The Skrulls are arguably Marvel’s premiere alien villains. Since the early days of the Marvel Universe, they’ve been fighting against the Fantastic Four, X-Men, the Avengers, and more, always working toward a goal of one day seizing control over Earth.
It’s easy to see why they’re the biggest alien menace in this universe, too. Not only are they smart and not only do they have an immense amount of power, but they’re also shape-shifters. Any story involving the Skrulls is an Invasion of the Body Snatchers story by nature.
That’s most evident in Marvel’s mega-successful Secret Invasion event. The Skrulls could be anybody. They feed off paranoia, making it impossible for any hero to know who they can trust and who they can’t. Now the Skrulls will finally be making it to the big screen in Captain Marvel, so there’s no better time to start getting familiar with Marvel’s premiere alien threat.
Here are the 15 Things You Need To Know About The Skrulls.
15 They Have a Longstanding War With the Kree
One of the most infamous events involving the Skrulls is also one of the biggest storytelling achievements in Marvel’s early history: the Kree/Skrull War. This event is simple enough.
Tensions between two alien races boil over and Earth just happens to be caught in the crossfire. That’s what’s so engaging about that story, but the reason it works as well as it does comes down to the fact that these two races believably hate each other. Their civilizations don’t mesh, so they’ll never get along. They’re too different but, in many ways, way too similar.
Ultimately, that’s the point of the war between the Kree and the Skrulls. They’re fighting over ideologies and belief systems, just as humans do, but they’re doing it on a massive, cosmically devastating scale.
Earth doesn’t matter in this war, it’s basically collateral damage, which makes standing up to defend it that much more important.
14 The Skrulls Have Established Peace Treaties With Some Worlds
Believe it or not, the first instinct of the Skrull empire is not always to conquer. Skrulls have, in fact, signed treaties with several races and civilizations that they do not see as a threat to their Empire.
Among these races are the Ciegrimites and the Krylorians. Both of those societies are technologically advanced, but completely non-threatening. They pose no real threat to the Skrulls, nor to the Marvel Universe at large. Several other civilizations have signed peace treaties with the Skrulls to become a part of the larger Skrull Empire.
The Skrulls’ attempt at peace extends even beyond that, though, since, at one point, they actually try to sign a treaty with the Kree. For a while, things go smoothly. The two races aren’t friends, but stop acting like enemies.
This ends when the Skrulls break that treaty, believing their own military power to be a strong enough negotiation tactic, leading to an inevitable fight.
13 Kl’rt, the Super-Skrull, Has the Combined Abilities of the Fantastic Four
After the Fantastic Four stop the Skrulls in their attempted invasion of Earth, emperor Dorrek VII makes the decision to create a Skrull super soldier with the express purpose of destroying the super team.
He elects a warrior named Kl’rt to undergo the procedure, combining together the powers of each member of the Fantastic Four into a single body. While he doesn’t wind up actually destroying the team, he does come close. In their first encounter, he forces the Fantastic Four to retreat.
In fact, the only way they’re really able to defeat him is not by besting him in combat or really overpowering him in any way. They can’t defeat him until Mr. Fantastic finds a way to cut Kl’rt from the source of his power, cutting him off from his newfound abilities.
He has repeated encounters with the Fantastic Four, eventually moving away from being an outright villain and even fighting against his own people during Secret Invasion.
12 Much of the Empire Was Lost in Annihilation
Marvel’s Annihilation event throws the entire cosmic universe into complete disarray. One of the most affected races is easily the Skrulls, who wind up losing a good chunk of their empire and therefore their reputation as a major source of power in the galaxy.
It is the first major interstellar empire to be invaded by the Negative Zone entity Annihilus when he decides to make his move. He pulls together a fleet of warships known as the Annihilation Wave and sets out with the concise goal of conquering the universe.
The Wave’s super weapon, called the Harvester of Sorrow, totally obliterates dozens of planets within the Skrull empire. With the empire in disarray following such a heavy blow, they reach out to Hulkling, son of the Incredible Hulk. They ask him to take over as emperor, but he flat-out refuses.
Even now, the empire has not completely recovered from the devastation of that event.
11 They Have a Rivalry With the Shi’ar
While the Skrull rivalry with the Kree is one of the most infamous feuds in the Marvel Universe, their rivalry with the Shi’ar empire is much less popular. The Shi’ar, of course, are best known for their role in another of the biggest comic events of all time, The Dark Phoenix Saga.
