During a Q&A session in conjunction with tomorrow’s Blu-ray release of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and Senior Vice President of Production Development Jeremy Latcham were asked about how soon current Marvel Comics could influence the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Feige pointed to CAPTAIN AMERICA sequels THE WINTER SOLDIER and CIVIL WAR as evidence of the studio’s willingness to act relatively quickly in bringing major comic book events to the big screen. Keep in mind that last year’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was mostly influenced by comics published in 2008.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the new female Thor and Sam Wilson’s new role as Captain America, both of which became part of Marvel Comics last year, are guaranteed a shot at the big screen, but it’s possible. Feige didn’t refer to any specific comics being looked at for Marvel movies right now, but Jeremy Latcham came close. Latcham told us, “I was in an INFINITY WAR meeting with the Russos earlier today and there is really old [Jim] Starlin stuff, there’s really new [Jonathan] Hickman stuff, there’s all kinds of stuff sitting on this table and it’s really like kind of chaotic like ‘Oh there’s a great image here. There’s a great moment here. Let’s talk about all of them. Let’s make sure that we’re looking at everything.’”
The influence of Jim Starlin on AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR is obvious. Starlin created Thanos, the central antagonist of the upcoming two-film saga. Starlin also wrote “The Infinity Gauntlet,” the famed Marvel Comics event series that is the basis for the INFINITY WAR films. It is the mention of Jonathan Hickman material that suggests the possible inclusion of characters and story points we might not have assumed on our own.
Quick note: all Jeremy Latcham said was that he met with INFINITY WAR directors Joe and Anthony Russo and that there were new Jonathan Hickman comics on the table along with Starlin’s material. Latcham did not say or even hint at what comics from Hickman were on the table, much less which characters, panels, or story points were being considered or looked at. What follows is my own speculation as to what influence Hickman’s books could have on AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.
When I heard Hickman and INFINITY WAR mentioned in the same sentence, I immediately thought of “Infinity,” a Marvel Comics event series by Hickman, which was published in 2013. Doing the math, that would mean a five-year turnaround from comic books to the Marvel Cinematic Universe when AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR PART I is released in 2018. That’s a little faster than GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, but well within the realm of possibility since we’re probably only talking about a few pieces from the “Infinity” storyline.
“Infinity” was a massive cosmic story that saw The Avengers leave Earth to team up with cosmic do-gooders (and some bad guys) to battle the Builders, an old-as-time race set on destroying all life in the universe. Meanwhile, Thanos ventured to the Avenger-less Earth to pick on the Inhumans in an effort to find and destroy his own son. The conflict between Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans, and Thanos led to the former releasing a Terrigen bomb that triggered dormant alien/Inhuman genes in people all over the world, giving rise to new Inhumans everywhere.
But that’s not what’s important to INFINITY WAR. Watch AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. and you’ll see that the equivalent of the Terrigen bomb event has already happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the ramifications of which began to play out in this week’s season premiere. INFINITY WAR is not likely to feature the builders either, since this is meant to be an Avengers versus Thanos battle. If “Infinity” has a significant influence on AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, it’s about the backup Thanos brought with him to Earth.
Enter the Black Order, also known by an even cooler name, the Cull Obsidian. This group of deadly aliens aided Thanos in the search for his son in “Infinity.” I don’t expect to hear about Thanos’ offspring so soon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but wars need generals and soldiers and the Black Order are as tough and as lethal as they come. Time to meet the whole gang.
The grotesque creature at the top whose name was not mentioned in the roll call is Corvus Glaive. When Thanos isn’t around to give orders, Glaive is in charge. He has the power to regenerate, making him very difficult to kill. He wields a savage blade affixed to a staff that will keep him alive so long as the blade remains intact. Corvus Glaive is cunning and merciless and would prove to be a difficult challenge for any Avenger, or Guardian.
Proxima Midnight, the wife of Corvus Glaive, is arguably even more deadly than her husband. Billed as “the greatest warrior in Thanos’ army,” Proxima Midnight does not share Glaive’s regenerative powers, but she makes up for it with super strength, speed, and durability. When those aren’t enough, she’s got a spear that emits three beams of lethal black light that just don’t miss. She’s also been known to exploit hard feelings between heroes and turn them against one another, which could very well play a factor in a post-CIVIL WAR world.
The twisted family affair continues with the Black Dwarf, brother of Corvus Glaive. Literally, he is the big bad of the Black Order. Super-human strength, density, and unbreakable skin make him the muscle, plain and simple. He carries around a ferocious battle axe and while the Black Panther got the best of him in “Infinity,” I’d expect Black Dwarf to take on the Hulk, Thor, or Drax (or any combination of the three) in INFINITY WAR.
The Ebony Maw may not look like much, but his mind makes him as dangerous as any of his pals. His powers are those of suggestion, using his black tongue to say just the right the thing to make a hero do the wrong thing. He took over Doctor Strange’s mind in “Infinity” to use the Sorcerer Supreme’s mystic powers to get a location on Thanos’ son, Thane. With Doctor Strange being introduced in the MCU next year, we could see this pairing again in INFINITY WAR, but it would also be fun to see a battle of master manipulators between Ebony Maw and Scarlet Witch.
Supergiant is a telepath with the parasitic ability to devour the intellect of her chosen victim. When Thanos needs information, Supergiant is the one for the job, so if she appears in INFINITY WAR, count on her to interrogate at least one Avenger or Guardian to help Thanos gain an advantage.
The Black Order would give INFINITY WAR something a multi-film war saga needs, battles on multiple fronts. Picture the finale of STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI with Han and Leia fighting on Endor, Lando and Admiral Ackbar leading the Rebel Alliance’s battle in space, and Luke confronting Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine on the Death Star. INFINITY WAR needs all of that, and more which the Black Order can help provide.
It is likely that both The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy will appear in one or both films. Visually, it’s probably not going to be a satisfying to watch more than a dozen heroes fight one guy all at the same time. Having the Black Order along with some less identifiable soldiers adds to the action and threat level while accomplishing the more important task of giving so many heroes something meaningful to do over the course of two films. The Black Order can provide unique ways to test the strengths and weaknesses of our favorite Marvel heroes, stacking the odds even more in favor of The Mad Titan, Thanos.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR PART I will be released on May 4, 2018 with PART II following on May 3, 2019.