I’ve seen The Avengers twice so far, and will likely see it again in the near future. If you haven’t seen the film already, or don’t care too, you might want to go ahead and click away now.
Still here? Seriously, this post is about to get spoilerish…you’ve been warned.
Ok, like any hardcore comic book nerd I totally flipped out when the first stinger rolled during the credits revealing that the puppetmaster tugging at Loki’s puppet strings was none other than Thanos, of Infinity Gauntlet fame. Like the infamous Iron Man post-credit crawl that started paving the way to The Avengers, Marvel Studios has laid down the gauntlet, literally, that defines the next long thread they plan to pull through the next series of films.
If you think of the newer Marvel films in terms of chapter arcs, and then position The Avengers as signaling the end of one chapter and the start of another arc, then you can see the themes beginning to develop. The first chapter was all about the formation of the team, the pulling together of disparate heroes into one unit. By placing Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury at the end on Iron Man, Marvel began testing a hypothesis:
If promised the eventual formation of The Avengers teased through post-credit stingers and sly references in a series of films, audiences will show up.
And show up, they did. In recordbreaking droves. We can expect that team to expand its roster, and the current members to grow individually over the course of the next few individual films. So far that looks to be Iron Man 3, Thor 2, and Captain America 2. Rumors have been swirling around another Hulk film based on Mark Ruffalo’s excellent portrayal of Banner/Smash Machine, and one can only dream that Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man will one day see the light of day. Expanding the rosters, and “more of the same” would be playing it safe, but the megaton hint in the form of Thanos hints at an even riskier proposition for next chapter’s hypothesis:
If promised an antagonist-driven event film teased through post-credit stingers and sly references in a series of films, audiences will show up.
It’s no small feat to pull something like this off, but the same was said when Nick Fury showed up touting “The Avengers Initiative,” and look how that turned out. In some ways it’s logical for Marvel to pursue the Thanos storyline, as the character was inspired by a Jack Kirby creation for DC Comics, namely Darkseid. If Marvel’s “Distinguished Compitition” were to get the ball rolling on the long-stalled Justice League film they would be hard pressed to match what Marvel has pulled off on such a large scale. By choosing Thanos, Marvel is attempting to further bury that possibility, as Darkseid would be a logical villain for a team-up film surrounding the JLA. Not to say that it couldn’t be done, but DC has its work cut out for it. Each of their characters is living and breathing in their own isolated worlds, so a considerable amount of rebooting would need to be done, plus the introduction of cosmic beings within those worlds…it’s going to be tough for DC to not come out looking like copycats in all of this, which has a sting of irony on its own.
So back to The Avengers, what is the main thrust of the second chapter? Based on everything we’ve seen it would appear that Thanos’ quest for the Infinity Gems would fit in nicely here, however all is not as it seems.
In the comics, Thanos sought out each gem individually, and then affixed each one into a gauntlet which he used to kill and torture countless heroes. One could imagine well organized stingers teasing the progress Thanos is making in the background, matched with careful hints being dropped within each individual film’s plot arcs. Yet something doesn’t add up.
When unveiling Thor at Comic-Con, Marvel brought out the Infinity Gauntlet for all of five minutes, and fans went bonkers. The treasured glove appeared with the Infinity Gems in place, and it was displayed in Odin’s treasure room on the convention floor. A spectacle of Stan Lee proportions.
|Mind||Blue||Allows the user to greatly strengthen and enhance mental and psionic power and access the thoughts and dreams of other beings. Backed by the Power Gem, the Mind Gem can access all minds in existence simultaneously. When searching for it, the Illuminati apparently discovered that the Mind Gem was the personification of the universal subconscious.||Professor Xavier||Grandmaster; Thanos; Nebula;Adam Warlock; Moondragon;Magus; Rune; Primevil; Loki;Galactus; Professor X; Hood; Ms. Marvel|
And here’s a screenshot of Loki’s staff, which was given to him by The Other, which presumably received it from Thanos himself:
So if the Infinity Gems were last seen in Odin’s possession, then how did Thanos get his hands on the Mind gem? Regardless of the answer to that question, the point I’m making is that Marvel is not simply content building out a single franchise, they are hellbent on creating a cinematic universe for these characters to live in. If they continue, and succeed, then they will have elevated the comic book franchise to a whole new level, and I certainly hope this trend continues.