Earth's Mightiest Heroes might have their name in the title of Avengers: Infinity War, but to hear the filmmakers tell it, this is Thanos' movie. After six years as a supporting character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's finally time for The Mad Titan to take center stage in his attempt to complete his quest for the six Infinity Stones. But while Thanos looms large (often literally) in Infinity War's promotional campaign, he's not taking on this task alone.
As Guardians of the Galaxy established through the sisters Gamora and Nebula, Thanos is fond of cultivating relationships with various "children" that he grooms in his own sinister image, and Infinity War will feature at least four of them. The film's marketing materials have referred to them as "The Children of Thanos," but in the comics, where they first appeared back in 2013, they're known by a different name (one you've likely seen circulating on the internet a lot lately): The Black Order.
So, who are these malevolent enforcers of Thanos' will, and what can we expect from them as they charge into the MCU? Though we've known about their inclusion in the film since last summer, the Order has remained mysterious, appearing only sparingly in trailers. At this point it seems we'll have to wait to see the film to really learn anything about their big-screen characterization. For now, though, we have the comics, so let's take a look at what they can tell us.
'The Black Order Has Assembled'
The Black Order's origins are mysterious. We know very little about where each member came from or how and why Thanos chose this particular group at the time he did for the task he did. They arrived in the world of Marvel Comics without any particular ceremony in the pages of New Avengers #8, at the head of Thanos' Earth invasion army, but they weren't all given names until the finale pages of Infinity #1 a month later. When an Outrider (a member of a race of creatures essentially manufactured to be Thanos' foot soldiers) informs the group that Earth is vulnerable due to most of the Avengers being dispatched to fight a cosmic war, the Order heads to the planet to claim it for Thanos and exact a tribute. In this case, the tribute turned out to be Thanos' previously hidden, half-Inhuman son, Thane, but that's another story.
According to Corvus Glaive, the chief general and primary spokesperson for the Order, Thanos himself named them The Cull Obsidian, or "Midnight Slaughter." Amongst themselves, the group preferred to be called The Black Order, because according to Corvus that sounded "less foreboding."
Each member of the Order is from an unspecified alien race, and each member possesses special talents that makes them well-suited to both Thanos' evil machinations and particular combat scenarios. Since the events of Infinity, they have sometimes been scattered, sometimes alive, sometimes dead, and even recently reformed in the pages of the Avengers "No Surrender" event. It is Infinity, though, that ties them most closely to Thanos' battle with the Avengers, so if you want to get some insight into how they all work with him as a unit, check out that event before the movie.
If you want to send the message that you're in charge and surrender is the only option, it's good to have Corvus Glaive working for you. The commander of the Outriders, the breaker of worlds, the conqueror of champions, and the dominator of kings, he is chief among Thanos' generals and easily the most vocal member of The Black Order in early appearances. It is Corvus' responsibility to find worlds to conquer, then accept surrender, and he takes particular pleasure in defeating the supposed greatest champions each world has to offer. His first target on Earth is the X-Men, and he impales Wolverine on his trademark glaive while barely moving a muscle. He's ruthless, efficient, and he trains his soldiers to celebrate death rather than fear it, to the point that they will commit suicide on command.
As for his powers, he's super fast, super strong, and according to his wife, Proxima Midnight, he's the greatest military commander to ever set foot on planet Earth. That all makes him a formidable foe, but there's one other ability he possesses that gives him a particular advantage: As long as the blade he carries remains intact, he can't die. His soul is somehow tied to it, and he simply regenerates nearby over time, as issues of New Avengers revealed in the aftermath of Infinity.
Oh, and he once took over a whole bunch of Thanos' territory when he thought Thanos was dead, so he's not exactly the most loyal guy in the galaxy. No honor among thieves, right?
As scary as Corvus Glaive is in combat, his wife Proxima Midnight is somehow scarier. Called "the greatest warrior in Thanos' army" in New Avengers #9, she is fierce, fast, and effective on the battlefield. And, like her husband, she loves and craves the slaughter. Together they grant each other first blood in a fight like it's the most romantic gift in the world, and she talks trash during battle with such poetry that you'd think she was wooing her prey.
