Can 'Captain Marvel' Reverse Engineer a Story from This Comic?

The Kree-Skrull War was one of Marvel's first extended storylines, and also one of its most confusing.
Sal Buscema/Marvel Entertainment

As a new synopsis teases, Marvel’s first female-led movie Captain Marvel will draw some level of inspiration from the fan-favorite "Kree-Skrull War" comic book storyline. It's a decision that seems all the stranger given that Carol Danvers, the main character of the movie, barely makes an appearance in that story, years before she became a superhero.

The Kree-Skrull War was one of Marvel’s first extended storylines, running for eight months through issues of the Avengers comic book series. As the name suggests, the central narrative is a war between the Kree and the Skrulls, two alien races that had appeared in a number of Marvel's comics for years by that point. The Skrulls, in fact, went all the way back to the 1963 second issue of Fantastic Four. Thanks to their ability to change shape, they’d been hypnotized into believing they were earth cows, a plot point that would be brought up multiple times in subsequent years.

At the point where the story began, the Kree were the more high-profile of the aliens, thanks to the Captain Marvel comic book series, which featured a Kree soldier in the title role. (This was Mar-Vell, a male hero who served as both love interest for and, later, superheroic inspiration to, Carol Danvers. He’d be killed off in 1982's subtly titled The Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel.) As part of the set-up of that series, Earth had been identified as a planet of interest by the Kree — something that provoked Mar-Vell to forsake his own people in protest, and fly to Earth’s defense. (Literally.)

The Avengers storyline initially picked up on that thread, with Mar-Vell and the team dealing with an attempt by Ronan the Accuser to transform Earth into a base camp for the Kree. (Ronan is, of course, Lee Pace's character from Guardians of the Galaxy; Marvel has confirmed Pace will return for Captain Marvel.) The temporary partnership between the Avengers and Mar-Vell means that the team is paying attention when Mar-Vell is brought before the "Alien Activities Committee," a government body that is later revealed to be a front for the Skrulls, also seeking to use Earth for their own end.

Through a series of increasingly outlandish machinations — including the revelation that Carol Danvers was actually a Skull in disguise, while the real Carol was elsewhere — Mar-Vell is brought to the heart of the Skrull Empire, where he swaps places with a human being who had been psionically activated by the leader of the Kree, which allows him to bring about an end to the war. (Don’t ask; at one point, he literally thinks fictional superheroes into existence to turn the tide.)

It's a story full of twists, turns and unlikely events — but not necessarily something that would make a good movie, nor an origin story for a brand new superhero, as Captain Marvel intends to be. (While the primary character of the comic book Kree-Skrull is, technically, Captain Marvel, it's his alien heritage that makes him so important, so it's not as if Carol Danvers could be easily swapped into his place.)

Perhaps the best guide to how the comic book "Kree-Skrull War" storyline will be used onscreen is 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, which took the name and a couple of surface details from the comic book source material, but otherwise reverse engineers its own story and circumstances to hit those points. If Captain Marvel is to be anything more than an over-packed, somewhat confusing mess of a movie, it will hopefully treat its original inspiration as exactly that: inspiration, not anything in need of direct translation... especially considering it's supposed to take place a decade before the first Iron Man movie, yet no-one has ever referenced a war between two alien races being fought on Earth before. Maybe Carol could simply be abducted to keep things simple?

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