Category Archives: Grant Morrison

AlieNation: Skrull Kill Krew by Emily Scott

Greeting, Legions, and welcome back to Madness Month here at The Unspoken Decade! I don’t know that I truly understood the meaning of the word “madness” until I experienced a certain ongoing basketball tournament Dean Compton-style, complete with days of games on multiple screens and more junk food than anyone in their right mind would ever consume, but now I am well prepared to take a look at some lunacy in the comic book realm. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to take a glance at Dean’s take on Ghost Rider #33 and Darry Weight’s Venom: The Madness, but if you’re in the mood for madness of a slightly more irreverent nature, there’s no better place to turn than 1995’s Skrull Kill Krew.

Created by writers Grant Morrison and Mark Millar and artist Steve Yeowell, Skrull Kill Krew was published under the short-lived Marvel Edge imprint, which included many established Marvel titles like Ghost Rider, Punisher, and Daredevil. As the name would suggest, and since it was practically the law in the mid-90’s that things be made more extreme, Marvel Edge trafficked in edgier fare, and Skrull Kill Krew is nothing if not on the fringes of normalcy. From the first cover, it’s obvious this comic is going to have some fun and not be too concerned with how it goes about doing it.

Skrull Cover
This is a great cover for this book – it perfectly captures its tone and content…but I can’t stop fixating on there only being two ellipses. WHY? If I ever stop being bothered by things like that, it will be the first indication I have been replaced by a Skrull.

We first meet Krew members Ryder and Moonstomp, who bust in on a history class, blow away the teacher, making the “she’s history” joke you totally see coming but would be disappointed if it weren’t there, take out a student, announce they were aliens, and dismiss class more flamboyantly than anyone since Alice Cooper. It’s a fitting introduction for this motley Krew because it’s exactly what you’ll get a lot more of in the rest of the books. Not to say that there is no depth to this series, but it doesn’t deviate far from the pattern of find Skrulls – make snarky quips – violently dispose of Skrulls. It’s entertaining, but anyone looking for something more probably wasn’t paying much attention to the cover up there when they picked this up.

One other thing the Krew does is recruit new members, but considering their recruitment techniques don’t look terribly different than their Skrull extermination techniques, their potential members can be a little reluctant. Dice, a surfer dude who has been experiencing strange visions and mood swings, runs from them, quite understandably so, as the Krew has shot his girlfriend after announcing themselves as “two seriously violent individuals” and started chasing him down with all the subtlety you would expect from people who mow down alien infiltrators in crowded public places.

Skrull Dread
I’d like to read the issue where they just can’t figure out why they aren’t meeting their recruitment goals.

The smarmy blonde British guy is Moonstomp, who we learn is a white supremacist who likes to deal out his violence with a claw hammer even though he could morph himself into any weapon. The black guy is Ryder, who we infer hates Skrulls enough to work with a white supremacist to take them out. The title doesn’t last long enough for them to get much character development beyond that, but the story doesn’t particularly demand any more of them.

Their partnership exemplifies some of the best and worst of humanity, something simultaneously beautiful and ugly. One on the one hand, it’s comforting to think that if there were an outside threat, we would put aside our differences and work together as a species to ensure our own preservation. On the other, it’s disheartening that it might take something decidedly more foreign than people of other races to make us finally set aside those prejudices and come together as one human family. I said that this story was not without depth, but this is the sort we get – not really examined in any meaningful way but there if you care to look for it.

Skrull Depth
The only depth they’re concerned about is how deep they’re burying these Skrulls, amirite??

In the second issue, we get an explanation of the Krew’s origin and powers. The gist is that in the 60’s, the Fantastic Four defeated some Skrulls impersonating them. Reed Richards, demonstrating what Ryder rightfully calls a “highly idiosyncratic sense of humor,” hypnotizes them into thinking they are cows and left them to graze. (You know you’ve read too much Greek mythology, when you find yourself wondering if Mr. Fantastic planned on boning any of the bovine.) During the Kree-Skrull War, they were changed back into Skrulls, but this time when they were defeated and turned back into cows, the Alien Activities Commission decided to do something weird and gross and send the cows to the slaughterhouse.

Skrull PETA
PETA would have a field day with this.

