When Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke joined the cast of the upcoming MCU Disney+ series Secret Invasion, fans immediately asked, “Who is she playing?” And when the rumor mill suggested that she would play Veranke, many fans had a follow-up question: “Who is Veranke?” Over the years, the MCU has not been afraid to dig deep into the comics to find obscure and exciting characters. While you may not know Veranke’s name, you’ll soon see why she’d potentially be a great MCU villain and a fitting role for Clarke.
In short, Veranke is the queen of the Skrull Empire who served as the primary villain of the 2008 crossover Secret Invasion. For fans of the MCU, Skrulls are a relatively recent and largely sympathetic alien race. They first showed up in Captain Marvel, and while they initially clashed with Brie Larson’s Vers and the other members of Kree special forces, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and his fellow Skrulls soon revealed themselves to be refugees, seeking shelter from the imperialist Kree. The Kree of the comics may be as militant as their MCU counterparts (governed by a giant green head in a jar instead of Annette Benning), but Marvel Comics have rarely used the Skrulls as anything but bad guys.
Since their debut in 1961’s Fantastic Four #2, the Skrulls have been Marvel’s first and most important evil alien race. Initially, shapeshifters who troubled Marvel heroes, the Skrull soon were revealed to be a military force, rallying behind warriors such as Kl’rt the Super-Skrull, who had all the powers of the Fantastic Four. Although later stories would show the Kree’s part in transforming the Skrulls from peaceful explorers to conquers in their own right, most stories position the Skrulls as bad guys.
Varenke came to power after her religious zeal got her banished to a prison planet by Emperor Dorrek VII. After Dorrek VII died in Galactus’s destruction of the Skrull throneworld, Varenke’s popularity grew, allowing her to establish a theocracy. But that’s not how readers first met Veranke. Upon its initial release in 2004, no one reading New Avengers #1 would have recognized Veranke, or any other Skrull, because she took the form of Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman.
Over the next several years, writer Brian Michael Bendis and collaborators stretched out a mystery, first indicating that the Avengers had a traitor in their midst and then revealing it to be Spider-Woman. As Spider-Woman, Veranke takes advantage of major events such as the House of M, in which Scarlet Witch recreates reality, and the Civil War between superheroes to manipulate Earth’s defenders. As they fight amongst themselves, the heroes do not realize that their friends have been replaced by Skrull impersonators under Veranke’s control.
Veranke’s plan comes to fruition in the 2008 company-wide crossover Secret Invasion. The story not only reveals that Skrulls have been active on Earth for years, despite the efforts of Marvel’s genius brain-trust the Illuminati, but also that readers have been following adventures of many heroes who are in fact Skrulls. Although the heroes repel the Invasion, the world’s faith in superheroes comes to an all-time low. When Norman Osborne kills Veranke during a public battle, he’s elevated to a position of power, leading to the Dark Reign storyline.
Why do fans hope that Clarke will play Veranke in the upcoming series? More than the fact that Veranke needs to appear in any adaptation of Secret Invasion, Clarke is well-suited to portraying the Skrull empress. In Game of Thrones, Clarke played Daenerys Targaryen as a woman with a near-fanatical faith in her own legend. Rising to power as Khaleesi, the Mother of Dragons, she gained mythic strength as she marched her way to the Iron Throne of Westeros, planning to take what she saw as hers by right. A religious zealot who believes that prophecies demand the Skrulls take a blue planet, Veranke follows a similar path, conquering Earth with a mix of self-righteousness and desperation. If Clarke won’t be playing the character, she’ll certainly cast a long shadow over whoever takes the part.