For much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the main villain of the piece has been lurking in the background, the puppet master making the marionette villains dance from the comfort of his big-ass floating chair (apart from Ultron cause, you'know, no strings on him and all that).
We speak of course of the eggplant faced Thanos (Josh Brolin). He's had a direct hand in the events of The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, with his post-credits appearance in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron setting up the conflict that Phase 3 of the MCU is building towards.
So far he's managed to skate by without showing his ugly face to the heroes who rise against him, but that's all about to change in The Avengers: Infinity War come 2018.
Infinity War is set to be the biggest event of the MCU yet, overshadowing even the Captain America: Civil War ensemble piece. And we know Thanos is going to be at the centre of whatever is going on in Infinity War, because he's always at the centre of any Marvel story with "Infinity" in the title.
But what exactly is Thanos up to? Here we take a look back through the various "Infinity" storylines from the Marvel comics to find out.
The Infinity Gauntlet (1991)
If there's one specific arc that directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are likely to adapt closely, it's Jim Starlin's The Infinity Gauntlet limited series and crossover event of the early 90s. Not only is it one of the most famous storylines in Marvel Comics history, but it's also one of the most cohesive of the "Infinity" lot.
The Infinity Gauntlet was set up by the Thanos Quest limited series, which saw the Mad Titan traveling the galaxy to collect the six Infinity Gems — Time, Space, Mind, Soul, Reality, and Power — the MacGuffins which have been the main focal point of the MCU so far, albeit renamed Infinity Stones here.
With all six in his possession Thanos is able to power up the Infinity Gauntlet (seen in Thor and Age of Ultron) to gain power over the Marvel multiverse itself.
So, Thanos has just become the most powerful being in the universe. Why? To impress his potential paramour, Death, for whom he uses his newfound powers to wipe out half the population of the universe, requested by her as a gesture of his devotion.
Their ranks decimated, the remaining superheroes of Earth band together under the banner of Adam Warlock to take the battle to Thanos. Bad idea, as he beats the Avengers and kills the vast majority of them.
But, with Warlock's tactical scheming and some help from Thanos' brutalized granddaughter Nebula (played by Karen Gillan in Guardians of the Galaxy), the universe is eventually restored to how it was, and the dead brought back.
Odds of this storyline appearing in Infinity War
Pretty good, considering that the seeds of Thanos Quest and Infinity Gauntlet have already been planted in the MCU — although the MCU Thanos isn't doing a great job as he doesn't appear to have any of the Stones currently in his possession. A few other things seem to point towards a measure of an Infinity Gauntlet adaptation, such as the line directed at Thanos by the Other in The Avengers post-credits scene:
"Humans... They are not the cowering wretches we were promised. They stand. They are unruly, and therefore cannot be ruled. To challenge them is to court death."
Furthermore a large ensemble cast has already been established in the MCU, and the wiping out of half the heroes would be a good way to cut down the ranks a little, making allowances for actors who can't make time in their schedules for both parts of Infinity War.
Infinity War (1992)
Infinity War is another strong contender, the limited series which ran as a sequel to The Infinity Gauntlet the following year, also written by Jim Starlin. Infinity War puts far more focus upon the character of Adam Warlock — who is yet to appear in the MCU.
Infinity War involves Warlock's evil "other self" — the Magus — a long running Marvel antagonist. When Warlock retrieves the Infinity Gauntlet following the events of Infinity Gauntlet he rids himself of all good and evil personality traits in order to become a being of logic, and therefore one who can use the Gauntlet fairly.
By expelling the "badness" from himself the Magus is brought back to life and begins plotting to gain the Gauntlet for himself. On the other side of the scale Warlock's "goodness" creates the Goddess — and she'll become important later.
Using five Cosmic Cubes the Magus overpowers Eternity and creates an army of evil versions of the Marvel superheroes, who begin attacking and replacing those on Earth. Thanos — who has been chilling on a farm in retirement following Infinity Gauntlet — discovers what has happened and teams up with Warlock to stop Magus.
Meanwhile Galactus starts rounding up allies from Earth such as Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom to bring back Eternity, without whom the Infinity Gems cannot be used to combat Magus.
Odds of this storyline appearing in Infinity War
Well, it's all in the name isn't it? But despite the fact that the two-part movie takes its title from this comic book here's a few reasons we probably won't see a whole lot of Infinity War in... Infinity War.
Having no Adam Warlock in the MCU complicates things — unless Doctor Strange or Vision somehow steps in to take his place. It is possible that he could be replaced by Kismet — but there's no confirmation as to whether or not she's appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. yet.
But the big giveaway is that, in the Infinity War comic book, Thanos helps the Marvel heroes to combat the threat that is the Magus. And we know he's going to be a villain in the Infinity War movies, so that's out the window. However we could still see aspects from Infinity War being carried over — evil Marvel superhero doppelgängers anyone?
