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‘Secret Invasion’ Sets Political Stage for ‘Captain America 4’ and ‘Thunderbolts’

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Secret Invasion wrapped up last week, ending as sloppily as it began. But despite the show’s faults, several intriguing concepts were rapidly introduced in its closing minutes that could leave a lasting impact on the MCU. As the first intersection of The Multiverse Saga’s Earth-based and cosmic storylines, Secret Invasion may matter a lot more than some fans expect and impact future MCU productions such as the upcoming Captain America and Thunderbolts films.

[Warning: Spoilers forSecret Invasion and future MCU projects ahead.]

Secret Invasion goes cosmic

With the Skrulls acting as antagonists in Secret Invasion, one would expect the series to tie heavily into The Marvels. After all, the shape-shifting alien race was first introduced in Captain Marvel, and their grievance with humans was born out of Nick Fury and Carol Danvers’ broken promises. Despite this obvious connection, it doesn’t look like Secret Invasion has set the stage for much cosmic MCU action. 

I’m sure the series will be acknowledged in some way within The Marvels, likely through the Kree-Skrull peace talks Fury mentions as Secret Invasion ends. Hopefully, Carol will also acknowledge her failed promise to help the Skrulls and take some responsibility for Talos’s untimely death. However, it doesn’t look like G’iah or Varra will play a role in The Marvels. Even if they do, it’s clearly a role small enough to not be advertised in the trailers. 

That’s a shame considering their complicated feelings towards Carol and Fury, respectively. Varra’s absence in particular doesn’t sit well with me. Her relationship with Fury was the most interesting part of Secret Invasion and the series ended on a strong note by having her join him on S.A.B.E.R. Throwing it all away in the next chapter of the Skrull/Fury story is a major loss and another missed opportunity for this franchise. 

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in The Marvels (Disney/Marvel)
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in The Marvels (Disney/Marvel)

Life on Earth has been much more destabilized

But speaking of missed opportunities, the MCU cannot mess up the shocking implications of Secret Invasion’s ending. While we all knew President Ritson’s administration wouldn’t last, he certainly went out with a bang, literally. By declaring war on all alien species, Ritson has truly ushered in a “new world order,” one where gangs of humans can storm anywhere and assassinate high-ranking public officials without even an attempt to stop them. 

Ritson’s short-sighted decision to kill all aliens will surely impact the wider MCU (and if it doesn’t, that would be a major problem). The storyline developing throughout the Earth-based, espionage/politics-focused MCU projects has never been clearer. The concepts introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Secret Invasion have made the MCU’s Earth a much more dangerous, hateful world than it ever was in The Infinity Saga

I believe that dangerous hatred will play a significant role in our big three Earth-based MCU projects in Phase 5: Captain America: Brave New World, Thunderbolts, and Armor Wars. I’ve written previously about how these three films will bring together practically every corner of the MCU, essentially operating on the level of an Avengers film due to their enormous cast of characters and connected storylines. The vision has never been clearer than after Ritson’s speech in Secret Invasion

Ritson Secret Invasion
President Ritson (Dermot Mulroney) in ‘Secret Invasion’ (Marvel Studios/Disney)

How Secret Invasion sets the MCU’s political stage

We already know Harrison Ford’s Thunderbolt Ross becomes President of the United States in Captain America 4. Going into Secret Invasion, our only question was how he got there with Ritson in his way. While Ritson being a Skrull would’ve been an easy way out, the show’s actual explanation is much more interesting. 

As Fury tells Ritson, he will be a one-term president due to his reckless and dangerous decision to declare war on all aliens, despite good Skrulls existing and helping the U.S. for several decades. With that in mind, it’s very easy to see how Ross becomes president. All he has to do is campaign on a platform of not being crazy enough to start a war with shapeshifting aliens that are impossible to identify. 

However, I expect Ross to go one step further. He’s always been focused on protecting regular people from superhuman threats, whether it’s the Hulk going on a rampage or the Avengers failing to contain a bomb in Nigeria. I think Ross will become president by disavowing the Avengers and emphasizing their failings, promising to protect American citizens in a new way.

This would create immediate tension between Ross and Sam Wilson in Captain America: Brave New World. If Sam is trying to contain threats like the Skrulls by flying around and throwing a shield, Ross will be tackling these threats with a more grounded approach… at least at first. I expect a bit of a political war between them, with each having their own public support.

The world was already on edge after the Blip, allowing the Flag-Smashers to gain worldwide support. The revelation that a million Skrulls are living amongst humans has clearly pushed society over the edge in the closing moments of Secret Invasion. Even if Skrulls are not directly mentioned in Brave New World, I believe the political atmosphere of fear, distrust, and hate in addition to the rise of misplaced vigilantism will play a big role, even if it’s relegated to background subtext. 

