The Kree-Skrull War Starring the Avengers: Marvel Comics' Master Epic of the 1970s
In 1971, The Avengers were swept up in an intergalactic war between two alien races in a saga that spanned the Earth and spilled into space at the end. The amazing thing is, this nine-issue tale in Avengers No. 89-97 wasn't some slick, prepackaged and heavily promoted marketing ''event'' that has dominated the comic book industry in recent years.
This was simply a longtime writer named Roy Thomas saying, ''Why not?"
I had only started reading comic books about a year before, when as a youngster I picked up my older brother's copy of Avengers No. 80. So when Roy Thomas began the first installment of the Kree-Skrull war in issue No. 89 I had no idea how much Marvel Universe history he wrapped into the tale -- I just remember thinking each subsequent issue of the story seemed to build on the last. By the time the war ended in issue No. 97, which appeared in early 1972, this 8-year-old reader was hooked for life.
Roy Thomas, in the forward to this collection, says he thought it was inevitable that the Kree and Skrulls would fight each other at some point. The Skrulls had been introduced back in 1962, in Fantastic Four No. 2, while the Kree had debuted in Fantastic Four No. 65 five years later. Thomas decided that the two warlike races would be fighting in the far reaches of the universe, with the Earth getting caught up in it like some remote Pacific Island in World War II.
From such a seed came a sprawling tale that spread out from Miami to New York, the Arctic Circle, the Hidden land of the Inhumans, the Kree and Skrull worlds and outer space. Thomas also brought in guest stars galore, starting with Captain Marvel, who as a Kree was the catalyst to the Avengers getting involved.
But eventually the Fantastic Four, the Inhumans, Nick Fury, Ant-Man and a half-dozen heroes from the 1940s also played a role.
The appearance of Ant-Man is particularly noteworthy. Ant-Man had spent the previous several years as the superhero Yellowjacket, but had resigned from the Avengers in issue No. 91 after announcing his retirement. Just two issues later he returned in a tour-de-force tale-within-a tale, on a microscopic journey inside the Vision to save the android hero's life.
Neal Adams, who was one of the hottest comic-book artists at the time, drew issues 93-96, making the story even more special. He was the force behind the Ant-Man appearance, and he did a wonderful job creating a world within the Vision. Brothers Sal and John Buscema handled the other issues, and sometimes are unfairly overlooked for their contributions. But they did a great job here as well.
Adding to the fun are the many elements that Thomas introduced in these pages that would have ripple effects across the Marvel Universe for years to come: the Scarlet Witch-Vision romance, the end of Goliath, the cosmic force within Rick Jones, the secret history of the Vision, and much more. (Don't worry if you don't recognize all this. You don't need to to appreciate this story!).
And for longtime Marvel fans Thomas and Adams even used an apparent mistake in a single panel from the Fantastic Four issue 10 years earlier to create a surprise villain in the story!
Roy Thomas says he didn't have a master plan when he started writing the Kree-Skrull War, and at just a glance it doesn't appear to have been called that in these issues. (Only No. 97's cover makes reference to the overall tale, and that was to call it the Skrull/Kree war!)
That may have been for the best. Because even though the story has been criticized by some modern fans as too loosely-plotted and a bit over-written, there's a sense that this was a tale created by comic-book fans Thomas, Adams and the Buscemas for the enjoyment of other readers rather than something developed by the marketing department to sell copies.
The Kree-Skrull War is almost universally referenced by fans as being one of the most important sagas of the Marvel Universe, and it's great that the whole thing has been collected in one volume.
This is a wonderful treat for any comic-book fan. I know I've loved re-reading it after all these years!
This comic-book fan does a fun and detailed job explaining the Kree-Skrull War story in this 15-minute video on Youtube. Just to be clear, though. He is reviewing a more expanded volume that include some extras.
Marvel Comics has two reprint series that have also collected the Kree-Skrull War issues of the Avengers.
Essential Avengers No. 4 contains Avengers issues No. 69-97 (plus the Incredible Hulk No. 140). The Essential series reprints the tales on low-quality paper in black and white, which is why it includes so many issues.
Marvel Masterworks Avengers No. 10 reprints issues Avengers No. 89-100 on higher-quality paper in full color.
I would pick the Masterworks version over the Essential one simple because I believe color really makes a difference.