When Marvel Studios revealed the Phase 3 plans for their growing cinematic universe, it took the world by surprise. Fans had long expected more fantastical (Doctor Strange) and diverse (Black Panther, Captain Marvel) movies to be on the docket – but few saw something as big as a two-part MCU crossover event coming. However, that’s just what we’re getting with Avengers: Infinity War in summers 2018 and 2019, respectively.
As always, these Marvel Studios movies carry a lot of comic book backstory with them. In order to help those unfamiliar with Marvel Comics lore better understand what the Infinity War movies will entail, we’ve put together a rundown of Marvel’s “Infinity” crossover events from the comics, with explanations of the major players (like that Thanos guy), and how events from the comics MAY be incorporated into the movies.
Thanos & The Infinity Stones
Our own Rob Keyes wrote an excellent piece detailing what the Infinity Stones are, so if you want the in-depth breakdown, be sure to read that article. For the purpose of brevity, our breakdown of things will be a lot more brief.
Basically, the Infinity Stones (aka “Infinity Gems” or “Soul Gems”) are six objects of power whose origins (in the cinematic universe) date back to the Celestial beings who first ruled the universe. In the comics, each of the stones relates to a different aspect of existence (space, time, reality, power, mind, and soul), and embedding them in the The Infinity Gauntlet (a golden gauntlet meant to house the stones) gives the wielder god-like power over the universe. Thanos (the big bad seen at the end of Avengers, and again in Guardians of the Galaxy) wants the Infinity Gauntlet, and all the power that comes with it.
As far as the Infinity Stones go, the Marvel movies seem to be following a loosely similar path as the comics – as far as depiction of the stones themselves:
The two stones not yet seen in the films are the Time Stone and Soul Stone; but with films like Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Inhumans all on deck, there is still plenty of opportunity to work those last two Infinity Stones into the mix.
The other piece of the puzzle is the Infinity Gauntlet used to wield the stones. Last we saw, the Gauntlet is locked in Odin’s vault in Asgard, but with Thor: Ragnarok possibly bringing an end to that fabled realm, the Gauntlet may soon be back in play.
The first of Marvel Comics’ “Infinity” crossover events was Infinity Gauntlet in 1991. Written by Thanos creator Jim Starlin (a godfather of the Marvel Cosmic Universe), the six-issue miniseries detailed the apocalyptic peril of Thanos acquiring and wielding the Gauntlet, as a means of impressing the living incarnation of Death by killing half the universe.
On Earth, as the world begins to tear apart, The Avengers and other heroes combine forces with mystic characters like Doctor Strange and cosmic characters like Adam Warlock (a major Marvel character who was already teased in Guardians of the Galaxy) to hatch a desperate plan to stop Thanos by storming his cosmic stronghold. In his arrogance, Thanos allows the heroes a slight chance at victory, but after near defeat, he triumphs and slaughters them all.
After battling forces of the universe itself (Galactus, Order & Chaos, Eternity), Thanos ultimately has the glove snatched by his daughter/puppet, Nebula (also introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy) – who in turn has it snatched by Adam Warlock.
As a more benevolent master for the Gauntlet, Adam Warlock is left to act as God of the repaired Marvel Universe, while Thanos is exiled to a humble life as a farmer.
In the sequel to Infinity Gauntlet, Adam Warlock takes possession of the Infinity Gauntlet and expels all good and evil from himself to become a purely rational and objective deity. Unbeknownst to Warlock, those good and evil sides take on lives of their own, with goals that threaten the entire universe.
Meanwhile, fearing Warlock and his Infinity Gauntlet, the entities of the cosmos decree that the six Infinity Gems can never again be used in unison, forcing Warlock to give up the Gauntlet and distribute the gems amongst himself and five other guardians of his choosing (including Gamora and Drax). Soon after that, the cosmos are threatened by the Magus, who is actually the evil version of Warlock.
When the Magus obtains multiple Cosmic Cubes, he uses their reality-altering power to imprison the personification of Eternity and create a dimension of dark dopplegängers to replace Earth’s superheroes. While the heroes fight their evil twins, The Magus hatches a plan to eliminate them and capture Adam Warlock and the Infinity Gauntlet.
In the final showdown, Thanos allies with Adam Warlock to battle the Magus and his doppleganger army. Meanwhile, in a state of duress, the forces of the cosmos decree the Infinity Gauntlet to once again be usable – bad timing, since the decision gives the Gauntlet-weilding Magus the power of godhood. Manipulating his connection to the Gauntlet, Warlock draws out some cosmic forces to help defeat the villain, revealing that he had hidden one of the Infinity Gems with Thanos, meaning the Magus never achieved true omnipotence.
