Published On: Sun, Apr 21st, 2019

Thanos’s Greatest Victories (And How The Avengers Stopped Him)

Could the comics hold the key to saving the MCU from Big Purple?

Thanos has won. At least, that’s the situation at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. With just a snap of his fingers, he’s wiped out 50% of all living creatures in the universe, including more than a handful of Earth’s mightiest heroes. With that kind of power, how can anyone possibly defeat him?

Well, apparently it’s not all that difficult. Thanos has been messing up the Marvel comics universe since 1973, and while he’s had his fair share of victories, he’s rarely come out on top. With Avengers: Endgame about to show us how the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers defeat the Mad Titan, we thought we’d take a look at some of Thanos’ greatest schemes from the comics, and how the heroes thwarted him. Perhaps in those colourful pages there are even a few hints as to how the Avengers may end the Decimation ordeal in Endgame?

1. Thanos Grab For Power

There’s a simple underlying reason behind almost all of Thanos’ destructive actions: infatuation. The Mad Titan is obsessed with the embodiment of Death and, much like a boy with a schoolyard crush who’s found himself several branches too high up a dangerous tree, will do pretty much anything to impress her.

One of Thanos’ earliest attempts to seize the unending power that he believes will woo Death occurs in the pages of Captain Marvel, published in 1973. This story sees him travel to Earth in hunt of the Cosmic Cube (which in the comics is ‘simply’ a powerful blue box developed by A.I.M., rather than an Infinity Stone). The power of the cube makes Thanos omnipotent, and he uses it to take on a new, god-like form, as well as make the entirety of Earth’s inhabitants disappear.

Believing the Cosmic Cube to be drained of all its power, Thanos discards it. This turns out to be an incredibly stupid move, as it allows Captain Marvel – the original Mar-Vell, not the current Carol Danvers – to swoop in and destroy it. This causes Thanos’ destruction to be completely undone, and the Titan flees to the centre of the universe in shame. Death, as you can imagine, remains rather unimpressed with her giant purple would-be love interest.

Unfortunately, things aren’t likely to be this easy in Endgame, even though the Avengers now have their own Captain Marvel. If she were able to crush the Tesseract’s Space Stone, it seems unlikely that destroying one of the six Infinity Stones would reverse the effects of the snap. Plus, the MCU’s Thanos definitely isn’t dumb enough to leave his gauntlet unguarded.

Chance of this happening in Endgame? 0/10

2. A Taste of Infinity

Every good villain has a plan B, and Thanos returns in a story from 1975 with an attempt to court Death once more through the use of the Soul Gems. Better known these days as Infinity Stones, Thanos embarks on a cosmic crusade to find all six. The first five are found with ease, but Thanos struggles to claim the sixth due to one of Marvel’s most powerful heroes: Adam Warlock.

A perfect synthetic human, Warlock is in possession of the sixth gem, which he can use to capture souls. The mere idea of this terrifies Thanos, and so he searches for non-confrontational way to seize the Soul Gem. His research leads him to discover the existence of Magus: a potential future version of Warlock who rules a tyrannical galactic religious order. Using this information he is able to forge an alliance with Warlock, and they work together to ensure the Magus timeline can never happen.

By working closely together, Thanos is able to secretly syphon the energies of Warlock’s Soul Gem, and then combine it with the five others in a new mega gem. He intends to use this new super weapon to extinguish all the stars in the universe, which as far as romantic gestures go is pretty grand, although it does eliminate the possibility of cute walks home in the moonlight.

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Naturally, things don’t go according to plan; Adam Warlock discovers what Thanos has been up to, and calls on Captain Marvel and the Avengers to help him infiltrate Thanos’ ship and destroy the machines harnessing the Soul Gems’ power. In the inevitable showdown, Thanos kills Warlock, but the remaining heroes manage to destroy the star-snuffing weapons.

Luckily hope is not lost: Warlock’s soul is trapped inside his Soul Gem, and the mystical Lord Chaos and Master Order help Spider-Man release it. Channeling the comic power released by his death, Warlock turns Thanos into stone.

But will turning Thanos into an oversized garden gnome be the trick to solving Endgame? Well there is a chance that Adam Warlock could arrive on the scene; he was teased in the credits stinger at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, having been created by Ayesha to destroy Star Lord and his crew. But bringing another character into the mix at this point isn’t likely part of Marvel’s plan.

There is a chance, however, that the remaining Avengers may be able to recall their dead friends from within the Soul Stone. And maybe Doctor Strange can turn him into stone, too. He’d certainly make a good trophy statue for Avengers HQ.

Chance of this happening in Endgame? 5/10

3. The Snappening

Right, here’s the one to pay attention to. In 1991’s Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos crafts a glove-shaped superweapon and uses it to wipe out half of all living creatures in the universe in yet another misguided attempt to impress Death. Adam Warlock and the Silver Surfer assemble a crack team of heroes and cosmic entities to take Thanos down, including Wolverine and Hulk, who are chosen specifically because they’ll kill Thanos without question if given half a chance.