Those cows were turned into burgers, and some of the people who ate them died, some were unaffected, and some, our protagonists, were infected by the Skrull meat in a way that gave them powers like shape-shifting, ability to detect Skrulls, and near indestructibility, as well as an increasingly violent and irrational urge to off the Skrulls. The unfortunate side effect, though, is a bad case of dying soon, as the virus eats all of someone’s brain tissue in a few years. (This comic was created at the height of the Mad Cow Disease scare in the UK, and while it doesn’t necessarily have anything profound to say about media-induced panic or the horrors of mass food production, it capitalizes well on that panic, and using the cows was a clever way to integrate an older, fairly minor idea into the modern world.)

Just as the Fantastic Four all got different powers as the result of their exposure to cosmic rays, so too do the Skrull Kill Krew get unique powers from their Skrullovoria Induced Skrullophobia that reflect their personalities. Spiky haired punk rocker Riot, named because she is a Riot Grrrl and this is the super 90’s, transforms into a huge prickly insect. Dice’s powers manifest at random. Catwalk, the supermodel, turns into a giant cat. The most compelling affect of their powers, though, belongs to Moonstomp, who appears to be the only one exhibiting any of the degeneration yet. He has multiple dark patches on his body that are spreading, and it would have been interesting to see if a fairly flippant book would have handled a white supremacist turning black with any kind of subtlety.

Skrull Spread
Who would have thought that the most controversial thing about this would end up being the mention of Bill Cosby?

It’s not just playing on the idea of Mad Cow that makes this comic feel so much like a product of its time. In fact, of all the 90’s comics I have looked at for The Unspoken Decade, this might feel the most 90’s of all. It’s more than the “edginess,” the over the top violence, or the fact that the Krew all look like they stepped straight off the set of Hackers. There’s something about the anything goes, nothing-to-lose, nihilistic tone that transported me straight back to the mid-90’s, but it’s hard to separate how much of that is the comic, about a group of invincible feeling young people, and how much of it is a product of the fact that the height of my own invincible feeling growing up took place in the mid-90’s watching movies like Natural Born Killers and talking about how nothing really mattered.

Skrull Hackers
In addition to Moonstomp and Ryder, our Krew is rounded out by Baby Spice, Annie Lennox after she stuck her finger in a light socket, and…an amalgam of every character Matthew Lillard has ever played.

Something decidedly un-90’s in this comic is an appearance by the Man out of Time himself, Captain America, which feels incongruous for a number of reasons other than time. Not only does Captain America have a completely disparate mood from Skrull Kill Krew, but, as Dean pointed out when we were puzzling it over, if they were trying to use a big hero to sell more books, someone like Wolverine would have been a better option in 1995. It’s possible they used Cap just because he would have been such a random choice. It’s also possible they use him specifically because he represents an old-fashionedness and supposed conformity they were trying to flout.

The last reason would make the most sense to me because it would explain the diatribe below by Ryder that doesn’t really fit into the rest of the book otherwise. I can tell I’m no longer my younger cynical 90’s self because instead of thinking, “Yeah, you tell that old jingoistic bastard!” I just wanted to yell at Ryder not to talk to Captain America that way. I also want to balk at the idea that he could handle Cap so easily, but I suppose this is his comic and all.

Skrull Cap 1

I can tell I'm no longer my younger cynical 90's self because instead of thinking, "Yeah, you tell that old jingoistic bastard!" I just wanted to yell at Ryder not to talk to Captain America that way.
…then Ryder stormed off to blast Rage Against the Machine and talk on the phone about how Cap just doesn’t, like, get it, man.

The actual storyline involving Captain America doesn’t seem especially important, but the book gives the impression that it might have led to something significant had it continued. Basically, the President of Slovenia is flying into America, and Cap is at the airport to greet him. Baron von Strucker has other plans, though, and intends to take the president, and Slovenia, for himself. The Krew show up looking for Catwalk, who happens to be on the same plane, and realize the president is a Skrull. Strucker buggers off when he sees how many superpowered people are about, and the Krew, realizing the president is Skrull, tussle with Captain America, who thinks he is just protecting an important person. Oh, those wacky superhero shenanigans! Cap tells Nick Fury what happened, and Fury divulges that he knows exactly who Ryder is.

That revelation seems to be the most important part of the whole story, since it teases an even bigger reveal about Ryder, but I suppose that reveal will have to forever reside in Speculation City. At least we get this great moment with Strucker. Take that, fascist:

I feel like that impersonal message is the Nazi equivalent of Hitler writing "Have a nice summer" in your yearbook.
I feel like that impersonal message is the Nazi equivalent of Hitler writing “Have a nice summer” in your yearbook.