In that story, they put Jean Grey on trial for the atrocities she committed while under the influence of the Phoenix force. During that trial, a representative from the Skrull empire can actually be seen.
They have even occasionally tried to infiltrate the Shi’ar in a similar way to Secret Invasion. At one point a group of Warskrulls attack a Shi’ar space station and disguise themselves as Shi’ar in order to take it over. They take over the pirate group known as the Starjammers, as well as the Imperial Consort, and even the Majestrix Lilandra herself.
10 They’re Gender Fluid
One of the most interesting things about the Skrulls as a race is their loosely defined approach to sex and gender. While they are gender dimorphic, they can change their appearance and full physiology at will, allowing them to shift between genders whenever they choose.
At one point, young Super-Skrull Xavin notes that changing gender is as simple as a human changing hair color. Given that, each Skrull is defined by their gender preference as they have full control over their identity in that regard.
This same approach to gender is one that Marvel at times tries to incorporate into its other shapeshifting characters, sometimes to no avail. Originally, Chris Claremont wanted Mystique to be Nightcrawler’s father instead of his mother, as she is a shapeshifter. Though he was not allowed to follow through on that notion, the Skrulls can be representative of many of those ideas.
9 War Skrulls Can Emulate Power as Well as Appearance
One of the major things that make the Skrulls the prominent shapeshifting threat in all of Marvel is that they can mimic a person’s abilities in addition to simply taking their form. When facing off against mutants and superheroes, that makes all the difference.
It’s the very thing that makes an event like Secret Invasion possible. That’s a moment in time where even the most powerful heroes could be enemies. Anyone could be a Skrull and that makes it impossible for the characters to trust each other, even for the readers to trust the characters.
Mimicking the abilities of a character will allow the Skrulls to infiltrate everywhere, not only in groups like the Avengers and X-Men, but galactic empires with their own inherent abilities, such as the Inhumans and the Shi’ar. In many ways, it’s the key to their longstanding strength as an empire. It’s also the thing that has come to define them as a species.
8 Not Every Skrull Supports the Invasion Agenda
While the majority of Skrulls appear to share the same ideals, that can’t be said of all of them. There are always the occasional insurgents who rebel against the Skrull empire’s hunger to conquer and invade the universe at large.
Usually, these rebellions don’t last and are met with severe punishment. However, every now and then there are surprises as well. In Secret Invasion, the key to that plan was that even the Skrulls don’t know they’re Skrulls. Because of that, some retain the heroic tendencies they’ve been used to and understand that the invasion is something that needs to be stopped, not supported.
On a similar note, Kl’rt, the Super-Skrull, fights against his own people alongside Nova during the Annihilation event. While that event as a whole turns out to be a pretty devastating loss for the Skrulls, it’s impressive to see an unexpected character go toe-to-toe against his own. It proves that not everyone can follow a specific set of ideals and that, sometimes, those ideals shift away from what they initially represented.
7 They’ve Kept Humans as Slaves
While enslaving humans is not always a clear and constant part of the Skrull agenda, it’s a behavior that they engage in quite often. At one point, they take The Thing as a hostage while disguising themselves as 1930s gangsters.
At another point, they come to Earth in the form of a carnival, luring people in only to abduct and enslave them. Even in an event as huge as Secret Invasion, the heroes that they replace are kept alive on their own ships. They’re essentially enslaving heroes as they’re replacing them.
More than anything else, their quickness to enslave humans represents how inferior they truly believe humans to be. This is a species that they view to be beneath them on every conceivable level, which makes their defeat that much more humiliating each time.
Whenever they’re defeated by human heroes-- whenever their plans for invasion are thwarted-- they’re being thwarted by a species that the Skrulls do not think is anywhere near the quality of their own.
6 They Were Created by the Celestials
The origin of the Skrulls is almost as interesting as the empire itself, and begins millions and millions of years ago. The Celestials conduct experiments on the even more reptilian ancestors of the Skrulls.
They experimentation results in three distinct branches: Prime, Deviant, and Eternal. The three branches fight with one another, as is typical, and over time eventually begin to wipe the others out. The Deviant branch are ultimately left standing. Their mutation— the ability to shapeshift— proves to be an evolutionary advantage over their two counterparts, one that they readily exploit.
