Comic Book: Secret Invasion
The shapeshifting, superpowered alien race has been posing as our friends. Uh oh.
"Who Do You Trust."
In the wake of the Civil War
, the New Avengers
confront the assassin Elektra
. But when Elektra is killed in battle, her body turns green revealing her as a shapeshifting alien Skrull
. Turns out the Skrulls had perfected a technique that lets them impersonate anyone
, undetectable even to telepathy, super senses, and anything else the superheroes can come up with. The Avengers' (and fans') reaction? Oh, Crap.
A Marvel Comics Crisis Crossover
for the year 2008, about an invasion of the Skrulls on Earth. It's the conclusion of plot elements introduced by Brian Michael Bendis
in multiple Avengers titles
since the end of the Civil War
crossover. The possibility that anyone in the Marvel Universe
could be a shapeshifting impostor woke big interest in fans, who were hoping for the comics equivalent of Battlestar Galactica
. No surprise then that when the event itself came to a more drawn out
and anticlimactic end than expected, fans found it rather...disappointing
. Fandom is divided
about whether this story was good or not. It was followed by the Dark Reign
and War of Kings
The story involves The Skrulls, an alien
race of shapeshifters
who have (mostly) played a villainous role in the Marvel Universe
. After series of disasters
, the Skrull Empire is greatly weakened, and a religious figure, Queen Veranke, convinces them that their destiny is to rule the Earth. With help from an extraordinary Skrull scientist, a process is created that allows the Skrulls to fool all known means of detection- only upon their deaths do they revert to their true form
. Over a period of several years, they secretly replace several Marvel characters, with Veranke herself taking the place of Spider-Woman
. These Sleeper Agents
have even been brainwashed into believing themselves to be
the replaced person, until a code phrase ("He Loves You" a reference to the Skrulls' god) awakens their true memories. In addition, the Skrulls have figured out how to duplicate the powers of many of Earth's heroes, and even prepared some agents with multiple powers. As the story begins, the awakened Skrull agents begin undermining the hero groups and organizations capable of defeating them, then invade in force...
Secret Invasion Provides Examples Of:
- Actually a Doombot: Played with. When they found out that there were Skrulls around, many superheroes thought that they were the puppet masters of the Civil War: the New Avengers thought that Iron Man was a Skrull, and Iron Man that Captain America was a Skrull. So then it would be just to defeat the self-evident bad guys, free the "real" Iron Man/Captain America, and everything would be right again. No! Neither Captain America, Iron Man nor the New Warriors, Marķa Hill or the politicians that wrote and vote the Registration Act were Skrulls. When you saw Captain America and Iron Man fighting to the death for the liberty vs. security dichotomy, or Iron Man creating a Thor clone that killed Goliath, or Captain America leading a guerrilla group, it was exactly what you saw.
- Alien Invasion: Like hell.
- Animated Adaptation: The first half of the second season of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes received inspiration from these comics, with a bit of foreshadowing throughout the latter half of the first season for good measure. Four episodes make up the main plot: "Who Do You Trust?", "Prisoner of War", "Infiltration" and "Secret Invasion".
- Anyone Can Die: Wasp, poor Wasp. But she's back now, though it took four or so years.
- Arc Words: "Accept change" and "He loves you"
- Assimilation Plot: All Gods worshiped by races conquered by Skrulls become assimilated in their pantheon and turn into mindless slaves of Skrull god Kly'bn.
- Avengers Assemble: Invoked by Iron Man to start the Final Battle (the "Avengers" in question being his team, plus the New Avengers, the Young Avengers, Nick Fury's Secret Warriors, the Thunderbolts, Hood's gang, Reed Richards, Captain America, and Thor).
- Back from the Dead: Originally subverted, with the realization that the "resurrected" Elektra was a Skrull. Played straight with the ending, which revealed dozens (and probably more) of characters who'd been kept alive by the Skrulls after being replaced by infiltration agents.
- Elektra was resurrected; she was replaced shortly after that. She was held on one of the Skrull ships. It would have made no sense if it was otherwise, unless the Skrulls either fooled the Hand or the Hand were working with the Skrulls all along, neither of which was likely.
- Also worth noting is Mockingbird. Turns out she's caught way before that time and the one who's dead is actually a Skrull.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Subverted. The story does end with a bad guy winning, but not any of the Skrulls.