Proxima could easily kill most of her opponents with her bare hands, but what really sets her apart in battle is her spear. A gift from Thanos, forged from "a sun trapped in distorted space-time," it contains both the power of a star and a supernova. When she throws it, it transforms into three prongs of light that both never miss (though they can be deflected) and can prove deadly to all but the strongest of beings. Plus, she can alter the density of the beams, piercing you with all the power and weight of a star. Armed with this weapon, she's able to both incapacitate The Hulk -- by holding him down with such weight that even he can't move -- and revert him back to Bruce Banner in a matter of moments. The look of the weapon has been redesigned for Infinity War to make it look more like a manufactured staff with three prongs, but it may still retain its deadly star power.
Corvus Glaive is the intimidating general and Proxima Midnight is the fierce warrior, but Ebony Maw might end up being the most effective and terrifying member of the Order. A thin, composed, and even elegant alien, he has no outward enhancements or abilities. He's not a fighter, at least not nearly at the level of his compatriots, but what he lacks in martial skills he more than makes up for with his words.
Maw is what's known in the Marvel multiverse as a "whisperer," and while that's never fully explained after it's mentioned in Infinity, it means he's persuasive at a virtually supernatural level (though just how overtly supernatural his abilities are remains unspecified). While the other members of the Order land on Earth with troops at their back, Maw simply has a ship drop him off at the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange, where he proceeds to talk his way into Strange's mystic arts-filled head. Eventually, he embeds himself so deep that he's able to summon the Great Old One Shuma-Gorath into the middle of New York City. His invasion of Strange's brain also makes him the one who finds Thanos' son. It's implied that his methods -- while secretive and unorthodox -- are so effective that Thanos allows him to do as he pleases so long as he gets the job done.
So, beware the Ebony Maw. He could be the most powerful member of the Black Order in the MCU, but as the events of Infinity show, he also could betray Thanos if he finds a more interesting pursuit.
Black Dwarf/Cull Obsidian
As with everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we can expect things to change in ways both large and small between the big-screen depictions of these characters and their comic book counterparts. We don't know much about the MCU Black Order yet, but we do know that the filmmakers have done things like redesign Proxima Midnight's spear. They've also renamed Black Dwarf "Cull Obsidian," and while that doesn't necessarily point to a massive change in his character, it does add another layer of menace to an already outwardly imposing guy.
That's a good thing, too, because Black Dwarf makes the weakest first impression of any member of the Order by far in the comics. During the group's invasion of Earth, Black Dwarf is tasked with bringing Wakanda to heel, which should be made easier by the fact that the nation was recently hit hard by Namor during Avengers vs. X-Men and is significantly weaker than usual at the time of the assault. It doesn't really work out that way, though. Black Dwarf goes toe-to-toe with T'Challa, and he and his forces are eventually forced to retreat. As the brawler of the Order, with incredible strength and unbreakable skin, he's supposed to be better than that. Thanos is disappointed, to say the least, and essentially puts him on guard duty for the rest of the event until a group of cosmic warriors including Gladiator of the Shi'ar Empire and Ronan the Accuser of the Kree Empire eventually put him down for good... until he's resurrected again, because Comics.
So, if you're taking early bets on which member of the Order is most likely to go down in Infinity War, Cull Obsidian might be the most predictable choice. The big screen version could turn out to be a survivor, though, particularly since the MCU Black Order is already one member down from the start.
Unless she's been kept as some kind of massive, completely unspoiled surprise (which is always possible, but very unlikely at this point), Supergiant is not in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She's not in the trailers or other marketing materials, and she's never been mentioned alongside the others in the Order. Just in case, though, here's a little bit of information about her.
Supergiant is a "telepathic parasite," which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. She can absorb any knowledge from your brain that she wants, and she can even take control of you and whatever superpowers you might have. She enters the Marvel universe by taking over Iceman's brain and using his Omega-level powers to take on numerous mutants at once, then later she holds Black Bolt and his destructive voice hostage, waiting to unleash his power with a single thought. She's very good at what she does, and her mental instability only makes her more frightening.
Alas, she's not present among the MCU Black Order, perhaps because the purpose she serves in the plot could also be served by Maw and his elegant words. We might learn more about the decision to exclude her after Infinity War's release. For now, though, if you want to see her in action, you can always turn to the comics.