Why Skrulls Are Pathetic Villains …
I mentioned in the tail end of my review of the Fantastic Four #1: Stan Lee’s writing of this period was wildly inconsistent. One issue could be titanically brilliant and the next would be utter swill. It is amazing how fast that theory was proven, for this issue is the latter. The Skrull’s invasion were the first of what would become a plethora of alien invasion stories that were hastily thought out pulp of the worst kind. Yet, in some of the later issues the aliens would prove to be greater threats. The Skrulls, however, are laughable frog like beings who are more reactionary then the Thing on his worse day, which makes them pretty pathetic beings, indeed.
The funny thing about Skrulls is on paper they are not pathetic beings for much of their makeup is actually quite novel. They can change their molecular structure into any living thing. Not only does this give them the ability to frame any member of any team for crimes they did not commit, as they do to the Fantastic Four here, but they can morph into gigantic destructive beasts. However, the gigantic behemoths that they morph into near the end are easily taken care of by ingenuity and fast movement. The Skrullish serpent, is easily made mince meat by Thing. It seems the deck is unnaturally stacked high, in favour of the Four. They are not written as a threat by Stan and this makes the conflict rather pointless.
What is interesting, is how the story develops the team. In this issue, more is made of the underlying emotional problems Ben is going through. Ben suffers a feeling of inadequacy because he looks like a pile of rocks, so he covers up with a long trench coat and dark glasses when venturing into public. Keep in mind, this is the period when Thing was depicted without a neck or strong brow. He very much resembles a yellow stone ogre-like creature. As the comics evolve, so does Ben’s look, to the point he is sleek and human looking. I much prefer the former rendering of Thing, as it shows him as a beauty within the beast.
In the beginning of the story, when the Skrulls are acting as doppelgängers for the the Four, and perpetrating crimes, the comic brings up some wonderful points about fame. This comic demonstrates how when a character puts themselves out to the public as a hero everyone will gun for their destruction. The vulnerability of fame becomes a reoccurring theme in later Fantastic Four comics and indeed Marvel as a whole, esp. Spider-Man. Everyone and the kitchen sink comes out of the wood work to claim victory over those who stress that they are the best at something. Humans have a natural animalistic need to show their dominance and the Marvel Superheroes/villains are no different.
By this point, I am sure you are wondering why I consider this story so shoddy, if I approve of the developments in Thing’s character. My disapproval stems from the climax. After the Four finally catch up to the Skrullish framers and after a pointless battle between two extremely weak “indestructible monsters,” Reed fools the Skrulls into thinking the Fantastic Four are omnipotent, omniscient weapons of the Earth. This successfully dupes the naive Skrulls and they retreat to the stars in fear. If the Skrulls, truly believed that the Fantastic Four were omnipotent, then how did they frame them so well at the beginning? Wouldn’t a truly omniscient weapon have foreseen the framing attempt and stopped it while it was happening? Furthermore, wouldn’t the Skrulls, a “super intelligent race with interstellar traveling capabilities” have been quick enough to pick up on the lie?
Am I asking too much for a narrative to make sense?
I must say, in spite of all these narrative flaws, I have to give great admiration to Jack Kirby. His character construction of the frog-like Skrulls, is some of the best in the Silver Age. Some of the panels, particularly the ones with the Skrull monsters, are gorgeous. Too bad Stan Lee’s contribution is nowhere near his partner’s. It’s always one or the other that is good. It is never the both of them together.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Pros: The Art, the alienation of the Four, The Thing’s struggle with self esteem and opening framing plot.
Previous Review: “The Fantastic Four Meet The Mole Man, The Moleman’s Secret” (The Fantastic Four #1 Nov 1961)
Upcoming Review: “The Man in the Ant Hill” (Tales to Astonish #27 Jan. 1962)
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