The Black Order created for Avengers: Infinity War were seriously disappointing for comic fans, but the directors do have a reason for so dramatically de-powering the so-called Children of Thanos.
The average Marvel movie fan may simply take the four henchmen - Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, and Cull Obsidian - as typical goons of any comic book villain. That's the minor role they ultimately play in the movie, after all. But in the comics these four were some of the most terrifying figures of Marvel's cosmos, and ferocious lieutenants of Thanos' army.
Thankfully, the director of Infinity War now explains why the comic book versions just wouldn't have worked for the movie.
Even with all the ways that the movie was a dream come true for Marvel Comic fans, there's no denying that when the end credits rolled, it was obvious the Black Order was the weakest part of Infinity War. Not just because they were never explained, or given any backstory whatsoever, but because they proved to be simple to beat (when each was a near-Thanos level threat when introduced in Jonathan Hickman's Infinity comic series).
The home video release of Infinity War (digital only until August 14) has brought with it some explanation, thanks to the film's commentary track with the directors and writers. While he's clearly a fan of the source material, director Joe Russo explains why the movie version of the Black Order ended up being not just weaker, but possessed of entirely different powers:
The Black Order, in particular, we worked hard to adjust them to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the Hickman run, I thought the characters were too powerful. And nobody wants the sub-villain to outshine the villain. And we adjusted their power sets so that they lined up in a way that was more interesting with our heroes. Which is why Maw is a wizard... he can control things on a molecular level.
His second point is the more interesting one, since the resulting henchmen did end up directly opposing a member of the heroes - some more subtly than others. The cunning Ebony Maw went up against a fellow "wizard" in Doctor Strange. The hulking Cull Obsidian wound up battling... well, the Hulk. And the duo of Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive put their combat skills to work against Captain America's Secret Avengers first, and other warriors in the final battle.
And what a coincidence, Corvus Glaive's famous scythe is re-imagined as simply a weapon capable of wounding Vision (in a way that is somehow impossible for him to repair).
The fact that Proxima and Corvus are mainly seen as a unit was no coincidence to comic book fans. While Russo repeats his past comments admitting Infinity War was too crowded for backstories, he does seem to confirm that the pair of Thanos' underlings were kept together as a nod to their deleted romantic history:
There were earlier drafts of the script, I think, with the Black Order... in a more stylized draft, where we did backstories for each of them. Ultimately the movie was getting too crowded, too hard to follow. In the books there's a backstory between Proxima and Corvus, that they're married. Only hinted at in the slightest way [in Infinity War] by the fact that they are paired up to retrieve a Stone, and the way she responds when Corvus gets stabbed by Natasha.
There's no question that fans will want to see the back stories and origins that were flashed back to in early scripts, just to see how much of the comic source material would have wound up intact, scrapped, or reimagined. But with its runtime already pushing the limits of a Marvel-sized blockbuster, it was either lose the villain's back story along with the scenes catching up with the Avengers... or take out even more of what ended up in the finished cut.
In the end, the result was a group of villains who felt as one-note as they inevitably had to, posing only as much of a threat as they needed to for Thanos to snatch up one Infinity Stone after another, and keep the heroes busy until the plot crescendo-ed to its final Wakanda battle. Considering Marvel's villain problems in past movies, it's a sacrifice fans have proven willing to accept.
Do you agree with the filmmakers' decision to cut down the characters of the Black Order, and shift their powers to make their encounters with the heroes entertaining? Or would you have been willing to give up screen time elsewhere for the Children of Thanos to be more fleshed out?
The Avengers: Infinity War is available now for digital download and streaming, coming to Blu-ray August 14th.