Let’s break down whose these pesky, shape-shifting aliens are.

The Captain Marvel movie will include several firsts for the MCU, like being set in the ’90s and featuring a two-eyed Nick Fury. Perhaps the most notable new development, however, is the inclusion of the Skrulls as the main villains of the film. And they’ll be led by Ben Mendelsohn, no less! One Avenger against an entire cosmic empire? We like those odds.

Mendelsohn (Rogue One) plays the Skrull leader, Talos, in the highly anticipated Brie Larson film. But who are the Skrulls, and why do they have such a bone to pick with Captain Marvel? Let’s break down everything you need to know about this troublesome group of Marvel aliens. (Also be sure to read about how Marvel Studios can even use the Skrulls, who were long believed to fall under 20th Century Fox’s domain as far as their film rights.)

The Skrulls Explained: The Basics

The Skrulls rank among the most powerful and widespread empires in the Marvel Universe. Because of their militaristic nature and obsession with racial purity, they tend to always be at war with one enemy or another. At the height of its power, the Skrull empire included numerous worlds and countless billions of members. Their stock has fallen somewhat in recent years, but they remain a force to be reckoned with in the galaxy.

The Skrulls are defined by their never-ending feud with the Kree, a conflict that dates back many thousands of years to the early beginnings of both empires. They also have a peculiar obsession with Earth, a fact that tends to put them in conflict with Captain Marvel and the Avengers.


The Skrulls’ Powers and Abilities

In their standard form, Skrulls appear as reptilian, green-skinned aliens the size of small humans. However, all Skrulls have the ability to shape-shift. They can impersonate other races (including humans), animals and even inanimate objects with incredible accuracy. Some Skrulls are capable of shape-shifting so completely that they’re indistinguishable from the real thing even on a psychic level. There’s a limit to how small or large Skrulls can grow, however.

There are also elite classes of Skrull warriors known as “Super-Skrulls” and “War Skrulls.” These genetically enhanced soldiers are able to replicate the powers of various Earth heroes. The first and most famous of these Super-Skrulls, Kl’rt, possesses the powers of all four members of the Fantastic Four.


Kl’rt, the OG Super-Skrull

The Skrulls: Origin and Background

The Skrulls were among the very first villains created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the pages of Fantastic Four, debuting way back in 1962’s Fantastic Four #2. Though that issue ended with a group of Skrull spies choosing to live a peaceful existence disguised as cows, the Skrulls as a whole have remained a clear and present danger to humanity ever since.

FF18 - The Super-Skrull in Times Square

The Skrulls originally existed as three distinct species – the Prime, the Eternals and the Deviants. The Deviants eventually gained dominance over the others because of their shape-shifting abilities, all but completely wiping out the Eternals and Primes in the process. The Deviants eventually spawned another offshoot race called the Dire Wraiths, magically inclined, parasitic villains best known for battling the cosmic hero Rom the Spaceknight.

The true threat posed by the Skrulls became apparent in the 1971 storyline “The Kree-Skrull War,” as Earth became caught in the middle of the never-ending war between the two empires. The Avengers and Captain Marvel (who at that time was a male Kree warrior-turned-superhero named Mar-Vell – this was long before Carol Danvers assumed the Captain Marvel mantle) joined forces and narrowly saved the planet.


Since then, the Skrulls have suffered a number of setbacks, including having their home world devoured by Galactus and other worlds being ravaged by Annihilus’ invasion forces in the Annihilation crossover. Those defeats fueled the Skrulls’ most ambitious plot against Earth yet in 2008’s Secret Invasion, as they attempted to make Earth the new heart of their dying empire. Readers learned that the Skrulls had infiltrated many corners of the superhero community, with everyone from Spider-Woman to Elektra to Hank Pym turning out to be Skrull impostors. The Avengers managed to save their planet from the invading Skrull army, but the lingering mistrust affected them for some time to come.

The Skrulls: Beyond the Comics

The Skrulls have enjoyed a recurring presence in many of Marvel’s animated projects, dating back to 1967’s Fantastic Four cartoon. They’ve since appeared in pretty much every subsequent FF cartoon, as well as other Marvel shows like X-Men, Silver Surfer and The Super Hero Squad Show.

Earth's Mightiest Heroes takes on the Secret Invasion storyline.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes takes on the Secret Invasion storyline.

The most significant Skrull animated appearance came in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, where the Skrulls featured heavily in a multi-episode storyline that closely adapted the events of Secret Invasion. They’ve also appeared in multiple episodes of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., including one that featured a crossover between Hulk and the Guardians of the Galaxy.


The Skrulls also have a long history of appearing in Marvel’s video games, first debuting in the 1987 Silver Surfer game for the NES. They’ve also appeared in everything from Marvel Heroes to Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet to the video game tie-in to Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. But their most notable game role came in 2006’s Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, which featured a level set on the Skrull homeworld as it was being devoured by Galactus.

And now the green, bumpy-chinned villains will make their live-action debut in the Captain Marvel movie with Ben Mendelsohn co-starring as their leader, Talos, who assumes both Skrull and human form. It sounds like he’ll be infiltrating SHIELD while disguised as a regular old human, but we’ll have to wait for the movie when it hits on March 8, 2019, to find out more…

Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.

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