REVIEW: MARVEL LEGENDS KREE SOLDIER/SKRULL SOLDIER TWO-PACK
Easily the two best-known alien races within the Marvel Universe are the Kree and the Skrull. These two alien races have been locked in combat with each other for millennia. With that in mind, Hasbro has created an impressive two-pack as part of their MARVEL LEGENDS line, called "ALIEN ARMIES", featuring a Kree Soldier and a Skrull Soldier, the implication being that you can army-build these guys all you like, since they don't represent specific individuals within their respective races.
The back of the package reads, in part, "For thousands of years, the Kree and the Skrulls have been locked in combat with one another. The vast resources of entire galaxies are devoted to the conflict, with the super science of both races focusing almost entirely on the continuing advancement of military technologies."
That's not a bad basic summary, but we really should take a closer look at the respective empires, and then the individual toys. Let's see what WikiPedia has to say first of all about the KREE:
The Kree are a scientifically and technologically advanced militaristic alien race in the Marvel Universe. They are native to the planet Hala in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Their first on-panel appearance was in Fantastic Four #65 (August 1967), created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
True Kree resemble humans almost exactly, with the exception of blue skin. Kree have a higher strength level than that of a human, and require more nitrogen to breathe comfortably. Kree bodies are adapted to environmental characteristics on Hala that are un-Earthlike: 1.) higher gravity and 2.) a higher concentration of nitrogen in the atmosphere. Under Earth's lesser gravity their strength and speed increase. However, they cannot breathe in Earth's atmosphere without using a chemical, "breathing formula," or artificial life-support devices.
The original Kree had blue-colored skin, but a second racial group with pink skin resembling that of human Caucasians emerged over the millennia. Presently, the blue-skinned "purebred" Kree are a small, but powerful, minority. Yet, Pink Kree are much more durable than their blue racial brethren.
Adult Kree range (typically) from between 5 to 8 feet (2.4 m) tall. Bilaterally, they are symmetric, with two legs and arms that end in feet and hands respectively. Their hands have four independently moving fingers each with opposable thumbs. They have heads with two forward facing eyes, allowing for precise stereoscopic vision.
The Kree were an evolutionarily stagnant race. This was due to a single member of the Kree race attempting to gain control of The Crystal of Ultimate Vision. This un-named Kree found the crystal, but attempted to use it to become akin to a god, with powers as of those of the Phoenix Force. As punishment, the crystal "genetically froze their evolution in place" allowing the rest of creation to pass them by.
In an attempt to further their development, some Kree bred with other species, producing the 'pink-skinned' Kree, who are similar in appearance to Caucasian humans. These pinks (also called 'whites') eventually outnumbered the blue-skin Kree. The Kree value what they consider to be their genetic purity, to such an extent that reproduction outside of the species is a strict taboo.
The Kree are a nationalistic society, imperialistic and militaristic, with the only widespread religion being worship of the Supreme Intelligence.
The Kree Empire extended throughout nearly a thousand worlds in the northwestern lobe (Earth reference) of the Greater Magellanic Cloud with outposts in other galaxies.
Kree names are usually short, being one or two syllables. Given names are separated from surnames by a hyphen. Examples include Mar-Vell, Yon-Rogg, Una-Rogg, and Zey-Rogg.
Under the Supreme Intelligence, the Kree Empire was a military-technocractic dictatorship. The Kree began their empire over a million years ago, within a hundred years of the acquisition of interstellar technology from the Skrulls (at that time, a benevolent people). The Skrulls at the time were attempting to start a galactic empire of their own, this one based on free trade, and they landed on Hala to help the barbaric natives advance to the point where they could join.
Although Hala is the official planet of the Kree's origin, for a time, the planet Kree-Lar in the Turunal system served as the capital of the Kree Empire as well as the seat of the government.
The permanent ruler was the organic computer-construct called the Supremor (or Supreme Intelligence), an immense computer system to which the preserved brains of the greatest intellects of the Kree race have been linked. Aiding the Supreme Intelligence were a number of imperial administrators on Kree-Lar, who are also governors of each of the member worlds, and a vast standing space militia. They also employ powerful automatons called Sentries whose job it is to keep member worlds under the empire's watchful eye.