The other big cameo in these issues is the Fantastic Four, which makes sense, since Reed Richards’ actions caused this whole chain of events in the first place. The only problem is that it’s not the Fantastic Four at all; once again, those menacing Skrulls have impersonated them. There is some nice Twilight Zone-esque stuff at the beginning of the comic as we see a town completely get taken over by Skrulls from the perspective of a traveling salesman, but otherwise, there isn’t much in the way of plot to get in the way of multiple pages of the Krew beating up on the Fantastic Four replacements.

Skrull Four 1Skrull Four 2

Even for an evil alien, that Skrull Human Torch is just way too stoked about them being dead.
Even for an evil alien, that Skrull Human Torch is just way too stoked about them being dead.

Once the Krew have dispatched with the Fauxtastic Four, they turn their attention in the last issue to the town, which has been entirely replaced with Skrulls. This title was originally meant to be ongoing, but when it was cancelled, editor Tom Brevoort convinced Marvel for one more issue, making it into a mini-series. While it’s always nice when series get a resolution, Skrull Kill Krew has so little going on in terms of plot or character arcs that it’s really a resolution in name only. But when the majority of its action involves the killing of as many aliens as possible, I suppose there could be no better resolution than the all out mayhem that accompanies the mass slaughter of an entire town of them.

Skrull Kill
Pictured: the entire comic. Seriously, nothing happens in this issue except this gang killing an entire town of Skrulls. That’s it. It’s all variations on a theme.

I hope when I keep saying that there isn’t much going on plot-wise that it doesn’t come off too disparagingly because the other thing completely lacking in Skrull Kill Krew is pretense. It never once tries to be something it’s not, not for a moment, so while it’s most decidedly not a masterpiece, it most certainly is what it sets out to be, which is a rollicking good time. The sort of comic where you can kick back and enjoy some wanton destruction and not bat an eye because someone’s powers, which they acquired by eating ground up alien, cause them to turn into a human slot machine whose jackpot is becoming pure energy. Yes, that happens:

I would never joke about something like this.
I would never joke about something like this.

It might not be a huge letdown that the series didn’t go on longer like some other comics I’ve read recently, but it is nice to know the Krew made a reappearance in Secret Invasion and got a second mini-series in 2009. What was even more intriguing, but also slightly disappointing, was learning that there was talk of making a Skrull Kill Krew television show, which would be the perfect medium for this bunch of freaks. Had it been made, I’m sure it would have held a plum spot on the list of shows from my adolescence that were cancelled too soon.

I hope you’ve been enjoying Madness Month here at The Unspoken Decade, which will conclude with the maddest thing yet! Dean Compton will be allowing an interloper into our midst, one Mr. Paul O’Connor from Longbox Graveyard, to discuss his view on 90’s comics. If you don’t know some of Dean’s thoughts already, you might have forgotten what website you’re currently on, but Paul is a Bronze Age guy, so opinions may vary wildly! You don’t want to miss it!

 

 

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Evolve or Die: Animal Man Gallery. – Angel Hayes

With so much going on lately and the neurotic level of details that I use in my writing. Animal Man Pt2 is still in development.

To fill this intermission, I present you with the amazing covers that Animal Man Pt2 with include!!

Animal Man #2 (1988) - Page 1

Animal Man #3 (1988) - Page 1

Animal Man #4 (1988) - Page 1

Animal Man #5 (1988) - Page 1

 

See you soon!

Am I but a Savage? – Animal Man Pt1 – Angel Hayes

Hello there again. Getting back into the swing of things here. I usually have a very strict comic analysis format. It has a lot to do with how I read through the panels and my intense desire to share the comic with you in the same fashion that I absorb its panels.

I like to stop and focus on the art, the shifts in color, the finesse of the letters, the way they work seamlessly with the story to convey their perfect intentions. To pull your mind around a racetrack of stimuli, to deliver something that the art world and the written world could never accomplish by themselves. The ultimate team up of art and personal stories of triumph, growth, defeat, and things larger than ourselves comic books serves as a gateway to our courage, the unforgiving ways we feel about humanity, and the things outside of our daily concerns.

For these reasons, it has been a very difficult and different experience writing these next few articles. See that intense desire expanded to share not just a single book with you, but an entire adventure. It has been a process for me to try and pull my attentions further than I am used to. I hope it pays off.

So without further ado, let us venture forth, my dear friends.