- Badass in Distress: Many, but especially Black Bolt, who was considered one of the most powerful people in the Marvel Universe, then was easily caught. When he comes back, he instigated the War of Kings in revenge...
- Becoming the Mask: Captain Marvel.
- BFG: Nick Fury's weapon of choice to fight the Skrulls.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Quite possibly Veranke. She planned big, manages to capture and impersonate a bunch of powerful heroes... only to have it culminate in an Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion. Then she got stomped/popped/killed by Norman Osborn (being the ox), who uses the power he's handed as a result to cause much bigger problems.
- Body Horror:
- For the sleeper agents who didn't know they were Skrulls, the sudden transformation into their true forms.
- Wasp being turned into a giant biological bomb against her will. Made all the creepier by her full awareness of the process and who's responsible, and her attempts to flee. It doesn't help (see the Mercy Kill entry below).
- Reed Richards' utterly horrifying "interrogation" at the Skrulls' hands; it involves his body being stretched grotesquely by various suction devices until he's the size of a soccer pitch.
- Butt Monkey: Hank Pym, even in captivity. Why? Because the Skrull impersonating him complains that he got zero respect for impersonating Pym.
- At one point, Bendis considered having a Skrull taunt Wonder Man by saying that even though he was powerful, the Skrulls all thought he was kinda pathetic and no one wanted to be him (still, there was a Skrull Wonder Man among the ones who landed in Savage Land).
- Cassandra Truth: Veranke was warning Skrull Emperor that their homeworld will be destroyed by Galactus, and then the wave will come, and was banished for that. Skrulls were at last smart enough to bring her back, after first part of the prophecy happened.note
- The Skrull impersonating Hank Pym gets a little bit of this in one of the Mighty Avengers tie-ins: he meets with the Skrull impersonating Dum Dum Dugan and tells him the invasion won't work because Humans Are Special. For standing out in a crowd, he's reprogrammed and made to fall into line. As it turned out, SkrullPym was right.
- Computer Virus / The Virus: After Ultron's actions give the Skrulls crucial information they need, namely that Iron Man's armor is techno-organic via the Extremis nanite system, they use it to infect every piece of digital hardware Stark's company ever made, effectively shutting down a ton of hero-used computer systems and nearly all of S.H.I.E.L.D., and nearly putting Stark himself in a coma.
- Cordon Bleugh Chef / Alien Lunch: Skrull tastes, at least by human standards. Crusader actually recognizes that the Hank Pym who's heading up the Initiative is a Skrull based on eating habits.
- Dan Browned: An example that also falls under Ass Pull, Mockingbird's being among the rescued heroes. The writers attempted a rather halfassed excuse for how Bobbi could have been seen in Hell in prior arcs that supposedly happened after she'd already been replaced (if a Skrull dies believing they're a person, they're still that person in the afterlife). Though, Bobbi's body WAS destroyed when she died, so it is, maybe possible, but still reeks of retcon.
- While its portrayal over the years has been inconsistent, for the vast majority of its existence, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a United Nations organization, and yet at the end of the event, the US president just goes "Pfft, whatever" and dissolves it without any apparent international involvement.
- Deadpan Snarker: Possibly overused, but among a cast full of snark, John the Skrull managed to stand out.
Attacking Skrulls: He loves you.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Look at you, the fundamentalists. Who do you lot have the powers of, then? Anyone I could take on? ABBA
? Frankie Goes To Hollywood
? No? Well, that's what makes me laugh, lads. Everything about us Skrulls says we're meant to fit in
- Debate and Switch: Invoked. After the end of the Civil War, Luke Cage thought that they should find the Big Bad behind it and the other recent disasters (Secret War, Avengers Disassembled, House of M), and make things right again. And he was happy to discover the Skrull conspiracy, but no: the Skrulls were not behind any of those things. As pointed by Iron Fist, there was no big bad behind, things were screwed simply because they were screwed.
- Decompressed Comic: Potholed in the opening paragraph, but it deserves a second mention, because boy howdy. While the timelines of all the various tie-ins vary, the once-a-month issue release of crossover's central miniseries meant that it took two thirds of a year to tell what essentially amounted to between a few hours and a couple of days of story. Heavily contributed to reader disappointment.
- A joke amongst detractors of the book as it was coming out was "Are they still in the Savage Land?" in reference to how the main characters went to the Savage Land at the very beginning of the book and stayed there until the end of issue five. What happened in between? Uh...
