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Where Has CAPTAIN MARVEL Been This Whole Time? Breaking Down the Theories

Marvel Studios always delivers a knockout punch at San Diego Comic-Con, and this year was no exception. Finally, fans learned a little more about what to expect when the Captain Marvel movie bursts into theaters in 2019: it’ll be set in the ‘90s and will feature super-spy Avenger leader Nick Fury. With two eyes! Mind already blown.

But those details are already enough to get people wondering: If Captain Marvel was kicking butt at least a decade before Iron Man flew for the first time or Captain America was thawed out, then why isn’t she currently kicking butt now? What happened to her between then and the present day, where no one’s even mentioned her name once? And what does this mean if the rumors about her appearing in Avengers: Infinity War are true — if she does return, will she be several decades older?

Obviously we won’t know anything for sure until the movie draws closer, but in the meantime, I’ve got plenty of theories about why Captain Marvel’s been shrouded in mystery for so long, and where she might be now.

Putting the “Secret” in “Secret Invasion”

One of the other big Captain Marvel revelations at Comic-Con was the identity of the villains who Carol Danvers will find herself up again. It’s the Skrulls, a race of alien shape-shifters who first appeared in the second-ever issue of Fantastic Four. In hindsight, we should have realized something was up last year when Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn pointed out on Twitter that 20th Century Fox, which owns the rights to the Fantastic Four, only controls some of the Skrulls. The rest still belong to Marvel, who have clearly found the perfect place to finally use them.

When you think about it, the Skrulls make a lot of sense for a Captain Marvel movie; they’re the erstwhile enemies of the Kree, who we’ve seen before in Guardians and in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Captain Marvel’s powers are derived from Kree technology. However, these days Skrulls are better known for a 2008 storyline called “Secret Invasion,” in which they used their shapeshifting powers in an attempt to replace Earth’s leaders with their own agents (and superheroes!) and take over the planet. And yes, Carol’s fought them before—she was a prominent player in Secret Invasion, although she was still going by “Ms. Marvel” at the time.


If Marvel Studios is planning to adapt this storyline, it could explain why nobody knows about the Skrulls or about Captain Marvel—their invasion, true to the name, would have been secret, and Carol’s mission to stop them might have been covert, so as not to cause panic among the general population. Putting it back in time ensures that the Skrull invasion doesn’t distract from Infinity War (only one big bad alien at a time!), and creates a perfect in-universe explanation for our country’s obsession with alien abduction in the ‘90s. Yup, that was a real thing. Makes sense, given all the X-Files we were watching back then.

So Where Is She Now?


Even if Carol wasn’t a public-facing superhero like Iron Man or Captain America, why wouldn’t she come out of retirement to join the Avengers when the world needed saving again? It’s entirely possible that she just doesn’t feel like getting involved until it’s a really big crisis; Hank Pym did a lot of covert superheroing for S.H.I.E.L.D in the ‘80s, too, and didn’t really bother for a while, either, so it’s certainly an option. Carol’s a much more noble and active type of person than Hank is, though, so I doubt it’s lack of interest keeping her away.

There’s also the possibility that Carol can’t publicly out her superhero status because reports of her activities are still classified by the U.S. government. As a member of the Air Force who (I assume) successfully stopped an entire full-scale alien invasion in the ‘90s, Carol would be subject to a different kind of scrutiny and supervision than most of the Avengers. Which makes sense; even if you lived in a world with Norse gods and evil robots and superpowers, wouldn’t learning that a whole bunch of the world’s leaders were actually aliens in 1996 be just a little bit shocking?


But maybe she’s not standing by waiting for orders—maybe she’s just physically not on Earth at all! When comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick first got ahold of Captain Marvel, she wrote a storyline in which Carol found herself launched backwards in time. Could the MCU version of Captain Marvel be launched forward somehow instead? It would explain why she hasn’t been seen for the past few decades (and why she’ll be roughly the same age if she appears in later movies, although I’m sure they’ll be able to hand-wave that away as something to do with her powers), but how would it happen? Obviously the easiest explanation would be an Infinity Stone, but Doctor Strange’s Eye of Agamotto is the stone that controls time, so either Carol’s going to get real cozy with the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj, or her journey into the future will be by some other means.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be time travel; it’s also just as likely that Carol Danvers simply noped on outta her regular life to go have outer space adventures instead. Most of her recent comic stories involve her being a cosmic diplomat for Earth, and in the ‘80s (while she was technically using the moniker “Binary”) she abandoned the planet entirely to go hang out with some space pirates, so she’s got plenty of experience zipping around the stars. It’s why everyone was expecting her to get some kind of a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and why people figure she’ll get some kind of cameo in Infinity War.

Binary ready to leave Earth

One thing’s for sure: it will be a while before we have any definitive answers about what to expect from Carol Danver’s MCU premiere. Captain Marvel is currently set to hit theaters on March 8, 2019, so until then, guess we’ll just have to keep speculating. Below in the comments, let us know why you think Carol is currently AWOL!

Images: Marvel Studios, Marvel Comics

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