Since the early days of the Marvel Universe, shape-shifting alien Skrulls have proven to be a formidable threat to the heroes of Earth. The Skrulls are far from the only aliens to invade in the six decades since their debut, however, they have come closer than most to total victory thanks to their ability to make everyone question if anyone can be trusted.
Captain Marvel introduced the Skrulls to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a more sympathetic light by presenting them as refugees who were being persecuted and hunted by the Kree. Unfortunately for the MCU, many Skrulls are done playing nice in Secret Invasion, the new original series on Disney+. It’s been nearly three decades since Captain Marvel promised to help the Skrulls find a new home, and the younger generation of Skrulls is particularly angry that Carol Danvers was unable to fulfill her promise. Now, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) will have to repel the invasion without the aid of the Avengers.
With Secret Invasion having made its debut, we’re taking a look back at the Skrulls’ previous invasion attempts across the Marvel Universe. Given the many appearances of the Skrulls, we’re not trying to list every single plan ever, but it does illustrate just how far the Skrulls are willing to go to make Earth their new home.
The Skrulls’ first appearance was in Fantastic Four #2, as the newly formed team of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Girl, The Thing, and the Human Torch found themselves targeted by Skrull agents who impersonated them in public. Since the Fantastic Four were the first superhuman heroes to emerge in years, the Skrulls decided that the FF presented too great of a threat to their invasion plans.
Naturally, the Fantastic Four proved that the Skrulls’ fears were correct when they quickly subdued their imposters.The team took things even further by impersonating the Skrull agents before traveling to their mothership in orbit, where they fooled the Skrull commander into believing that Earth could easily defeat the Skrulls. That scared off the Skrulls while the four Skrull spies were brainwashed into believing that they were cows and left to graze in a field alongside actual cows. This all caused some serious problems years later when the Skrull cows were slaughtered and eaten. People who consumed the Skrull cow meat gained limited morphing abilities and a fatal brain affliction in the offbeat series Skrull Kill Krew.
Unfortunately for the people of Earth, the Skrulls weren’t fooled for long by Mr. Fantastic’s plan. Months later, the Skrulls unleashed a Super-Skrull who could manifest the powers of all four of the FF. And the Fantastic Four has had to battle the Skrulls several times over the years to keep them at bay.
The Kree-Skrull War
As much as the Skrulls were at conflict with humanity, they had an even greater and ancient enemy in the Kree. In the seminal Avengers storyline, The Kree-Skrull War, it was revealed that the Skrulls were once a more benevolent race who offered two other races, the Cotati and the Kree, the chance to compete for the Skrulls’ favor. When the Cotati were declared the winners, the Kree slaughtered both the Skrulls and the Cotati and stole the Skrulls’ technology for themselves.
In the present, the Skrulls had infiltrated Earth once again and sowed mistrust of the superheroes and the Avengers in particular. The Skrulls even briefly fooled the Avengers into disbanding. As the conflict grew in scope, the Avengers actually had to travel to space to bring the war to a halt. And this led to the Avengers’ ally, Rick Jones, accessing previously unrevealed powers which he used to briefly recreate Marvel’s Golden Age heroes to turn the tide of battle.
Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Black Bolt, Namor, Professor Charles Xavier, and Doctor Strange came together in the aftermath of the invasion and formed the Illuminati. They even traveled to the Skrull homeworld in an attempt to warn them against any future moves against Earth. This spectacularly backfired when they were all captured and then allowed to escape… after the Skrulls had more than enough information to eventually hide undetected on Earth.
Years later, a handful of Skrulls came up with a plan to use Captain America to pit humanity against itself. The Skrulls correctly realized that Cap was perhaps the most widely-trusted superhero in the world, and they took steps to bolster his reputation before capturing Steve Rogers and impersonating him. This allowed a Skrull Cap to go on live television and expose two of his companions as Skrulls in order to whip up a dangerous wave of paranoia.
The Skrull Cap convinced the public that the Skrulls had infiltrated all walks of life, which led to riots and violent attacks between neighbors, friends, and even family members. Thanks to an assist from the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Steve Rogers was eventually able to expose his doppelganger and defuse the threat. But this was just a prelude to further invasions.
