Fans and critics have been calling Avengers: Infinity War the Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That sounds dramatic, but it may actually be understating the case. MCU fans around the globe are crying into their collective beers after – well, you know what happened. Take heart, friends – the comics and past movies offer some ideas about how this could play out. We already know it won’t be exactly like the comics, but there’s still reason to hope we haven’t lost all those glorious heroes for good.
First of all, I do not work for Marvel or the Russos or James Gunn or anyone connected to the MCU. These are my guesses. THAT SAID, they are potentially MAJOR SPOILERS for people who haven’t seen Infinity War or read the comics. Consider yourself warned.
What happened after The Snap:
One thing to get out of the way right off: is half the universe actually dead? Did we really lose all those heroes? Some jaded fans have suggested that the studio might have chosen to off Black Panther in Infinity Wars because they didn’t predict how insanely popular his movie would be. There are also people pointing out that, although Spiderman: Homecoming has a sequel in the works, both Miles Morales and Jessica Drew could step into the sadly departed Peter Parker’s shoes. These arguments add up to the terrifying possibility that we just lost some hugely beloved characters for good.
Looking to the comics, though, there might be another answer. The people vaporized by the Soul Stone might actually be IN the Soul Stone. There’s comic precedence for this idea, and it was a pretty varied choice of heroes who disappeared. One might say a carefully selected alternate team, complete with just the right mix of characters to flesh out a balanced fighting force. Interesting.
Of course, that does the galaxy no good. These heroes would still be stuck in the Soul Stone, unable to get out and possibly not even sure they were the ones who died. If only there were a way to communicate with them…
What probably won’t happen:
Remember the five post-credits scenes attached to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? In one of them, the villainous Ayesha reveals she’s been working on a secret that will protect her from the punishment for failing to kill the Guardians. She calls it “Adam”. In the comics Adam Warlock was a being created to be a perfect weapon and servant. He broke free of his creators’ control and, after a pretty rough journey to find himself, became a hero. Adam Warlock had a pretty healthy involvement with the Infinity Stones (he carried the Soul Stone for a while) and played a pivotal role in defeating Thanos. At one point he literally turns Thanos to stone.
Many people speculated that Adam Warlock would show up with the Soul Gem and lead the fight against Thanos. Faced with rampant speculation and not wanting fans to be disappointed, James Gunn took to Twitter to put that theory to rest.
He has since specified that he meant both Avengers: Infinity War and the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4. There’s an outside chance Gunn is deliberately misleading fans, but we have to admit that it would be stupid to drop such a powerful character into the MCU without an intro movie. We can probably rule out a Hail Mary from Adam Warlock.
Hints from Infinity War:
There were some weirdly weighty moments in Infinity War. There are choices in every movie, of course, but at several points in this one the characters seemed to ascribe more importance to some choices than others. There are also scenes that feel weightier than they should given the mood of the scene. What kind of scenes? Well, to throw a few out right away:
- Heimdall threw Hulk to safety instead of Thor, the King of Asgard.
- Tony hesitated a long moment to call Steve and ended up taking the first distraction from doing so.
- Doctor Strange, Iron Man, and Spider-man go to Titan instead of trying to turn around.
- Gamora asks Quill to kill her if Thanos catches her (then basically throws herself at Thanos, but I won’t go in to that now)
- Gamora doesn’t realize that Thanos loves her and can therefore kill her to take the Soul Stone. Instead, she stays to taunt him instead of offing herself before he has the power to bring her back.
- Peter Quill loses his temper and attacks Thanos before the team has the Gauntlet off him. As a result they can only draw a single drop of his blood.
- Wanda leaves Vision before she can destroy the Mind Gem.
- Thor aims for the chest, not the head.
At each of these moments there was a distinct sense that Infinity War could go a very different way if the heroes had acted slightly differently. Basically, Deadpool would have been looking into the camera. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but if I were redoing the whole thing it would be fun to see those exact moments play out differently.
But we can’t redo the whole thing… can we?
Hints from the upcoming movies:
Between now and when Avengers 4 puts us out of our misery next May, there are two MCU movies planned. Ant-Man and The Wasp comes out July 6 and Captain Marvel arrives in March of 2019.
