This article contains some spoilers
The MCU is pretty dang low on Avengers right now, but one theory surrounding Marvel’s new Secret Invasion series is that it’s about to bring back a lost member of the OG team.
While it might seem pretty “out there”, the idea could solve a few of the MCU’s current issues, some of which arguably began when the 2019 blockbuster Avengers: Endgame brought the Infinity Saga to a box office-slaying climax and killed off big hitters like Tony Stark/Iron Man and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow.
The mantle of Captain America was passed from Steve Rogers to Sam Wilson, Bruce Banner went off to have some family-related Hulk adventures, and a massive new MCU saga soon got underway. Sam became the focus of his own TV series, as did Avenger Hawkeye, while Thor went on to lead another big budget movie in Thor: Love and Thunder, which didn’t quite get the positive reception Marvel hoped for from fans or critics.
In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we also found out that Wong, Bruce Banner, and Captain Marvel were still lowkey keeping an eye on things, with Wong recruiting Shang-Chi at the end of that film. Various other new characters have also joined the ranks, including Ms. Marvel and Moon Knight, but they aren’t quite Avengers at the moment, and no one really has the MCU star power that the majority of the OG team have.
Enter Secret Invasion, a show about a faction of the alien Skrulls introduced in Captain Marvel, who are posting as various world leaders, key government agents, and media hotshots in a bid to overthrow humanity and take Earth as their home planet. The Disney+ series only lightly borrows from the original Marvel Comics story about Avengers who are revealed as Skrulls, choosing to create its own geopolitical crisis within the MCU and using characters like Nick Fury, James Rhodes and Everett Ross to make it a bit more personal.
The invasion itself is also more personal in Secret Invasion, as dangerous Skrull leader Gravik has a rather justified grudge against Fury for abandoning his promises to find the refugee Skrulls a new home planet after he brought them on board in the 1990s. In episode two of the series, we also see that Gravik is using bits of DNA to create a race of Super Skrulls who can wield the powers of beings like Groot from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and he’s also keeping some captured people prisoner at his headquarters.
If you’re wondering how the return of an OG Avenger fits into that, we need to go back to a tumultuous post-Endgame time for Marvel, when Disney and actress Scarlett Johansson had a bit of a legal scrap over her financial payout for the Black Widow solo movie in 2020. After Marvel and Johansson had finally kissed and made up in 2021, she attended a 35th annual American Cinematheque tribute in her honor, and Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige attended the event with a surprising announcement about a “secret” project that Johansson was working on for the studio.
“We are already working with Scarlett on another non-Black Widow-related top-secret Marvel Studios project with her as a producer,” he revealed. “Scarlett is one of the most talented, versatile and beloved actors of our time. It has truly been a pleasure to work with someone of her caliber.”
This “non-Black Widow related top-secret Marvel Studios project” with Johansson as a producer has not yet materialized, but the actress recently confirmed at the Asteroid City press junket that the project is still alive. “It is still happening. Yes. It is still happening, [but] not currently because nothing is happening right now. We’re all sort of in this holding pattern as we wait out the writers’ strike and potentially our own guild strike, and so on and so forth.”
Johansson seems to have no specific plans to return to the role of Natasha Romanoff, however, recently telling The Goop Podcast that the “chapter” is over, but a new Secret Invasion comic series makes a point of singling out Black Widow as a Skrull shapeshifter. While the plot of that series, from Ryan North, Francesco Mobili, Jordie Bellaire, and Joe Caramagna, isn’t tied to the Disney+ show, some are wondering if the new TV series could still be leading to Natasha’s surprise return, either by spotlighting her as a long-held prisoner, or by the Skrulls utilizing her appearance as a manipulation tactic. After all, Fury has a long history with Natasha, and now that Maria Hill is dead, he’s running out of people to trust.
Though it would seem unlikely that Johansson would play Romanoff for a cameo in the series, stranger things have happened in the MCU, and it appears the door is open for the actress to return as a different character in a new Marvel chapter. It would be great to have Natasha back in some form, but we’ll have to wait and see what Marvel has up its sleeve for the Secret Invasion finale, and if they’re keen to bring back a mainline (or an alternate timeline) Black Widow at this stage in the Multiverse Saga or not. In the meantime, we’ll be putting this theory on the bottom of the “maybe” pile. When we get to Avengers: Secret Wars, all bets are off!