If you're like me, you've been waiting for Marvel to do justice to Thanos' legacy as a supreme evil being ever since he popped up in the post-credits scene of 2012's The Avengers. When it comes to badass bad guys from Marvel Comics, Thanos is one of the best. He's literally hellbent on causing as much destruction and annihilation as he can, all so he can get a little closer to Lady Death. And while that particular piece of his story didn't come to fruition in Avengers: Infinity War, in the end, it didn't matter because Thanos was just that damn
good bad. Ultimately, he didn't need the comic book backstory to become the GOAT Marvel villain.
Ed. Note: Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War follow. If you haven't seen it yet, take the Time Stone and rewind to a time when this post wasn't published.
How did you feel when you walked out of the theater after experiencing Marvel's Infinity War? I would imagine it was a mixture of elation at finally witnessing the biggest crossover event ever and a tense, uneasy feeling because Marvel truly took it there. For all intents and purposes, this was Thanos' film. Marvel may not have intended on making Thanos a sympathetic monster, but they damn sure helped us gain a deeper understanding of his motivation for wanting to wipe out half of the beings in the universe. It wasn't about being a badass for badass sake, but something a little bit more rational—at least in his mind. It was Thanos' inability to save his own planet from destroying itself that led him to find a balanced yet maniacal solution to the limited resources problem every planet in the universe will eventually face, especially ones that are overpopulated. It may have been fucked up but it actually made sense, and while I won't stand on a rooftop screaming "Thanos Was Right!," it was a sinister motivation that magnified every deadly decision the Mad Titan made throughout the film.
Outside of his philosophy, though, Thanos was just that damn amazing. No other MCU villain can say they bested one of the fiercest heroes (the Hulk) in a fair one and Rice Krispie'd Loki within like 10 minutes of their film. Thanos single-handedly took on the combined efforts of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Drax, Star-Lord, Mantis, and Nebula, and won. He left the battle with exactly what he was looking for... not to mention shanking Iron Man in the process! He's bigger, stronger, and more determined to fuck shit up than anyone we've seen before. While most villains talk a good game, Thanos actually had the brains and brawn to back it up—so much so that the Hulk punked out and dipped for the majority of the movie after catching the fade early. Thanos proved he was that dude and can't no one come close to taking his villainous crown.
He's bigger, stronger, and more determined to f*ck sh*t up than anyone we've seen before. While most villains talk a good game, Thanos actually had the brains and brawn to back it up.
Now, loyal reader(s), I know what you're saying: "didn't y'all just hype Killmonger as the best villain since Heath Ledger's Joker?" You're goddamn right we did. At the time (i.e. back in February of 2018), he was. Hell, as a black man living in America, there are times where I have looked at the way police are killing my brothers and sisters in the street and felt I might need to rally the troops and revolt a la Killmonger. The thing is, for as much as many aligned with Killmonger's by-any-means-necessary mission (and how Michael B. Jordan breathed life into that character), his story ended the same way most MCU villains' stories do: he died. His plan didn't even make it past the Wakandan border, fam. Off that fact alone, you have to give Thanos the championship belt.
Thanos' mission since The Avengers has been to get his hands on #DemStones. In one film we saw him gain possession of all of them, then exact his plan on the entire universe, which led to that tense feeling you no-doubt left the theater with. It's RARE that an MCU villain even makes it to see the end credits; this man's wrath was so far-reaching that it even trickled into the film's post-credits scene! That's some cold shit.
Does Thanos putting a shoe to half of the universe with the snap of his fingers mean that Marvel's villain problem is gone? Far from it. From reading comics for the better part of the three-plus decades I've lived on Thanos' green Earth, there's no surprise that Marvel has one-and-done'd the majority of their "big bads." That cycle won't be going away any time soon. That said, Thanos' huge W in Infinity War could signal a shift in the way the MCU handles these event films. Even if the events of Infinity War are reversed in Avengers 4, Marvel showed us that they are ready and willing to let a big bad win.
It's similar to professional wrestling: a good guy is only as great as the bad guy he's up against. Viewers ultimately want to see a good guy beat the shit out of the villain. But for people to really care you have to show us how bad the villain can be. There's no way we can continue to take these films seriously (and allow Disney/Marvel to take all of our money) if we don't get the wind knocked from our sails once in a while. The Mad Titan Thanos taught us that, and as of right now, he deaded some of our favorite MCU characters to teach us that lesson. For that, Thanos reigns supreme until another being can take the title from him...which will probably happen in whatever Avengers 4 is titled. One year of undisputed reign is dope, though, right?