Earth is in dire peril -- and we doesn't even know it. The planet's been targeted by fanatical and violent alien invaders that claim our world as their own. The war won't be fought with spaceships and laser guns, though, because the invaders are Skrulls, notorious throughout the Marvel Universe for their ability to shape -shift. Indeed, deception and trickery will be the primary tools of the Skrulls' "Secret Invasion" of Earth, which kicks into high gear this April in the miniseries by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Lenil Yu.
Inspired by their research into humanity's history of psychological warfare, the Skrulls have assembled an EARTH'S MOST WANTED poker deck of 54 playing cards, each featuring some of the biggest threats to their invasion of Earth. Over the next 14 weeks, with the help of Marvel staffers like editor Tom Brevoort and "Secret Invasion" scribe Brian Michael Bendis, CBR News will reveal each card and what makes these characters such threats to the Skrulls' master plan.
Today, in Part One, we talk with Tom Brevoort about the Aces.
ACE OF SPADES - IRON MAN
Iron Man's cunning is just one of the reasons why Tony Stark is the top card in the Skrulls' deck. "He's a pretty smart guy with the historical background to put most of the pieces together if he discovers them," Tom Brevoort told CBR News. "At the moment, as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and one of the minds behind the Fifty -State Initiative, Iron Man is probably the preeminent superhero in the world, and number one on any villain's list of obstacles."
In his role as an Avenger, Iron Man has foiled a number of Skrull schemes, but in the eyes of the shape -shifters, his worst crime was perpetrated as a member of another superhero group. "As with the other members of the Illuminati, Iron Man's greatest offense to Skrullkind was probably the Illuminati's retaliation for the events of the Kree/Skrull War, as shown in 'New Avengers: Illuminati' #1," Brevoort explained. "Up to that point, he was just another monkey -man to them, but that made it personal, and put shellhead directly onto their radar."
As books like "New Avengers" and the "The Illuminati" have depicted, the greatest weapon in the shape -shifting Skrulls' arsenal is their ability to impersonate heroes and villains and to do so undetected. If the Skrulls are able replace Iron Man with an imposter, they'll gain a number of strategic resources.
"Tony's the head of the world peacekeeping force, he's got a technology factory at his beck and call, he's got the ear of the leading politicos in the land, and he's feared as much as loved by others of his kind," Brevoort stated. "Iron Man's the guy with all the toys, especially if you're coming at this from the perspective of an alien incursion."
Replacing Iron Man with an imposter isn't the only strategy available to the Skrulls. The Armored Avenger has a number of vulnerabilities they could exploit. "Tony's got an addictive personality and a tendency to take as much weight onto his own shoulders as he possibly can," Brevoort remarked. "Plus, a number of his closest friends and allies have been dropping over dead of late. As a result, he may be reluctant to trust anybody else with what he learns until it's too late -- counting on his own capabilities to be enough to deal with the situation."
ACE OF HEARTS - MR. FANTASTIC
Reed Richards' big brain isn't the only reason the Skrulls find him some dangerous. "Reed's probably the Earthman who knows the Skrulls the best, and is certainly the guy who's had the most experience in dealing with them," Brevoort explained. "And with his razor -sharp intellect, combined with that experience, he's the person most likely to understand the Skrull mindset and be able to detect the flaws in their planning."
Mr. Fantastic's encounters with the Skulls have made him a hero on Earth, but to the shape -shifters he's a monster. "While there might be a sympathetic Skrull here or there, in the eyes of the majority of Skrullkind, Reed is a terrorist," said Brevoort. "Even when you discount the things he's done to the Skrulls directly, Reed was the guy who saved Galactus's life, and then the world -devourer went on to consume the Skrull Throneworld. That's not the kind of thing that even the most left -leaning Skrull is easily going to forgive or forget."
Replacing Reed Richards with a Skrull doppelganger would be to remove him from play would offer the shape -shifters a number of advantages. "It would give them the ability to pass misinformation to the enemy from an unimpeachable source," Brevoort stated. "Plus, Reed has access to the Negative Zone, including the prison situated therein, which might make for a good beachhead."
Of course, the Skrulls don't have to replace Richards to neutralize him. They could always attack the one thing Mr. Fantastic treasures the most; his familial bonds with the other members of the Fantastic Four. "Reed's probably on the shakiest ground he's ever been as regards the rest of his family," Brevoort remarked. "And while they've seemingly managed to patch up some of their ideological differences, there's still that lingering scent of betrayal in the air, which would be easy for the Skrulls to manipulate."
ACE OF DIAMONDS - NAMOR
Prince Namor has many dangerous qualities. He's physically powerful and as Ruler of Atlantis he has access to advanced technologies and a deep knowledge of Earth's oceans. But to Skrulls, the Sub -Mariner is a threat because he's a wildcard. "He's the most likely one of the Illuminati to want to strike back hard and decisively, even self-destructively if he feels that strongly about it," Brevoort explained. "Namor doesn't have a human understanding of his limitations."
In the recent "Sub -Mariner" #6, Atlantis was destroyed and its people scattered around the globe, with Namor and the Atlantean army taking up residence in Latveria with Doctor Doom. How the Skrulls feel about the destruction of Atlantis is dependant upon whether or not they had a hand in its demise, which is currently unknown.
"Certainly, it spreads Namor's powerbase out over greater territory, but it also doesn't give him one central location of power," Brevoort stated. "Only time will tell whether this is a benefit or a drawback."
To the Skrulls, Namor's Achilles heel is probably his explosive personality. That hot -blooded impulsiveness also makes replacing him with a Skrull doppelganger a viable strategy. "Because Namor is so volatile and so changeable, it's easy when operating in his guise to put pressure against almost any power in the world by manufacturing a conflict between them and Atlantis," Brevoort said. "And directing enemy resources against a phantom foe would eat up a good chunk of time and effort, and all in a direction away from where the true menace lies."
ACE OF CLUBS - PROFESSOR X
It's probably not Charles Xavier's telepathic powers that worry the Skrulls, as he's so far been unable to detect any of alien agents. It's Xavier's allies the Skrulls are concerned about. "The mutant community as a whole was a very grave threat to the Skrulls, but at this point, in the wake of 'House of M', their numbers are such that they're something of an irrelevancy," Brevoort explained. "But Xavier's got a long association with the Shi'ar Empire, and might be able to draft them in as allies if left entirely to himself.
Additionally, said Brevoort, "Xavier was among the Illuminati who attacked the Skrull King on their Throneworld, and for that alone he'd be squarely in the bullseye."
For the Skrulls, the biggest advantage of replacing Charles Xavier with a doppelganger is neutralizing his effectiveness as a resistance agent. "Xavier's always been a smooth orator, and able to inspire people to believe in his vision" Brevoort remarked. "So his ability to pull together disparate groups of people into smoothly -functioning units could be a real force in creating a unified resistance to the Skrulls if given a chance. Plus, when it comes to telepathy, Xavier is the king, so left to his own devices, he might possibly find a way to break through whatever mental camouflage the Skrulls are using to remain concealed."
If replacing Xavier proves too difficult, the Skrulls can always bring another weapon to bear against him; the power of mistrust. "Much like Reed, there's a fair amount of suspicion surrounding Xavier these days, given the facts that have come out about some of his activities in the past," Brevoort explained. "Enough so that he's somewhat estranged from the majority of the X -Men, and by extension mutantkind in general."
EARTH'S MOST WANTED continues next week with the reveal of the four kings.
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