Marvel Already Made a Way Better Adaptation of Secret Invasion

And it’s shorter, too.

Nick Fury in Secret Invasion
Marvel Studios

Secret Invasion is one of the biggest crossover events in Marvel history. Written by comics legend written Brian Michael Bendis, the story of an alien invasion carried out by shapeshifting enemies who quietly replace some of Earth’s mightiest heroes gripped readers with its paranoia-fueled mystery. So it’s no wonder fans were excited to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe adapt the story — with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury as its leading man, no less.

However, this excitement turned to anxiety when Secret Invasion director Ali Selim revealed he didn’t even read the comics. “I was told on the first day, don't even bother reading them,” Selim told Inverse ahead of the show’s premiere. “It has nothing to do with this series.”

That tonal difference was very clear throughout the series, which ignored pretty much everything that made the comics great in favor of a bland spy thriller with no real stakes and an unsatisfying conclusion. How could this have been avoided? The ultimate answer may lie in a 2012 cartoon.

Super Skrulls appeared in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with the powers of the Fantastic Four, just like in the original comics.

Disney Animation

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes gave comics fans a slightly more faithful retelling of the Avengers saga outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though the series only ran from 2010-2012, the second season actually attempted to tackle the Secret Invasion plotline in a two-episode arc that stayed true to the spirit of the source material.

The first thing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes did right is make it an Avengers story. In the MCU’s newer Secret Invasion, the Avengers act like an invisible partner in the defense of Earth, a squad that Nick Fury doesn’t want to bother (he claims that’s because the Skrulls could impersonate them and complicate everything). But in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers are the center of the mystery. The Skrull conspiracy is uncovered when a communication is traced to Tony Stark’s mansion, meaning one of the heroes on the team is actually a Skrull.

Slowly, it’s uncovered that multiple Avengers are already Skrulls, including Mockingbird and Captain America. Together, the team fights against the Skrulls on two fronts. A kidnapped Steve Rogers in space leads a charge of those who were replaced, while the remaining heroes on the ground fight Skrulls replicating even themselves, making for a great mirror battle.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes also does a better job with one of Secret Invasion’s coolest elements: the Super-Skrull. In both the comics and the cartoon, Super-Skrulls are engineered to have enhanced versions of the Fantastic Four’s powers. But the MCU version takes this even further, giving them the powers of everyone from Captain Marvel to Thanos, which instantly makes this version of the Super-Skrull the most powerful being in the entire franchise.

Captain America has to deal with his identity being stolen by a Skrull in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Marvel Animation

The cartoon adapts lots of other fun details from the comics that never made it into the live-action show. There’s Queen Veranke, the leader of the Skrull invasion who impersonates Spider-Woman — a far more compelling than Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir). The final massive Avengers fight is also superior to the one-on-one fight that concluded the MCU miniseries.

But best of all, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes actually take a moment to examine the aftermath of such a long deception. At the end of the episode, Thor explains why the fight is far from over. “Broken bones, destroyed buildings, these things can be easily repaired,” he says. “But broken friendships, broken trusts, wounds such as these take longer to heal.” This isn’t just a throwaway line, either. The very next episode even deals with Captain America’s public image after his Skrull identity was made public.

Despite having a longer runtime, Secret Invasion never explores how its characters might feel betrayed and hurt by the suspicion they dealt with (and it doesn’t really bother to explore those suspicions either). Of course, it’s possible a future MCU project could pick up that loose thread. The Marvels appears to be a direct sequel to Secret Invasion, though with three superheroes to juggle, there probably won’t be much time for more Nick Fury introspection.

It’s probably safe to assume that the MCU won’t spend much more time dwelling on the events of Secret Invasion, especially considering how poorly it was received by fans. So if you’re looking for a better take on the original story (and you’ve already read the comics), Earth’s Mightiest Heroes offers a taste of what could have been — and how suspicion really affects people.

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is now streaming on Disney+.

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