Why Thanos (and the Infinity Gauntlet) may be sticking around in the MCU after Avengers 4 – according to the comics

Many words have been written and even more tears will have (potentially) been shed when it comes to what’ll go down in Avengers: Endgame. But what comes after? We’re less than 12 months out from heading into the unknown - Phase 4 of the MCU - but what if I told you Thanos survives, goes on to team-up with the Avengers against an even Bigger Bad, and a whole new franchise is born? They’re all distinct possibilities – and the map to that destination is hiding in the comics. Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War within!

Infinity War (the other one)

First, a semi-confusing history lesson. We all by now know that Avengers: Infinity War is based on the iconic 1992 Infinity Gauntlet comic. In that, Thanos picks up the Infinity Stones, dons the Gauntlet and wipes out half the universe with a snap of his finger. Sound familiar? It should. Except, there’s a sequel called (irritatingly) Infinity War. And that’s where the real magic lies.

In it, Thanos has been defeated and the Magus - the darkness pulled from within well-known comic book character and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 post-credits tease Adam Warlock - is on the prowl and has set about a plan in motion to snag the Infinity Gauntlet for himself. He’s so powerful he’s even plucked his own Thanos from an alternate timeline (remember all of those rumours about Avengers 4 messing around with time? Yeah, that’s bound to have repercussions) to work as his sidekick. 

That basic premise wouldn’t even be that hard to set-up in the MCU now that the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been established. Warlock is an incredibly powerful mystical character who has long been rumoured to be heading to the MCU thanks to that GOTG2 post-credits scene, so now would be the perfect time to pull the trigger on that. While Magus isn’t likely to crop up in the MCU without some serious build-up (which, hey, could happen in the next five years with proper planning), I’d wager someone like Doctor Doom – should Marvel get the rights to Fox – or another villain of that ilk could easily replace him in that role. But, of course, that would still mean some of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would have a big ol’ Gauntlet shaped problem on their hands. Again. Which leads to… 

Thanos and the Avengers teaming up?!

Yep, you read that correctly. One of the coolest moments in the Infinity War comic was seeing Thanos fight side-by-side with Captain America and, honestly, it could work. If Thanos lay defeated and exiled (as he is in the comics) post-Avengers 4, there’s always the tantalising possibility of him existing on the fringes of each future MCU story before bringing him back, Loki-style, for a reluctant team-up. 

It’s an interesting dynamic that hasn’t really been done before. It instantly makes whoever is the new Big Bad seem like a larger threat than Thanos himself and therein also lies a unique, compelling story of a defeated villain having to pull for the forces of good to save his own hide. 2012’s The Avengers was all about forming a team; Age of Ultron sees cracks form in that team, Infinity War blew the team up, and Avengers 4 could go one beyond that and bring together an unthinkable team. Plus, you can’t simply destroy the Infinity Gauntlet because that’s too good of a McGuffin to leave to one side. It’d be a perfect catalyst for MCU’s Phase 4. It won’t be as much a case of figuring out where the Infinity Stones are this time, but who’s duty-bound to protect them.

Without getting into too many spoilers, should my hopes and dreams bear fruit, Thanos doesn’t stay buddy-buddy with the Avengers for long, but I’m certain Marvel are considering this route. Here’s why: Escalation is the MCU’s stock in trade, and this is the only way you go bigger yet still keep Thanos in-play.’ Plus, in terms of Marvel’s bottom line, you’ve then got a whole other property to play with. Say hello to the Infinity Watch!

Infinity Watch

This isn’t a Thanos-approved timepiece, that’s for sure. The Infinity Watch were a group of individuals who were sworn to protect the Infinity Gems (as they’re called in the comics) in the wake of Thanos’ first defeat. Their numbers included both Drax and Gamora and, should you want to tie this in with Disney’s own plans for a brand-new franchise, this makes the most logical sense without having to introduce a dozen new characters and planets right off the bat in a well-established universe. 

The Infinity Watch would then give us a bunch of characters who are both familiar and not-so-familiar and would, ideally, be like chalk and cheese to each other. They’ve got to protect the most powerful artefacts in the known universe from any and every ne’er-do-well who tries to swipe them. Think Guardians of the Galaxy, but with the stakes upped, a dash of the MCU’s greatest rogues’ gallery licking their lips in anticipation, and the will they/won’t they scenario of some of the Infinity Watch wanting to take all the glory (and Gauntlet) for themselves.

I mean, come on, you can get at least two movies out of that possibility alone, it’d be the perfect place to introduce Adam Warlock, who formed the group, and lead into a fifth Avengers movie. Not only that, but having a whole franchise based around how important these Stones are would be the best way to keep a larger story arc going without either cheapening their power by destroying them or always wondering whether they’re going to show up in other MCU movies.

Of course, Avengers 4 could end up with Thanos lying dead in a ditch for all we know. But it shouldn’t. Marvel Studios should keep all of the Infinity Gauntlet stuff separate and have it build up to one hell of a conclusion, giving them the opportunity to instantly introduce one of the comics’ biggest characters who could conceivably prop up the next decade of MCU stories in the form of Adam Warlock.

There’s also no way we want to miss out on a chance of Thanos vs. Thanos (oh, it happened) and the likes of Iron Man swaggering around telling Thanos what to do. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up, and we sure know how Marvel loves pulling from their comics to drive franchises forward. It’s new, it’s exciting, and yet, paradoxically, it’s still fully submerged in every MCU story thread that’s come before it. 2020 and beyond could be very, very exciting indeed… Does someone have Kevin Feige’s number?

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.