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Comic Book / Killraven

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Killraven is a Marvel Comics character created by Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, and Gerry Conway. He debuted in Amazing Adventures #18 (May 1973) and has appeared in multiple alternate realities since then.

In the future of Earth-691, Earth was invaded once again by the Martians from The War of the Worlds (1898) in 2001, who successfully conquered the planet and subjugated humanity. Post-conquest, men are used only for breeding or gladiatorial combat, while women are used solely to produce children for the Martians to eat. After escaping from the games, former gladiator Jonathan Raven (dubbed "Killraven") joins the freedom fighters in order to search for his lost brother Joshua.

An Alternate Universe version of Killraven was also introduced in the Killraven (2002) series, which made some changes to the original cast and setting.

Killraven contains examples of:

  • After the End: The series was set in a world where the Martians from The War of the Worlds came back in the '90s and won this time. It focused on one of the few free human rebels and his attempts to overthrow the alien scourge.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Martians of Killraven's world are an Always Lawful Evil race.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Mint Julep, courtesy of Martian experiments while she was in the womb, which has left her with bright green skin.
  • Amazon Brigade: Mint Julep's Freewomen.
  • Arc Welding:
    • The series is pretty disconnected from Marvel's superhero titles, especially during Don McGregor's stories. The Dreamer, antagonist of Amazing Adventures #38 (September 1976), described the Marvel superheroes as the "heroes of [his] youth", but said they were all long gone. It's ambiguous enough that it could mean they did exist in the past, or sinply that the Dreamer liked reading Marvel comic books in childhood.
    • It would be established in the 1990s Guardians of the Galaxy title that most of the heroes died trying to fight the Martian Masters, but not long before the second invasion, many of the mutants (including most of the X-Men) had left Earth to find a place where they could live free of anti-mutant prejudice.
    • Eventually, in an issue of The Defenders, it turned out Killraven's timeline and that of the original Guardians of the Galaxy are one and the same. The second volume returned the favor by having John show up in one alternate reality actually leading a version of the Guardians.
    • The Wisdom: Rudiments of Wisdom series features an invasion by Martians from an alternate world. Appropriately enough, that series introduced the Earth-616 (mainstream Marvel canon) versions of Maureen Raven and Jonathan.
  • Arc Villain: Skar is about the only one of Killraven's adversaries who actually lasts more than one or two issues.
  • Bad Future: On June 26th 2001, the Martians returned for a rematch against Earth, having taking steps to prevent their previous defeat repeating itself. Of course, the march of time in the real world means this future looks more than a little outdated now.
  • Barbarian Hero: Killraven's character design is more than a little reminiscent of a red-headed Conan the Barbarian.
  • Big Bad: The Overlord, the Martian responsible for convincing his race to invade Earth again, and who rules Earth.
  • Breeding Slave: An even more disturbing than usual version of this - those babies? They're food for the Martians.
  • But Now I Must Go: Volcana helps Killraven and his gang for a few issues, then takes off to continue her search for her sister.
  • Cain and Abel: Killraven and Deathraven.
  • Canon Immigrant: Killraven is eventually introduced in the mainstream Marvel universe, preceded by his mother.
  • Canon Welding: It would be established that Killraven's time preceded the era of the original Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • Captain Ersatz: Apeslayer, a character created for Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes title, is literally just Killraven with his serial numbers filed off. Strips from the Killraven series were even re-drawn and re-lettered outright.
  • Cargo Cult: In Amazing Adventures #26 (September 1974), Killraven and M'shulla happen across one who worship... Kellogg's cereal mascots. The cult are totally willing to kill and die to protect their "treasure" (which is a pile of cereal box toys), even after Killraven tells them he's got no interest in taking it.
    • Keeping up with the cereal theme, the cult's guardian, Pstun-Rage, has a name that's an anagram of Grape-Nuts, and the story was set in the remnants of Battle Creek, Michigan.
  • Cool Horse: The Serpent Stallion, Killraven's preferred mount of choice.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Killraven and his Freedom Fighters, though the 'crazy' really only tends to come out in crossovers.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: War of the Worlds Round 2, also known as the "One Day War". Technically, mankind fought on for a little longer, but it was entirely hopeless.
  • Darker and Edgier: Along with Hotter and Sexier in the graphic novel. Uncensored swearing, violence, and sex abounds.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Killraven was already a deadly gladiator when he was brought to Keeper Whitman, who further enhanced his physical prowess and added in a few little extras to boot for the purpose of making him into a living weapon against the Martian Masters.
