Marvel Studios has been doing a clever thing in the lead-up to their films: the release of a comic detailing the events of the previous films leading into the new one, as well as anything that may have transpired off-screen in between films, along with a collection of the original comics that inspired the story for the newest film.
Avengers Infinity War: Prelude follows this same formula with predictably excellent results, combining basically the entire history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the very comics that have inspired the upcoming film and, presumably, its sequel, still untitled, but due out in 2019.
Prelude kicks off with perhaps the most momentous fight to date in the MCU. Baron Zemo has finally revealed his very specific plans to destroy the Avengers by showing Tony Stark the footage of Bucky “Winter Soldier and Cap’s BFF” Barnes murdering his parents. Fisticuffs ensue. What we get in the comic that’s missing from both Captain America: Civil War and 2018’s hit Black Panther, is how Bucky gets to Wakanda and what Cap is doing to help save the world while super-scientist Shuri works on removing preconditioned evil from the Bucky-sicle’s brain.
Cap, on his way to Wakanda, rescued the rogue Avengers from the super-secret, sometimes underwater prison, The Raft, with very little effort, allowing Hawkeye and Ant-Man to return to their families and Falcon and Black Widow to return to kicking major bad guy posterior. The three travel the world, meet villains trying to use Chitauri tech for varietal villany, and stop them judiciously. Unspoken is how they missed the guy in the Vulture suit terrorizing New York City before a high school kid and his guy-in-chair took him down.
We’re treated to little glimpses of the remainder of the Avengers, including Tony Stark, working on the new Iron Spider suit seen in AIW trailers, and contemplating calling Steve Rogers to come help once the inevitable alien threat returns. Since we’ve got 18 films to recap in only half a book, we’re treated to a handy frame story told by Wong, Keeper of the Library and Master of Sarcasm at the Sanctum Sanctorum on Bleeker Street, just in time for The Sorcerer Supreme to do his part to move the plot of Thor: Ragnarok along. Wong tells Dr. Strange about all the Infinity Stones and where they currently reside and in which MCU movie they first appeared, including the Power Stone, which is on some other planet and if someone should get a hold of it, he hopes there’s some spaceman hero squad ready to help, because he sure as hell isn’t getting involved in off-planet shenanigans.
Wong doesn’t reveal, much to Dr. Strange and our own chagrin, any details about the missing Soul Stone. It’s out there and probably pretty dangerous. Thanks. The final panel does make very, very clear where the other five stones are, however, and who wants them more than anything. With Nova Prime, Strange himself, The Collector, Vision, and Loki all in possession of a stone, the Mad Titan, Thanos looms large over the universe.
The second half of the book includes two comics series that could lead readers to a deeper understanding of what we might see on film come April 27th. The first is the six-part series Infinity, by Jonathan Hickman from 2013, detailing several moments and characters known to be in the upcoming film, including Thanos’ Black Order. What is interesting in this series is the inclusion of the Skrulls, the Inhumans, and Captain Marvel. We might be getting some previews of 2019’s entry into the MCU with this series, since the other Cap won’t be starring in her own film until March, 2019.
The final inclusion in the book is Jim Starlin’s 2014 Thanos Annual #1 in which the purple people crusher sends avatars of himself throughout time to discover secrets about himself. The main story comes with an explanation of not only what the Infinity Stones and Infinity Gauntlet are, but how the stones were used and what powers they convey. We are introduced to several characters from the old, Jack Kirby-esque era (Drax, Moondragon, Some Troll), but also Adam Warlock, who was teased in the post-credits sequence from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Could we see the appearance of another near-immortal coming this April? Only time and the movies will tell, but this is an excellent introduction to a number of characters and plotlines that could be explored in the upcoming Avengers movies and beyond to Phase Four.