The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown to become the most successful franchise in history, managing to beat out other enormous film franchises like Harry Potter, Star Wars and James Bond. With 12 films already having been released, and two more coming out this year, Marvel has given us countess characters to love and hate.
Over the years Marvel has introduced quite a large number of villains, but while we were distracted by some of the big bads, Marvel managed to set up some without us catching. When you really look at it, Marvel villains are sprouting up everywhere. But why? For one reason in particular...
[The Avengers: Infinity War](tag:738027) is set for release in 2018, with Part 2 set for 2019. Everyone is anticipating Thanos for the film, but if it is an Infinity War, can he really be the only villain. A war needs armies, so Thanos would need an army of villains.
Without us noticing, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been setting up villains for Thanos's team. Some of these villains are minor villains from previous films that were set up but never used, while others were main villains that Marvel sneakily allowed the chance to return. I believe that almost all of these antagonistic characters will be playing a part in Thanos's army during Avengers: Infinity War. Lets take a look at the roster so far...
Abomination ('The Incredible Hulk')
Emil Blonksy, a.k.a. Abomination, served as the primary antagonist during The Incredible Hulk as a soldier madly obsessed with capturing Bruce Banner, arguably even more so than General Ross. Blonksy was so obsessed that he used the same serum that transformed Banner into the Hulk on himself, transforming him into Abomination.
At the end of The Incredible Hulk, Abomination was taken into custody and was, as many fans assume, taken to a S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. We do not know what happened to this abominable beast, but we do know that Marvel has not forgotten him. Abomination was actually almost used in Avengers: Age of Ultron. If Marvel still wants to bring back the character, as they clearly set up, then there's a good chance that Thanos will add him to his ranks.
The Leader ('The Incredible Hulk')
Samuel Sterns was a scientist who helped Banner during The Incredible Hulk in order to try curing Banner's gamma radiation. In the comics, however, Sterns was the villain known as the Leader who would often pose a threat to Hulk. Marvel set this up at the end of The Incredible Hulk after some of the Hulk serum infected his head, making it grow in size.
Marvel clearly didn't set up the Leader just for the fun of it – Marvel always has a plan. Perhaps we will see Samuel Sterns return during Infinity War after being recruited by Thanos. It could really bring some extra brain power to the Mad Titan's squad.
Red Hulk ('The Incredible Hulk,' 'Captain America: Civil War')
General Thaddeus Ross is Marvel's big way of saying "we haven't forgotten the characters from The Incredible Hulk." Ross is a man determined to hunt down and capture Bruce Banner / the Hulk. In the comics, he later does what Blonksy does by giving himself the Hulk serum – becoming the notorious villain Red Hulk.
Ross is confirmed to appear in Captain America: Civil War, but he will reportedly not appear as Red Hulk during this film. Perhaps they are stretching this character to set up his transformation during Avengers: Infinity War - perhaps when Thanos makes a deal with him by giving Ross the ability to permanently kill the Hulk.
Justin Hammer and the H.A.M.M.E.R. Drones ('Iron Man 2,' 'All Hail the King')
Justin Hammer was the charismatic rival to Tony Stark who hired Whiplash to build him an army of drones. Even though he was a villain in this film, Hammer's potential was never as fully applied as it could have. In the comics, Hammer was a lot more devious.
Perhaps Thanos will adopt Hammer and his skills during the Infinity War in order to use his drones in a fight. This could prove itself a fitting match against Iron Man and War Machine, plus it would add irony to the War as humanity is conquered by their own technology.
Red Skull ('Captain America: The First Avenger')
Red Skull, the arch foe of Captain America, was the primary antagonist during Captain America: The First Avenger. This Nazi leader was mysteriously consumed and transported into a different realm when he touched the Tesseract during the climax of the film. Though some believe this villain is dead, is he really?
If the Red Skull was actually transported to a different realm, then touching the Tesseract would not have killed him. Since Red Skull is basically the Nazi equivalent of Captain America, he would not age nearly as rapidly as other humans. This could mean he is still alive, and could mean he would be recruited by Thanos. And if Thanos manages to get Red Skull, that also means all of the currently living Hydra soldiers and agents would follow him too.
The Chitauri ('The Avengers')
Loki's army during The Avengers was known as the Chitauri, who destroyed a major part of New York City. If they were working for Loki, that therefore meant they were actually working for Thanos since it was his army to begin with.
Though the army we witnessed in The Avengers was destroyed, there's a good chance that the species is not fully wiped out. This means Thanos could have countless more armies of Chitauri waiting to invade again during Infinity War.
The Mandarin ('Iron Man 3,' 'All Hail the King')
Iron Man 3 brought with it the surprisingly disappointing character known as the Mandarin. In the comics, the Mandarin was the immensely powerful leader of the Ten Rings, while in the movie he only turned out to be a facade created by the true villain, Aldrich Killian.
However, in the Marvel short film All Hail the King, it was revealed that the real Mandarin was actually out there and was angry that Killian had hired someone to impersonate him. This means that there is a real Mandarin being set up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What is he being set up for? Avengers: Infinity War, of course.
Nebula ('Guardians of the Galaxy')
Nebula is the adopted daughter of Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy who hates the Mad Titan's guts. During the climax of Guardians, Nebula managed to escape and was not seen for the rest of the film. Even though she hates Thanos, though, it doesn't mean she can't work for him.
Based on the technology put into her by Thanos himself, there's a good chance that Nebula won't have a choice on whether or not she follows Thanos's commands. He may be able to control her, much like Deathlock in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. We will likely find out more about Nebula's case when she returns during Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Ulysses Klaue ('Avengers: Age of Ultron')
Avengers: Age of Ultron carried a plethora of characters - one of which is a popular Marvel villain who is being slowly set up. In the comics, he has a mechanical arm that can produce powerful sound waves that can stun, and even kill, any opposer. And in Age of Ultron, his arm was chopped off. Oh boy.
Though it is predicted we will see Klaue in Black Panther, there is no way of telling whether or not he will come back later on. Marvel may require his services even after Black Panther by making him a servant of Thanos during Avengers: Infinity War.
Mitchell Carson ('Ant-Man')
Mitchell Carson, a former operative of S.H.I.E.L.D. who now presumably works for Hydra was Marvel's sneakiest move yet. During the action packed climax of Ant-Man, Carson quickly managed to scoop up the Pym Particle and escape before the building collapsed on itself. What does this mean?
It means that the ability to harness Ant-Man's powers are now in the hands of a supervillain terrorist organization. And if Thanos does return with Red Skull at his side, H.Y.D.R.A. will rush to their former leader, bringing with them the Pym Particle, which could be a key part of Thanos's plan of destroying the world - by secretly sending in millions of minuscule Chitauri soldiers and H.A.M.M.E.R. drones that can turn to full size in less than a second.
Clearly Marvel is setting up something big - and it appears Avengers: Infinity War is just that! I'm sure that not all of the villains above will appear during this enormous, cinematic event, but there's a good chance that many will.
Marvel doesn't do things just for the heck of it - they do things to set up for something bigger. Would Marvel really set up awesome villains like Red Hulk, Red Skull and the Mandarin just to toss them out? Of course not! Marvel has something big set in store for us. We just have to wait another two years.