The Kree Empire extends across almost a thousand worlds in the northwestern lobe (Earth reference) of the Greater Magellanic Cloud.
Kree technology includes advanced warp-drive starships, advanced robotics, cyborg, and cybernetic technology, advanced genetic engineering, psionic technology (Psyche-Magnetron), advanced energy weaponry (Uni-Beam), nuclear power and weapons.
I would like to say that I think the only eight-foot-tall Kree that I've ever been aware of was a big lug with a nasty attitude by the name of Ronan the Accuser. Most of them tend to be more human-sized and proportioned.
Now granted, the Kree aren't what they used to be. Their empire came under attack by the Shi'ar, a third notable alien race within the Marvel Universe, with an empire of their own, and between losing that war and some scheming on the part of the Supreme Intelligence to try to kick-start the evolution of the Kree, over 98% of the population was killed, and a significant amount of the rest of it underwent some sort of evolutionary mutation into a species known as the Ruul. However, since this Kree Soldier figure pretty much represents the Kree before all of that mess happened, I'm not going to get into it extensively. So, let's consider the figure.
KREE SOLDIER: One thing I noticed right off was that the figure's uniform was painted to be primarily silver. In the comics, I've always interpreted Kree uniforms as being white. But I suppose silver's possible. It may also be that Hasbro considered a white uniform to be a little on the dull side for the toy set.
For the most part, the Kree Soldier uses a frequently used set of body molds that have turned up on quite a few "male hero" molds to one degree or another in recent times, including Yellowjacket, Quicksilver, Guardian, and most recently, Nova. Personally, I appreciate the consistency.
There are some differences. The gloves and boots are unique to the figure, and of course, so is the head. The Kree Soldier in question carries the rank of Captain, and in this, duplicates the early look of Marvel Comics' first Captain Marvel character, before he took on a more unique super-hero costume.
The uniform is mostly silver, with green trunks, boots, gloves, belt, and holster. There is a green symbol on his chest that looks like a planet with a single ring around it. The figure was a separate collar piece, also in green, that drapes to the shoulders. The head is encased on a green helmet/mask, that only leaves the lower face visible. The eye lenses are painted silver, and there is a small green fin on the top of the head. The Kree Soldier also comes with a small grey blaster, which can fit in the holster.
The Kree Soldier also comes with a very interesting -- "Spare part". Please note that the entry on the Kree Empire from Wikipedia made reference to the fact that there are two Kree species -- blue skins and white skins. The Kree Soldier, as presented in the package, is a white-skin Kree. Now, this is interesting, since whatever the current population and political climate may be among the Kree, it's just as true that at one time, the white-skins were a severely oppressed minority.
I started thinking that it would be sort of cool to have a blue-skinned Kree, and then I noticed -- there's a second head in the package! Identical to the first, it represents a blue-skinned Kree Soldier. The heads pop off and back on very easily.
My only complaint here is with the shade of blue used. The blue Kree have always been presented as being a rather pale blue. The lower face showing on the blue Kree head is a much darker blue than is really appropriate in my opinion. More of a deep sky blue, as much as anything. Now, it's not a very large area, and probably isn't anything that can't be corrected with a little paint in the right shade.
I'd like to make this comment about the soldiers of the Kree Empire in general. One of the editions of the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe, dating back to to the early 90's, I think, has an entry about the Kree, and it shows that Kree Soldiers all wear a similar design uniform, but the differences in rank, all the way from Private up to General, are denoted by the color of the trim on the uniform, and the complexity of the planet-like symbol on the chest. I found it a fascinating outline of how the Kree military is divided, rank-wise. To what degree this template was accurately followed on a consistent basis, I really can't say.
Articulation of the figure is of course excellent. About the only articulation point I really have a problem with is the very strange shoulder back-and-forth swivel. I've never really thought this was necessary, or even looked that good. The slightly metallic sheen of the silver uniform does a better than average job of concealing it, though. Overall, the Kree Soldier is fully poseable at the head, shoulders, upper arm swivel, double-jointed elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivels, double-jointed knees, and ankles.
