WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Captain Marvel, in theaters now.
Famously, the Skrulls in the Marvel Universe are antagonistic to a lot of the teams and organizations therein. The shapeshifting alien race has made enemies of the Kree, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and even Ultron. On the other side of the coin, they have often come to the aid of the universe in stories like Annihilation: Conquest and Infinity.
Their complicated relationships with those around them, coupled with their shapeshifting physiology, make them hard to trust, and in their Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Captain Marvel, things were no different. While things are rarely as black and white as good and evil in the Marvel Universe, fewer races have ping-ponged between the two extremes like the Skrull.
For MCU fans and general moviegoers alike, the Skrulls have been presented as both an antagonistic race and a sympathetic one. Although Talos and his kin turned out to be quite reasonable in spite of the Kree-Skrull war, there is still a chance that the Skrulls will become a problem once more.
As Talos stated near the end of Captain Marvel, his people are scatted throughout the cosmos, so who knows if they all feel the same way he does, just wanting to find somewhere to settle down. After all, in one of the Marvel Comics stories in which the Skrulls infiltrated Earth entirely (Secret Invasion) it was the work of one radical faction of Skrulls led by their desperate queen, Veranke.
Going into Captain Marvel, audiences are led to believe that the Skrulls are a sinister, deceptive race of aliens. While that is sometimes true, it has not always been the case in the source material. In several storylines involving the safety of the universe, or major events involving the galaxy, Skrulls are often allies and heroes.
One such occasion was Annihilation and the following Annihilation: Conquest, where nearly all races throughout the universe were set upon by the Annihilation Wave and, later, Ultron’s Phalanx army. One heroic Skrull in particular is the infamous Kl’rt, otherwise known as Super Skrull.
Initially an enemy to the Fantastic Four, he was unsuccessful in defeating them several times, despite having a mixture of the team’s powers and being quite adept at using them. Due to his failures, he was cast out by his kind and made to fend for himself, later showing up to help defend the universe from Annihilus and Ultron.
This seemingly changed his alignment, as well as earned him the respect of his people once more. Now an ambassador for his people, he has brought the Skrulls into a new era of cooperation.
Another story in which the Skrulls are portrayed as cooperative and heroic is Infinity. Large swathes of the universe are primed to be destroyed by the mysterious Builders, who feel the only way to save a collapsing reality is to prune worlds within. The Skrulls joined with several galactic bodies to try and hold back the Builders, including the Kree, Spartax, the Brood, the Avengers and even the former despot Annihilus.
During the event, a great number of Skrulls sacrifice themselves to carry out plans made with their allies. So, it would appear that, much like any other race, the Skrulls are capable of both heroics and villainy. However, the issue is that they don’t do anything by half, with the Skrulls either being heroic at great personal cost or carrying out nefarious plans so sadistic and deceptive in nature that it gives the universe pause.
One key aspect of these behavior is the fact that Skrulls are often portrayed as a desperate people, having suffered great losses and the destruction of their home world. This is the defining trait that causes them to act in such extremes, as they don’t appear to have much left to lose.
Even in the MCU’s Captain Marvel, the Skrulls are willing to use ethically dubious mind infiltration to extract information they might have been able to simply ask for, showing that even with the best intentions (finding and saving their people) they are often misguided.
Xavin of the Runaways is another Skrull who is important to examine when looking into the history of the Skrulls' alignment. A young member of a Skrull royal family, they were to be wedded to their fellow Runaway, Karolina Dean, to avoid a galactic war between their people. Though they are initially on board with this, after spending time on Earth, they soon learn how unnecessary this measure is.
Regardless, they fall in love with Karolina, with the feeling being mutual, though they reject the extremes of their people and build a relationship on their own terms. Xavin becomes a hero alongside their new team, as their younger mind is less rigid than the traditional aggressive, desperate state of their people.
This is where we see a Skrull influenced positively by a more open and less chaotic environment. Both Xavin and Kl'tr's experiences lend to the notion that Skrulls are no different than those they share the galaxy with, and their outlandish alignments are a result of a string of terrible events that have forced their people to act out.