Captain Marvel: Who are the Kree?

We look into the origins and motivations of Marvel's favorite alien fascists, the Kree, central to the Captain Marvel movie.

The Kree are now a household name thanks to Captain Marvel. They’re one of the most prominent alien races in Marvel Comics and they play a major role in the more cosmic branch of the MCU (and occasionally show up in the TV side of things with Agents of SHIELD), but their stories are a bit more complicated than you might expect, as they’re far more than just super strong aliens. In fact, the Kree have a rich history that just might turn out to be a major piece of the MCU after Avengers: Endgame.

The Kree were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby all the way back in 1967’s Fantastic Four #65 as a race of blue skinned, humanoid invaders from the distant planet of Hala. Their early stories were fairly bare bones, with all the vintage trappings of standard ’60s sci-fi and silver age comic books — advanced technology, super strength, vaguely defined colonial goals, and so on. But as their stories evolved, so did the Kree. One of their most defining characteristics became their obsessive reverence for physical strength and prowess in battle — an all consuming directive provided to them by their AI “leader,” known as the Supreme Intelligence. The Kree were instilled with a zealous need to advance their species by any means necessary, including a thorough genetic manipulation program that involved crossbreeding Kree subjects with other alien races to produce the strongest offspring possible.

If this is starting to sound a little creepy, that’s because it is — the Kree are not exactly the nicest or the most level headed aliens in the Marvel universe.

After years of genetic tinkering and carefully planned eugenics, the Kree developed an evolutionary branch of “pink skinned” aliens, as opposed to the “pureblood” blue. The pink skinned Kree were almost indistinguishable from white humans, save for their enhanced strength and endurance. And thanks to the work of Kree geneticists, they were actually understood to be stronger and tougher than their blue-skinned brethren. This is why, in the MCU, there are characters like Yon-Rogg right next to Ronan the Accuser and Minn-Erva — they’re all Kree, just different rungs on the genetic ladder.

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Their obsession with strength and war led the Kree to expand their empire under the relentless belief that if a planet couldn’t stand up to attack, it deserved to be conquered — a mindset that carried over into their day to day life. The single greatest disgrace a Kree warrior could endure was to lose a fight and return — since death was considered a far more “honorable” recourse than defeat, kind of like the old Greek adage of “come back with your shield or on it.” This led them, naturally, into a whole bunch of wars, the most famous of which being against the Skrulls, a similarly imperialistic race of shapeshifters. The Kree/Skrull war is one of Marvel’s most iconic (and most bizarre) storylines that literally dredges up the ancient history of both races as fuel on the fires that make them hate each other. No, really, in the comics the ancient Skrulls used to experiment on primitive Kree — it’s a whole situation that eventually pulls the Avengers and Earth into the conflict as well.

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Of course, this isn’t so much the case in the MCU. Not only do we not know much about the history of the Kree on the screen, the Skrulls seem to have an entirely different backstory and motivation as well. Far from being a militaristic, imperialist race of spies, the MCU’s Skrulls are the victims of the Kree’s galactic expansion and are in the process of being hunted to the ends of the universe, thanks to the Kree’s deeply indoctrinated supremacy complex.

Naturally, not every Kree in the universe was totally on board with their cultural imperative. Defectors would occasionally escape to help targeted worlds fight off Kree attack as best they could, which is where Earth got its original Captain Marvel — a Kree soldier named Mar-Vell who decided to help the humans rather than conquer them. There have been a handful of Kree to follow in Mar-Vell’s footsteps, and Kree-hybrids like Carol Danvers, who’s comics origin involved having Kree DNA spliced into her human genes in an accident.

The MCU hasn’t gone quite as deep into the Kree’s motivations and ideologies just yet, though the flavor of their comics counterparts are certainly still there. The strictly indoctrinated superiority complex is evident through both Yon-Rogg and Ronan, as well as Carol’s brainwashing. And their endless need to conquer is shown plainly in their genocidal war against the Skrulls. The eugenics and obsession with their own genes are certainly downplayed, however — though maybe at some point in the future we’ll get a real look at just how Kree science operates on the big screen.

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Needless to say, even with Carol as Captain Marvel in our corner, the Kree represent a massive threat not only to Earth but to the entire galaxy if left unchecked — and while they may not be as intimidating as an Infinity Gauntlet-wielding Thanos, they’re certainly a force to be reckoned with, and one that doesn’t easily accept defeat. There’s a good chance that we haven’t seen the last of the MCU’s take on the Kree empire. They’re nothing if not tenacious in their need to dominate every planet in their path.