Thursday, July 19, 2007

Skrullduggery Week: The End?

On relatively rare occasions, the Skrulls get a chance to shine as the lesser of two evils. Marvel's recent Annihilation event is a good example, as the Skrulls don't seem so bad compared to Annihilus and his armies of alien buggy things from the Negative Zone. The Skrulls don't make a very good showing there, though: 90% of their empire was wiped out during that one, which kind of makes me wonder how they could have a big invasion going on earth. Yeah, they could have had it going for a while, and I know 10% of several billion is still enough to invade earth, but it seems like the Skrulls should have bigger fish to fry than Elektra.

All right, let it go...let's look at a more successful Skrull moment: Rom #50, "The Extraterrestrials!" Written by Bill Mantlo, art by Sal Buscema, inks by Akins and Garvey. Although the Skrulls are the extraterrestials in question, and are clearly seen on the third page, their name is dramatically revealed on page 13, which is weird since it's not dramatic if you already know who they are, but wouldn't mean anything if you'd never seen them before. Hmm.

Of course, the first page says their ship arrived undetected, but on the second a couple carloads of locals have driven up to see what's landed in the hills, since they "saw the star descend from the skies." Hardly undetected, then. And the wording in this caption:
Wait--the enemy can assume any form too? Damnit, why don't we have briefings before we leave the ship?
--plays off the expectations that the Dire Wraiths would be the aliens in a Rom story, but makes it look like the locals were expecting some other aliens to probably kill them. "Skrulls? Aww...that's pretty awe-inspiring, I guess. I wanted to see the Stone Men of Saturn!"

Not wanting to be bothered, the Skrulls erase the locals' memories--without gang-probing, so I guess they're in a hurry. They tune up their little scanners, and set out to "ferret out...the Enemy!" Dramatic music, cue commercial. Fittingly enough for this issue, I like it when a comic is written in the same structure as an old Outer Limits episode.

(By the way, the opposite page has an ad for War Room for Coleco Vision. God, I played the hell out of that game. Think Missile Command meets the Sims, only simple. Apparently the Soviet Union had an infinite supply of nukes, because there's no way to win the game that I know of.)

The next story page is a splash of the Torpedo, a D-list part time superhero previously seen in books like Daredevil, proudly proclaiming "Today's the day the Torpedo Dies!!" Nothing like foreshadowing, eh? Brock Jones, the Torpedo, had been covering the superhero duties for Clairton, West Virginia, which is tougher than it sounds: the shape-changing alien Dire Wraiths had almost made the area a beachhead for their invasion of earth, until they were stopped by Rom the Spaceknight. With Rom gone, Brock felt he had no choice but to step up and cover for him, even though he thought of himself as a family man, retired from "the torpedo suit that's never brought (me) anything but trouble."
No...those are just Blue Blockers, Brock.
But with Rom's return, Brock was thrilled to hang it up again. He flies over to the Clark household (the parents of Rom's girlfriend, Brandy, now the Spaceknight Starshine) to give them the news, but is instead met by Mr. Clark and a group of townspeople. Steve Jackson, a supporting cast member since early in the series, tells Brock the Dire Wraiths may have returned. Brock says no way, since Rom gave his visor "Wraith Detector Vision."

Two of the townspeople ask, what if the Wraiths used their sorcery so he would still see Wraiths as human even then? Which is exactly what they did, slowly murdering and replacing most of the town under his nose; then the Wraiths kill the Torpedo, in a still chilling scene.
The Skrulls might suck, but they never sucked a guy's brains out through a proboscis.
And where's Rom for all this? He and Starshine had been banished to the Phantom Zone...I mean, a shadow-dimension. Yeah. The Dire Wraiths stuck them there last month, and Starshine is a bit busy having a pity-party over her dead parents to help Rom not get eaten. The Torpedo dead, Rom on the verge of being torn apart, Starshine rusting her metal face with her tears; who will save Clairton now?

How about a batch of really thrilled-looking Skrulls? Judging by their expressions, this is a mission just a step above waste management or pretending to be Adam Sandler. Disguising themselves as humans, they start searching door-to-door, which would work a lot better if they weren't searching in the middle of the night, their scanners weren't red glowing metal balls, and they didn't say things like "No, Supremor! The detector reveals her to be a human!" Oh, yeah, they blend."Then carry on consuming starch-filled consumer goods, Earthling! Have an uneventful and Wraith-free solar interval!" The Brock-Wraith kills one Skrull with a spell, before being gunned down and revealed as a Wraith. Mission accomplished there, the Skrulls then burn down the house, leaving Brock's family fleeing terrified and confused. If they had the time, the Skrulls probably would've salted the earth, too.

Meanwhile, while having the life sucked out of him by shadowy monsters, Rom gives Brandy a pep-talk, which she takes the wrong way. Burying her humanity in rage, Brandy upgrades herself to a new, improved Starshine--2.0, now without ponytail! The spontaneous transformation seems very anime-style looking at it now, but probably wasn't as common back then. Starshine unleashes her power--either the "Living Light of Galador," or her human super-pissed-off-ness, and destroys the monsters, and gets them back to earth.

They find Clairton a fiery warzone, as the running battle between Skrulls and Wraiths continues, and Rom and Starshine discover the Skrulls at the Clark house. Even though they have no love for humans, the Skrulls like Rom, since he once cleared one of their colony worlds of Wraiths. Starshine sees her folks and Steve, her ex-fiance, come down the stairs, but once they open fire it's kind of obvious. Forcing herself to see the truth, Starshine burns down the Wraiths with her eyebeams. And zaps Rom one, for getting in her way and blocking her shot. And her house. Here they're trying to establish Brandy is losing her good nature to a thirst for blood and revenge; but she just seems crazy.

After the Wraiths have been either banished or killed, Rom and the surviving townspeople get a few answers from the Skrulls. The leader refers to the Dire Wraiths as a "Deviant Branch of Skrullkind," that were eventually driven out. Some have taken that to mean Deviant as in the Deviant/Eternal sense, although it could just as easily have meant, they were icky. To this day, the Skrulls are still trying to eradicate the Wraiths, but as the leader points out, something bad had happened to the Skrull Empire (their throneworld was destroyed by Galactus, as noted before!) so they had to go. Yeah, the Skrull captain just completed a successful mission against their hereditary enemies; only to get home to find their empire has split into five factions, and each one is expecting him to go on another mission see, back then, Marvel had a thing called, "continuity," where something that happened in one comic, could be seen to have an effect in a completely different book, with some internal consistency.

Rom is left to restart his war, lamenting his one ally is losing the qualities that he loved about her. I did notice I didn't even scan Rom for this post, but frankly he's pushed into the background this issue: Rom shows up to stop the problems, and this issue was about ramping the problems up. He's in the background on the cover even.

Rrr. This might be the end of Skrullduggery Week, I'm afraid: I may be packing for my vacation later; but I might be able to get one more in before I go. Or it'll keep: next one goes pretty deep back, but still gets play today. Have fun until I get back either way!

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Skrulls are they HAVE to wear purple? It really isn't very flattering to their skin tone.

Stupid Skrulls.