  • Evil Counterpart: Deathraven, who was created by the Martians to... well, kill Killraven. He's actually Killraven's long-missing brother Joshua.
  • Failed Future Forecast: Since the original series was made in the 70s... yeah, there's more than a few.
    • TV was replaced in the 90s by the "mural phonics system" (live your own adventure!). Cars were replaced as well.
    • Thermonuclear power became mankind's fuel source of choice, which big oil went along with.
    • There were manned NASA missions to Mars in the 90s, and one female astronaut, who isn't Sally Ride.
    • Cattle farming died off in the 90s thanks to changes in food production technology.
  • Fantastic Racism: Killraven really, really hates Martians. It's not hard to see why, of course, but it does make him a bit intractable when it comes to exploring any other options in dealing with enemies other than kill them.
  • Feels No Pain: Skar, thanks to being a cyborg.
  • Fiery Redhead: Volcana Ash, the Freedom Fighters' redheaded ally, as well as Killraven himself.
  • Filler: Issue #33, which it freely cops to in the opening page.
  • The Friend No One Likes: Hawk, thanks to being a bad-tempered jerkward. Even after he dies, Skull says that while he's upset about Hawk's death, it's hard to be upset that it was Hawk who died.
  • Fully-Embraced Fiend: John thinks Joshua's been brainwashed by the Martians, but Joshua sets him straight. He likes being their wolf-man servant, and he's totally happy to kill his little brother.
  • Future Imperfect: Abounds, thanks to the Martians taking pains to eliminate human civilization.
    • The Freemen find the Golden Arch, but they and the humans who live there have no idea what it is, thinking it must be an old religious site... and not just a former fast food place.
    • M'Shulla makes a quip about "bringing home the bacon", even though neither he or Killraven know what that means.
    • In issue #33, John runs into some black people living underground who are still pissed off about the Jim Crow laws (the story is set in the 2010s). John has no idea what buses or bathrooms even are.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: The Freemen run into a giant lobster with a human face at one point. It's a Martian experiment.
  • Gladiator Games: The Martians hold these and young Killraven comes of age in them, being forced to fight against other humans (including his own friends) for the amusement of his alien captors.
  • Grand Theft Me: The ultimate end result of John's psychic link to the Martians lets him hijack one and use it to kill Deathraven.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Martian High Council, who the Overlord answers to. Since they're based off of Mars, John never gets anywhere near them.
  • The Grotesque: Grok, the deformed, ape-like clone of Carmilla Frost's father.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Carmilla starts out as an extremely unwilling servant of the Martians, and sides with Killraven first chance she gets, but this leads to a bit of tension between the two of them.
  • Human Hard Drive: Killraven was secretly implanted with an encyclopedic knowledge of pre-invasion human history and culture. Unfortunately for him, he was never trained to access all that information at will, so it mostly comes up in unhelpful recollections or is spotty and incomplete.
  • I Die Free: Keeper Whitman turns out to have been not such a fan of the Martians as he claimed.
  • Informed Attribute: Deathraven boasts that the Martian experiments have driven human emotions from him. This is most definitely not true at all. He's certainly a Smug Snake.
  • Jerkass: Hawk, who gets increasingly nasty and sullen as events go on.
  • Kick the Dog: After showing his true colors, Deathraven first sics his wolf pack on M'shulla to force Killraven to watch his friend die. Then when Killraven assumes he's been brainwashed and urges him to fight it, Deathraven seems to relish telling Killraven that he likes what he's become and that Killraven's memories of his childhood are all wrong; according to him, their mother was actually a "bitch" and a "conniving, ugly woman" and that he, Joshua/Deathraven, used to love bullying and beating up his younger brother...just like he was going to do again. But then Old Skull tries to help after initially staying out of the fight between brothers at Killraven's request. Context: in Old Skull's origin story, he told about how the children who always bullied him called him "retarded" and how he much he hated it. And earlier on, when Joshua (still pretending to be friendly) asked Killraven what the deal was with Old Skull and if he was "retarded", Old Skull dropped his usual Gentle Giant demeanor and was clearly hurt and angry. Seems that Deathraven took note based on the last thing he says here:
    [Old Skull tosses aside some of the wolves and advances on Deathraven]
    Old Skull: Old Skull, he's met people like you before, he surely has! They don't think nothin' of hurtin' other folks, no they don't! But you know what Old Skull's always found? Those kinds've folks can't take it as well as they dish it out!
    Deathraven: Well, you'll never find out if that homily's true where I'm concerned. WANTA KNOW WHY?
    [Deathraven grabs Old Skull by the throat with both hands and lifts him off the ground]