- Defector from Decadence: Hulkling, Crusader, Xavin, John the Skrull,Jaz, or really any Skrull that sides with the Earth heroes. Technically, they didn't defect from decadence, as the Skrull Empire was in shambles and had been taken over by religious fundamentalists, but they still, for assorted reasons, decided they liked Earth enough as it was to not want it assimilated. Of course, Hulkling was raised human and Xavin was never part of this particular faction...
- Deal with the Devil: Pete Wisdom lets out some very nasty creatures in order to get to Merlin, and in return, they wipe out the Skrulls that had invaded Britain.
- Downer Ending: In spades. The only person to get anything good out of this in-story is Norman Osborn.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Wasp, and how.
- Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: Many people see the conclusion (one battle in Central Park and Thor taking down the entire damn fleet by himself) as this.
- The fact that the Super-Skrulls were so easily killed to a point were every tie-in has a kill count in the hundreds didn't help.
- Another big problem was that one tie-in featured Deadpool discovering the means to kill the Skrull Queen and passing the information on to Norman Osborn. If you read that tie-in, you realized that Osborn had a gun made to those specifications and used it during the final fight to kill the otherwise-invulnerable queen, making himself the hero of the day. If you didn't read the tie-in, it looked like Osborn beat the queen by ... shooting her with a gun. And was lauded as the savior of Earth for happening to be the person who fired the lucky shot. It was never even mentioned during the battle that if anyone other than Osborn had shot her, it wouldn't have killed her.
- Actually, Deadpool was supposed to pass that information on to Nick Fury. Osborn simply intercepted it.
- Enemy Mine: Oh, boy...
- The Mighty & New Avengers start off at each other's throats, but after realising that the Skrulls are invading right now, start working together.
- The Hood brings his crew of supercriminals to fight alongside the Avengers.
- Longstanding enemy of the Fantastic Four, The Tinkerer, helps the Human Torch & the Thing escape the Negative Zone.
- When the Thunderbolts arrive for the final battle, Venom asks Norman Osborn for permission to go after Spider-Man, only to be refused. Twice.
- Evil Is Petty: In the early stages of the infiltration, when a Skrull conditioned to believe he really was Reed Richards was being manipulated into telling the other Skrulls what they wanted to know, Emperor Dorrek walks in and blows his head off, saying "That mud-walker turned a member of my family into a cow."
- Finding Judas: The main interest of the crossover was to guess which one in each team was a skrull.
- Five-Man Band: God Squad:
- Flying Brick: Captain Britain, Sentry, Wonder Man, Ms. Marvel, Iron Man, etc.
- Glamour Failure: Exposing the Skrulls becomes a cat and mouse game, with the Earth characters continually having to come up with new methods as the Skrulls keep working around their old ones.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Captain Britain.
- Heel-Face Turn: When we last saw Merlin, he was plain evil, but here he comes back to being a good guy.
- It's Personal: Skrulls hate Reed Richards for turning few of them into cows.
- And the Skrull Kill Krew hates them.
- At the end of this story, Jessica Drew came to really hate Skrulls, as seen in her individual comics which happens after this story.
- Kick the Dog: A lot of readers, and many of the Initiative students, view 3-D man's shooting of Crusader as this.
- Kill 'em All: The World War Hulk What-If version had this. After the destruction of New York wipes out a huge swath of heroes and civilians, except for Hulk, and the Skrull invasion kills scads more, the Bishop's spy (who turns out to be Wasp) slaughters the last ones left, save Hulk, by hitting a very human Pym with the same bio-bomb serum that had been used on Wasp herself in the original storyline, after having gathered them all together in the guise of a resistance group. Then Hulk, having completely lost all hope, catches a passing Silver Surfer and demands that he bring his master down on the Earth and the Skrulls. Hulk again ends up being the only one to survive the resulting cataclysm, and Galactus names him as a herald as a result.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Luke Cage pulls this early on in the story. As the Savage Land copycats come off the ship, Ares notes to fight them is a calculated distraction on the Skrulls' part and that they should retreat back to New York. Cage however punches out Afro!Cage and the heroes bog themselves down in a pretty pointless fight. The battle scatters the heroes and leaves them wandering around for over half the series before Abigail Brand and Reed Richards come to rescue them.
- The Skrulls themselves suffer from this. Ms. Marvel points out how the super-skrulls were almost eager to die in battle. Their religious devotion made them overconfident in victory and to ignore basic military tactics as pointed out by the Skrull commander who invaded Wakanda and Kl'rt, the original Super-Skrull.