Now, let's have a look at the SKRULLS:
The Skrulls first appeared in Fantastic Four #2 (Jan. 1962) and were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Millions of years ago, the Celestials performed genetic experiments on the reptilian ancestors of the Skrulls, resulting in three branches of Skrulls that eventually warred with one another. The Deviant branch — possessing the innate ability to shapeshift — were triumphant, and afterward wiped out all members of the other two races.
The modern Skrulls originate from the planet of Skrullos, in the Drox System in the Andromeda galaxy, and were originally a mercantile civilization, primarily interested in free trade and willing to share their technology with all races they deemed worthy. A Skrull delegation to the planet Hala, home to the then-barbaric Kree and the peaceful Cotati, held a contest between the two races to determine with whom the Skrulls would trade. The Cotati won, but the vengeful Kree massacred the Skrull delegation, took over the Skrull landing spaceship by force, and developed their own technology from it with which they began waging war against the Skrulls. Kree aggression forced the Skrulls to become a militaristic civilization, and the Kree-Skrull War continued for thousands of years with only brief interruptions. The Skrull Throneworld is later moved from Skrullos to the more central Tarnax IV, with their empire encompassing over fifty worlds.
The largest Skrull-related conflict involving Earth has been the Kree-Skrull War. The Kree Accuser Ronan had wrested control of the Kree Empire from the Supreme Intelligence and attacked the Skrulls, reigniting hostilities. The Avengers become involved once the Super Skrull kidnaps Captain Marvel, and in turn they battle a Kree Sentry robot, three of the original Skrulls that had fought the Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, rogue Inhumans and legions of Skrulls. The Supreme Intelligence ends the immediate conflict by revealing to Avengers' ally Rick Jones that he has vast mental potential, which is then used to freeze all combatants in place. The Supreme Intelligence announces that, while the Kree and Skrulls have reached genetic dead ends, the human race displays incredible untapped potential.
There is still bad blood between the Kree and the Skrulls, and years later the cosmic being the Watcher adjudicates a duel between champions from both races: Colonel Bel-Dann of the Kree and Warlord Raksor of the Skrulls. After one year of conflict the duel remains deadlocked and is ultimately abandoned with no resolution.
At one point, the Skrull throneworld was devoured by the planet-eating entity known as Galactus. This threw the Empire into chaos and civil war. It is during this time that two Skrulls, Zabyk and Myrn, detonate a genetic "hyperwave bomb" which prevents all Skrulls, everywhere in the universe, from shapeshifting, trapping them in whatever form they occupy at the time.
The Skrull Empire is on the verge of collapse until Kl'rt the Super-Skrull is rescued from the Van Allen radiation belt, where he had been trapped as a stream of dissociated particles. The Super Skrull is not affected by the hyperwave bomb as he is not in physical form at the time of detonation.
After reintegration, the Super Skrull joins forces with the Silver Surfer who introduces him to S'byll, one of the five claimants to the Skrull Throne. Using Kl'rt as a template, S'byll is able to regain her shapeshifting abilities and then to restore them to all Skrulls. S'byll is then acclaimed as the new Empress by the Skrull race, and negotiates a truce with the Kree after defeating them in a decisive battle.
The Skrulls were also heavily involved in the recent "Secret Invasion" storyline in Marvel Comics, but there's no way I'm addressing that mess.
Skrulls are described as green-skinned reptilian humanoids with large pointed ears, red or green eyes, and corrugated chins. Skrulls are known for genetic and molecular instability, and genetic diversity, due to Celestial experimentation creating the Skrull "Deviants" (now the only surviving Skrulls). The Skrulls are known for their physical malleability and ability to shapeshift to any size, shape, or color at will, taking on the appearance but not the characteristics of other beings and objects within a volume range of .75 to 1.5 times the Skrull's original volume. Skrulls are able to assume virtually any form, be it organic or inorganic. As a result, the Skrulls excel at spying and infiltration. Skrulls are also able to use their shapeshifting abilities to form weapons (eg. blades and clubs) with parts of their bodies, making them dangerous hand-to-hand combatants.
