SPOILER WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS from Captain Marvel. Proceed at your own risk.
After months, nay, years of waiting, Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel has finally made her big screen debut — and it’s been well worth the wait. In Captain Marvel, the 21st film in the MCU and the second chronologically, Brie Larson stars as the latest superhero to join the fold, alongside MCU stalwart Samuel L. Jackson as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury. The film rewinds to 1995, more than a decade before Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) announced himself as Iron Man.
Which leads us to wonder what happened in both the intervening years and the years prior, particularly now the film has opened up questions around the Tesseract. We’re also asking just what on Earth (or any other world) was going on with S.H.I.E.L.D. back then? And why don’t any of the other Avengers appear to know about the events of Captain Marvel? Oh, and just what the hell is a Skrull, anyway?
While we’re attempting to answer some of those questions (and more) elsewhere, that last one we’re tackling here. And it’s a far bigger question than you might think. Whether you thought you had the Skrulls’ history down based on what you learned from the comic books, or this is the first time you’ve heard of them, allow us to fill you in on the comic-book background of this alien race, the incredible twist to their story revealed in Captain Marvel and what the future holds for Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his kind post-Avengers: Endgame now that our expectations have been well and truly upended.
Who Are The Skrulls?
Captain Marvel gives us our first look at the Skrulls within the MCU, a race whose history, in 14 years of big-screen Avenging, has remained a mystery up to this point. In the comics, the Skrulls made their debut in Fantastic Four #2 in January 1962 and were the brainchild of the late Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. They fulfilled the role of antagonists to the blue latex-clad superheroes and would soon take on the form of the Fantastic Four to conquer Earth in their capacity as shapeshifters. For thousands of years, they scouted the universe for power.
Green-skinned with piercing red eyes and pointy ears that would make Spock jealous, the Skrulls are an alien race of warriors originating from the planet Skrullos. In the beginning, Skrulls fell into one of three categories: Primes, Deviants and Eternals, created after numerous experiments on their ancestors by the Celestials, one of the oldest beings in the Marvel mythology. If you recall, Peter Quill’s father, Ego — who appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 played by Kurt Russell — is a Celestial. In the end, the Deviants won out due to their shapeshifting ability, taking on the form of anyone or anything to infiltrate their enemies and gain control.
In the years that followed, the remaining members of the race were able to perfect intergalactic time travel (more on which later) and through their journeys, they found Hala, home of the Kree, and the Kree-Skrull war began.
Years later, the Secret Invasion series started, which saw Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Mr. Fantastic and others come together to form a team known as the Illuminati. They attacked the Skrull Empire, before their enemies fought back and began to invade Earth, posing as heroes such as Elektra and Spider-Woman, disabling the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, breaking out the inmates of the Raft prison (glimpsed in Captain America: Civil War) and attacking the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four. Fans had expected the MCU to incorporate this storyline with the introduction of the Skrulls in Captain Marvel. Now, however, that seems unlikely…
Wait, What? The Skrulls Are Good Now?
So, a little backstory on Captain Marvel and how the Skrulls play into the film and the MCU. At the beginning of Captain Marvel, we are dropped into the ‘final act’ of the Kree-Skrull War. It has been 120 days since the last Skrull attack on Hala but there remains unrest stemming from those still on the outskirts of the planet. ‘Vers’ (Captain Marvel’s Hala callsign) and her fellow Starforce members — Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan), Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Att-lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Bron-Char (Rune Temte) and their leader Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) — are dispatched to locate some stragglers on a neighbouring planet.
However, it’s a trap, and the Skrulls capture Vers. She just might have the answers they’ve searched years for — even if she may not be aware that she knows it. It transpires that the Kree have been manipulating Vers all along, and that the Skrulls are not the enemy she fears them to be. They are, in fact, refugees. In a twist to their comic-book history, the Skrulls are hunting for a specific technology that will allow them to escape to a planet out of the Kree’s grasp before their population nosedives even further.
The tech they’re after was created on Earth in 1989 by a Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), who is ultimately revealed to be Skrull sympathiser and Kree agent, Mar-Vell, in disguise. Under the codename Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S., Lawson constructed a modified ship that harnessed the power of the Tesseract to enable light-speed travel. As fate would have it, the ship would be piloted by Carol Danvers before the two of them are shot down and Carol is taken by the Kree, given a Kree-blood transfusion and led to believe a different chain of events is true. In her memories, Danvers believes Skrulls were responsible for murdering Lawson, but in actuality, it was the Kree, and specifically Yon-Rogg, who were behind it.