Kickstarting the superhero arms race

It’s also clear that a superhero arms race is about to begin. In fact, it already has! Sharon Carter started the superhero craze in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, giving out Super-Soldier Serum like it was candy on Halloween. While various scientists have been trying to replicate the Avengers’ powers for years in the MCU, there have been very few successes. 

Hulk was a failure to replicate Captain America, Justin Hammer failed to make his own Iron Man suit, and Darren Cross didn’t manage to sell the Yellowjacket to anyone. The only successful superpowered beings created on Earth in The Infinity Saga were Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, although WandaVision retconned even that by explaining their powers as inherited. (A deleted scene explains that Wanda unknowingly protected Pietro from the Mind Stone and got him powers in the process.)

We’ve all heard the rumors of multiple superpowered people bursting onto the scene in Captain America: Brave New World with the Serpent Society, the Leader, and Sabra making their debuts. But even disregarding those rumors, the superpower arms race has already begun with Sonya Falsworth taking G’iah under her wing. The United Kingdom now has its own Nick Fury-type spymaster mentoring a one-woman Avengers team. The United States has no Avengers and no Nick Fury anymore, not that Ross trusts either of them – especially after Fury’s actions are what led Skrulls to settle on Earth in the first place. 

Leading to the creation of the Thunderbolts

President Ross will need to reassure the American people that their government has a plan to protect them. That’s where the director of the C.I.A. comes into play! Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is another important piece of this puzzle that can’t be overlooked. While we can’t be sure of her exact plans, we know Val has been assembling a team of her own for a few years. What better way to debut a U.S.-sanctioned, tightly controlled superhero team than in the face of alien invasions and superhumans running rampant? 

'Thunderbolts' concept art from D23 2022. Left to right: Val, Ghost, Red Guardian, Yelena, Bucky, U.S. Agent, and Taskmaster.
Thunderbolts concept art by Andy Park (Marvel Studios/Disney)

I believe the Thunderbolts was a project in the works already since Ross can’t rely on the Avengers, but their public debut will be positioned as a response to the chaos society has endured since the Blip. Their existence will offer stability and reassurance to the American people, even if they aren’t doing anything for the betterment of society in the team’s actual missions. 

With Val assembling the Thunderbolts, President Ross has his very own Nick Fury and Avengers. Except this time, they’re under his thumb and are used to support his political agenda. The Thunderbolts aren’t vigilantes, as Ross memorably described the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. Instead, they’re ultimate military operatives with capabilities far beyond what most other countries could ever dream of. 

However, the Thunderbolts still aren’t strong enough to take on a force like G’iah if relations between the U.S. and the U.K. turn frosty. That’s why Val and Ross will be engaging in their own little experiments on the side, leading to the creation of two well-known comic book characters: Red Hulk and Sentry. 

Sentry has been rumored to be the antagonist of Thunderbolts for several months now, created by Val to be a member of the team before going rogue. Although the concept sounds very Suicide Squad-inspired, it’s a perfect response to G’iah’s unchecked powers. Of course, Val would want her own one-man army to go up against one of the aliens that are threatening her planet. 

Sentry
The Sentry (Marvel Comics)

Red Hulk is pretty self-explanatory: Ross experiments on himself and turns into a Hulk, but red! I do think Sharon Carter could have a role to play in these experiments given the government position she obtained at the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. She’d be the perfect corrupt accomplice to the shady likes of Val and Ross, although I do believe Ross will be more by-the-book than Valentina is. 

Secret Invasion’s impact could be felt in the MCU for years to come

I love the implications spinning out of Ritson’s war on aliens. I think I’ve cracked the code of how the political atmosphere of the MCU develops to a point where the Thunderbolts are seen as necessary, but of course, this theory could be completely wrong. 

But to me, this is the most obvious direction to take the political ideas introduced in these Disney+ series. By bringing the paranoia and fear from the end of Secret Invasion into the films as a reason for characters like Ross and Val to rise to power, the series could have a much greater impact. 

However, I don’t really have much faith in Marvel to make these easy connections any more. Secret Invasion ignored many opportunities to add more depth to its characters and storylines, so I don’t want to get my hopes up for one of the series’ only interesting aspects to actually hold some weight going forward. I hope these concepts continue in the MCU because I think all of us are starved for a major crossover event. And Captain America: Brave New World and Thunderbolts have the potential to be the most engaging MCU crossover in a long time. 

Secret Invasion is now streaming on Disney+. What are your thoughts on the political landscape of the MCU? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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Uday Kataria

Hi! I'm a huge Marvel, DC, and LEGO fan. I run my own YouTube channel (GoldenNinja3000) and write/host podcasts for The Cosmic Circus. I also created and produced the LEGO Ninjago short film "Golden Hour".

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