Infinity Stories1 of 22
After 10 years of interconnected films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be reaching a milestone with this weekend's Avengers: Infinity War, which features the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy teaming up to stop the Mad Titan Thanos from wielding all six Infinity Stones and annihilating the universe as we know it.
But with such a sprawling cast comes a wide range of comic book influences and Easter Eggs, and Newsarama has put together an exhaustive list of storylines for diehard fans to reread in the weeks to come, as Cap, Tony, T'Challa and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe heads on the road to Infinity War.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider2 of 22
Black Widow #1-3
A question that many fans have asked following the trailers for Infinity War is "Why has Black Widow gone blonde?" While the in-universe answer is likely to help preserve her anonymity as she goes underground with Steve Rogers' forces, it's also likely a nod to another storyline in the Marvel Universe: Black Widow: The Itsy Bitsy Spider.
Written by Devin Grayson and illustrated by J.G. Jones, The Itsy Bitsy Spider not only was the first appearance of the horrific Red Room in the Marvel Universe, but the series also pit Natasha against another Black Widow named Yelena Belova. This blonde assassin would prove to be a major thorn in the side of Natasha and later the New Avengers in the comic books, even as she seems to be inspiring Black Widow's incognito hairstyle in the upcoming film.
Civil War: The Confession3 of 22
Civil War: The Confession #1
In Civil War: The Confession, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev had the Armored Avenger plead his case following the assassination of Steve Rogers - with Tony sitting alongside Cap's corpse as he tried to explain his actions, and to exorcise his guilty conscience. If being responsible for Steve Rogers' death is enough to drive Iron Man to tears - and given that Chris Evans is running out the last of his contract soon, he may meet his maker in Wakanda soon enough - what might happen if Tony is responsible for a 16-year-old getting squashed like a bug (something he pondered himself in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
World War Hulk4 of 22
World War Hulk #1-5
Infinity War promises to bring out all of the Avengers' biggest guns, as Thanos threatens to invade the Earth. But in 2007, those cannons were aimed not at the wielder of the Infinity Gauntlet, but towards another very mad titan: the Incredible Hulk.
World War Hulk put together Marvel masterminds like Iron Man and Doctor Strange against the gamma-powered whirlwind, with Stark and Strange executing do-or-die gambits like the Hulkbuster Armor or possession by the demon Zom. And like the upcoming Infinity War, it is likely that Tony, Stephen, and Bruce will not walk out of this blistering battle royale unscathed.
Guardians of the Galaxy5 of 22
Guardians of the Galaxy #1-6
Before making his departure to DC Comics, Brian Michael Bendis seemingly made a cottage industry of him teaming up Iron Man with various corners of the Marvel Universe — not only did he give Tony Stark his meme-worthy "facial hair bros" moment with Doctor Strange in Invincible Iron Man, but he also sent Iron Man into space as part of the 2013 relaunch of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Preceding Robert Downey Jr.'s meeting with Chris Pratt by half a decade, Bendis's Guardians of the Galaxy not only provided a sneak peek of Tony Stark playing off team leader Peter Quill, but also had the genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist hook up with Gamora, the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy. Only time will tell if Iron Man and Star-Lord will have a dance-off for the heart of Thanos's daughter in the upcoming Infinity War.
Vision Quest6 of 22
Avengers: West Coast #42-50
Sparks seem to be flying between the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in the Infinity War trailer, and while you can see the Avenger's most off-kilter marriage in Steve Englehart's The Vision and Scarlet Witch miniseries, John Byrne's "Vision Quest" storyline in Avengers West Coast may provide clues to Wanda and Vision's dynamic in a post-Thanos environment.
With the Vision being one of Thanos's top targets in Infinity War thanks to the Mind Stone implanted in his forehead, there may be parallels in the film to Vision Quest, which saw Wanda and the rest of the West Coast Avengers fighting to rescue the dismantled synthezoid. The story was also important because the Android Avenger came out of his ordeal with a new body and set of memories – and it stands to reason being attacked by Thanos and the Black Order could lead to a very different status quo for the Vision moving forward.
The Last Days of Magic7 of 22
Doctor Strange #6-10
While many Marvel superheroes have a robust back catalog of collected material, Doctor Strange has a bit more of an inconsistent track record, with many of his classic stories feeling too psychedelic to tie into Infinity War. However, Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo's recent Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic feels like the perfect book for moviegoers to jump into.