Thanos proves an unconquerable foe, defeating everything the heroes can throw at him, including the planet devouring Galactus. Dismayed by his power, even Death joins the war against him, but this does nothing to dissuade Thanos. He eventually wins the battle for reality, becoming an impossibly powerful cosmic being. The transformation leaves his physical form unprotected though, which allows Nebula to easily steal the Infinity Gauntlet and use the Infinity Gems to reverse all the damage caused since the snap. Seeking revenge, she transports Thanos to Adam Warlock.

During his time trapped in the Soul Gem, Warlock learned much about Thanos, including the Titan’s anxiety about wielding ultimate power. Together they come to an agreement to team up and seize the Gauntlet from Nebula, who has become incredibly powerful thanks to the Infinity Gems.

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Adam Warlock uses his link to the Soul World and reaches out to the Gems in the Infinity Gauntlet, causing it to separate from Nebula. Thanos tries to reclaim it (because obviously), but Warlock reaches it first. Rather than face imprisonment, Thanos… err… blows himself up with a nuclear device. The five gems are split up and given to five individuals who become the Infinity Watch, a new superhero team, because the galaxy could always do with one of those.

Later, it is revealed that Thanos is alive and living a quiet life as a farmer. Warlock gives him the Reality Gem, recognising that after three failures he’s become wise enough not to use it, and enlists him into the Infinity Watch.

Infinity Gauntlet’s snap is the inspiration behind Infinity War’s most iconic scene, but it seems likely that Marvel won’t stop there. During the events of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Nebula developed a seething hatred for Thanos, and her quest to kill him could well see her in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet.

The story threads that deal with Thanos’ anxiety could also make an appearance; the MCU’s version of the character is very humananised, and dealing with his inner turmoil would potentially offer a more meaningful resolution that a simple battle. There is three hours to fill, after all; why not have Tony and Thanos chat it out for a while? Mr. Stark knows a little about self-doubt himself, afterall.

Chance of this happening in Endgame? 8/10

4. Never Trust Your Generals

By the events of 2013’s Infinity arc, Thanos has his own gang of henchmen: the Black Order. Headed up by Ebony Maw, the group has toured the universe demanding a very specific sacrifice: the heads of all children aged 16-22, or the annihilation of everything. When the Avengers are forced to battle an alien army known as the Builders, the Black Order swifty visits a now unguarded Earth and demands payment.

The Inhumans – Marvel’s race of X-Men-ish metahumans – refuse to comply with the demands. They learn that the sacrifices are a cover for Thanos’ plot to kill his Inhuman son. Yup, it turns out big purple has been spreading his genes all over the universe, so much so that the location and even the identity of this specific son are unknown (hence the King Herod approach).

The Inhuman’s refusal to submit results in Thanos fighting their leader, Black Bolt, and the battle culminates in the detonation of a bomb that spreads Terrigen Mists across the planet. The mists cause those with latent Inhuman DNA to transform into metahumans, creating a whole new generation of Inhumans, including Thanos’ son, Thane.

The Illuminati – a shadowy cabal of heroes including Reed Richards and Dr. Strange – discover that Thane is in Greenland. However, it is revealed that Dr Strange is under the control of Ebony Maw, who wipes Strange’s memory and heads to Greenland to find Thane himself. Posing as an ally, he offers Thane a suit to control his newly-developed powers, but then traps him and summons Thanos.

The Avengers finally return to Earth, where they confront Thanos. The battle takes a serious toll on the team: Thor, Captains America and Marvel, and Hulk are all defeated. But as victory seems close for Thanos, Ebony Maw double-crosses him and frees Thane. Using his newly developed powers, Thane encases Thanos in a prison of amber, leaving him in a state of living death.

Infinity’s major battle, featuring the defeat of several prominent Avengers, feels like something that Endgame could draw from. Infinity War’s finale is incredibly bleak, and it does feel like things will have to get worse before they get better. All the signs point to the team’s rematch with Thanos going very wrong.

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As for The Black Order, while they are key players in the Infinity Saga’s penultimate chapter, Ebony Maw was blasted into space by Spider-Man and Iron Man. It doesn’t look like he’ll be around to double-cross Thanos anytime soon. It is also surely far too late in the day to introduce a mystery son into the equation.

However, Thanos does have children in the MCU, and one of them is really, really angry. Could Nebula fulfil the role of Thane, and be the one to take out Thanos? The Infinity Stones have enough power left in them to imprison a single chunky lad in amber, surely?

Chance of this happening in Endgame? 4/10

And there we have it: four of Thanos’ greatest victories, and how Marvel’s heroes thwarted them. The original comics have been a vital source of inspiration for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and so it makes sense that there will be a little bit of at least one of these stories to be found in Avengers: Endgame. Which one though? Well with Marvel being as hush hush as they are, we’ll just have to wait until April 25 to find out.

Matt Purslow is IGN UK’s News and Entertainment Writer, and has been researching how to kill Thanos since 2007. You know, just in case. You can follow him on Twitter

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Thanos’s Greatest Victories (And How The Avengers Stopped Him)