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As The Avengers reached its massive, universe-forming conclusion, the world of comic movies was obviously never going to be the same. But the purple-colored cherry on top of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's sundae was the revelation of the villain that would come to be known as the ultimate evil in the burgeoning Cinematic Universe: Thanos, the mad titan himself. But while his first appearance back in 2012 delighted fans, the follow-up to his coronation as the end all, know all baddie of the MCU has been less than stellar.
In the five years that have passed since The Avengers, Thanos has only appeared twice in the Marvel Studios canon, and one of those appearances was in the post-credits sequence for Avengers: Age of Ultron. Despite having Josh Brolin cast in the role, undoubtedly with a standard multi-picture contract that Marvel Studios excels at issuing, Thanos has only shown up in one actual film: 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. And guess what? He wasn't the main villain in the film, but merely the boss to Lee Pace's Ronan The Accuser, and father to Karen Gillan's Nebula and Zoe Saldana's Gamora.
Other than those slight inclusions, we haven't seen or heard word of this gigantic terror of the stars. Come to think of it, it's no wonder that The Avengers: Infinity War is going to be a story that continues into the next Avengers picture, as there's a lot of ground that'll have to be covered for the character. Unless Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther somehow contain post-credits scenes that fill in a mini-movie's worth of information that somehow tracks Thanos' journey to our planet, there's not a lot of hope that Marvel will pull a purple rabbit out of their hat and make sense of the last five years' worth of absence that Thanos has taken. If you watch the video included below, you'll see just how much Thanos has done in the MCU, as it's basically every moment he's appeared in the series thusfar.
So with that little amount of screen time, how in the world could Marvel begin to make up for the dearth of Thanos material? Well, there is one possibility though, and it's linked to Thor: Ragnarok's villain, Cate Blanchett's Hela. With the talk of her character being the MCU's version of Death, that would provide a tangible link to Thanos, as he's basically in love with her and would follow her to the ends of the universe. So there's a possibility that her vanquishing at the end of the third Thor film may be the inciting incident that finally draws Thanos into the fold. His chance to revenge his lady love's defeat just might be what The Avengers: Infinity War is all about.
But even if Thor: Ragnarok somehow paves the way for Thanos' invasion of Earth, it still doesn't change the fact that Marvel put this character in play, cast a big ticket actor to play him, and then proceeded to do squat with him to date. Even in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the man who would conquer the universe is mentioned merely in passing. At most, his name and memory are the catalyst for the conflict, and ultimately the reconciliation, between Nebula and Gamora, which leaves the former on a quest to kill their daddy once and for all.
It feels like a waste to have a character as big as Thanos in the mix for a good five years, without setting his arc up with more of a piece meal approach. There could have been countless post-credits scenes that showed him amassing his army, as well as learning about The Avengers' strengths and weaknesses. Instead, we've been given breadcrumbs, with the promise of a possible slice of bread before the total sandwich lands on our plate. We, the fandom, are hungry for Thanos's wave of destruction, and it feels like we've been cheated. You can't just have your villain strap on a glove and say, "Fine, I'll do it myself," without a lot of background as to what he'll be doing and why.
If Marvel Studios is smart, they'll start to weave his story into the build-up to next year's Infinity War, and fast. Otherwise, we may be headed for the most disappointing villain, and the emptiest showdown, in MCU history. At which point, all DC has to do is not screw up, and they can claw back to equal, if not superior footing.
The Avengers: Infinity War tries to make good use of Thanos on May 4, 2018.