Featuring Doctor Strange battling the sci-fi hordes of the Empirikul, The Last Days of Magic not only delves deep into Stephen's relationship with his mystical sidekick Wong, but provides an inkling of the lengths Stephen Strange will go when he's backed into a corner - which is almost certain bet in Infinity War with Thanos and the Black Order looking for the Time Stone inside Strange's Eye of Agamotto.
The Death of Captain America8 of 22
Captain America #25-42
The post-credits scene of Black Panther saw Bucky Barnes deprogrammed just ahead of the coming storm of Infinity War, but with Chris Evans' contract winding down - and him on the receiving end of the Infinity Gauntlet in the trailers - there's a more-than-likely chance that the Winter Soldier's nine-picture contract is going to include a promotion.
In The Death of Captain America, not only did Bucky undergo telepathic deprogramming to rid him of any lingering subliminal brainwashing, but he wound up doing good not only as the Winter Soldier, but eventually as Steve Rogers' successor as Captain America. Later on, writer Ed Brubaker would tackle Bucky's solo adventures as The Winter Soldier in his own self-titled series following his apparent death during the Fear Itself event.
The Unworthy Thor9 of 22
The Unworthy Thor #1-5
With his trusty hammer Mjolnir destroyed by Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, Thor will go on a quest for a new weapon called Stormbreaker in Infinity War - which is much the same path that Jason Aaron and Olivier Coipel took the God of Thunder on with The Unworthy Thor.
Disarmed during the Original Sin crossover, this bearded, movie-modeled Thor is in hot pursuit of a Mjolnir from another universe — however, as he battles the Collector and the Black Order, Thor also delves into the concept of divinity and worthiness in this star-spanning adventure.
Little Worse Than a Man10 of 22
Given the Vision's importance in Infinity War as a living host to the Mind Stone, it's also a welcome opportunity to recommend Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's The Vision, a modern classic that reimagines the Android Avenger in the most harrowing environment imaginable: the suburbs.
Centered around Vision’s hand-built artificial wife, children and even a synthezoid dog, The Vision subsists on a creepy and unsettling vibe, as King examines the conflicting and sometimes absurd dualities of humanity, as envisioned by the coldly analytical — and sometimes deeply homicidal — lenses of the Vision family.
The Mighty Thor11 of 22
The Mighty Thor #1-6
Thor: Ragnarok helped reestablish the Thunder God's mojo as a space-faring, genre-infused demigod in the cineplexes, but Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel blazed that trail that Jack Kirby inspired in their run of The Mighty Thor.
Pitting the God of Thunder against Galactus and the Silver Surfer, The Mighty Thor was a heady, high-concept affair that involved an injured Thor, a charming young Loki who truly loved his brother, and a seed from the base of the World Tree Yggdrasil - not to mention Thor head-butting the Surfer so hard it left a dent in his head.
Secret Invasion: Black Panther12 of 22
Black Panther #39-41
With Thanos leading his army of Outriders to the fields of Wakanda, readers should not overlook when Jason Aaron and Jefte Paolo established a similar battleground in Secret Invasion: Black Panther.
Featuring the impending threat of the shape-shifting, multi-powered Super-Skulls, Secret Invasion: Black Panther showed how indomitable the Black Panther and Wakanda truly were. Repelling the Skull invasion decisively, the Panther and his kingdom left the aliens' heads mounted on pikes as a warning that Wakanda would never be conquered.
Secret Avengers13 of 22
Secret Avengers #1-12
Following Captain America's retreat into seclusion at the end of Captain America: Civil War, he and his team of rebels have continued to operate under the radar, saving the world while staying on the run from the law.
While Cap's adventures in Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's Civil War were a clear inspiration for this status quo, Ed Brubaker and Mike Deodato, Jr. best distilled this kind of cloak-and-dagger superheroism in their run on Secret Avengers, which featured Steve Rogers, Black Widow, Ant-Man, War Machine, Valkyrie and more as they battle an organization called the Shadow Council, led by a robotic doppelgänger of Nick Fury.
Nomad14 of 22
Captain America #177-186
Having given up his shield and the star on his chest, Steve Rogers will be a man without a country in Infinity War — a status quo that was inspired by Steve Englehart's classic Captain America and the Falcon: Nomad, spinning off the original Secret Empire storyline which saw the President (implied to be Richard Nixon) as a member of a villainous secret organization.
While it's unlikely that Cap will be sporting the same V-neck and cape combo as his comic book counterpart, the identity of Nomad was crucial for Steve to grow beyond unflinching loyalty to the Stars and Stripes in the modern era. This was not the last time Steve would assume a new identity to protest the U.S. government — 15 years later, Mark Gruenwald and Kieron Dwyer would have Steve stand against corruption by adopting the identity as "The Captain." The move has been repeated several times since.
