SECRET INVASION’s Talos Is a Major Departure From His Marvel Comics Origins

The MCU’s latest show, Secret Invasion, marks the return of Talos (played by Ben Mendelsohn), a Skrull who first appeared in 2019’s Captain Marvel. Talos is the leader of a faction of Skrull refugees on Earth, and is close allies with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). So far, Secret Invasion explores Talos’ challenges in helping his people. Mendelsohn’s nuanced performance makes him one of the highlights of the series. 

Ben Mendelsohn as Talos in Secret Invasion next to an image of the Skrull Talos in Marvel Comics.

Talos being the dramatic heart of Secret Invasion is a surprising choice to fans of Marvel Comics, considering that he is by no means a prominent character in the source material. In fact, even among Skrulls, Talos was not well-known before his MCU debut in Captain Marvel. He has only been in a handful of comics over the years. Talos made his first Marvel Comics appearance in The Incredible Hulk #418 (1994) by Peter David, Roger Cruz, Cam Smith, Glynis Oliver, and Peter Rosen, later making an appearance in 2006’s Annihilation event.

It would be many years until Talos appeared in Marvel Comics again, this time in Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones’ Howard the Duck series in 2015. Yes, a series about Marvel’s resident anthropomorphic duck. Considering Skrulls have been around in the Marvel universe since Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #2, all the way back in 1962, Talos was a curious comics choice to feature in the MCU. 

Covert art by Jack Kirby for issue #2 of The Fantastic Four shows three green alien Skrulls fighting the Thing, Mr. Fantastic, and the Invisible Girl, while the Human Torch sits on the floor, stunned.

A distinct difference between Talos in Marvel Comics and his MCU counterpart is his powers. As Secret Invasion reveals, MCU Talos can shapeshift into anyone, the same way that any Skrull can. However, in Marvel’s comics, Talos is unique because he is the only Skrull who cannot shapeshift. This is what launched Talos on his path of villainy in the comics, because of the anger he felt from not fitting into Skrull society. This facet about Talos is representative of a trend emerging in the 1980s in comics, where some alien villains were the only member of their species without superpowers. The most prominent example of this type of character is Blackfire, the sister of Starfire in DC Comics, who the Teen Titans battled during Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s acclaimed run on The New Teen Titans

Talos’ lack of powers in Marvel Comics also coincides with a change in personality. Whereas Talos in the MCU is smart, funny, and diplomatic, his comics counterpart is much less interested in the welfare of the Skrull species. The Incredible Hulk #419 describes him as:

“[A]n evolutionary misfit. A throwback to a branch of Skrull development, once extinct, where Skrulls did not survive through shapeshifting trickery… but instead through the unstoppable power of their sinews. Some would think such a time to be a period of savageness. He prefers to think of it as a time of nobility. Then again, what place is there for nobility… in the pathetic existence of Talos the Tamed?”

Ben Mendelsohn in a closeup shot from Secret Invasion.
Marvel Studios

Talos’ warlike perspective in Marvel Comics is also in line with popular and contemporaneous depictions of aliens in the nineties. Star Trek: The Next Generation featured several storylines about Klingon culture and their practice of ritualized combat. Talos’ Marvel Comics characterization as a “throwback to a branch of Skrull development” also recalls the dynamic between the militaristic Romulans and their more peaceful cousins, the Vulcans, in The Next Generation

Clearly, Talos was not meant to be as charismatic like Mendelsohn’s iteration of the character is. Perhaps the reason for Talos’ role in Captain Marvel, as opposed to other Skrull characters, is because he debuted in a Marvel comic from the ’90s. Captain Marvel, after all, took place during the same decade. This would make Talos’ role a subtle wink toward readers of nineties comics.

Emilia Clarke and Ben Mendelsohn face off in Secret Invasion.
Marvel Studios

Secret Invasion follows Talos’ family life and relationship with his daughter, G’iah (Emilia Clarke). In the MCU, Talos has a rocky relationship with G’iah, due to his failure to provide the Skrulls with an adequate home on Earth. This is a departure from Marvel Comics, where G’iah is not Talos’ daughter. Instead, she’s another Skrull living undercover with her husband and children. G’iah premiered in 2019’s Meet the Skrulls series by Robbie Thompson and Niko Henrichon, which detailed the sacrifices and precautions that Skrulls must take in order to live undetected on Earth.

While Talos isn’t in Meet the Skrulls, the general tone of the Marvel Comics story is in line with how the MCU has represented the Skrulls. Since the first issue of Meet the Skrulls came out the same week as Captain Marvel in 2019, it’s possible that G’iah was created for the purpose of joining the MCU eventually. 

A panel from the G'iah-starring Marvel Comics story, Meet the Skrulls.

While G’iah wasn’t originally Talos’ daughter, the family-focused storyline of Secret Invasion makes sense, given the focus of Meet the Skrulls. In that series, G’iah’s main conflict was between her and her daughters, who have been raised on Earth. Since her daughters never experienced life on Skrullos, their original home planet, G’iah and her husband often wondered if their daughters could ever truly commit to the Skrull cause. Similarly, while the MCU’s version of G’iah wasn’t born on Earth, she has spent the majority of her life there. Her struggle with her Skrull heritage and human influences on Earth, alongside her tense relationship with Talos, thus embodies the same spirit of Marvel Comics’ G’iah from Meet the Skrulls

Talos is far from the first Marvel Comics character the MCU has dramatically revised, and he likely won’t be the last. His relative obscurity in comics gave Marvel Studios the opportunity to craft a Skrull character without the fan expectations of notable baddies like the Super-Skrull. Though the MCU isn’t without controversy when it comes to changing the powers of comics characters, Talos has clearly benefited from a fresh Marvel perspective. 

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