SPOILER WARNING: The following contains some spoiler information concerning future issues of "Incredible Hercules" and potential spoilers concerning "Secret Invasion."
Throughout GREEK WEEK, CBR News has taken a special look at the Marvel Comics series "Incredible Hercules." With the help of creators Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak, Rafa Sandoval and editor Nate Cosby, we've explored Herc's past, present and future, and we conclude now with one last chat with series writers Van Lente and Pak, who talk to CBR News about "Sacred Invasion," the series' newest storyline that takes what fellow professionals are calling a genius approach to the forthcoming "Secret Invasion" of Earth by pitting Hercules and his God Squad against the Skrulls' own malevolent dieties.
The Skrulls' invasion puts in peril both the planet's mortal population and the gods they worship. "If the Skrulls succeed in conquering humanity, Earth's gods will become slaves to the Skrull gods, as has happened in every world the Skrulls have ever conquered," Fred Van Lente told CBR News. "Skrull culture, due to its shapeshifting nature, absorbs other cultures, rendering them subservient to it. Earth's gods form a force to wage a 'preemptive war' on their Skrull counterparts in a desperate attempt to keep that from happening."
The God Squad is formed in May's "Incredible Hercules" #117 and the cover of the issue displays the line-up of the team. Dominating the left hand side of the cover is Hercules, who much to his chagrin plays a very important role in the God Squad. "Hercules is the very reluctant leader of this bunch," Van Lente remarked. "He's never led anything before, and is more than a little freaked-out by it. Will his inexperience lead the team to victory or destruction? We'll find out."
Flying above her teammates is Alpha Flight member Snowbird, who is the daughter of Nelvanna, the Inuit goddess of the Northern Lights. Snowbird's divine parentage bestowed upon her a number of superhuman abilities, chief among them was the ability to transform into any animal native to Northern Canada. "With her flight and shapeshifting, she's the recon specialist, the scout of the group," Van Lente said.
Standing below Snowbird and to the right of Herc is Ajak of the powerful and ancient race known as The Eternals. "Before you shout 'Hey, he's not a god!' I'd advise you to reread Kirby's 'Eternals' Vol. 1 #2," Van Lente said. "Ajak, a/k/a 'He Who Talks With Celestials,' is the brain of the bunch, since he spent pretty much the entire Dark and Middle Ages ensconced in the citadel of the Space Gods, learning their ways. Let us not forget that the Celestials gave the Skrulls their shapeshifting powers, just as they made Deviants and Eternals here on Earth --The dominant Skrull race is in fact the Deviant strain of the dominant species of its homeworld; that strain then wiped out the normal and Eternal strains."
To the right of Ajak is Amatsu-Mikaboshi, who some see as the Japanese god of evil, but he really is a being that represents the polar opposite of the core values in the Shinto religion. "Amatsu-Mikaboshi was responsible for the destruction of Olympus in the 'Ares' mini-series --and the slayer of Zeus, Herc's father. As you can imagine, Herc is thrilled about serving with this guy," Van Lente remarked. "Amatsu-Mikaboshi can shapeshift into anything, not just albino animals, and so is a useful adversary against the Skrulls."
Hovering above Amatsu-Mikaboshi on the far right of the cover is the fearsome Demogorge, the God-Eater. Demogorge is the monstrous alter ego of Atum, son of the Elder Goddess Gaea and the Demiurge, the physical embodiment of Earth's life force. "Demogorge the God-Eater is the best at what he does, and what he does is eat gods," Van Lente said. "I mean, c'mon, if you're going to go up against an army of hostile deities, wouldn't you want a guy with 'God-Eater' in his name to be on your side?"