The fact that the Skrulls stem from the Celestials might be the most important thing about their entire heritage as a species. The Celestials are essentially the gods of the Marvel Universe. They’re truly powerful, awe-inspiring cosmic entities that know and see all. They’re beyond understanding, beyond space and time and that makes them that much more impressive.
5 They Discovered Earth by Accident
The Skrulls aren’t seeking out a world full of super-powered heroes, as so many other alien races do when they first discover Earth. If anything, it’s the opposite.
They discover Earth completely by accident. They just come across a warp in space linking Earth almost directly to the Throneworld. At first, they’re impressed enough, but don’t actually think of Earth as a world warranting a full-scale invasion. That obviously changes after a certain point. However, in the beginning, the Skrulls are actually intent to almost leave the planet alone, save for some scouting.
It’s only when their scouts come into contact with superheroes that the Skrull empire becomes aware of how powerful and valuable Earth actually is. Weirdly, that means that, if those Skrull scouts go undetected, the empire probably never decides to launch a full invasion on Earth.
Of course, if those scouts never go undetected, it also means that something like Secret Invasion could happen a whole lot sooner and with much more devastating results.
4 A Skrull Killed Invisible Woman & Human Torch’s Father
While the Skrulls are widely perceived as a Marvel Universe villain rather than the villain of any one property, they’re more deeply tied to the Fantastic Four than any of Marvel’s other heroes.
They first appeared in the pages of Fantastic Four back in 1962. The Super-Skrull has the combined powers of the Fantastic Four, specifically, because those are the heroes that the emperor has the strongest vendetta against at the time. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a Skrull that takes the life of Franklin Storm, father of Susan and Johnny Storm— aka Invisible Woman and Human Torch.
He’s killed by the Skrulls, essentially being turned into a human bomb. The Warlord Morrat orders for a concussive beam to be attached to Storm’s chest, rigged to go off the moment he lays eyes on the Fantastic Four. This is meant to kill both him and the team, but he turns himself away from them, taking the full blast of the weapon instead.
3 There’s as Much Prejudice Toward Mutant Skrulls as Mutants of Earth
One of the best things about the Skrulls is that they often share many parallels with humanity. They have so many things in common and allow writers to explore those similarities by using the Skrulls as metaphor for some of humanity’s worst traits.
The Kree/Skrull war represents the inherent hunger for conflict, the inability to share resources or particularly to accept differences in ideals. For that reason, it makes total sense for the Skrulls to have mutants, just as humans do. These mutants are depicted as extremely similar to Earth’s mutants.
They have extra abilities, sometimes extra physical features, and face the same kind of prejudice that groups like the X-Men face every single day. Given that the Skrulls are a somewhat crueler society in general, writers are allowed to depict more extreme situations than they are often allowed to do in the X-books.
This is, after all, a race that tolerates no weakness and sees inherent power as tool to be exploited above all else.
2 They’re Immune to Telepathy and Super-Sense
The issue with the idea of a race like the Skrulls coming to Earth and taking over is that there are so many heroes— and villains for that matter— that could immediately sense that threat coming.
The Skrulls are shapeshifters, but that means nothing to characters like Professor X or Jean Grey, who can immediately tell what others are thinking. Wolverine is notorious for his excellent nose, being able to smell whenever someone is not who they say they are. When it comes to the Skrulls, though, even he is defenseless.
That’s because the Skrulls, as a species, are simply immune to those things. Their ever-shifting brain matter makes it impossible for characters to truly get a read on what they are thinking. Characters have overcome this in the past, but always with the aid of a new invention on their side to overcome the Skrulls’ natural defenses.
1 They Successfully Invaded the Entire Marvel Universe in Secret Invasion
This is the big one. With the announcement of Captain Marvel, this is the event everyone wants to know about, because it sure seems to be what the MCU is building toward. People have good reason to be excited, too.
Secret Invasion is one of the best comic events of the 21st century so far. It affects the Marvel Universe on an incredibly deep level and has actual, lasting effects even after it ends. It’s the culmination of every idle threat the Skrulls ever made when they would face off against any of the heroes. They always threatened that one day they would take over the Earth.
In Secret Invasion, the characters learn that that threat has not only come true, but has in fact been true for years. The Skrulls invade Earth on every possible level. They’re everywhere, they could be anyone. Even though they’re defeated, whole structures crumble in their wake and bonds of deep trust are— in some cases— shattered forever.
Are you excited to see the Skrulls in action in Captain Marvel? Can you think of anything else that fans need to know? Let us know in the comments!