grant and Mark to hit on the notion that those Skrull cows had been slaughtered, their meat entered the food chain, and that those who wound up eating it developed Skrull-like abilities, which they would use to hunt down the secret Skrull infiltrators that were living among us. It was a very 2000 AD sort of an idea: part parody, part over-the-top action/adventure comic. Grant was also looking around for new paradigms onto which to paint the super hero team structure, and in this case the model would be a motorcycle gang. Believe me, for the Marvel of 1994, this was some pretty off-the-wall thinking.”

    Tying it into the then-current BSE/Mad Cow disease scare is the kind of thing I enjoy seeing in comics. How they did it is too over-the-top and off-the-wall to be a serious commentary, but our four colour heroes aren’t great vehicles for serious commentary anyway. Still, it’s good to see comics reflecting the contemporary world in any fashion, rather than being just another comic about other comics.

    The 2000AD angle is spot-on. This is probably as close as any Marvel comic has come to emulating the flavour of “The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic”. The writers and the artist had all graduated from 2000AD. Indeed, Morrison and Yeowell* had worked together on the Zenith, 2000AD’s post-modern superhero epic. A somewhat invisible partner was Brendan McCarthy, another 2000AD alumnus, who came up with the character designs. McCarthy’s most recent work is a typically hallucinatory Spider-man Team-Up tale.

    The best 2000AD stories are marked by an iconoclastic anti-authoritarianism that tends to wash off on their readership at an early age. That’s carried over to this comic with the government/miltiary’s dumb@$$ idea of sticking the Skrulls in the human food chain. The whole series is laced with funny moments where those in authority, from history teachers, to cops to ambassadors travelling first-class, are dispatched without mercy. Funny to me at any rate.

    Those the Krew kill are usually shown to be Skrulls in hiding, so the creators get to have their contaminated alien burger and eat it at the same time. (They kill human HYDRA agents too, but they don’t really count.)

    Like 2000AD, the mayhem and dark humour masks a firm sense of right and wrong. There is a certain moral standpoint being taken regarding the dangers of societies love of industrialised meat consumption; hardly surprising from the writer of the vegetarian Animal Man. Using the Skrulls from Fantastic Four #2 actually comments very cleverly on one of society’s blind spots.

    We all love beef burgers but are a bit squeamish about where they come from. Even to the extent that we present the livestock in children’s books, and comics of course, without acknowledging how their lives will really end. What exactly did Reed expect would eventually happen to the cows grazing quietly in the field?

    The creative team make this point while referring to the events of one of the earliest Marvel Comics, starring its most respected superhero team, which adds to the satirical intent of what they are doing in this series.

    Mindless consumption is one of the leitmotifs, if not themes of this series. Riot’s friends think she’s been taking to many drugs when she starts to see Skrulls everywhere, undercover assassins complain about drinking too much coffee while waiting on their ‘client’ to appear, and even Captain America takes time to have some good ol’ American apple pie.

    I’ll take a closer look at each of the issues after these [CONSUME] short messages from [CONSUME] our [CONSUME] sponsors…

    *Other collaborations included Sebastion O, Invisibles and Zoids.
  • We all love beef burgers but are a bit squeamish about where they come from. Even to the extent that we present the livestock in children’s books, and comics of course, without acknowledging how their lives will really end. What exactly did Reed expect would eventually happen to the cows grazing quietly in the field?

    That is one of those things that has never bothered me.

    This series itself was written at a time when I was reading maybe 1 Marvel comic?

  • I'd bet that Stan and Jack didn't mean for their readership to presume that Reed Richards picked the punishment he did so that the Skrulls would be trucked tortuous distances without food or water, strung up by their feet and electrocuted, have their throats slit while they were still living and have their corpses chopped up to be eaten by the humans they so loathed.

    You might deal with Earth's enemies in this way, Travis (so you'd love Skrull Kill Krew!) but it doesn't seem like Reed's style. By the end of Bendis' Secret Invasion everyone was shooting Skrulls in the head, because we've all progressed so much, but it wasn't a common solution to alien invasions in the early 60's.

    It's a blind spot in the narrative of FF issue #2. All of society wants to have their meat products, but don't want to look too deeply into where it comes from, or what it involves.

    Which is a fact, otherwise you wouldn't have things like BSE getting into the food chain in the first place.

    I can't think of too many halfway decent Marvel comics from this period. I guess Peter David's Hulk was wrapping up, but unless you were a Liefield or bad X-men comic fan, there wasn't a lot to pick from. Marvel went bankrupt at this point, too, coincidently.
  • Some other points about the SKK:

    They were published by Marvel Edge and came out in a nice format, very similar to how The Return of Bruce Wayne is currently being published. The cover is of a stiffer heavier stock than usual. The colouring is quite sophisticated too.

