February 24, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #437: Crusader

So, there was this Skrull trying to be an Earth hero and then the Secret Invasion started...

So, after a long string of Guardians of the Galaxy, I suppose the smart thing to do is do Moondragon next.  She hasn’t appeared in the movies, but she has been one of those characters just on the border of things that often hangs out with different Avengers or cosmic heroes in the Marvel Universe.

But then I saw this short video on YouTube by one Comic Drake about Crusader, a character I vaguely remembered but never enough to do a whole entry on the guy.  As it is, I figured he’s good enough what with Disney+’s Secret Invasion running.  So, I’m gonna do a quick piece on a Skrull trying to defend the Earth at a time when Skrulls were the bad guys.

Now, it turns out Marvel has had two characters called “Crusader,” but I don’t know anything about the other one, so here we are.  That said, most pictures of the character on Google Images, where I get all of my pics for articles, are of the first guy.  I had to make due with two, but good thing this Crusader was actually something of a trainer.

Allow me to elaborate:  young slacker Curtis Doyle survived a superhero battle and found a reality-altering ring.  It was a piece of a Cosmic Cube that could alter reality for the wearer, but only in a 30 foot radius.  Curtis decided to use it to be a hero and called himself “Freedom Ring.”

This guy is Freedom Ring. He looks…orange.

By the by, if all this sounds kinda silly, this was in the Marvel Team-Up series, starting in issue #20 in July of 2006.  He took his name when his buddy called the thing he found a “free, dumb ring,” and quite frankly, it doesn’t surprise me that much that Freedom Ring and this version of Crusader (first appearing one issue later) were created by writer Robert Kirkman.  This whole thing has an Invincible feel to it.

Anyway, Curtis decided the thing to do was use his ring to battle evil, and when he spotted the X-Men and Spider-Man battling the Abomination in the street, he decided to go help.  That went badly.  In fact, he was paralyzed and told he’d never walk again.  That would be the case if he didn’t have a reality-altering ring that he always wore anyway.  And, as luck would have it, Curtis had a neighbor who could help him out.  It turns out that the man he knew as Aubrey Thompson was really a Skrull named Z’Reg.  Z’Reg was sent to spy on the Avengers, but then the Avengers disbanded, Z’Reg couldn’t go home, and he decided to just spy on his neighbors in his apartment building for the time being.  As a shapeshifter and a Skrull, he could train Freedom Ring to make him a better hero, and he could even accompany him into battle as “Crusader,” a codename that would make it impossible for anyone to guess what superpowers he might have.

Oh, but then Freedom Ring died fighting the Iron Maniac. Z’Reg took the ring, but he used it initially to go back to his apartment and create some Skrull chicks and live it up.

See?  That’s Robert Kirkman’s work.

OK, but why cover Crusader if this column is mostly about Freedom Ring so far?  Simple:  Crusader had a tragic ending.  Following Marvel’s first Civil War–and it’s depressing that Marvel has more than one–Crusader reformed to a more traditional hero, one following a Skrull tradition of using a fallen comrade’s weapon as a means of honoring said fallen comrade.  Now having fallen in love with Earth and its people, he used the ring to fight evil and joined the Avengers Initiative, using the ring to hide the fact he wasn’t human.  Now, it wasn’t all great.  He missed Skrull food, but he found that strawberries and pickles combined to make something like a Skrull delicacy.  Um, ew.  Of course, this allowed Crusader to spot the Skrull hidden in the initiative when he saw Hank Pym eating the same thing.

Yes, how can you show you’re a good Skrull and not another invading Skrull?

However, the Secret Invasion put him in a tight spot.  By that point, former Avenger Triathalon was by that point the 3-D Man, a man whose goggles could see through Skrulls in disguise.  Crusader knew he was in a tight spot.  It wasn’t like people were going to overlook how he wasn’t with the other Skrulls.  The only thing to do was to use his reality altering ring on 3-D Man’s goggles and let the one man who could see disguised Skrulls think everyone in the room was secretly a Skrull.  3-D Man fled and hooked up with the Skrull Kill Krew in order to take down the Skrulls.  Crusader did the same from the inside, even taking down the Pym Skrull that, it turned out, was an old comrade of his.  The Initiative’s training camp was, as a result completely cleared of all Skrulls.  Everyone celebrated.

Until 3-D Man put a bullet in the back of Crusader’s head because, you know, Skrull.

What happened to Crusader?

Well, he didn’t die.  He concentrated on the ring as he huddled on the floor in a fetal position before both simply disappeared.

Or maybe he did die.  All I know is…his efforts to help didn’t do him much good in the end.