Sunday, December 11, 2016

Live Kree Or Die - Marvel's Space-Born Super-Hero!

Marvel had found success in the comic book business, an industry defined by booms and busts. Thanks to the talents of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Stan Lee and others the business was booming and finally Marvel publisher Martin Goodman was able to wriggle free of a crippling distribution deal which had limited his ability to publish as many comics as he desired. With the new deal came a wave of new titles and among them was Marvel's Space-Born Superhero Captain Marvel. This issue means a lot to me as it was among the very first Marvel comics I bought for myself and was the basis for my lifelong fascination with the character and my obsession with the hobby.

In the debut issue by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan and new inker Vince Colletta, Captain Mar-Vell battles Sentry 459. The Sentry has grown to thirty feet and despite the fact they are both agents of the Kree on Earth, Captain Marvel sees it as his duty to protect the Cape from the ravages of the Sentry which has been unleashed by Mar-vell's devious commander Yon-Rogg.

It's a ferocious battle between the two as Mar-Vell seeks to find an advantage on the seemingly unstoppable Sentry. Eventually he is able to penetrate the Sentry's armor with his always ready Uni-Beam and he defeats the Sentry for the time being.

In the second issue of Captain Marvel we learn something rather momentous, that the Kree and the Skrulls have been at war for a very very long time. The Skrulls debuted in the Marvel Universe in the second issue of Fantastic Four and their deadly agent the Super-Skrull (possessing the powers of all four members of the Fab 4) first appeared in issue nineteen of "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine". Since his defeat at the hands of the FF and later Thor, the Super-Skrull has been held in disdain by the Emperor of the Skrull empire. But the Emperor makes a deal with Super-Skrull to check out the Kree activity on Earth and SS does so with the intention of marrying the Princess and becoming Emperor himself.

He arrives on Earth and quickly comes into contact with Mar-Vell. The two battle and during that fracas the elderly hotel clerk who has long been suspicious of Walter Lawson (remember he first signed in as "C. Marvel") is injured in a Super Skrull attack when he attempts to bring a strange carrying case of Mar-Vell's to the Cape authorities. Captain Marvel himself is captured by the Super Skrull.

In the second part of this story the Super Skrull attempts to extract information from Captain Marvel but is unable to do so. Captain Marvel escapes and after visiting his spaceship returns to Earth to discover the Super Skrull has taken the form of Walter Lawson.

Eventually Cap is able to turn the Super Skrull's powers of hypnotism against him and the devious agent of the Skrulls leaves Earth for the time being.

In the fourth issue, the last by the creative team of Thomas, Colan, and Colletta Captain Marvel battles the Sub-Mariner. And oddly it is the Sub-Mariner who is trying to save the surface people when a deadly bio weapon is activated by Colonel Yon-Rogg. Captain Marvel must appear to be protecting the deadly experiment while at the same time allowing it to be destroyed. He does so but just barely as he and Namor scrap both above the waves and beneath them.

It's a weird dance that Captain Mar-Vell plays in these initial adventures. He professes to be a loyal Kree soldier but time and again he violates his orders and seems stranded in his loyalties between the Kree and the people of Earth.

One gets the sense that he and Medic Una are a new kind of Kree, a more sensitive expression of that warlike species and perhaps a sign of hope. But it makes for some muddled storytelling.

I suspect a soldier in a backwater country forced with questionable moral choices when given orders of suspect quality from a leader with suspect motivations must've seemed potent in the late 60's. It certainly in many respects was a romanticized parallel to the Vietnam War which raged at the same time that these comics hit the stands. These possible comments on the global order were lost on me as a youth who merely saw these as majestic adventures of a colorful hero. I really loved these stories, they imprinted quite strongly on me.

But in the very next issue a whole new creative team debuts and the noble Captain Marvel moves into a new phase of his career.

More next week. 

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  1. Thats what made it interesting though that he wasn't a "superhero"

    1. He's a man with heroic tendencies who tries in difficult circumstances to do the right thing. Now what that right thing is difficult, but serving the Kree is a hard place to start. Maybe that's what they meant.

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