    Brevoort mentions that the creators came up with using a biker gang as a model for a super-team. Yes, the SKK travel around on bikes, but each of them has a distinctive look owing to the youth sub-group they identify with. Moonstomp is a skinhead - the actual racist kind, which means that he's upset that his skin is slowly turning black! Riot is a Riot Grrrl, which was a short-lived fashion of the 90's. Dice is a surfer/slacker dude. Catwalk, a late addition to the team, is a fashionista - a catwalk model as it happens. Ryder is a just a big angry dreadlocked black man.

    Having read all 5 issues, it looks like Morrison provided the continuity-driven concept and Millar probably did most of the scripting. Ultimate Captain America is probably one of Millar's more successful treatments of a character, so here we see him practicing on the real Cap about 5-6 years before that. Cap is well-handled. The tone of the series is iconoclastic and generally disrespectful, but there is a bit of tension in the portrayal of Cap. On the one hand he seems overly naive and unrealistically upright here, but on the other, women in the story comment on how fine a guy he is. It’s in keeping with Millar being a writer who apparently wrote excellent Animated Superman adventures and also things like Kick-Ass.

    Because Cap is only a guest-star, Ryder gets to put him in his place regarding the U.S.’s often shameful foreign policies. When Cap says he stands “for the dream”, Ryder tells him “Maybe it’s time you woke up?”

    Issue one seems to display that a longer series might have been limited in range. In the first issue we have 3 different scenes of someone finding out that some person they were supposed to trust was a Skrull and there are several more by the final issue. However issue 3 does show some directions they might have taken had the series gone beyond issue 5. They find out that the President of an Eastern European country they are supposed to be protecting is a Skrull, so there may have been an international top-level Skrull conspiracy that they had to bust. Which would have been better than the ‘find a skrull and kill him’ plots of the issues we have. Cap also finds out that from Nick Fury that Ryder has a history with SHIELD, which would have been developed more.

    Issue four stars a Skrull Fantastic Four. Their powers pre-empt the multi-powered Skrulls of Secret Invasion. There’s a scene where the Skrulls kill a young mother in front of her children which made me think the scripting was by Millar.

    In issue 5, the SKK trash a whole town that has become a haven for Skrulls and the series ends quite abruptly here.
  • Sounds like Clive Barker bought Marvel at this point. I remember those cows turned back into Skrulls and attacked Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Goliath II, and the Vision. I don't remember them turning back into cows though. I know a senator making trouble for the Avengers turned out to be a Skrull, lost his powers, and was beaten to death by the mob he'd organized and whipped into a frenzy. I'd've assumed the three Skrulls also lost their powers and hid somewhere. Reed knew exactly where those cows were and who "owned" them. If they got slaughtered then either there was a mistake somewhere or Reed knew what happened to them and didn't stop it. Ultimate Hulk also ate Skrulls.

    The way everyone always sides against the Skrulls, I think it would have been interesting if Reed, Sue, and Ben all joined forced with Kree (or whoever) to fight the Skrulls, only for Johnny, because of his marriage to Lyja, choosing to side with the Skrulls. As the first alien race of the Marvel Age of Comics they deserve better than ending up on the food chain. Suddenly Super Skrull and Paibok being violent towards Earthlings isn't surprising, if that's the sort of treatment Skrulls get. Remember they weren't violent until the Kree stole their spaceships and started attacking them. Now I'm wondering what the Kree did with the Skrulls they caught alive.

  • Wasn't there a story done some time before this in which the original Skrull cows' milk had been consumed by a small town of humans who'd gained shape-shifting powers from it?  I seem to recall something like that from the Byrne era.

  • Dave Elyea said:

    Wasn't there a story done some time before this in which the original Skrull cows' milk had been consumed by a small town of humans who'd gained shape-shifting powers from it?  I seem to recall something like that from the Byrne era.

    That's the plot of the tale "Legacy", written and pencilled and inked by John Byrne.  It appeared in Fantastic Four Annual # 17 (1983).

  • Sounds like the writer read Byrne's story and decided to remake it as a horror story. Also sounds like Strikeforce Morituri, a Marvel series about people being given powers to fight alien invaders that would kill them after about a year.

  • Wow!  It sounds exactly like that, now that you mentioned it, Ron.  Sly 'tribute or egregious swiping?  Strikeforce Morituri sounds quite obscure though.  Sounds like something from the scratchy Image years.

  • It was written by the last writer on the original Defenders series, after Dr. Strange, Hulk, Namor, and the Surfer were all removed from the series. He also wrote a story where Dr. Strange lost an eye and got one from his former enemy, Silver Dagger. The guy liked dark stories.

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