Avengers, disassemble? Where the MCU goes after the shocking ending of 'Infinity War'

Warning: This story contains major spoilers.

Avengers: Infinity War isn’t just the most epic Marvel movie to date — both in terms of roster and box-office earnings — it’s also the biggest bloodbath in the franchise’s history. Joe and Anthony Russo’s all-star spectacular begins by dispatching some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s long-running characters and doesn’t let up for the remainder of its two-and-a-half-hour run time. Suffice it to say, not everybody makes it out alive.

Thanos (Josh Brolin) delivers on his reputation as the Mad Titan. (Photo: Marvel Studios)

Nonetheless, as those who’ve already seen the film now know, Infinity War’s deaths aren’t created equal. While certain figures have surely come to the end of their MCU runs, others seem destined to return — albeit in ways that haven’t yet been fully revealed. We won’t have answers to those questions until the May 2019 debut of the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4. Yet that’s not stopping us from breaking down which heroes and villains we think are really gone, which are sorta-kinda-maybe finished, and which are definitely destined for resurrection — and the means by which that last group might rise again.

Watch: The Avengers: Infinity War cast reveals their (hypothetical) death faces:

Rest in Peace: Heimdall, Loki, The Collector

Avengers: Infinity War opens in the aftermath of a massacre perpetrated by Thanos (Josh Brolin) aboard the ship Thor was piloting at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. As it turns out, the murder isn’t over, as the Mad Titan immediately offs the God of Thunder’s mate, Heimdall (Idris Elba), and brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Given the conclusiveness of their demises, it appears both those Asgardians won’t be seen or heard from again (except maybe in flashbacks).

Has Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the god of mischief, finally run out of tricks? (Photo: Marvel Studios)

That’s also true of The Collector (Benicio Del Toro), who’s only spied as a mirage created by Thanos’s Reality Stone — a sure sign he’s already been slaughtered by the villain.

The Collector (Benicio Del Toro)’s collecting days appear to be over. (Photo: Marvel Studios)

The Possible Casualties: Gamora, Vision

In perhaps the most gut-wrenching moment of Infinity War, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) meets a horrific fate when surrogate father Thanos throws her off a cliff to obtain the Soul Stone. Her demise seems authentic, although given her primary role in the Guardians of the Galaxy series — which is slated to continue with a third installment in 2020 — one wonders if she’ll find a way back to the MCU fold.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) seems to be a goner. (Photo: Marvel Studios)

That’s also true of Vision (Paul Bettany), who perishes after Thanos rips the Mind Stone out of his skull. Yet his inherent robotic construction means there’s always a chance someone might reassemble him (notably Wakanda’s resident tech whiz kid, Shuri) — a notion underscored by the fact that, in Infinity War, the Avengers believe Vision can exist and be himself without the Mind Stone.

Vision (Paul Bettany) falls at the hand of Thanos, while the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is among the departed. (Photo: Marvel Studios)

(Despite Tessa Thompson’s teasing, we also don’t know the fate of Thor: Ragnarok standouts Valkyrie and Korg. Both were aboard the Asgardian refugee ship, but their corpses were not shown onscreen, meaning they could return to the MCU at some point.)

Watch: How Avengers: Infinity War filmmakers went to insane extremes to protect film’s secrets:

The Dearly Departed: Spider-Man, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Star Lord, Drax, Mantis, Groot, Scarlet Witch, the White Wolf/Winter Soldier

Lastly, we have those Marvel favorites who vanish into thin air after Thanos snaps his fingers during the finale of Infinity War — an apparent sign that the Mad Titan has achieved his goal of bringing balance to the universe by murdering half of all life. Still, with the MCU’s post-Infinity War future set to revolve around sequels to Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Dr. Strange, it’s impossible to believe they’re truly dead. So what could be the explanation for their disappearance — and how will Marvel bring them back? We have a few theories:

It’s the multiverse: The final line of Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), “It was the only way”  regarding his decision to give Thanos the Time Stone in exchange for the life of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) suggests that the Sorcerer Supreme rigged the gem so that, when Thanos used it, the heroes didn’t die but were instead transported elsewhere, possibly to an alternate Earth? Considering Dr. Strange’s familiarity with the multiverse and Marvel’s love of creating parallel timelines in their comics, this might be a way to provide a fresh post-Avengers start for Spidey, Black Panther, the Guardians, and Dr. Strange, all of whom seem likely to shoulder the MCU burden going forward.

Is Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) playing the long game? (Photo: Marvel Studios)

Everyone’s in the Soul Stone: In the comics, the Soul Stone isn’t just an object; it’s also a realm in which characters can reside (including Adam Warlock — see below). Thus, there’s a chance that when Gamora perished, her soul was somehow transported into the Soul Stone  and so too, shortly thereafter, were the rest of the characters who vanished at movie’s end (perhaps via Dr. Strange trickery?). If that’s the case, then they can all return in Avengers 4, provided someone finds a way to break them out of there — or Strange has figured out a back-door escape route that leads to our reality.

Nebula rising: It’s no accident that Thanos’s other daughter, Nebula (Karen Gillan), is one of the few Guardians left standing at the end of Infinity War. For starters, a wounded Tony Stark needs a lift off Titan now that Avenger accomplices Spider-Man and Dr. Strange are dust in the wind. But if you’ve read the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries that forms the loose basis for Infinity War, you know Nebula gets the Infinity Gauntlet away from Thanos, and the tyrant is forced to work with the heroes he just decimated to get it off her arm. 

Nebula (Karen Gillan) is among those still standing at the end of Infinity War. Will the character have the same kind of key role in the defeat of Thanos as in the comics?

Ultimately, the Gauntlet passes to Adam Warlock, who uses it to put things right. Warlock was teased in one of the (many) post-credits sequences featured in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, but with Vol. 3 not due in theaters until 2020 at the earliest, it’s questionable whether he’ll show up on the scene in time for next summer’s Avengers conclusion. Instead, his key role may be filled by Captain Marvel, whom Fury calls for help in his final, desperate moments.

Avengers: insect war: Believe it or not, there are more pressing concerns than “How the heck is half the Marvel Universe going to come back?” What we really should be asking is: “What the heck is going to happen in Ant-Man and the Wasp?” The sequel to Peyton Reed’s 2015 hit arrives in theaters on July 6, and (as implied by the tease below) will presumably fill in some of the gaps that precede Infinity War. The trailers have already indicated we’ll learn the terms of the special deal Scott Lang struck with the U.S. government to avoid time on the Raft. That means there’s a better-than-likely chance that Hawkeye’s vanishing act will be explained in the film as well — complete with a Jeremy Renner cameo — as Scott and Clint had the same concerns vis à vis their families. Beyond that, the announced reappearance of the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), from the subatomic Quantum Realm should open up a new battlefront as the surviving heroes regroup against Thanos. It’s a great place for hiding things — like recaptured Infinity Stones — if nothing else.

Be kind, rewind: There could be an easier solution to the Avengers’ apocalyptic problem, of course: simply rewinding history by using the Time Stone, as Thanos himself does as a way to get Vision’s Mind Stone. That would require the scattered-to-the-wind heroes to figure out a method to defeat Thanos, which as we’ve just seen, is hardly an easy task. That said, with assistance on the way  from Ant-Man and the Wasp and possibly Hawkeye, as well as Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) — it’s not completely out of the question. No doubt someone’s going to eventually get that Gauntlet off the Mad Titan’s left hand…

Have some guesses yourself? Sound off in the comments below.

Avengers: Infinity War is in theaters now.

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