Generally speaking, the Skrulls have been portrayed as villains, and not without reason. But in my opinion, that doesn't necessarily make the Kree the good guys. Neither race has shown a lot of respect for Earth, except for use as a beach-head/outpost/conquered colony. Heck, at one point, it became a prison planet for interstellar criminals.
What is interesting about the Skrulls is that they have appeared radically different in the comics over the years. While this can be, "outside" of the Marvel Universe, directly attributable to the differing styles of the various artists who are given something not entirely human-looking to work with -- unlike the more human-appearing Kree -- if one wants to find an "in-universe" explanation for it, one could perhaps easily attribute it to the Skrulls' inherent shape-shifting abilities. It may well be that there are times when Skrulls choose to appear slightly different than whatever the Skrull "norm" might be, or it might even be that given the genetic "diversity" in the species, there's a certain amount of variance even in the "default" mode of the Skrull population.
Be that as it may, Skrulls have appeared over the years as anything from somewhat short, slender-bodied, large-headed aliens, to muscular powerhouses, to even having relatively human physiques and even a certain humanity to their appearance, the ears, chins, and brows notwithstanding. As far as that goes, the illustration on the package to this two-pack of figures shows a relatively "non-extreme" Skrull, as far as facial configuration is concerned.
I'll admit, I've tended to prefer these less-extreme Skrulls. The more extreme a Skrull looks, somehow, the less seriously one can take them. They're almost comical. And I sort of wish that the toy had taken this approach, at least with the headsculpt, but it didn't. But, neither is it overly comical, either. Now, let's consider the figure.
SKRULL SOLDIER: The one thing you don't really get a feel for in the package, the way the figures are posed, with the Kree Soldier basically standing straight up and the Skrull sort of bent over, is just how much larger the Skrull is than the Kree. The Kree Soldier stands almost precisely 6" in height, and as such, and given the body molds used, puts him in good standing with the basic scale of the Marvel Legends line, which admittedly has had a bit of variance to it over the years.
The Skrull Soldier, on the other hand, stands seven inches in height. That may not sound like that much of a difference, but if one considers the scale, if one assumes that a 6-inch Kree Soldier represents a six-foot-tall humanoid, then that makes this Skrull Soldier the equivalent of seven feet tall. Would you want to pick a fight with him, shapeshifting abilities or not? Didn't think so.
One cross-company observation -- the Skrull's overall size almost lets him fit into the DC Universe Classics line from Mattel. He's actually very slightly taller than their average, and certainly has the physique for it. Can a Skrull beat up Superman or Green Lantern? Here may be your chance to find out.
The figure has a 2008 copyright date stamped on him. However, I have determined, and it doesn't surprise me that much to learn this, for various observational reasons that I will outline in a few paragraphs, that this figure is a repaint of the "Super-Skrull" action figure originally available with the "Fantastic Four Classics" line from a couple of years ago. That line was moderately tied into the Fantastic Four live-action movie, if memory serves, but as far as the Super-Skrull is concerned, hardly anybody ever even saw him.
The Skrull Soldier is an amazingly well-detailed figure. The head, although a fairly extreme portrayal of a Skrull, is nevertheless accurate, and very well done. The entirety of the uniform has these small ridges sculpted into it. Precisely what this is meant to represent I am not sure. A coarse material? Something to do with the Skrull ability to shapeshift? A sculptor at Hasbro with a rather unprecedented eye for detail? Just not sure, but I'll admit, the end result is impressive.
Skrull uniform designs have been almost as variable as Skrull physiognomy, but there has tended to be one consistency -- they like to dress in purple. Precisely why, I don't rightly know, but this Skrull is no exception. The bulk of his uniform is purple, with black boots, gloves, trunks, and raised shoulder pieces tapering down the front and back to the trunks.
The Skrull figure has an interesting assembly aspect to it. The raised shoulder pieces and the black part of the uniform that they are part of are actually a separate piece, that as far as I can tell, has been glued very carefully and neatly to the torso during assembly of the figure. The way the figure is designed, I have to believe that the securing of this piece was probably the last step done before the head was installed. Interesting work, really.
