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Infinity War brings in a key part of the comics: the Black Order

Contributed by
Apr 25, 2018

“When I was writing the Avengers comics I used to get s*** because it wasn't like the movie Avengers,” said Jonathan Hickman on his Twitter account earlier this year.

Hickman was responding to a trailer for Avengers: Infinity War that formally introduced the Black Order, the fanatical followers of Thanos who made their comic book debut in Hickman's Infinity event series during his multi-year Avengers run. This was in 2013, just over a year after The Avengers raised the bar for the MCU films.

Hickman had most of the movie Avengers on his team, including Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Thor, but he also had an eclectic lineup of heroes like Cannonball, Sunspot, Smasher, Hyperion, Star Brand, Nightmask, Manifold, Shang-Chi, Ex Nihilo, and Abyss. Most of those characters could potentially show up in future Marvel movies. But to the vast majority of casual fans, they're not exactly A-listers.

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For now, let's focus on the Black Order. Prior to this series, Thanos didn’t really have a group of interesting henchpeople because he didn’t need them. He’s not the kind of villain who usually relies on underlyings. However, Hickman and artists Jim Cheung, Jerome Opeña, and Dustin Weaver created visually impressive bad guys who complemented Thanos and made him seem more dangerous. Black Dwarf, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight, and Supergiant made an immediate impact, and now they're making their live-action debut in Infinity War less than five years after their comic book debut. Supergiant, however, appears to have been left out of the movie.

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The primary story of Infinity isn't really about the Black Order or Thanos. Instead, it deals with the Avengers going off into space to fight alongside other alien races against the Builders (who were literally the oldest race in the universe) before that threat could reach their homeworld. In the interim, Thanos and the Black Order took advantage of the chaos to attack Earth while it was relatively undefended. This series also brought out a crueler side of Thanos than we had seen before. He’s always been a Death worshiper, but the Thanos of this tale appeared to relish the murder of children in a way that seemed more evil than usual. It was part of Thanos' "tribute" to allow humans and Inhumans to survive if they sent him the heads of their children in their late teens.

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Of course, it was just a ruse to let Thanos find one child in particular: his own. At some point in the last two decades, Thanos apparently took an Inhuman woman as his lover, and his offspring was named Thane. It's unclear if Thane will play a part in Infinity War or the still untitled Avengers 4, but given the way the Russo Brothers have mined some of Infinity's best parts, we can't rule it out yet. Adding Thane to the MCU could give future Marvel movies a direct link to this one.

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Thanos wasn't looking to take his boy under his wing. Instead, he was simply offended that Thane even existed. That's the other thing to keep in mind about the comic book incarnation of the Black Order: they worshiped Thanos and Death itself, and welcomed the idea of dying. Thanos' big screen counterpart has a different motivation but his goal is the same: to kill off half the universe.

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You may have noticed that Infinity War has also taken on a few key scenes from Infinity, including this encounter between Ebony Maw and Doctor Strange. But there's still more material that could be mined for future Marvel films. One of the most intriguing aspects of the cosmic storyline is that the Avengers are recognized on an intergalactic scale. So when they finally push back the Builders, the alien planets they inspired declared themselves to be Avengers Worlds. That could make Nick Fury's line from the first Avengers movie somewhat prophetic. Down the line, "every world" could know who the Avengers are and why they fight. This story was also part of the build up towards Secret Wars, which is one of the few ways the Marvel movies could go even bigger than Infinity Wars.

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In the end, Hickman and his artistic collaborators should feel justifiably proud of their contributions to the Marvel movies. The MCU finally caught up to Infinity, and it only took half a decade.


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