ANIMAL MAN  1988-1990

I couldn’t tell you exactly what first attracted me to the Animal Man comics. At the time I was picking up tons of story arcs and a lot of obscure comics I had missed in my youth. I grabbed them up and have never looked at comics the same way.

Animal Man #1 (1988) - Page 1

……I honestly think I have something for the orange and blue contrasting color combination.

Animal Man wins the nonchalant hero award repeatedly while having a much much deeper undertone. I mean his name is Buddy, for goodness sake.

Movie stuntman, family man, Superhero – all these titles apply to Buddy.

Animal Man was one of those heroes with a good concept and a mostly forgotten execution. The idea of a superhero who can have any ability of any animal is not unheard of. The idea that he absorbs it from the life energy of earth is both super weird but really awesome.

Lifestream-ffvii-fmv-endingA concept that FFVII completes beautifully with a bad haircut. And no noses.

Like so many other forgotten or overlooked heroes, Animal Man was resurrected in the late 80’s pushing into the 90’s and represented the shifts in perspectives from one decade to the next perfectly.

Bright colors and dark line work are the rules for most of the first few issues of Animal Man, looking much like early to mid 90’s American animation.

We begin with Buddy having an afternoon with his family in the suburbs. His family seems to be rather normal. A general discussion of the future between himself and his wife Ellen commences. Only it’s about his career…and how he’d like to get back in the superhero game. With JLA making headlines, etc., he wants to use his powers to provide for his family and find a place for himself in the process.

Animal Man #1 (1988) - Page 7I swear that the World’s Greatest Mom shirt is the only reason embroidery stores exist.

This is the beginning of what seems to be a nice, if odd, homebody of a superhero story. The next 26 issues that follow both amaze and push the idea of what I thought you were allowed to do with comics. The schizophrenic nature of the comic actually helps me focus on what I think is more important in the overarching story. To lead the reader without holding hands. To push your eyes to follow the paths that you love and to rediscover new points as you gloss back over.

Reading Animal Man truly is an adventure that is unique. Every page goes quickly. Then your mind demands you repeat it. Until the block colors bleed over and the lettering stacks against the panel boxes. Until Buddy’s humanity makes you smile.

Back to what is at hand.

Animal Man #1 (1988) - Page 11 Animal Man #1 (1988) - Page 18

 

A beast hears the cries of the forgotten. Moving with haste through a concrete wilderness, we see his despair. We feel the isolation in the dark shadows and cool themed colors. All the major action done with gray chromatics, the rest of the city in the bright block colors we’ve grown accustom to.

As this drama unfolds, we jump back towards Buddy who is now serious enough to get a manager for his superhero career. I mean, nothing says a great future ahead like getting a friend and neighbor to be your manager. And then have a canned non-descriptive beer to celebrate.

Animal Man #1 (1988) - Page 20 Animal Man #1 (1988) - Page 21

 Animal man appears on terrible television like we would all probably do if we were superheroes. After the usual “THAT’S SKIN TIGHT” costume joke from what appears to be Richard Dawson in comic book form we move on to a heart to heart with husband and wife. I love to see this dynamic in a comic book, where the more normal of the two has no real problems helping the super with their ambitions but still maintains their own existence and personality. I also love that weird model-style cocked hip panel of Animal Man. Because Orange and Blue is fabulous.

And with that he is off to investigate the odd happenings in town. Buddy is called in by S.T.A.R. Labs.

Animal Man #1 (1988) - Page 24

After being told he was the D-List in superhero choices, his powers are then questioned, and I can’t help but imagine that Dr. Myers says, “How fascinating” with all the enthusiasm of a older generation carnival worker. We find out good ol’ S.T.A.R. Labs is having research issues with primates. Animal Man finds lots of damage the likes of which he can’t imagine a normal person could have caused.

Much more distressing than that is what they left behind.

Animal Man #1 (1988) - Page 26

Just look at the horrifying state of it: faces of confusion, despair, fear, pain, and anguish dominate the being and this entire page. The melding of vibrant colors and textures create a frenzy of mercurial reasoning. No beginning or end to be found. The fear alone trapped within this panel is enough to give me nightmares. The movement suggested by the being before us is almost nauseating.

What has Buddy gotten himself into?

Thanks for bearing with me on this first foray into our Animal Man adventure. I cannot wait to continue it with you. Expect plenty more parts and more often than usual!

Until next time…and Don’t Forget…Evolve or Die.

-Angel