Now, however impressive toy technology may be today, however well-articulated it's possible to make an action figure, the technology does not yet exist -- Transformers notwithstanding -- to allow an action figure to actually shape-shift. Just ask the Odo figure from Star Trek Deep Space Nine that I've got here. He's been standing on a shelf for fifteen years or so, and hasn't budged. Hasn't even reverted into his liquid form.
So, whataya do with a Skrull figure to at least make him look like he can do something along these lines? You include some extra parts. What the heck, if you can include a second HEAD for the Kree... And they're not even shapeshifters.
The Skrull comes with additional arms. In fact, they're attached to him in the package. This actually unnerved me at first since I was concerned that if these were the ONLY arms the Skrull came with, it was going to affect my purchase. Fortunately I quickly saw that a set of "normal" arms was packaged near the top.
And here's what made me think that this might've originally been intended as a Super-Skrull figure, even before I confirmed that theory. The additional arms clearly duplicate the abilities of three members of the Fantastic Four, something the Super-Skrull in particular was known for. They've just been painted in different colors.
Both arms have characteristics of the Thing, in that they have a rocky appearance, and end in three fingers and a thumb, rather than four. The difference is that they've been painted grey, like actual rock, rather than the orange coloration of the Thing.
Both arms also have what looks to have been intended as transparent flame emerging from them, like the Human Torch. However, here we have an interesting effect. Rather than being molded somewhere in the red-yellow-orange color range, as would be expected for simulated flame, they've been molded in a transparent blue. This has actually given them the effect of looking far less like flame, and more like some sort of blue crystalline structure emerging from the arms. It's a neat effect, and I suspect it was deliberate to downplay the "Fantastic Four" resemblance. While the hands are pretty much a giveaway, the "former" flames are an interesting look.
The two arms differ in one important aspect, and one of them as such gives away a third member of the Fantastic Four. The left arm is of relatively normal, if large, proportions, and is articulated at the elbow, and finger group. The right arm, however, is distinctly elongated from upper arm to slightly below where an elbow joint would be. It has no articulation of its own, but this "stretch" pretty well gives away the Mister Fantastic aspect.
Now, I've never actually seen the original Super-Skrull figure, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that some part of one of these arms, or even the main figure, would have been molded in transparent plastic to simulate the Invisible Woman.
However, regardless of what modifications have been made to these accessories to distance him a bit from the "Super-Skrull" motif and make him a "Skrull Soldier" (and I still wonder about the 2008 copyright date since the Super-Skrull had to come out before that), the end result is nevertheless some interesting "accessories" for the Skrull Soldier that allow him to simulate his shape-shifting ability.
The articulation of the figure, even in normal mode, is impressive. With his "regular" arms attached (they snap on and off at an upper-arm swivel joint fairly easily), the Skrull Soldier is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, double-jointed elbows, glove tops, wrists, finger groups, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, double-jointed knees, boot tops, ankles, and the fronts of the feet. And, he doesn't have that mildly annoying back-and-forth shoulder swivel.
So, what's my final word here? Honestly, I'm somewhat more impressed with the Skrull Soldier than I am the Kree Soldier. He's a bit more detailed, and a but more impressive overall. But, I am pleased to have both of them. I had honestly started to despair that this set was even going to come out. And technically, since these figures represent "Soldiers", not specific individuals, you can buy as many as you like/can find/can afford, and army-build them a bit -- although you're going to have an awful lot of Kree Captains. Still, the set is called "Alien Armies", so clearly Hasbro knows what some collectors may be inclined towards, and the Marvel Legends line has not had a lot of figures that you can do that with. I think the only other significant one was the Hydra Soldier from a while back.
This is a set that will appeal to any longtime Marvel fan. Certainly the Kree and the Skrulls have had a significant influence over the years in Marvel Comics, whereas figures of them have been few and far between. And these are really excellent figures of both of them. As such, the MARVEL LEGENDS KREE SOLDIER/SKRULL SOLDIER TWO-PACK definitely has my highest recommendation!