With Hercules and Amatsu-Mikaboshi on the same team, it's clear the dynamic between God Squad members isn't going to be completely friendly. "The Gods of the North, South, East and West, as well as the Elder Gods, got to choose a representative. While these various pantheons recognize a common threat in the Skrulls, that doesn't mean they trust *each other*; if they send too large a force to oppose the Skrull gods, that might leave their realms open to attack by one of the earthly pantheons," Van Lente explained. "There's a lot of millennia-old mistrust at work here. Imagine the suspicions the USSR and the USA had for each other during WW2, even though they were allies, then multiply that by--well, infinity. That's the situation here, and a lot of that suspicion is carried over into the dynamics of the God Squad itself."
The God Squad will have to pull together quickly if they're going to succeed because they're not going to have home field advantage in their battle with Skrull Gods. "The God Squad is invading Skrull territory, to face not just the Skrull deities themselves, but countless thousands of their vassal alien god slaves," Van Lente stated. "So the element of surprise is paramount."
Herc's friend, teen genius Amadeus Cho, is a mere mortal, so he's technically not part of the God Squad but does have his own part to play in combating the Skrull Gods. "As our story begins, Cho has a very specific mission laid upon him by a very serious goddess with monumentally terrifying consequences should he fail," Pak explained.
To help us properly understand the nature of the threat the God Squad is up against Van Lente provided us with a copy of the "Notes on Skrull Religion" memo, which he, Pak, "Secret Invasion" writer Brian Bendis and the advisors in charge of the Marvel Handbooks created.
*Notes on Skrull Religion*
IN GENERAL, Skrull religion is based on community versus the individual, directly based on a shape shifting society. When you can shift your shape, you don't rely on your individuality, but the community and your place it in, and how you can support the hive becomes more important.
This principle is expressed in Skrull mythology through two complimentary but diametrically opposite gods, husband and wife, brother and sister, Kly'bn and Sl'gur't.
Kly'bn (Translation: "Eternal Skrull")
*This Skrull deity cannot shapeshift, and is rather the idealized personification of essential 'Skrullness' --the Skrull inside every Skrull, regardless of what form he or she takes.
Though mostly created out of whole cloth for 'Incredible Hercules', the name comes from a song/orchestral piece the Skrullos Imperial Marching Band wanted to play at Karolina and Xavin's wedding in 'Runaways'. The song, we're suggesting, is an invocation to the Eternal Skrull for a happy (and eternal!) union.
*Sl'gur't (Translation: 'The Infinite Names')*
This is the Skrull god of transformations -- both, literally, as shape-shifting, and in societal upheavals, such as war – frequently referred to by non-Skrulls as the 'Skrull War God,' which is not entirely accurate.
Sl'gur't, befitting his/her/its nature, has no fixed form, and keeps shifting shape in every panel we see it in, just surrounded always by a thin white corona. When Skrull artists have to depict him/her/it in a fixed form (as a painting, statue, or idol), it's usually as a multi-limbed, headless Skrull; see: http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix2/slgurtskrullwargod.htm
Since this is the god(dess) of shapeshifting, Sl'gur't's gender is basically irrelevant here, but she is most frequently thought of as female and Kly'bn's sister and wife. The two live together in a double-headed pyramid floating in the center of space surrounded by the ruins of defeated pantheons of alien gods the Skrulls have conquered over the eons.
We didn't make this god up, he/she/it first appeared in 'Fantastic Four Annual #24,' and is also referenced in the 'Annihilation: Super-Skrull' series. There, S.S. says she was spawned on the planet Zaragz'na, the ancient Skrull capital destroyed by the Annihilation Wave.
In "Sacred Invasion," the God Squad's big strategy is to attack Kly'bn, Sl'gur't and their alien vassal gods head on with a surprise offensive. But the Skrull gods will attack the God Squad using more subtle but dangerously affective tactics. "The Skrull gods, like their worshippers, have one excellent strategy and, in 'Secret Invasion,' so far it seems to have worked pretty well for them," Van Lente said. "Why not deploy it in 'Sacred Invasion,' too?"
Pak added, "Hold on, you mean--they may already be among us? Aaaaagh!"
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