In the aftermath of battle Warlock is left comatose, the Magus imprisoned in the Soul Gem, and Thanos left to once again roam the universe…
In the third and final chapter, we learn that Warlock’s good side (a female warrior called The Goddess) stole the Cosmic Cubes from The Magus during Infinity War in order to add them to her own massive collection. With enough cubes in her posssession, The Goddess creates a Cosmic Egg capable of altering reality (if fueled by enough willpower), and she brainwashes devout or “death-touched” heroes to be her army and fuel supply of willpower, establishing her own utopia on Paradise Omega, a planet she wills into being.
Thanos and an awoken Adam Warlock (along with various Earth heroes) once again ban together to defeat the threat, devising a strategy based off intel supplied by the devil, Mephisto. Warlock’s army storms Paradise Omega to do battle with their brainwashed comrades, forcing The Goddess to enact her true plan: universal peace by annihilation of sentient life.
Like with The Magus, Warlock tricks The Goddess into thinking she accomplishes her goal, but really succeeds in exposing her crazy plan for what it is: crazy. In the end, The Goddess is also absorbed into Warlock’s Soul Gem (alongside Magus), while Thanos destroys the Cosmic Egg.
As a footnote, Thanos delivers one Cosmic Cube to Mephisto in exchange for his help; however, the devil is tricked by The Titan as the Cube is not functional.
Possible Marvel Movie Connections
Even though the third and fourth Avengers movies carry the title of Infinity War, one can assume that the bulk of the storyline will be lifted from the original Infinity Gauntlet comic series – with Earth facing doom, and heroes both terrestrial and cosmic having to unite to stop the threat of Thanos.
Now, how that threat manifests will likely be very different from the comic books. The MCU has already made so many departures from the page, and with new origins and/or character adaptations to come, it’s safe to say that Avengers: Infinity War will be its own thing to very large degree.
We wouldn’t expect much of the Infinity War or Infinity Crusade comic books to be included in the Avengers: Infinity War movie. Sure, we could conceivably see some Easter egg nods to the other two chapters (evil dopplegangers or a faux paradise), but we expect the main thrust of the film to draw heavily from the first Infinity Gauntlet miniseries.
Infinity War Teaser
Here’s where there will likely be overlap between page and screen: Thanos will get the Gauntlet and use it for some nefarious end; when earth (and the cosmos) fall into peril, The Avengers, Guardians (and other characters we have yet to meet) band together to launch an offensive against the Titan. A pretty straightforward and loose enough adaptation to keep things in the spirit of the original story, while still allowing it to better fit the modern MCU.
Early rumors point to Infinity War – Part 1 not featuring any of the original Avengers team members, which would suggest that Thanos’ quest to seize the Infinity Stones and Gauntlet comes when Earth is at its most vulnerable point. Rumors also suggest that Infinity War – Part 1 could be focused on the Guardians of the Galaxy (and ergo the cosmic side), so Earth and The Avengers may not really come into play until Infinity War – Part 2.
Beyond that bit of early speculation, details get hard to read, as the release date schedule for these Marvel movies leave us with almost as many questions as answers:
- Captain America: Civil War – May 6, 2016
- Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016
- Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017
- Thor: Ragnarok – July 28, 2017
- Black Panther – November 3, 2017
- Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 – May 4, 2018
- Captain Marvel – July 6, 2018
- Inhumans – November 2, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 – May 3, 2019
When one looks at this layout, you can’t help but wonder what the events of Infinity War – Part 1 must entail if they allow events of Captain Marvel and Inhumans to occur before Infinity War – Part 2 does. If the release date chronology is not the same as the chronology of movie events, it still becomes just as hard to predict which heroes will be where (and in what state) as the threat of Thanos emerges.
Asgard (and Thor) could be gone; Cap could be dead/retired/underground; Hulk could be traumatized (or off planet); Tony Stark could find his Genius exhausted and himself a pariah; S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Avengers organizations could be in shatters or under tight government control.
That leaves a lot of street level and/or rogue vigilante heroes left to defend Earth, with heroes like The Guardians out in space trying to stop Thanos’ campaign to acquire the Gauntlet and Stones. Earth would then become the last bastion staging ground for the heroes’ combined final assault against the godly Titan.
…And if our own Rob Keyes has his way, Chris Evans’ Captain America (who may have been MIA for some years) will make a triumphant return at the eleventh hour to take on Thanos. Sounds good to us.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1, 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4, 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on July 28, 2017, Black Panther on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, Captain Marvel on July 6 2018, Inhumans on November 2 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019.
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