At Disney’s D23 Expo and San Diego Comic Con, Marvel Studios presented a teaser for the upcoming blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War. Marvel has also revealed of the villains of the film – The Children of Thanos. Introduced in the 2013 Marvel mega-crossover Infinity as The Black Order, this assemblage of fearsome aliens – Corvus Glave, Proxima Midnight, Cull Obsidian, and Ebony Maw – are poised to help Thanos (Josh Brolin) battle the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy in his quest to assemble the fabled Infinity Gauntlet and gain ultimate power over the universe.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are already familiar with two of Thanos’ other “children,” Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) from the Guardians of the Galaxy films. Kidnapped in their youth and trained to be assassins by the Mad Titan, both Gamora and Nebula loathe their “father” for the lifetime of torture he subjected them to and actively seek to destroy him. While the Children of Thanos we will meet for the first time in Infinity War will do doubt cause infinite problems for the Avengers and Guardians, the child of Thanos to really watch out for is Nebula.
When we first met Nebula in the original Guardians, she and Gamora were in the service of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). Nebula was the more nefarious and bitter of the sisters but by Vol. 2, she had evolved into a more sympathetic figure. Nebula eventually learned to relent in her hatred of Gamora and came to a truce with her sister, though she rejected Gamora’s offer to join the Guardians. Nebula chose instead to make her own way to ultimately confront Thanos. Her hatred for her “father” runs deep. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Nebula explained some of the horrors she endured under Thanos’ care and guidance:
“As a child my father would have Gamora and me battle one another in training. Every time my sister prevailed, my father would replace a piece of me with machinery.”
As a result of Thanos’ enhancements to her, Nebula is part mechanical, with cybernetic limbs and implants that allow her to heal and reconstitute her physical form. We’ve seen Nebula get mangled in battle and from falls that would kill a human, then reset herself back to normal. Yet Nebula’s mental state is even more frightening; the overwhelming lust for vengeance drives her. This was originally aimed towards Gamora, but Thanos is now fittingly the target of her ire.
The relationship between Thanos and Nebula has always been based on his callous abuse of her, even in the original comic book source material. What transpired between Thanos and Nebula in the comics could have a severe impact on the events of Avengers: Infinity War.
NEBULA IN THE INFINITY GAUNTLET
The Infinity Gauntlet, the 1991 Marvel event that is the basis for Avengers: Infinity War, was written by Jim Starlin with art by George Perez and Ron Lim. It’s actually the sequel to The Thanos Quest, also penned by Starlin, which told of how Thanos traveled around the universe and slaughtered other cosmic beings to acquire the six Infinity Gems (called Infinity Stones in the MCU) and form the Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos, a nihilist who is in love with Death, was tasked by Death with killing half the universe to provide a twisted form of cosmic balance. Thanos believed the only way to accomplish this goal was to attain the ultimate power the six Infinity Gems would avail him – but becoming the most powerful being in the universe was really his endgame.
Once Thanos had the Infinity Gauntlet and became the supreme being in the Marvel Universe, Death – an anthropomorphic personification who manifests as a robed and hooded woman – rejected Thanos because Thanos had now become superior to her, which placed Death in his thrall. To please Death, Thanos made good on his promise and wiped out half of all life in the universe, but Death still rejected his romantic overtures. In one of his gestures to impress Death, Thanos produced Nebula, whom he had rendered into a zombified state and forced to exist in an agony of perpetual torture (Thanos refers to Nebula as his “granddaughter” in the comics.) Thanos was further incensed when Death reacted with indifference to how he abused Nebula.
Meanwhile, Thanos’ arch enemy Adam Warlock assembled a coalition of superheroes, including Captain America, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Iron Man, to attack Thanos. It was a suicide mission as even the combined powers of over a dozen superheroes were no match for Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet. However, Warlock had also arranged for a second, more powerful assault by the cosmic beings of the Marvel Universe, including Galactus, the Celestials, and Eternity. In the Marvel Universe, Eternity is the living embodiment of all that is – a position Thanos was seeking to usurp. After Thanos defeated the cosmic beings, Thanos clashed with Eternity, with the Mad Titan prevailing and assuming Eternity’s cosmic form. This turned out to be an epic blunder on Thanos’ part.
With Thanos longer inhabiting his body, the zombified Nebula had the wherewithal to realize the Infinity Gauntlet remained on Thanos’ inert person and was there for the taking. To everyone’s horror, Nebula ripped the Gauntlet from Thanos’ hand and donned it – instantly depowering Thanos while she gained all of the might of the Infinity Gauntlet. However, this was an even worse scenario for the universe than Thanos owning the Gauntlet; Nebula had been driven insane by Thanos’ torture and she lacked the capacity to control the infinite power of the Gauntlet. Nebula’s time as the supreme being was destructive but mercifully brief; Warlock tricked Nebula into taking off the Gauntlet and donned it himself. With the Gauntlet’s power, Warlock restored the universe to the way it was before Thanos wore the Gauntlet and temporarily assumed the burden of supreme being.
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