Avengers: Kree-Skrull War by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, Neal Adams, John Buscema, and Tom Palmer
Before its release, people were predicting that 'Guardians of the Galaxy' would be the film which "broke Marvel's winning streak". After all, it's a bunch of unfamiliar characters - including a heavily-armed talking raccoon and a tree-man with a three-word vocabulary - and there's little to no connection with the other Marvel Cinematic Films. But as we know now, it was a huge success and spawned a just-as-successful sequel. And really, it should have come as no surprise, because it's about superheroes in space, and what's not to love about superheroes in space? Personally, I'm a very big fan of superheroes in space. Particularly, Marvel superheroes space. So I would like to spend the next few weeks exploring the cosmic side of Marvel's superhero universe.
I'll recommend a lot. You don't need to read it all. Some will be good stand-alone arcs, some the start of something bigger. Some will be better read after reading other comics first. And they'll come from different eras. Each era has a sensibility to it. There's the comics of my day. The old-people comics. And the comics read by those damn kids. It will be up to you to decide which era best matches your sensibility.
The true beginnings of Marvel's cosmic superheroes lie with the beginnings of Marvel superheroes as we know them: the work of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. Particularly the work of Lee and Kirby on Fantastic Four, where most of Marvel's ideas emanate from ultimately. We'll talk about these ur-cosmic comics eventually. But for now I want to skip ahead a little.
And this is a good starting point.
Now, people look back on this as a story, but to its creators and initial audience, it was 9 episodes (Avengers #89-97, to be precise) in an ongoing series, and it reads more like 9 episodes than a single arc. But there are elements that tie these issues together.
Two intergalactic empires, the Kree and the Skrulls, have gone to war. And Earth finds itself caught in the middle.
The Kree were prominently featured in the last Guardians film, as a warlike race dissatisfied with recent peace treaties. Its main villain, Ronan the Accuser, was a Kree terrorist seeking to restore the glory of his people choking under a peace forced on them.
Both the Kree and Skrulls were of course introduced in the pages of the Fantastic Four. Ronan was one of the first Kree soldiers we met. Later, a prominent Kree soldier would betray his empire and become a champion of earth named Captain Marvel.
Anyways, this story features an intergalactic struggle landing on earth. It stands alone, makes a good intro to the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, and features Ronan, Captain Marvel, plus other cool things like the Inhumans and Mandroids.
The key figure in the story will ultimately be Rick Jones. An ordinary teenager who has been oddly present at pivotal moments in Marvel history. He was indirectly responsible for Bruce Banner's transformation into the Hulk. And he sent out the call that first assembled the Avengers to thwart the schemes of Loki.
Generally regarded as a classic and beloved Marvel story. Definitely from the old folks' era. But the primary artist Neal Adams was sufficiently ahead of his time to be familiar to people who are familiar with the art of my childhood. The story should tell a complete arc, mostly standing on its own with a beginning and end.