    Deathraven: [mockingly] 'Cause Old Skull's gonna die. He surely is! So's you'd best pray while you got the chance—you retarded...musclebound...useless old man!
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Carmilla stretches out the mystery of just who Gork is for months. Eventually John yells at her about this... at which point she reveals the truth with no fuss.
  • Les Collaborateurs: After finally meeting up with Deathraven, Killraven learns that Joshua has become a collaborator with the Martians.
  • Lost Superweapon: Super is a bit of a stretch, but Killraven has a habit of picking up useful weapons from old destroyed museums, including his blue chainmail and proto-edged sword.
  • Living Weapon: Killraven was turned into a living silver bullet against the Martians by Keeper Whitman, but most of his true potential is held back by a mental Restraining Bolt that Whitman didn't get around to bothering how to disable before Killraven killed him.
  • Mama Bear: The fight between Killraven's gang and Morning Prey happens because they unthinkingly killed her babies.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: Mourning Prey attacks the Freemen because they accidentally killed some of her caterpillar babies.
  • Neat Freak: Atalon, overseer of Lifedeath. Just before killing him, his former captives (one of whom had been forced to literally lick Atalon's muddy boots clean) make sure to dirty him up good, as a final insult.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: One issue has John mind-linking with a young Martian who's beginning to experience doubt and uncertainty. Unfortunately, John's actions in that issue cause it to hate humans, a fact John knows.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Overlord plans on having John gruesomely tortured to death and broadcast to every human slave. John's stoic defiance and following escape just gives humans a symbol of hope.
  • No Ending:
    • Amazing Adventures ended with Killraven still fighting the Martians, having made no significant dent in their operations at all, and the graphic novel follow-up a few years later didn't change things. Only the Arc Welding confirms that Earth was eventually freed from the Martians... somehow.
    • Marvel Zombies 5 #2 (April 2010) revealed that Killraven was able to finally end the Martian occupation by using the zombie plague to poison the Martians' food supply.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: One of the last things Old Skull's father said to him was a lament that they weren't that different. What he meant by that is unclear, since moments later the Martians killed him.
  • Not Worth Killing: Skar runs into a human living in a wreck while on his hunt for Killraven, but after hearing the man talk decides it'd be crueler to let him live.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The first hint to John that his reunion with his brother isn't such a good thing comes when Joshua hears Old Skull talking and asks if he's "retarded" (his words).
  • Punny Name: One of Killraven's allies is a plant-human hybrid named Mint Julep. Another is named Volcana Ash.
  • Purple Prose: Doc McGregor's narration particularly.
  • Psychic Powers: Killraven has weak ones that are attuned to Martian minds.
  • Racial Memory: Killraven's mind contains all of pre-invasion human history. His ability to access it is...spotty.
  • Spotting the Thread: When John meets his brother, he's supposedly running from a wolf. However, the astronaut the Freemen have just run into notes a few things off with this story. A: That the wolf's on it's own, B: what a wolf is doing in Florida, not your typical wolf stomping grounds, and C: Why it'd go for human at all, since humans aren't a wolf's typical food.
  • Stock Ninja Weaponry: Killraven's not a ninja, but his most recognizable character design has a bandolier with star-shaped shruiken. He's quite handy with them.
  • Stripperiffic:
    • Killraven's first outfit looks... well, like a male stripper's.
    • Carmilla apparently does lab work in a crop top and bikini bottoms. She keeps it up after joining the Freemen, only at one point changing up to a cloak when in the middle of winter.
  • Survivalist Stash: The Freedom Fighters have these.
  • Third Eye: Killraven has one, though he doesn't know it. He thinks it's a scar on his forehead as it's usually closed.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted: He's called Killraven for a reason.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: Amazing Adventures #34 promises two people will die. It's Hawk and Grok.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Deathraven claims John's mother was actually abusive, but since he's a nutjob who's let himself be turned into a wolfman and is trying to kill his brother, the accuracy of his statements is dubious.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Killraven and his "brother" M'Shulla.
  • Was Once a Man: Rattack, a rat-man living underneath Washington, D.C., mutated by the chemical weapons mankind tried using on the Martians.
  • You Killed My Father: Killraven hates the Martians because they killed his mother. And enslaved all mankind as well, but also the mom thing.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The Martian occupation ends when Killraven unleashes a zombie virus among humans and human infants, effectively poisoning the Martians' food supply.

Alternative Title(s): Killraven Amazing Adventures