The MCU has been so meticulously planned for so long that we can safely assume very little happens by accident. Why, then, does the follow-up to a heartbreaker like Infinity War feature a lovable doofus like Ant-Man? Does the studio seriously expect us to romp around with Scott Lang helping Hope Van Dyne find her lost mother after BUCKY HAS DIED?
Yeah. Yeah they do, and while Ant-Man and The Wasp will very likely be a fun summer movie to ease our pain it also has some potential to actually help the lost heroes. See, Janet Van Dyne was lost in the Quantum Realm after shrinking down to disarm a missile. (Fun fact: the Quantum Realm can also be accessed by magical means like Doctor Strange’s Sling Ring.)
Do you remember how Hank Pym explained the Quantum Realm to Scott, waaaaay back in Ant-Man?
“[Y]ou would enter a Quantum Realm… a reality where all concepts of time and space become irrelevant as you shrink for all eternity.”
Pym assumed there’s no coming back from the Quantum Realm, but Scott proved him wrong. Now they know there is, and that adventure is the basis of that movie, but there’s more to it. “All concepts of time and space become irrelevant.” Time and space have no meaning when you’ve gone Quantum. Maybe you could come out wherever and whenever you want.
Like, you know, before The Snap.
Of course, Scott and Hope would be hopelessly outclassed by Thanos and clearly Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were also a little overwhelmed. They’d need someone immensely powerful to help them. Too bad Superman is DC, heh.
Except Marvel has a bigger, badder Superman (I said what I said). She doesn’t come burdened with a weird CG upper lip or a mom named Martha, either. Carol Danvers, AKA Captain Marvel, stars in the second upcoming pre-Avengers 4 movie. She was an Air Force pilot and CIA operative before melding with the Kree hero warrior Mar-vell and getting her powers.
What are those powers? She can fly, she’s fast and tough, she shoots wicked cosmic rays, she can magically change into her costume (for real). Mar-vell also had Cosmic Awareness, which gave him some precognition and also insight into people’s weaknesses, and could teleport. There’s a possibility that the MCU will let those leak into Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel as well.
We’ve been told Captain Marvel will take place in the 90s. Where’s she been this whole time? Nick Fury obviously knew her since he had her special pager (they worked together in the comics, too). Why wasn’t she helping with New York or Sokovia? In the comics she spent some time hanging out with space pirates (yes, really) so it’s possible she wasn’t on Earth at all.
To throw out some wild speculation, though, what if Ant-Man and Wasp found Captain Marvel while Quantum Realm tripping and brought her forward to sometime between Civil War and Infinity Wars? She and Nick Fury could have met then, meaning she simply wasn’t around for the general insanity.
So… what’s going to happen?
I don’t know. Very few people know, and I’m not on Marvel’s Cool Kids List (yet). But if I had to hazard a guess, it would be something like this:
Ant-Man and Wasp fine-tune travel using the Quantum Realm. Captain Marvel seeks them out to help her find out what happened since Nick Fury disappeared after calling her. They poke around, maybe accidentally end up in the Soul Stone, and find out what happened from the heroes trapped there. The group then uses the Quantum Realm to go back in time to redo the fight with Thanos using all the information they now possess to make better choices. They stumble a little, but in the end they’re able to defeat him with fewer losses (I do think there will be final deaths).
There you have it – the official Geekiary Infinity War theory. Maybe we’re onto something awesome. Maybe it will just help you sleep at night when you’re hearing Bucky’s puzzled, “Steve?” or T’Challa saying, “This is no place to die”. We’ll all find out how close we were next year. Either way, the MCU has delivered well so far. I’m willing to trust that this will work out somehow.
After all, this is comics. Anything can happen, so face front, True Believers, and hang in there until next May.
Does this sound plausible? Am I forgetting something? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and game enthusiast. She can talk fandom in five languages, and her proudest nerd moment so far was presenting original research titled “Gender, Sex, and Werewolves” at an international anthropological conference. Her first game, None For Me, is due out from Calico Games early next year.
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