Minions of Apocalypse
The Skrulls pulled off another hero swap when they ambushed the X-Men while they were on their way back to Earth, and the Skrulls replaced Wolverine with an imposter. This time, the Skrulls were acting on behalf of Apocalypse, the X-Men’s immortal foe. And one of the reasons why the X-Men fell for the deception is that the Skrull Wolverine really believed that he was the original article.
Skrull Wolverine actually died heroically while fighting the real Wolverine, who had been brainwashed into becoming one of Apocalypse’s horsemen. During this time, the X-Men found that they had unexpected allies in the form of mutant Skrulls who were outcasts from their own people. At the conclusion of the battle, Professor X decided to leave Earth with the mutant Skrulls, whom he renamed Cadre K. But while the Skrulls were only minions in this story, their larger agenda loomed in the future.
The Original Secret Invasion
In the aftermath of the superhero Civil War, the New Avengers stumbled upon an invasion plot when Elektra was killed and revealed to have been replaced by a Skrull. The two rival teams of Avengers were already at each other’s throats, and this did little to heal the divisions between them. Unbeknownst to the heroes, Spider-Woman/Jessica Drew had already been replaced by the Skrull leader, Princess Veranke, and she nearly led the Skrulls to victory, as even more superheroes were revealed to have been replaced by Skrulls along the way.
The Skrulls successfully kidnapped other heroes and replaced them in order to sow confusion when the actual invasion began. It took an unlikely alliance of heroes and villains to defeat the Skrulls, but it left the heroes vulnerable to the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn and his Cabal.
Secret Invasion Take 2
Last year, Marvel published a new Secret Invasion miniseries which revealed that two different Skrull factions had set up on Earth. One of the factions was following in Vernake’s footsteps and attempting another invasion. However, the other Skrull faction aligned with humanity and even convinced Tony Stark to move past his hatred for the Skrulls and work with them.
It took a lot more effort to get Maria Hill on board with this plan, but there are now Skrull agents on Earth who are actively working with the Avengers to protect humanity while making a new home for themselves.
The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series offered the first real adaptation of Secret Invasion, which played out over 13 episodes from the end of Season 1 to the middle of Season 2. As one of the twists, Captain America was captured and replaced by the Skrulls in the first season finale, which kept the imposter on the team for an extended period. The real Cap eventually staged an escape from Skrull custody alongside heroes and villains like Invisible Woman, Mockingbird, Madame Hydra, and King Cobra.
Although the Secret Invasion storyline came to a conclusion, Captain America felt the lingering effects of the Skrull deception because the general public no longer trusted him. It was a surprisingly sharp way to maintain the impact of that story.
Fury Stands Alone
There are spoilers ahead for the first episode of Secret Invasion!
The last time anyone saw Nick Fury, at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, it looked like he was simply enjoying an extended vacation in space on a Skrull starship. But the vacation is over in Secret Invasion. So far, we know that the younger generation of Skrulls have rebelled against their elders, and Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) is poised to lead his people to victory over humanity. And one of Gravik’s most loyal followers is G’iah (Emilia Clarke), the daughter of Fury’s Skrull ally and friend, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn).
Fury has been offworld building a new planetary defense organization called S.A.B.E.R., as also seen in the first trailer for The Marvels. It was also revealed that Fury knew Gravik personally when he was a younger Skrull, and that the rebel leader is apparently responsible for the death of Talos’ wife (and G’iah’s mother), Soren (Sharon Blynn).
More alarmingly, the series premiere showed viewers that Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) was replaced by a Skrull, and it’s unclear what happened to the real Ross. Apparently Gravik’s Skrulls do keep some human prisoners alive, but Ross wasn’t seen among the captives we’ve seen. Assuming we’re able to take James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) at face value, both Fury and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) went AWOL from S.A.B.E.R. without sharing any warnings about the Skrull threat. This may have marked them as enemies of the U.S. government.
And in the shocking final moments, Gravik assumed Fury’s form and got Hill to drop her guard before shooting her, possibly fatally injuring her in the process.
We’ll see what happens next and how far the Skrulls’ mission goes, as Secret Invasion‘s season continues.