While serving as an emotional coda to The Infinity Saga, Spider-Man: Far From Home still offered a few glimpses into the Marvel Cinematic Universe following the events of Avengers: Endgame. In the new movie, the Avengers have gone to ground or to space, but the world is looking for a hero to rally around. That is the burden Peter Parker (Tom Holland) finds himself carrying throughout the film. But with the constant reminders that he is an Avenger while the rest of the team is unavailable, it may leave you wondering if they really left the defense of the planet to a lone 16-year-old boy.
The post-credit stinger scene seems to offer a clue to what is really going on. And be warned: This next bit contains a big spoiler for Far From Home. We learn Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) was Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), the shape-shifting Skrull from Captain Marvel, serving as Fury’s proxy throughout the adventure. The real Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), was stationed elsewhere – a space station and/or staging ground for a number of Skrull ships. The whole thing was a killer surprise and left us wondering what it means for Phase 4 of the MCU. So let’s take a look at a few ideas from the pages of Marvel Comics to see what all this could mean for Fury, his Skrull allies, and their plans in a world without Tony Stark.
Early in Far From Home, Talos-as-Fury mentions he is without a team despite clearly having one when he co-opts Peter in Venice. The implication: Fury has not reclaimed or reformed S.H.I.E.L.D. For the moment, we’re going to assume Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. occurs in an alternate timeline and the organization completely disintegrated after Captain America: The Winter Solider even if Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team helped the Avengers find the Hydra base in Sokovia and aided Fury in securing the helicarrier seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But with them out of the picture, S.H.I.E.L.D. died away. Or, Talos was laying it on thick because Fury spent the time since Endgame building a new organization: S.W.O.R.D.
Created by Joss Whedon and John Cassady in the pages of Astonishing X-Men, S.W.O.R.D – Sentient World Observation and Response Department – was introduced as a counterpart to S.H.I.E.L.D. and ran by Agent Abigail Brand. Its purpose, as the name suggests, was to face outward into space, detect threats, and deal with them before they made planetfall. The department operated from an orbiting space station known the Peak.
With the Infinity Saga at an end, a complete replacement for S.H.I.E.L.D. within MCU films makes a certain amount of sense. And as Phase 4 is said to be more about intergalactic matters than heroes back home, a group with a space station and FTL-capable ships is exactly the sort of thing Fury would build to replace S.H.I.E.L.D. You can almost hear the conversation he had with Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) about the topic during Tony’s funeral. It may also explain why so many Avengers are off-world.
And while it seems clear that the Skrulls are building some version of the Peak, S.W.O.R.D. may not be the group inhabiting it in the end.
We’ve talked about Secret Invasion before – the 2008 event miniseries in which a newly radicalized Skrull attack force infiltrated all levels of Marvel Comics’ primary Earth, taking key positions inside superhero teams, governments, and S.H.I.E.L.D. It looked like a good idea for Phase 4’s overarching story. But following the release of Captain Marvel – in which the Skrulls emerged as a sympathetic and persecuted species – we were prepared to set aside any thoughts of an MCU Secret Invasion. Captain Marvel allied with them and volunteered to help them find a new homeworld.
But what if the “five years out of date” Fury has sided with a covert alien taskforce? Could they be looking to conquer Earth after all?
Then again, considering the way Captain Marvel changed the antagonistic nature of the Skrulls, their infiltration of Earth may not necessarily be to conquer the planet. Perhaps the plan is to build the Peak, a S.W.O.R.D.-like organization, and, potentially, a new Avengers team led by Spider-Man to counterattack an invasion force they know is en route. In this situation, the most likely antagonistic candidate would be Kree Empire. Also, now that all the X-Men properties are back at Marvel Studios, it could be an attack of the Brood – an alien life form with more than a passing resemblance to 20th Century Fox’s Alien franchise, which Disney also now owns – or perhaps something like The Builders, an ancient species which directed evolution across the cosmos and various realities.