- Legacy Character: 3-D Man
- And Noh-Varr, after announcing himself as the new CAPTAIN MARVEL!
- After decades of other people taking his codenames, Hank Pym himself finally pulls this after the events of Secret Invasion, taking up his dead ex-wife's codename of Wasp.
- Let's Get Dangerous: Hercules and the God Squad takes on the Skrull gods Kly'bn and Sl'gur't. It's not until Herc thinks that Amadeus has been killed that he really cuts loose and lays the smackdown on Kly'bn.
- The Magic Versus Technology War: The Skrulls started out using only tech on Britain, then once they'd broken into Avalon and swiped all the artifacts, they were perfectly happy to turn Britain's sources of magic against the country. Too bad for them that Pete Wisdom decided to make a Deal with the Devil.
- Mercy Kill: Thor kills Wasp, partially to put her out of her misery, and partially to keep her from going critical and taking nearly everyone in Times Square with her.
- The Mole: Several characters are actually Skrulls. In fact, most of the registered superhero teams have at least one, courtesy of the three biggest Moles, the Skrulls impersonating Hank Pym, Dum Dum Dugan, and Jessica Drew.
- Out of the aforementioned defectors, Crusader and the Skrull Beatles originally started out as spies.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: The way Ms. Marvel single-handly defeated dozens of Super Skrulls at once. Repeatedly.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The God Squad succeeds in wiping out the Skrull gods... and thus sets up the subsequent Chaos War crossover event, in which one of their number attempts to destroy the entire universe.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: The Skrulls have been around for so long, they've suffered quite a bit of Villain Decay / Diminishing Villain Threat over the years. This series (And its buildup) changed all that. Not even Reed Richards was prepared for how sophisticated their new infiltration methods were. And let's not forget their contingency plan in #6...
- Oh, Crap: Veranke, after her last resort (turning the Wasp into a Bio-Weapon & killing everyone) has failed, and she sees every single superhero, vigilante, and supervillain charging at her. All she can do is repeat "He loves me".
- Pragmatic Villainy: Enforced just before the final battle. Most certainly Osborn already had his shining moment planned in advance (see Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion):
Norman Osborn: The Skrulls are the targets. Hit anything but and you won't live to see tomorrow.
Venom (Mac Gargan, a.k.a. the then-former Scorpion): But Osborn, Spider-Man's right in front of—
Norman Osborn: The Skrulls are the targets.
- Punctuation Shaker: Skrull names tend towards this. Of special note are the Skrull gods Kly'bn and Sl'gur't.
- Rasputinian Death: Veranke endured several attacks (including a hand-to-hand with Wolverine and an arrow shot to the head) before being ultimately killed by Norman Osborn.
- Refusal of the Call: Hulkling. He is the Messiah of the Skrulls, a race in its darkest hour and on the verge of extinction, which fell under the command of religious zealots as a last Hope Spot... and they lost, they are now pariahs in the universe, without a homeworld, and their last ones being traced and killed... and what does he do about it? Go home with mommy and play with the Xbox?
- Then again, he was raised human, the Skrulls attacked his homeworld to massacre it, they tortured him, AND he's a teenager. In all honesty, any one of those factors could prompt a complete 'Screw these guys', let alone ALL of them.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: By the Skrulls' measure, the torture they give Hulkling and Xavin. On the same count, their execution of John the Skrull.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Clint Barton/Hawkeye/Ronin had an epic exclamation of this after the revelation of Skrull Mockingbird...
Clint: THIS IS NOT OVER UNTIL ALL OF YOU ARE DEAD!!! EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU!!!!
- Black Bolt's reaction after being rescued from this event is basically this trope.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Queen Veranke took the most dangerous mission, infiltrating the Avengers, instead of staying in the security of the Skrull base.
- Sadly Mythtaken: In the Hercules tie-in the Demogorge joins the God Squad to take on the Skrull gods (long story), identifying himself as Atum, the father of the Egyptian pantheon. So far so good. But then he claims that Horus is his great-grandson (son of the son of my son), but they were off by a great. Horus' great-grandfather was actually Shu, not Atum, who was Shu's father.