Infinity Crusade (1993)
Remember the Goddess we mentioned earlier? She comes back in the Infinity War sequel Infinity Crusade (Jim Starlin again!), the other side of the coin to the Magus.
Like Infinity War, Infinity Crusade sets up the Marvel superheroes versus one of the two expelled halves of Adam Warlock, but this time around it's the Goddess — the living embodiment of his "goodness".
At the conclusion of Infinity War Goddess steals the Cosmic Cubes, which had been used by Magus to create an alternate dimension containing evil versions of the Marvel heroes. Goddess collects an additional 25 cubes, and uses the 30 Cosmic Cubes to create a Cosmic Egg, able to grant wishes, which she uses to create a new planet named Paradise Omega.
She then begins seducing, kidnapping and brainwashing religious, mystical and other susceptible superheroes from Earth to form her own army, to protect her whilst she figures out how to erase evil from the universe. Once the remaining heroes realise what has happened, they set out to free their allies from the Goddess's influence, leading to war between the two factions.
Thanos and Adam Warlock team up again, this time striking a deal with the Devil Mephisto as they set out to take down the Goddess. The war escalates until the Goddess determines she must use the Cosmic Egg to wipe out all life, as the only way to remove evil from the universe is to remove life itself.
Odds of this storyline appearing in Infinity War
Again, Infinity Crusade is an Adam Warlock-heavy storyline, so the lack of the character in the MCU makes it less likely we'll see an Infinity Crusade adaptation. It's also one in which Thanos functions not quite as a villain in the traditional sense, going against what we know of the Infinity War movies so far.
But it wouldn't be a surprise to see some aspects of Infinity Crusade being pulled over — the brainwashed superheroes for example, or Mephisto popping up to attempt to manipulate the situation for his own personal gain.
Other Infinity Storylines
The big three Infinity storylines are outlined above, but there's a few more which could fall under this banner, if not part of the main continuing arc.
Infinity Abyss (2002)
Jim Starlin's Infinity Abyss sees five genetic experiments created by Thanos, each being a clone of himself merged with the DNA of other Marvel characters. These are:
- X — modelled upon Professor X
- Mystic — modelled upon Doctor Strange
- Warrior — modelled upon Gladiator
- Armor — modelled upon Iron Man
- Omega — modelled upon Galactus
The nihilistic clones set out to destroy the universe by killing the successor to the Anchor of Reality, cause what else do you expect from nihilistic clones of Thanos? They also try to kill off Thanos though, so that's something. Adam Warlock is also involved in Infinity Abyss, as well as Gamora, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel and Moondragon.
The odds of seeing Infinity Abyss in Infinity War seem pretty low though. Our MCU heroes will have enough on their plates dealing with one Thanos, never mind five.
Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet (2010)
Avengers and the Infinity Gauntlet is a more family friendly retelling of The Infinity Gauntlet as part of the Marvel Adventures line. It tells a different version of the events of The Infinity Gauntlet, involving a team comprised of Wolverine, Spider-Man, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Doctor Doom (for some reason) heading out into space to battle Thanos after the Mad Titan has wiped out half the universe.
Doctor Doom (of course) is manipulating the superheroes in an attempt to gain the gauntlet for himself, but Spider-Man is able to seize it and uses the power of the Gems to erase the story from history.
It's a lighthearted and shorter retelling of The Infinity Gauntlet, featuring plenty of Spider-Man jokes, but doesn't quite measure up to the real thing.
"Infinity" is a crossover storyline from 2013 as part of Marvel NOW!, which charts the Marvel universe coming under attack from an alien race called the Builders whilst mysterious occurrences happen upon Earth.
Whilst the core superhero group is in space battling the Builders, Thanos sees the Earth left undefended and mounts an invasion against the largely undefended planet with his Black Order, demanding tribute in exchange for not wiping out the people of the planet.
"Infinity" probably won't have a huge affect on Infinity War because it's a relatively new storyline, and shoehorning in the Builders to the story seems a little too ambitious right now. That and the whole space travelling aspect, which hasn't yet been covered in regards the Earthbound heroes who form the core of the MCU.
"The Infinity Trilogy" (2014 – 2016)
The most recent Thanos Infinity entry comes in the form of "The Infinity Trilogy", which is comprised of The Infinity Revelation (2014) Thanos: The Infinity Relativity (2015) and Thanos: The Infinity Finale (2016).
Penned again by Thanos creator Jim Starlin, "The Infinity Trilogy" sees Thanos teaming up with Adam Warlock again — for arch enemies the two sure do seem to team up a lot — to battle a host of Marvel characters, heroes and villains. The final confrontation? With Thanos's love, Death herself.
This is a very Thanos-centered set of graphic novels, so the odds of seeing elements from "The Infinity Trilogy" brought into Infinity War are fairly slim. Especially given how new the storyline is — the seeds of Infinity War were being laid long before 2014, so the comics penned around this time are unlikely to have a big impact on the overarching plot.