Also, there is always the possibility Talos went rouge and, much like Quentin Beck’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) illusions, convinced Fury of a phantom menace to further his own plans for an invasion and occupation of Earth. Twenty-odd years have passed since he proved to be a sympathetic alien attempting to locate his family. It is possible whatever he encountered out in the universe made him another power-mad warlord. The cosmos is full of them, after all.
The Nick Fury of Marvel Comics is not above manipulating the superheroes to get a desired outcome on the geopolitical stage. This was the theme of 2004’s Secret War miniseries, in which Fury recruited Spider-Man, Captain America, Luke Cage, Black Widow, Wolverine, and Quake to covertly invade Latveria and prevent Prime Minister Lucia von Bardas from funding and training a team of minor super villains to carry out terrorist actions across the globe. The op is seemingly successful, but Fury alters the memories of his strike team to forget the whole affair. A year later, Von Bradas retaliates and Fury is forced to reveal to the heroes their part in his black bag mission. He steps down as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and several members of the group – Cap’, Spider-Man, and Luke Cage to name a few – end up founding a new Avengers team sometime later.
Now, if Fury is conducting a secret war in the MCU, Latveria may not necessarily be his target – although anything is possible with Doctor Doom screenwriter Noah Hawley saying his plans for the film may yet fit into the MCU tapestry – but his insistence on giving Peter the EDITH glasses suggests he is covertly preparing Spider-Man for something very specific. And if that is the case, will we see him or his Skrull allies lead new characters like Shang-Chi, the Eternal Sersi, and returning characters like Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) toward becoming the strikeforce of Fury’s dreams?
And if this is a way to assemble the New Avengers, it could also lead to Wolverine’s MCU introduction without the X-Men. Logan had a life before he joined that team and who wouldn’t want to see him re-enact his debut tussle with the Hulk from The Incredible Hulk #181?
But if all this effort is just to get the New Avengers, why all the skullduggery? Sure, Fury is accustomed to keeping people in the dark, but maybe there’s something larger at work. As it happens, Secret War set off a series of stories culminating in Avengers vs. X-Men, but we suspect the threat the MCU Fury is planning for will come from space.
The Devourer of Worlds is one of our favorite possibilities for a new MCU big bad. We’ve been predicting his arrival since the moment Disney first announced plans to buy 20th Century Fox. His MCU debut, whether it happens in 2020 or 2030, is inevitable. But even if we don’t see him on screen for another 10 years, he still serves as the sort of threat which ties all of these ideas together.
Imagine, for a moment, that Captain Marvel and the Skrulls found a world to settle within a year or two of the events depicted in Captain Marvel. But after a decade or two of peace and prosperity on the planet, the herald of Galactus appeared to tell them their new home was scheduled to become dinner. Carol – and maybe even the herald – helped evacuate the planet, but they also realized Galactus’s path would eventually lead to Earth.
In the wake of Endgame, most of Earth’s heroes were too weary or grief-stricken to hear about the coming of Galactus. And even if they were hale and ready for battle, Talos and Carol would go to their friend Nick Fury first. Either way, he would advise developing assets to take on the ancient being in secret, preparing them for a day when they must combine their strengths and face the impossible. And if Peter is destined to be “the next Iron Man,” he will end up speaking for the people of Earth once Galactus arrives in Manhattan. Well, provided he clears his name before that time.
Of course, it always possible Fury is putting together a new defense apparatus simply because he wants to. The Skrull involvement gives him a jump on large-scale orbiting space stations and a fleet of ships – two things still beyond the ability of Stark Enterprises and bad actors on Earth – and since he devised the Avengers Initiative in the first place, a superhero like Spider-Man would be part of his new design. But as we enter a long period without a Marvel Studios release – no new films until sometime next year – we’ll keep speculating on what Fury’s pact with the Skrulls means and how it will impact forthcoming films like The Eternals and Shang-Chi. Will a common enemy unite them sooner than anyone suspects?