Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Gems of the 1990's - Skrull Kill Krew

In honor of DC and Marvel’s latest forays into earth-shattering, mind-blowing, changes-everything-you-thought-you-knew crossovers, I thought my next gem of the 1990’s should be something that is mildly related to Final Crisis and Secret Invasion.

Now, there’s a lot of hype at Marvel and a lot of claims that if you go back and re-read all the New Avengers trade paperbacks, you’ll be able to see that Secret Invasion has been planned for years. This is complete and utter B.S. Marvel does a lot of things well. Long-term planning and continuity are not among them. But there was a time in the mid-90’s when a couple of Scotsmen, one of whom is particularly wedded to certain kinds of continuity, teamed up to write about a bunch of folks on motorcycles killing aliens.

Now, calling SKK a gem might give the impression that I think it’s a good comic. Well, it’s not. In tone, it smacks more of Millar than Morrison and is outrageously violent. It’s one of those books where you half-expect all the characters to be shouting ‘EXTREME!’ at any given moment. In fact, I feel that way about a lot of Mark Millar’s work… but I digress…

Firstly, SKK showed us a lot about two creators who have been among the centerpieces of the big two in recent years. SKK is essentially a story of Grant Morrison’s ideas told in Mark Millar’s voice, and it explains why those two have landed in their respective roles today. Millar doesn’t have much use for continuity but uses action really well. I’ve always heard good things about his Superman Adventures comics, but he clearly never bit the big time at DC, and after reading much of his work, I’m convinced it’s because they were afraid he’d break any mainstream continuity characters they gave him.

On the other hand, Morrison dug up the skrull cows to create SKK. Morrison is well-read and creative, and in most of his writing, he either needs to take a story and character forward into a new incarnation or he needs to have it revisit concepts from the past. Marvel ultimately wants to have action packed comics and series with a lot of big ‘snkits’ and ‘bonks’, but the company needs to have its characters be recognizable to the casual reader. SKK showed Morrison digging up an old idea, but the counterweight of Millar made sure that the comic would be action packed but not too out there. This contrast says a lot about who both of these writers are today, and why they’ve found success at their respective companies.

Additionally, SKK, like Hitman, did a good job of being a part of the over-the-top silliness of 90’s super-hero comics while at the same time knowingly parodying it. The covers for the series are absolutely phenomenal, and they’re the primary reason I felt so strongly about tracking down the issues on ebay. There’s a token appearance by Captain America that really drives home that sense that super-hero comics had gotten away from their true meaning. The ‘heroes’ in the story aren’t particularly heroic. They’re simply a force that brings death to skrulls hiding among humans, and they themselves are faced with certain inevitabilities that caused their murderous rampage to begin with.

So there it is, Second Printers. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t even that good. But it’s in my long box and probably yours as well, and it’s worth owning because of what it tells us about the 90’s and what it tells us about two important creators.

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