Marvel’s Secret Invasion is hitting the end journey, with the final episode remaining and while the series started off slow, the second half of the series has left fans on the edge of their seats with twists and turns, especially when it revealed that one of the cornerstones of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has actually been a Skrull all this while.
An adaptation of the immensely popular Secret Invasion comic storyline, the MCU’s take seems to be heading in its own direction with huge changes, such as the absence of the Fantastic Four and the Illuminati who took centre stage in the comics. Another significant change is the MCU placing some characters in green when they were not in the comics.
**Mandatory spoiler warning in case you have not watched Marvel’s Secret Invasion Episode 4!**
There had been some speculation since the start that someone close to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is a Skrull, and some hints were placed early on, when James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) referred to Fury as Nick. Detailed oriented fans know that Fury doesn’t go by Nick, at all. Then in Episode 3: Betrayed (very aptly named), the voice on the other end of Priscilla/Varra’s call sounded like Rhodes, so it came to no surprise when Rhodey stepped out of the shower in Episode 4: Beloved looking a little greener than usual.
It was later revealed in the credits that this Skrull who replaced the Colonel is none other than female Skrull Raava (Nisha Aaliya), and she is worlds’ apart from her comic book counterpart.
Who is Raava in Marvel Comics?
Introduced in 2017’s Black Bolt #1 and created by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward, Raava is a formidable warrior who bears a characteristic that sets her apart from other Skrulls– the inability to shapeshift. This earned her the nickname ‘Raava the Un-Skrulled’ and is the first of two significant changes the MCU has implemented in her character.
In the recent episodes of Secret Invasion, Raava seemed very eager to send Nick Fury to Death’s Door, aiding in Gravik’s plan to get the superspy out of the way. This would be out of character for Raava in the comics as she was once a rogue Skrull pirate who had sworn vengeance against the Skrull Empire for the death of her two children, so helping the man who wants to save the Skrull Empire seems counterintuitive.
However, as Marvel loves plot twists, Raava could be aware that what Gravik is doing is actually dooming the Skrulls (something that Shirley Sagar, a former member of the Skrull Council, tried to warn the rest of the Council) and is working to quicken the process by helping him.
How long has Rhodey been a Skrull?
After the revelation, the initial thought for many was that Rhodey had only been recently switched out for a Skrull. However, President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige (Loki, What If…?) pulled the rug right from under fans’ feet in a conversation with Marvel.com.
“It was very early days when we pitched this concept to Don, and he very much was into it and into being able to play with different sides of Rhodey that we haven’t seen before.” Feige then increases suspicion of the Rhodey-to-Skrull timeline with another cryptic statement.
“We like the idea of fans going back and watching some of the other appearances of Rhodey and realising that that wasn’t him.”
And since it has been announced that the long announced Armor Wars Disney+ series is now going to be a movie, we kind of know what the movie will be about – the real James “Rhodey” Rhodes coming out of Skrull captivity, ready to reclaim his mantle as War Machine.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back! So, get ready for a trip down memory lane, as we take a close look at Rhodey’s last five MCU appearances, from newest to oldest appearances, along with some theories, to determine if we can establish when exactly the swap could have happened.
1) The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021)
This is the most recent, obvious and most shocking, as this is the 98-second cameo that earned Don Cheadle (House of Lies, Iron Man 2) an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. It could be theorised that it was after the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier that the Skrulls swapped Rhodey with Raava. Still, with Feige’s plural use of ‘appearances,’ it is highly likely that the Rhodey in that cameo is actually Raava. This gives the short speech that Rhodey gives Sam (Anthony Mackie) a whole different meaning.
“World’s a crazy place right now. People are… well, nobody’s stable. Allies are now enemies. Alliances are all torn apart. The world’s broken. Everybody’s just looking for somebody to fix it. It’s a new day, brother.”
Raava here could be referencing the deteriorating relationship the Skrulls had with Nick Fury , as it fits the timeline of him being off-world after the events of Endgame and the feeling that he had abandoned them.
2) Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Why would a Skrull fight alongside the Avengers if they wanted to take over the world? The answer is that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. While the Skrulls wanted to take over Earth, it would have been easier to form a truce of convenience to fight alongside the Avengers to take out Thanos, a threat who could erase half their species. Hence, Rhodey could have been swapped with Raava during the time between Infinity War and Endgame, with the Skrulls desperate to be with the key players in defeating Thanos.
The heartfelt conversation between Rhodey and Nebula (Karen Gillan) after she damages her hand retrieving the Power Stone can now be viewed with new meaning, and it may no longer be about Rhodey sympathising with her about his paralysis and use of cybernetics, but about Raava having to wear Rhodey’s face instead of being free to roam around as herself.
“I wasn’t always like this.” says Nebula,
“Me neither. But we work with what we’ve got, right?” says Rhodey.
If Raava had already taken Rhodey’s place, props should be given to her for the expression of pure devastation and sorrow on her face as she watched Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) die during the finale of Endgame. It could have been possible that through Rhodey’s memories from the Fracking pod and interactions with Tony, Raava actually struck up a genuine friendship with him. This theory leaves a heart-wrenching thought that the real Rhodey, who is likely to have been kept a prisoner, is still unaware that his best friend, Tony Stark has died.
Imagine if he is saved, and thinks he’s returning to a world where Tony is still alive.
3) Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Like in Endgame, if the swap had already happened during the events of/ or before Infinity War, Raava working with the Avengers could just be because they shared the common goal of defeating Thanos.
However, Rhodey’s abrasiveness with General Ross (William Hurt) on the topic of the Sokovia Accords and the treatment of the ‘fugitive’ Avengers is very different from Rhodey in Secret Invasion, who is trying to advance her position in the US government. So, it seems that the Rhodey up to this point might be the real one and could have been replaced later on.
4) Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America: Civil War presents the earliest possible time for the Skrulls to have replaced human Rhodey with one of their own. The point to note is that Rhodey is definitely human at the point where he was shot out of the sky by Vision (Paul Bettany), resulting in his paralysis. Secret Invasion has demonstrated that when Skrulls are severely injured, they slowly begin to revert back to their original forms, like Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) when he was shot in Episode 4. Thus, it stands to reason that if Rhodey had been a Skrull before the battle between Team Iron Man and Team Captain America at the airport, Raava should have changed back into her Skrull form in Tony’s arms.
It is possible that the Skrulls infiltrated the facility where Rhodey was being treated after that battle, and when the rest of the heroes were either fighting amongst themselves or imprisoned. Amidst all the confusion that the heroes have in locating the Winter Soldier, it would have been easy for the Skrulls to switch out and place the real Rhodey in one of their fracking pods to syphon off his memories. If so, a round of applause has to be given to Raava for her convincing struggle with cybernetic legs during the scene with Tony at the end of the movie.
5) Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
While Kevin Feige implied that a few of Rhodey’s past appearances were just Raava in disguise, having her take Rhodey’s place in Age of Ultron seems too premature. It would undermine the character growth that fans have seen Rhodey undergo, and put a sour note on the banter between him and the other characters.
However, if he had been replaced, which is very unlikely, the Skrulls would have seen Ultron as an enemy similar to Thanos, and forge the same mentality to defeat the more significant threat to the Skrulls.
Bonus: Between Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010)
This one is extremely obvious. In the first Iron Man, James “Rhodey” Rhodes looked like this.
But in the sequel two years later, he looked like this.
Can’t you tell the difference?
While it could be possible that Raava replaced Rhodey before Endgame, the Skrulls moving in after the Blip seems the most likely, especially given the context that Fury’s disappearance escalated Gravik’s ambitions to take over Earth. It would also set up the scene for the upcoming Armour Wars movie, as with Raava using Rhodey to climb up the political ladder, it would be easy for others to begin moving in on Stark Tech.
So, when do you think the switcheroo happened?