The latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Captain Marvel, is currently in cinemas (read our review here), and it marks the debut of one of Marvel’s most enduring and long-lasting race of aliens, the Skrulls.
But who exactly are these green-skinned aliens who are able to impersonate any person they come into contact with?
The origins of the Skrulls go way back to 1962, making their debut in the second issue of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s milestone Fantastic Four title.
Yes, the Skrulls are one of the earliest villains of modern Marvel Comics, but it’s safe to say that back then, the threat they posed was not as significant as it is today.
In Fantastic Four #2, a group of Skrulls pose as the Fantastic Four, and frame them for several criminal acts, causing them to be locked up, thus paving the way for a full-scale Skrull invasion.
But as usual, the heroes escape and clear their name, and even manage to stave off the impending invasion by tricking the Skrulls into thinking Earth is guarded by giant monsters.
How do they do this? By showing them images from old Marvel monster comics Journey To Mystery and Strange Tales! How’s that for meta, eh?
Things get even weirder later, as the captured Skrulls agree to be hypnotised by Reed, and spend the rest of their lives living in peace as cows!
The Super Skrull
Of course, the whole failed invasion only served to increase the Skrulls’, er, beef with the Fantastic Four, and in 1963, they announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with by sending their most powerful warrior to Earth – the Super Skrull!
The Super Skrull was originally a warrior named Kl’rt, who is given enhanced version of the Fantastic Four’s abilities.
After beating them in their first encounter, the Fantastic Four finally manage to defeat him by working together, eventually tricking him into a volcano and trapping him with a large rock fused into place by Human Torch’s flames. (Yeah, that ‘prison’ didn’t last long.)
In 1968’s Captain Marvel #2 and #3, the Super Skrull took on the first Captain Marvel (no, not the one with a lightning bolt on his chest), a Kree warrior named Mar-Vell, setting up a conflict that would redefine the Skrulls’ role in the Marvel universe.
The Kree-Skrull War
In 1971, writer Roy Thomas, and artists Sal Buscema, Neal Adams, and John Buscema laid down arguably the greatest story involving the Skrulls yet – The Kree-Skrull War, which was told on the pages of The Avengers #88-#97.
In it, Earth gets caught in the middle of the inter-galactic war between the two races (the details of how it started is a really long story), and the Avengers are forced to get involved.
What makes this story such an epic one is the massive cast it involves, which includes the Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Wasp, Ant-Man, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Goliath among others), along with Mar-Vell, Carol Danvers (the future Captain Marvel), the Inhumans, Annihilus, Ronan The Accuser, the Kree Supreme Intelligence, and in a surprisingly big and pivotal role, perennial superhero sidekick Rick Jones.
Subplots within the story included an attempt to separate Mar-Vell from the Negative Zone, a trip to the Arctic Circle to save Hank Pym (who has devolved into a caveman), Ant-Man entering Vision’s body to repair him, and a trip to Attilan to help Black Bolt regain his throne from his brother Maximus.
But despite the grand scale of all these events, the most memorable part of this whole epic tale has to be the part when the Avengers are attacked by three cows, who turn out to be the original Skrulls who attacked the Fantastic Four back in 1962.
Now that’s how you raise the steaks and milk your history to give your story more meat.
Aftermath of war
The Kree-Skrull War had numerous repercussions that continued to reverberate for years to come. One of them was the birth of the Young Avenger Hulkling, who is revealed to be the child of Mar-Vell and Skrull princess Anelle, conceived during the time of the war.
It was also during the events of the war that Vision and Scarlet Witch’s relationship was first introduced.
Years later, it was revealed that the Illuminati (Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Namor, Black Bolt, Professor Charles Xavier and Doctor Strange) was formed shortly after the end of the war. The Illuminati even went to the Skrull homeworld to warn them against attacking Earth again, but end up being captured and interrogated instead.
Unfortunately for the Skrulls, the worst was yet to come. In 1983’s Fantastic Four #257, Galactus arrives and devours the Skrull homeworld, Tarnax IV, effectively wiping out billions of Skrulls, including its rulers.
After that, several other events, including a second Kree-Skrull war and the Annihilation event left the Skrulls decimated and in need of a way to restore its empire to its former glory.
Then came 2008’s Secret Invasion, in which the Skrulls dealt their cruellest and most devastating blow on Earth’s heroes as they hatched a plan to turn Earth into their new home world.
To achieve their goal, they secretly kidnapped and replaced some of Earth’s most influential and powerful superheroes, including Hank Pym, Beast, Black Bolt, Sue Storm, Jean Grey and Elektra. Even the Avengers’ butler Jarvis turned out to be Skrulls.
The most shocking revelation, however, was that Jessica Drew, a.k.a. Spider-Woman, was actually the Skrull Queen Veranke, who had been planning the infiltration while impersonating the superhero, joining the New Avengers at one point, and even taking part in the first superhero Civil War between Iron Man and Captain America.
In the final battle, Veranke was taken down first by an arrow shot by Clint Barton (who was Ronin at the time) and then eventually killed by Norman Osborn, who shoots her in the head.
After the failed invasion, the already dwindling Skrull population is further decimated by the world-killing Builders during the 2013 Infinity event, after which the original Super Skrull, Kl’rt is crowned the new Emperor of the Skrulls.
Since then, the Skrulls have been relatively low profile for a while now, but after their appearance in Captain Marvel and a history of conflict behind them, I wouldn’t bet on them remaining quiet for much longer.