So, How Does This Reshape the MCU?
MCU boss Kevin Feige loves to manipulate the comic-book strands to give them a characteristic MCU flourish at the same time as bringing them up to date and keeping audiences guessing. As the good guys in Captain Marvel, the Skrulls have been fighting a “shameful war” that saw their numbers dwindle over the decades of fighting and become so splintered that they’re forced into hiding in plain sight. At one point, Talos says that his hands are as “filthy from war” as Danvers’, the Kree’s and the Accusers’, but his fight was always to find those lost in the galaxy, including his family, and that she and Lawson were his only hope in reuniting with them. So how much of a part do the Skrulls have to play in Endgame, and beyond if the Secret Invasion storyline is out of the equation?
Time-travel and inter-galactic/dimensional journeying is likely coming into play in some way, shape or form as the Avengers embark on their quest to defeat Thanos once and for all and undo the Snap. With the Skrulls now able to harness the Tesseract’s energy for their space travels — with goodness knows what developments and enhancements they may have made to that tech in the intervening years — could it be they, along with Captain Marvel, who rescue Tony Stark and Nebula from the Milano before their oxygen runs out? It isn’t inconceivable, particularly given their newfound affinity for humans, that they could have picked up Fury’s pager signal, with its “couple of galaxies” range, alerting them to the catastrophe. Indeed, they too may have suffered losses from Thanos’ tomfoolery with the Infinity Stones and be eager to join the fight alongside Marvel and the remaining Avengers.
The likelihood, however, is that their involvement in the MCU proper will come through Phase Four and beyond, given how “cosmic” everything may soon become. Particularly as the Fox properties Disney has acquired become integrated. In fact, we may even see the Skrulls crop up again this summer in Dark Phoenix which sees space as a major player in its narrative. Indeed, it has yet to be revealed who Jessica Chastain plays in the film — so far, we know she is called ‘Smith’ and is an ‘alien shapeshifter’. Writer/director Simon Kinberg did say back in December that Kevin Feige had “reviewed” the script of the film. Could this signal the beginnings of the X-Men/MCU crossover?
It wouldn’t be an absurd idea. The Skrulls were part of the original Dark Phoenix comic-book saga, after all. More likely, though, is that the Skrulls will cross paths with the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer and Galactus once they are rebooted further down the road — which perhaps makes the most sense and would allow Marvel to take them (and us) into all sorts of amazing new directions.
The Skrulls crossed paths many times with some of our most-loved MCU characters — most notably on Earth in Secret Invasion, as mentioned above, but there have been plenty of other instances of them (and other Marvel favourites) meeting. In the Second Kree-Skrull War, Reed Richards (aka Mr. Fantastic) discovered that Zabyk had created a bomb that targeted Skrull genetics making them lose their shapeshifting abilities, and causing them to get stuck in the form they had inhabited when the explosion happened. Later, the story saw the Silver Surfer and Galactus arrive while Nebula oversaw the destruction of Xander, the planet that Thanos brought to its knees in Infinity War (off-screen) to take the Power Stone.
And what of the Skrulls’ links to Thanos, given the Mad Titan’s decimation of 50% of all living creatures? Well, in the Earth X series, the Purple “Daddy” was in the Realm of the Dead with the entity of Death, only to discover that his mother was a Skrull and that Death had been deceiving him. He uses the Ultimate Nullifier to exact his revenge. How this would ever play into the MCU is up for debate, but it isn’t outside the realms of possibility that the Skrulls could be utilised by Captain Marvel and the Avengers in their plan to defeat him.
Will the Skrulls Return in ‘Endgame’ or in Phase 4?
One question coming out of Captain Marvel is whether or not any Skrulls remain on Earth after Talos and his family leave with Danvers at the film’s finale. A handful of them landed during the film and while Danvers and S.H.I.E.L.D. took out a few, did some sneak past to take human form and stay put? And did any become, or take on the guise of, Avengers? That would be a neat way to bring in elements from the Secret Invasion storyline, and drop a bombshell or several within the MCU, whether or not the plan is ultimately to follow that story through as it was told in the comic books. It could also be a way of bringing back heroes thought dead…
While it’s perhaps a stretch to believe that any have remained on Earth, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is the most likely candidate, having been duplicated during the film. Is he still a Skrull all these years later? And could one of our surviving heroes be a Skrull as we head into Endgame?
With just a few weeks to go until the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame hits screens, we’ll get answers very soon.