Chances are, even if you’re not super familiar with Marvel comics, you could maybe cite some facts about the Skrulls. They’re one of the most iconic fictional alien races in pop culture, from their weirdly ridged chins and green skin to their ominous ability to shapeshift into just about anyone. They’ve been a major thorn in the side of virtually every Marvel superhero team since Fantastic Four #2 back in 1962, and for good reason. Traditionally, the Skrulls have always been seen as an invasive and destabilizing force–they invade planets in secret with their shapeshifting powers to infiltrate and later overtake whole worlds by turning friends on one another and allowing paranoia to do most of the work for them.
Sounds pretty devious, right? So it’s no wonder that fans have been clamoring anxiously about all the new potential threats the Skrulls could represent in the MCU, now that they’re being officially introduced in Captain Marvel. Except, that’s not exactly how things actually panned out in the end. We were ready for just about every possible Skrull-related twist, from the reveal that beloved characters like Black Widow have actually been Skrulls this entire time to a full scale Secret Invasion-based storyline. We weren’t, however, prepared for what we actually got.
Captain Marvel turned the idea of Skrulls on its head–and this changes everything we thought we knew about the future of the MCU. Obviously, we’re getting into spoiler territory here, so consider yourself warned.
The major revelation of Captain Marvel was that Talos, the Skrull “leader” and assumed villain of the movie, in fact was not a villain at all–he, and his people, were victims. Yon-Rogg and the Kree were the bad guys all along, hunting down and massacring the Skrulls after they refused to submit to Kree rule. This, in and of itself, isn’t totally shocking–in the comics the Kree/Skrull war is a pretty infamous storyline that revolves around the endless conflict between the two alien races. The major difference is that, in the comics, the lines between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” aren’t so clearly drawn–both the Kree and the Skrulls are villains, they just so happen to be villains who are fighting with one another.
Not so in the MCU. Captain Marvel makes it perfectly clear that the Skrulls are actually anything but evil this time around–at least, not that we can see. There is absolutely no evidence in Captain Marvel to suggest that the Skrulls have done anything truly villainous, which puts us in an interesting position moving forward.
If the Skrulls aren’t evil, conniving spies, what exactly are they? It certainly doesn’t mean that there haven’t been Skrulls hanging out on Earth for all these years, but it does drastically alter the stakes. For instance, if we suddenly learned that Natasha’s been a Skrull this whole time, it would just be a quirky little character detail now, rather than a major, mind blowing revelation.
It also significantly reduces the chance of a live action Secret Invasion adaptation–a comic book event fans have been clamoring for since the Skrulls were first confirmed for the big screen. In Secret Invasion, the Avengers were devastated as they uncovered a conspiracy by a Skrull princess named Veranke who simultaneously undermined virtually every hero team in operation by placing secret double agents in their midst. Fans assumed that, by seeding the Skrull history back as far as the 90s in the MCU, a potential Secret Invasion-style story with a covert population ready to rise up and attack in the modern day was all but inevitable–but that probably won’t be the case. After all, there isn’t much of a threat behind groups of refugees hiding in plain sight to escape violent, tyrannical rule.
Good Skrulls aren’t a totally new concept for Marvel. The lines between right and wrong for both the Kree and the Skrulls have always been pretty murky, and defectors from either side have cropped up time and time again to side with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The same way heroes like Mar-Vell, Carol, and Noh-Varr of the Avengers are human-aligned Kree, characters like Hulkling (of Young Avengers fame), the Cadre K (a group of X-Men adjacent aliens), and Xavin (of the original Runways) have all been human-aligned Skrulls. Of course, these characters’ choices usually put them directly at odds with the imperatives of their homeworlds, but, hey, at least they’re on our side, right?
Of course, none of this means the Skrulls can never be villains in the MCU. Talos and his group of survivors represent only a small sector of the scattered Skrull population–in his own words, “this is just the beginning–there are thousands of us separated from each other, scattered throughout the galaxy.” This means there could be radical Skrull factions out there somewhere who are less interested in slipping away into a peaceful life than Talos was.
So, will we see a group of Skrulls come storming in to stealthily attack the Earth sometime in the future? Maybe. But are there secretly groups of Skrulls hiding on Earth ready to pounce at the slightest provocation, who have been covertly destabilizing our favorite heroes since the very beginning? Probably not. And since that makes the MCU’s future all the more unpredictable, maybe it’s a good thing.