Secret Invasion

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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 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 events. The story involves The Skrulls, an alien race of shapeshifters who have (mostly) played a villainous role in the Marvel Universe. After a 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...

Tropes used in Secret Invasion include:
  • Alien Invasion: Like hell.
  • Animated Adaptation: The second season of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes received inspiration from these comics.
  • Anyone Can Die: Wasp, poor Wasp.
  • Assimilation Plot: All Gods worshiped by races conquered by Skrulls become assimilated in their pantheon and turn into mindless slaves of Skrull god Kyl'Byn.
  • 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 Hawkeye/Ronin's ex-wife Mockingbird, who, by all means should've been dead before the estimated Skrull capturing spree (as noted above). Turns out she's caught way before that time and the one who's dead is actually a Skrull.
  • 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.[1]
    • 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.
  • Catch Phrase: He loves you.
  • 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), but considering that even sleeper agents who honestly believed they were human still reverted to form at death, the fans didn't really buy it.
    • 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.
    • When it turns out Dugan is a Skrull and has been since the assassination of Cap, one thinks back to World War Hulk when he had the opportunity to eliminate the Hulk, both Avengers teams, and the Fantastic Four in one fell swoop, thus crippling Earth's defenses and just pissed the moment away. Apparently, the writer was not informed of future plans.
      • Technically it makes sense that he DIDN'T try though. If Dugan had tried and failed to eliminate them all, what possible justification could have been made for attempting to assassinate The Avengers AND the Fantastic Four? It made tactical sense, when you think about it, to allow such a battle to be executed during the main Invasion.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Did Not Do the Research: The whole "Earth has been infiltrated by shapeshifting aliens" storyline was done in the 80's in the ROM Spaceknight series. This is never referenced in Secret Invasion, despite SHIELD being involved in stopping it as well.
    • Years earlier, the X-Men ended up on a planet that appeared to be populated entirely by superheroes, including an underground community of heroes who were supposed to be dead. It eventually turned out that they were Skrulls living as Earth's heroes to perfect their impersonations of them in preparation for an eventual mass infiltration, who had become the mask to the point that when the hero they were training to replace died, they just went off to live in the sewers instead of abondoning the persona. This storyline was touched upon again a while later when Wolverine died on a mission and was revealed to have been a Skrull imposter (the real Wolverine being in the clutches of Apocalypse). Apparently the X-Men never bothered to tell any other heroes about a little thing like an entire planet full of Skrulls training to replace them, nor do they mention any of these events while fighting the Skrulls during the invasion. Of course, it might not have helped if they had told anyone, as the details of the Skrulls' impersonation process during Secret Invasion bore no resemblance to the specifics of the planet of imposters the X-Men found, aside from being part of two basically identical plans by the same invading force.
    • 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. 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.
  • Downer Ending: In spades. Pretty much 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-Skulls 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 Osborne had shot her, it wouldn't have killed her.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Messiah: Hulkling get on Vernake's black list because he's predicted to become one for Skrulls. Predicted by another prophecy, not the one she believes.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: By the Skrulls' measure, the torture they give Hulking and Xavin. On the same count, their execution of John the Skrull.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tempting Fate: In Secret Invasion #7, Spider-man tells Iron Fist that the battle has to going well is overall insignificant because The Watcher hasn't shown up. Guess who shows up?
  • 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?!?!
  • 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.
    • No really, heroes kill like hundreds of Skrulls per issue, it got to a point were people got disgusted by it.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: At the end of 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.