We’re now four issues into Marvel’s latest event Infinity, but do we really know who the big threat is? Thanos is well known, but the others – the Builders – remain a big mystery. Introduced by name last year in Avengers #1 and in the flesh with Infinity, the Builders are described as the oldest civilization in the Marvel universe and are attributed with creating life as we know it, from the Skrulls, to the Kree to Earth itself. But is that really the case?
“[The Builders are] the oldest race in the universe,” Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing/Executive Editor and Infinity editor Tom Brevoort explained during an interview on Marvel.com. “They seeded life and tended it like a garden over the millennia, creating several cosmic systems to manage its growth.”
In Avengers #2, the Builders were said to have been born at “the dawn of everything,” and used various means to direct events across the universe to suit their own needs using a class or beings called Alephs, which some characters have characterized as galactic gardeners – planting, nurturing, and sometimes pruning civilizations.
But the Builders wouldn’t be the first group to stake a claim to creating the human race; in comics, many have inferred and flat-out said they were the originators of the human species. One of the earliest was a similar space-faring species wearing armor – albeit much larger – called the Celestials. Originally created by Jack Kirby in his late 1970s series The Eternals, the Celestials are a mysterious and rarely seen race whose appearances carry an automatic sense of gravitas similar to Uatu the Watcher’s when present during major Marvel events. They’ve been attributed with creating life in the Marvel Universe since their debut, and that role was re-iterated very recently – as recent as July’s Astonishing X-Men #61 in fact.
“The Celestials were there at the birth of the universe. So full of pride. So… lonely. They shaped creation. They made life… from the darkness,” said the character Sage, who received the information from a telepathic link with a Celestial. “Oh, but they were stupid. Playing gods. Life was a game. Life was a poem to be arranged.”
In addition to their role in Astonishing X-Men recently, the Celestials also turned up in the current Uncanny Avengers “Ragnarok Now” arc wherein the Apocalypse Twins murder a Celestial – who coincidentally enough is named the Celestial Gardener. The Builders’ Alephs were called Gardeners as well.
Asked by Newsarama if there is any connection between Infinity’s Builders and the Celestials, Brevoort hedged his bet a little bit, responding, “not that we’ve seen up till this point.”
Asked further about the apparent conflation of the roles of the Builders and the Celestials in the birth of the human race in Marvel Comics, the editor noted that Infinity writer Jonathan Hickman is “definitely aware” of the Celestials role after using them previously in Fantastic Four and S.H.I.E.L.D.
So what does this very recent confirmation of the Celestials’ own efforts in the birth of life around the universe mean for the Builders’ claims as similar progenitors? Do they co-exist? Are they related? Could they be one and the same? Despite both wearing armor, the size discrepancy alone between the Builders and the Celestials leads one to dismiss the idea that they’re the same. But being that the Celestials’ role of the creation of life has been established so thoroughly for decades before the Builders were recently introduced in very much the same role is intriguing. This overlap could be simply a case of Marvel co-opting part of the Celestials’ role in the Marvel U to create the secondary big bads of Infinity, but then again both Jonathan Hickman and Tom Brevoort are students of Marvel continuity – so chances are they know the conflict this has with Celestials and are simply overwriting it, or they have something else up their sleeves.
Another interesting point to ponder is the Builders use of a phenomenon called White Events. The White Events have been described New Avengers as part of the evolutionary plans they have for the universe, acting as paradigm shifts to transition between different stages of a civilization. The White Event is a concept that Hickman took from Marvel’s New Universe line from the 1980s, but it’s also similar to an older concept of the Marvel Universe: the Celestial’s Host. The Celestials visit Earth on rare occasions, with each visitation being dubbed a Hosting – The First Host, the Second Host, etc. During these times, the Celestials judge the evolution of Earth civilization and decide if they should continue or be destroyed. There have been four Celestial Hosts that have shaped the growth of Marvel’s Earth, from sinking Atlantis to forcing Earth’s mythological gods to stop interfering with human affairs, with the last one seeing the Celestial take notice of mutations in the human race. Sound familiar?
In fact, going back to the birth of humanity on Earth in the Marvel Universe, it was the Celestials that added the potential for human DNA to mutate to gain powers and abilities – immediately creating the offshoot races of the Eternals and the Deviants, but also letting the potential lay dormant in our own genetic code. That part of humans’ genetic code was explored by the Kree millions of years ago when they created a genetic offshoot of the human race to be used as soldiers. Those genetically-engineered humans were, coincidentally enough, the Inhumans who are seen to be the game-changers for Infinity as well as the crux of the upcoming Inhumanity event.
The Builders. The Celestials. Similar origins, similar events to steer civilizations as they grow. This possible link between the Celestials and the Builders could be a key point in the finale of Infinity or could be chalked up by Marvel creators as coincidence. What do you think?