So the new Marvel event Empyre is coming up...eventually… you know, whenever this quarantine is over… Anyway, with Empyre comes a rich backstory to the many times the alien races of the Kree and Skrulls have fought each other with the most prominent being the Kree / Skrull War. Road to Empyre: The Kree / Skrull War by Robbie Thompson, Mattia De Lulis, and Javier Rodriguez is a refresher on the long and storied history of the Kree / Skrull conflicts. Let’s put our cosmic learning caps on and dig into the prelude to Marvel’s newest crossover event.
This issue starts with the characters from the 2019 miniseries Meet the Skrulls, which was basically like FX’s The Americans in the Marvel Universe with Skrulls. Meet the Skrulls focused on the Warners, a family of Skrulls, posing as humans to uncover and foil a plan to make a device to detect Skrulls. It ended with the father being murdered by a turn-coat Skrull, and the rest of the family foiling the plan and rescuing their lost daughter. Now the Warners, consisting of the mother (Gloria) and her three daughters (Ivy, Alice, and Madison), are looking through the lab of the Kree assassin from the aforementioned miniseries when they come across something the Kree found. It’s seemingly just a leaf, but to the Kree and the Skrulls, it’s something much more. It’s their history.
So what’s the leaf? Gloria recounts a tale of early Skrull history for both our benefit and her daughters’. Long ago the Skrulls had a technologically advanced empire but they were a peaceful people who grew their empire by sharing tech with other civilizations and offering to incorporate them into the empire. When they got to Hala to try to do the same with the two races that called the planet home: the Kree and the Cotati, they decided to test the two species to see which was worthier of being a part of the empire. They gave them tools to create “gifts” for the Skrulls and a year to do so in isolated places. The Kree who were on Earth’s moon created a vast technologically advanced city, which would become the Inhuman city of Attilan, while the Cotati created a beautiful garden. The Kree decided to go a step further by killing the Cotati, thereby wiping out the competition. That wasn’t enough for the Kree’s bloodlust though and they also killed the Skrull party, igniting a long-lasting conflict that would turn the Skrulls into the warmongering race they are today.
Back in the present Ivy Warner recounts the story of the celestial messiah. It turns out that not all the Cotati were wiped out. They created an alliance with a pacifist faction of Kree and planted the remaining Cotati across the universe. None of this would become important until the union of Mantis (yes, the Avenger and Guardian of the Galaxy) and the undead Avenger Swordsman. They had a son, Sequoia / Quoia aka the “Celestial Messiah”. He battled Thanos with the Avengers and then went off into space to fix the damage that battle caused.
The story was abruptly ended by the Kree assassin blowing up the motel the Warners were hiding out at, seemingly killing them. Instead they survived thanks to Ivy shapeshifting into a big monster and keeping her family safe from the blast. The family goes after the assassin and finds out that he received a transmission from Hulkling (See Incoming #1). This perplexes the family as Hulkling is half Kree and half Skrull with no real alliance. If you never read Young Avengers and don’t know who Hulkling is, he’s the son of the original Captain Marvel, (Kree hero Mar-Vell) and the Skrull princess Anelle, who was promptly whisked away and raised as a “mutant” on earth. He later became a founding member of the Young Avengers, learned his true origin, and developed a relationship with fellow teammate Wiccan.
The Warners arrive at the whereabouts of the Kree assassin and Ivy protests that the family shouldn’t continue to perpetuate the cycle of Kree / Skrull violence. She reminds her family that there was peace once (in the final flashback) with the story of Bel-Dann (Kree) and the Raksor (Skrull).
Way back during the intergalactic Trial of the Phoenix, the two had broken a truce during the trial. As punishment, the Watcher appointed them both as the champions of their respective races. Their fight continued until they faced a common enemy in the Inhumans and the Fantastic Four and formed an alliance to beat them back together. It turns out that was all orchestrated by the two teams and the Watcher yet the peace was kept up until they were both killed in Incoming #1.
Ivy convinces her sisters to join her in protest of killing the Kree. Gloria understands what they are doing but goes to the Kree’s apartment to kill him and is stopped by her daughters and the fact that the Kree has a family. Also the Kree assassin plays Hulking’s message which calls for a union between the Kree and Skrull empires and a focus on the invasion of Earth.
Road to Empyre: The Kree/Skrull War #1 is a fun and educational one-shot that delivers an exciting read as well as a good segue to the main event. The comic covers most of the major events in Kree / Skrull history that we all needed a refresher on. Being reminded of stuff like Bel-Dann and the Cosmic Messiah story as well as the Cotati was really helpful when diving into this event. I never knew they existed but they will probably play some role in the upcoming event. Props to Robbie Thompson for crafting a cool story that ties up everything in a single package for both new fans to catch up on and familiar fans to walk through memory lane as they get ready for Empyre. Also it was great seeing this continuation of his Meet the Skrulls miniseries from last year which is a fun book in itself and you should check it out when you get the chance. I'm a fan of the series and was pleasantly surprised to see the characters again. Mattia De Lulis and Javier Rodriguez bring some amazing work to the pages of the comic. De Lulis has a detailed, realistic style in the present and Rodriguez has a wonderful combination of modern and classic comic art styles that can simply be recognized as definitive pop comics from the past. All in all it’s a fun story paired with some great art. This issue was a joy to read and has me looking forward to the upcoming event.
Verdict: 8/10 Undercover Skrull agents
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