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If Secret Invasion’s big bad is teasing a Fantastic future, it may never come

The reference-to-significance pipeline has broken down

Kingsley Ben-Adir as Gravik looking very satisfied he just blew up some people in Secret Invasion Photo: Gareth Gatrell/Marvel Studios
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Maybe the most exciting part of this week’s episode of Secret Invasion is the formal reveal of the big bad plan of our big bad bad guy, Gravik the rebellious Skrull general. We already knew he was gunning for a Skrull takeover of Earth, but now we know exactly how he wants to use his mysterious science machine to do it.

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for Secret Invasion episode 3, “Betrayed.”]

A Skrull rendered with AI imagery in the Secret Invasion opening titles Image: Marvel Studios

If you’re familiar with Skrull methods from Marvel comics or video games, you probably saw this coming. It’s a simple equation: How do you make the Skrulls scarier? Give ’em superpowers.

The Super-Skrull began as a singular Marvel Comics villain, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, who possessed all the powers of a Skrull and the Fantastic Four simultaneously (shape-shifting, stretching, rocky skin, pyrokinesis, and invisibility). But in latter-day Marvel Comics, the concept has evolved to include a whole class of Skrull spies who are engineered to masquerade as superheroes. So, if you hear someone referring to “super Skrulls,” they mean Skrulls that have copied the powers of Earth’s heroes. If they’re talking about “the Super-Skrull,” they mean the specific Skrull villain with the powers of the Fantastic Four.

Gravik’s plan is to introduce the MCU’s first super Skrulls right when Earth’s nations are occupied in a global war, and secure Skrull power over humanity on the planet. And it seems pretty likely he’ll be giving himself the superpower treatment first.

So Gravik is the Super-Skrull?

Look, we don’t know for sure. But what’s Nick Fury going to do about an army of super Skrulls, call in the Avengers? The whole point of Secret Invasion is that the Avengers don’t really exist right now.

But one superpowered Skrull? That seems more like a match. Secret Invasion’s big bad appears to be the Super-Skrull.

So is Secret Invasion laying track for the Fantastic Four?

Marvel Studios’ Fantastic Four reboot logo Image: Marvel Studios

Nominally, sorta? After years of licensing woes, Marvel Studios is finally ramping up a Fantastic Four film set within the MCU. It’s expected to begin principal photography this coming January and hit theaters in May 2025 (though the studio has not yet released any casting info). Seeding Fantastic Four villains — like the Super-Skrull and Namor the Submariner — in current films is exactly the kind of connective tissue that made the Marvel Cinematic Universe such an object of interest for over a decade. Ooh, that’s from this other comic, that’s going to be important later!

But it’s also the kind of connective tissue that the setting has sorely lacked since the close of Avengers: Endgame. It’s not that the MCU hasn’t triedSecret Invasion itself is picking up threads from Infinity War and Spider-Man: Far From Home. But it’s telling that those threads were left dangling in films significantly in the rearview mirror. The connection is there in a purely narrative sense. The urgency and emotional heft are not. And that describes a lot of the MCU these days.

In 2022, Ms. Marvel revealed that the MCU’s Kamala Khan is a mutant. But it’s been nearly a year and the studio hasn’t even announced an X-Men project. The earliest an X-Men movie could potentially hit theaters would be 2026 or later. By the time Fantastic Four rolls around — that is, if Marvel Studios doesn’t opt to delay it further in reaction to Hollywood strikes or cost reductionSecret Invasion’s Super-Skrull will be two years in the rearview.

So, is Secret Invasion laying track for Fantastic Four? It feels odd to say “Hopefully not.” Hopefully, the production just made the obvious choice about how to raise the stakes for the MCU’s Skrulls. After all, what’s scarier than a Skrull that can look and talk like anyone? A Skrull who can look and talk like anyone, and perfectly replicate their superpowers!

It doesn’t solve Marvel Studios’ modern issues with spreading connective tissue rice-paper thin, but it just goes to show what we’ve known for years: The Fantastic Four’s villains are built better. And there’s no shame in using them.

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