Avengers: Infinity War - a Last-Minute Primer
by: Jeff Schuster | @kidfreeweekend
All images copyright Marvel
What’s the deal with Thanos?
In terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), we really don’t know much about Thanos. We know he’s interested in Infinity Stones, he’s had some kidnapped kids that he both trains and torments (notably Gamora and Nebula), and… he has a nice chair… and he’s purple.
Also, at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thanos finally gets out of his chair and picks up a sweet-looking gauntlet.
If we look past the MCU and into comic book lore, Thanos has a big, driving motivation in the form of Mistress Death. Not unlike a teenage boy with a crush on the cheer captain, Thanos is desperate to get her attention, no matter what the cost. If that means gathering all of the Infinity Stones onto one shiny glove and using their collective power to mangle or destroy large chunks of the universe, so be it.
There’s no particular reason to believe that Mistress Death plays into the MCU plot in the slightest, but it should be noted that a popular fan theory involves Thor’s sister, Hela, taking over the “death” role that becomes the object of Thanos’ affections. Asgardians are, however, mortal, so even with power as formidable as Hela’s, it seems unlikely that she survived Ragnarok.
What’s the deal with the Infinity Gauntlet?
Simply put, the Infinity Gauntlet was an idea Thanos had to be a single place to hold all six of the Infinity Stones. In comic lore, Thanos had the gauntlet created after he gathered the stones and just needed an easy way to carry them around. In the MCU, we’ve seen the Infinity Gauntlet in Odin’s vault during the first Thor movie. After Ultron, we see Thanos grabbing the gauntlet, but we don’t necessarily know where he is. In Thor: Ragnarok, Hela says the gauntlet in Odin’s vault is a fake, which makes sense given that the original Thor gauntlet appeared to have gems inlaid into it, while the one Thanos donned is empty.
Ok, so how many Infinity Stones are there, and where are they?
As we learned in Guardians of the Galaxy, the 6 Infinity Stones are “concentrated ingots” made from the 6 “Singularities” that existed before the universe as we know it today. Just a single stone carries enough power to erase all life from a planet, so it’s easy to imagine that invoking all 6 of them at the same time would be pretty serious business.
The stones and their pre-Infinity-War locations are as follows:
The Space Stone
a.k.a. The Tesseract
Current Location: Space...inside Loki's pocket
The Tesseract isn’t actually the Space Stone, but rather its container. The perfect, blue cube has been around the block a few times, notably including a stint with Red Skull and HYDRA during the events of Captain America, the First Avenger. The Tesseract was simply seen as an energy source, and was retrieved from the ice and studied by Howard Stark, then given to S.H.I.E.L.D., and then stolen by Loki who used it to allow the Chetari army to invade New York City during the events of The Avengers.
After The Avengers, the Tesseract was placed inside Odin’s vault (alongside the fake Infinity Gauntlet), and remained in Asgard’s care until Asgard’s destruction in Thor: Ragnarok. Technically, we never actually saw Loki grab the Tesseract from the vault on his way to the Eternal Flame, but he eyed it, and that means he probably slipped it into a pocket. It doesn’t take a big logical leap after that to feel confident in guessing that the ginormous ship seen at the end of Ragnarok probably belongs to Thanos himself, and he’s come to open that cube once and for all
The Reality Stone
a.k.a. The Aether
Current Location: The Collector's Collection at Knowhere
The Reality Stone was taken from the Dark Elves and hidden in another dimension by the Asgardians over 4000 years ago. Then, Jane Foster stumbled into a dimensional rift, absorbed The Aether into her body, and this event brought the Dark Elves out of stasis. When all was said and done, The Aether was condensed back into stone form and left in the care of Taneleer Tivan, the Celestial being known as The Collector
The Mind Stone
a.k.a. Loki's scepter jewel
a.k.a. Vision's activation key
Current Location: Vision's forehead
Though Thanos appears to want the Infinity Stones all for himself, he had a funny way of showing it when he flat-out gave one away. Loki not only had the Tesseract to open a space portal for the Chetari, but he also had his mind-controlling sceptre that could turn Avengers (mostly Hawkeye) evil.
After the scepter was recovered by S.H.I.E.L.D., “stolen” by HYDRA, and then recovered again by The Avengers, Tony Stark figured out that the blue sceptre jewel had powerful computer-like properties, and used it to accidentally create the very evil, almost-world-destroying Ultron. When Ultron tried to make an indestructable, vibranium body for himself, he cracked open the jewel to reveal the yellow stone inside. Our heroes foiled his plan and then used the vibranium and Infinity Stone to create Vision. The Mind Stone rests inside Vision’s forehead, likely acting not only as a power source, but also as a central processing unit.
The Power Stone
Current Location: A Nova Corps safe-deposit box on planet Xandar
This stone encompassed the entire plot of Guardians of the Galaxy, and it hasn’t been seen since. Originally kept in an orb that appeared to have once been a power center for the planet Morag, it was found by Star Lord, almost swiped by Gamora, then almost sold to The Collector, and then stolen by Ronan the Accuser, who intended to destroy both Xandar and Thanos with it. The Guardians managed to steal it back thanks to the power of The Five Stairsteps, obliterated Ronan, and handed the stone off to the Nova Corps for eternal safekeeping.
The Time Stone
a.k.a. The Eye of Agamotto
Current Location: Sanctum Sanctorum and/or around Doctor Strange's neck
By all accounts, the Time Stone had a long period of non-use (possibly thousands of years?) until it was wielded by newly-crowned Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Stephen Strange. Doctor Strange was able to use the power of the stone (via the amulet it resides in) to trap the near-god Dormammu in a time loop, forcing him to abandon his plot to swallow the Earth inside the Dark Dimension.
The Soul Stone
Current Location: We really have no idea
As far as the MCU goes, no one knows where the Soul Stone is, and we really only know that it’s orange because of educational films like the one The Collector showed to the Guardians.
There’s no point in speculating its possible location based on comic book lore, because the other stones have completely deviated from their original storylines.
Many have speculated that the Soul Stone must be in Wakanda, somehow relating to the immense power found in both vibranium and the heart-shaped herb. It isn’t unfair to say that the herb itself glows in a manner very much befitting an Infinity Stone’s style, but on the other hand, the flower is purple while the missing stone is orange.
So if Thanos is going to put the Infinity Gauntlet together…
Odds are, a lot of bad things are going to befall a lot of good people in the midst of Thanos’ quest for power. Xandar is probably going to take heavy damage when the Nova Corps headquarters is ransacked. Knowhere is also likely to sustain many casualties when Thanos comes to call. The Collector doesn’t seem like the type to engage is self-sacrifice, so he’ll probably survive his encounter with Thanos.
Vision and Loki, meanwhile, are probably doomed. It’s hard to imagine that Vision will survive getting the Mind Stone ripped out of his body. Loki will probably be forced to give himself up in order to save the Asgardian refugees, and then not only will he have to hand over the Tesseract, but he’ll also have to answer to Thanos for his previous failures.