The Thanos Imperative15 of 22
The Thanos Imperative #1-6
Although Thanos' exploits would often be linked to the Avengers, he also played a major role in the renaissance of Marvel's cosmic line that began with Annihilation. One of the capstones to that saga was The Thanos Imperative, which brought the resurrected Mad Titan up against space-faring heroes such as Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon and Mantis.
With the Guardians of the Galaxy lead-in to The Thanos Imperative featuring Star-Lord one-shotting Thanos with the power of the Cosmic Cube, the finale of the series also features a particularly heroic moment from Peter Quill, as he and Nova seemingly sacrifice themselves to keep Thanos trapped in a dying Cancerverse.
Avengers: Disassembled16 of 22
Judging by the trailer, Infinity War will likely see the Avengers brought down to their knees - but in the comic books, there are few stories where Earth's Mightiest Heroes were pushed to the brink more than in Avengers: Disassembled, which had Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch literally pick the team apart before their record-setting relaunch.
If watching Spider-Man getting trounced by Thanos or Doctor Strange getting tortured by the Black Maw makes you squeamish, Avengers: Disassembled will likely make Thanos' rampage seem like a walk in the park, as Bendis and Finch presided over the deaths of Hawkeye and Ant-Man, the brutal dismantling of the Vision, and a retcon of Scarlet Witch as a reality-altering madwoman that would take the better part of a decade to reverse.
Kree/Skrull War17 of 22
One of the classic Avengers storylines, Avengers: The Kree/Skrull War not only adopts a similar structure as Infinity War by breaking the Avengers into unofficial squads, but also is one of the iconic events in Avengers history, as they must battle two alien races for the sake of the planet.
With Ronan and the dogmatic Kree battling against the shape-shifting Skrulls, The Kree/Skrull War not only will be essential viewing for the upcoming Captain Marvel film starring Brie Larsen, but the event was also crucial towards establishing the romance between Scarlet Witch and the Vision, which has been long-teased in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will likely come to fruition in Infinity War.
Civil War: Amazing Spider-Man18 of 22
Amazing Spider-Man #529-531
After being teased in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker will finally don the technologically-enhanced "Iron Spider" suit in Infinity War, which was first established in Civil War: Amazing Spider-Man.
The arc, which also helped cement Tony and Peter's initial mentor/student dynamic in the comics, gave Spider-Man plenty of new bells and whistles, including glider wings, bulletproof armor and three prehensile arms. Yet this gift proved to have a cost, as Peter was soon called upon by Stark to publicly reveal his secret identity.
Thanos Wins19 of 22
Thanos has long been one of the Marvel Universe's most terrifying enemies, but few series have depicted the Mad Titan's unstoppable ferocity better than Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw's current run on Thanos.
Depicting a future where Thanos has won against all but the smallest pockets of resistance, Cates and Shaw's storyline is a relentless display of interstellar violence, including a time-traveling, thrice-damned Cosmic Ghost Rider, a Mjolnir-wielding Silver Surfer, and two Thanoses of the present and future engaging in horrifying combat with the flaming sword of Surtur.
Infinity20 of 22
As one of the major events in Jonathan Hickman's Avengers and New Avengers runs, Avengers: Infinity saw Earth's Mightiest Heroes in a space-spanning war story, battling against the interstellar threat of the cosmic Builders as well as the resurgence of Thanos.
Featuring the debut of Thanos' Black Order - including Corvius Glaive, the Black Maw, Proxima Midnight, and Cull Obsidian - Avengers: Infinity may be one of the comics most similar in tone to the upcoming Infinity War film, featuring a sprawling lineup including Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Panther, The Hulk, Black Widow and Doctor Strange.
Infinity Gauntlet21 of 22
Infinity Gauntlet #1-6
The Marvel Cinematic Universe's long-in-the-making battle with Thanos is actually inspired by The Infinity Gauntlet, a storyline that features the Mad Titan wielding all six Infinity Gems - a search which was chronicled previously in Jim Starlin's Thanos Quest.
After wiping out half of the universe with a literal snap of his finger, the omnipotent Thanos wound up going toe-to-toe with a nearly unprecedented number of superheroes - with chilling moments like turning Thor to glass or facing down Captain America as the last Avenger standing. It took an unforced error for Thanos to lose his reality-shaking power in the comics — and with certain Avengers reaching the ends of their contracts, it remains uncertain if Thanos might not reach a higher body count in the cineplexes.
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