News is fun, but rumors are more fun. Reports from ComicBookMovie have suggested that the first film in the upcoming Marvel mega-movie, The Avengers, will not have the villain we have all expected; Hulk. They claim to have, on good authority, information that suggests we will actually see a battle between The Avengers and the well-known alien shape-shifters, the Skrulls.
For those who have not read the comics, the Skrulls have been around the Marvel Universe since 1962 when they first encountered The Fantastic Four. They have the ability to shape-shift and become anyone, including our favorite superheroes, albeit with green skin. The problem with the believability of this rumor is in the scope of the film. We know this is already a huge project even if they were to introduce no new characters. With the addition of a whole race of new characters plus an intergalactic storyline, it is not just a summer movie anymore, but becomes a much more nerd-centric film.
This isn't to say that keeping the comic movies pleasant for the hardcore Marvel fans isn't a good idea, but they can't do it at the expense of everyone else. There just aren't enough of us to make a film profitable on its own, and if there was ever a comic film that needed to not fail, it's The Avengers because of the long-term ramifications it could have on the future of Marvel Studios.
Up to this point the general consensus was that the film was going to be based around the most accessible of Avenger storyline - the battle with the brainwashed Hulk. The evidence is there to support this theory, too. At the end of Iron-Man 2, when Tony Stark is sitting in Nick Fury's office there are several screens playing various videos. One of these screens is playing the same news report from Hulk's attack in the film. They seem to be going out of their way to emphasize a timeline here with both films happening in tandem followed immediately by the tease for the Thor film to be followed. Considering, in the comic universe, Thor's brother Loki is the one who brainwashes Hulk and he is already cast for the Thor film, it seems very likely that Hulk will still be our villain.
Of course, all of this is speculation and the only way for any of us to know exactly who is what and when is to wait until May 4, 2012.