Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Kree-Skrull War--Unleashed!


Given how crammed with material What If? #20 was, even the issue's title ended up to be a little bloated with wording:



And technically, it probably should have read "...without the intervention of Rick Jones," but the real hurdle here is Rick's name.  In order to move this issue, "the Avengers" wording had to be front and center, naturally--but the rest of the copy seems a little circuitous, don't you think? I mean, it's the Avengers who are going to sell this book, not Rick Jones. So how about something like, "What If the Avengers Battled Through The Entire Kree-Skrull War?"* Then we just let the cover picture do the rest:



*And that's just off the cuff--what's your own suggestion? :)

This issue is strictly by-the-numbers What If?, taking an original story and extending it by taking it down a wild alternate path, with lots of twists and turns and not really striving for a Story Of The Year award.



The story picks up the action happening during the events of Avengers #96-97, where our attention is swivelling on several fronts. On the Skrull throneworld, Captain Marvel is attempting to contact Rick with the Kree Omni-Wave device, while his fellow captives, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, attempt to break out of their confinement. The other Avengers who have gone into space in search of their fellows have been intercepted by a Skrull fleet, and are battling a shipful of Skrulls in an effort to compel the entire armada to retreat; while Goliath has taken off after a Skrull ship which has orders to decimate the Earth. And Rick has been taken captive by Ronan the Accuser, in the story's pivotal scene which originally played out this way:




Rick never did proceed to his duties as Ronan's "body-slave" (and from the sound of that, maybe Rick should count his blessings); instead, after Rick again angers his captor by trying to make a break for it, Ronan shuts him away with the Kree Supreme Intelligence, who has manipulated a number of events in order to have such a meeting with him. But in the new story, the plans the Intelligence has for Rick are thwarted, as Rick's encounter with Ronan takes a turn for the worse:



Here, as before, Mar-vell destroys the Omni-Wave device, in part because of the danger of it being used as a weapon. Yet there's now the additional wave of grief he feels at sensing Rick's death:



The odd part is that he targets the Super-Skrull for his vengeance, since it was the Skrull who captured him on Earth--even though his real target should of course be Ronan. Why blame the Super-Skrull? Even had he been free, Mar-vell would have had no reason to be in the vicinity of the Great Refuge, where Rick was taken captive by the Kree--he was in hiding at the time and knew nothing about Rick's plight or even his whereabouts. But he owes the Super-Skrull, regardless--and Ronan isn't on the Skrull throneworld, so Mar-vell isn't about to quibble:



Meanwhile, the Avengers are now fighting an extended battle on the Skrull ship, since the Intelligence was unable to use Rick to paralyze both the Kree and Skrull armadas as planned. And without the Skrull armada being frozen, they're forced to commandeer a Skrull ship in order to continue to the Skrull throneworld without resistance. But since the ship can only seat two (boy, where are those Pym particles when you need them?), Thor and Iron Man stay behind to continue the fight:



Iron Man, though, is soon seriously wounded in battle, and Thor is forced to retreat with him to Asgard in order to save his life. And are those Skrulls going to be sorry about it:



But what about Goliath's mission to stop that Skrull doomsday ship? As in the original story, his mission is successful--but here, he manages to save his ship and make it to the SHIELD helicarrier, and finds that the Kree armada launched by Ronan has already arrived:



From here, things pick up at an even more dizzying pace. Captain America and the Vision arrive at the Skrull throneworld and break through heavy resistance to begin their search for Wanda and Pietro. Mar-vell has fatally dealt with the Super-Skrull, and locates Cap and the Vision to team up:




Thor and the Asgardians are busy as well, fighting a holding action in the Skrull armada, which has reached Earth. And Professor Xavier has sounded a mental clarion call to Earth's super-powered defenders, who fly out to meet the overwhelming dual threats:



As for the Supreme Intelligence, he wracks his brain (which I guess is the same as wracking himself) to in some way salvage the lifeless body of Rick, still with the hope of putting a stop to this destructive war that can have no victor:




Originally, so many of these final pieces in play were in quite different situations, all culminating around the time that Mar-vell destroyed the Omni-Wave device. In that story, the Intelligence's plans for Rick reached fruition, stimulating the youth to end hostilities with one dramatic, powerful wave of mental energy, using Mar-vell as a living conduit:



At the same time, the Avengers who had been battling on the Skrull ship found their opposition--indeed, the entire Skrull armada--likewise frozen. And without resistance, they reboarded their ship and continued their flight to the Skrull throneworld. Ronan's forces, which were about to burst in on the Intelligence and slay both it and Rick, were frozen in place, as well. And a Skrull who was disguised in human form on Earth in order to inflame public opinion against the Avengers was revealed. When all was said and done, the Intelligence summoned the Avengers and Mar-vell from their respective locations, and Mar-vell once again joined his life force with Rick in a somewhat tragic epilogue to the war's end:




I've previously voiced my thoughts on why this tidy wrap-up featuring the machinations of the Intelligence should really have no bearing on the war's outcome--so let's just jump to the new story's take on it, where two things occur which bring about a more believable end to the war. For one thing, the Intelligence takes a more direct hand in its new form (with apparent homage to Arthur C. Clarke) by staging a coup. And as for the Skrulls, the revolution against the Emperor by his own daughter, Anelle, has similarly borne fruit:




Naturally, a by-the-numbers What If? tale has to close out with a few quick, food-for-thought panels. During the story, the Vision was happily reunited with Wanda; yet he decides to put aside his feelings for her, as he feels they would adversely affect her relationship with Pietro. (Remember, I said "quick"--I didn't say they'd make sense.) There's also a moment of silence for Rick--followed by the transformed Supreme Intelligence handing rule of the empire over to Mar-vell, as it heads out into space to learn about itself "and the universe I shall one day master." If I were Mar-vell, I think I'd be wondering if the Intelligence was maybe taking that "supreme" adjective a little too far.

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