- Yes and no. One version of Horus called Heru-ur or Horus the Elder was the brother of Osiris and Isis and great-grandson of Atum. It is another more well-known version of Horus that is the son of Osiris and Isis. Given the theme of rebirth in Marvel gods both versions could be true.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Crusader. He finally decides to side with his adopted home, fights with the humans, successfully hands Skrull!Yellowjacket his ass, thereby saving the entire Initiative camp and making the impostor Pym pay for everything he'd done to screw the human side over... Then 3D Man plugs him in the back of the head and dismissively shrugs it off when Crusader's fellow students are pissed. The only redeeming grace is that Crusader uses his Applied Phlebotinum to teleport away from the scene before anyone actually sees him die, so he might have somehow made it.
- Shiny New Australia: Invoked by Moonstone, who offers to defect to the Skrulls in exchange for ownership of South America.
- Smug Snake: The Skrull Queen, Veranke, gets a little bit of this, especially in her speech to Stark in issue #3. The Skrull Pym, initially, is less convinced: in one of the Mighty Avengers tie-ins he talks to the Skrull impersonating Dum Dum Dugan and tells him the invasion won't work because Humans Are Special.
- Something Only They Would Say: Used very frequently in this story as a way of sussing out Skrulls. Though it's implied that the Skrulls have been on Earth for a long time so even this isn't particularly effective for the most part.
- Tempting Fate: In Secret Invasion #7, Spider-man tells Iron Fist that the battle has to going well, and is overall insignificant because The Watcher hasn't shown up. Guess who shows up?
- This Was His True Form: Super-Skrulls return to their Skrull form when they die.
- Tomato in the Mirror: This trope only raises up Paranoia Fuel - some of Skrull agents were brainwashed into believing that they were the people they'd replaced. Which means you can be a Skrull and not even realize it.
- Too Dumb to Live: Norman Osborn shot the Skrull Queen in the head. Well, that's nice of— THEY MADE HIM KING OF EVERYTHING BECAUSE OF IT?!?!
- Undefeatable Little Village: Wakanda, a tiny nation in Africa, defended just by a Badass Normal king and his mutant wife, is attacked by a powerful Skrull armada and their Super Skrulls of composite powers. Poor Skrulls, they never had a chance...
- Unexplained Recovery: Captain Britain.
- Villain Episode: Crusader, being a Skrull, is supposed to be a villain, but a good portion of Avengers: The Initiative is actually told from his point of view as he struggles with whether to fight for his birth people or his adopted home.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Norman Osborn become one, thanks to this event.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: And thanks to this event, Iron Man becomes this, as the failure to prevent the invasion is dumped entirely on his shoulders, since he'd been the S.H.I.E.L.D. director at the time. Also, almost everyone still treats Spider-Woman like she's Veranke in disguise, never mind the fact that Norman Osborn putting a round through the Skrull Queen's head on live television is what got him his government position in the first place.
- Villainous Crossdresser: Seems kind of a no-brainer, since it's common knowledge that the Skrulls are Voluntary Shapeshifters and can turn into male or female independent of their original gender, but the Skrull that posed as Elektra is a notable example since it was his death that kicked off the story.
- The first Skrull that replaced Hank Pym (they went through a few) first captured him by taking the shape of a female grad student and seducing him after a college lecture. So either a female Skrull was impersonating Hank (and possibly dating Tigra - it's not made clear whether Skrull Hank stared sleeping with her before or after the first time they had to replace him), or a male Skrull slept with Hank in female form before impersonating him.
- We Have Reserves: Apparently, the Skrull Empire had more fighters than the "broken and desperate shell of a former powerhouse" description of them implied, considering they went through over ninety attempts to recreate the original Captain Marvel, and whenever a Skrull Pym broke his programming and protested the invasion's effectiveness, they just killed him and brainwashed a new one. Keeping track of the series, they went through at least five warriors just on that alone, and Skrull Dugan implies there were many more.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: At the end of The Incredible Hercules tie-in evil god Amatsu-Mikaboshi took control over the army of gods assimilated by the Skrull Pantheon and is preparing to attack on Earth. However, for Athena that's good news.
- You Shall Not Pass: A very brave case. The female superskrull wanted to attack Broxton, she had just defeated Beta Ray Bill, and someone stood in defiance. Not Thor, but Donald Blake, with the hammer laying between them. He has to take the hammer to turn into Thor, but can he do it before the alien simply kills him with some quicker attack? Volstagg did not want to take any chances, attacked the alien, and gave Donald Blake the second he needed to take the hammer