Thanos’ sidekicks are murderous and melodramatic.
Do we really need more new characters in Avengers: Infinity War? Probably not. Marvel Studios keeps hyping the massive cast, but 67 superheroes doesn’t necessarily mean 67 times the fun. More likely, it means an overcrowded movie with little time for character development.
However! Even if Infinity War is an overstuffed reunion between every Marvel character under the sun, I’m still excited to meet the new ones. Why? Because they’re completely ridiculous. We’re finally going to meet Thanos‘ evil sidekicks, the Black Order.
Also known as the Cull Obsidian, the Black Order are some of the most ostentatiously gothic characters in Marvel Comics. Their hobby is wearing black outfits and posing. Their dialogue appears in white typeface on a black background. They’re a bunch of total Draculas, and I love them. Even their names are maximum goth: Black Dwarf, Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, and Ebony Maw. (And Supergiant, but she isn’t in the movie.) Marvel unveiled their CGI models at last year’s Comic-Con, with producer Kevin Feige hinting they’ll be voiced by famous actors.
Traveling from planet to planet either killing people or taking tribute for Thanos, they’re like a squad of very murdery tax collectors. Their main appeal is their air of operatic melodrama. The Black Order don’t just show up somewhere, they sweep into a scene and deliver an ominous speech before dumping someone’s severed head on the table. If we’re lucky, Infinity War will remember this angle, rather than portraying them purely as Thanos’ goons. Because let’s face it, Thanos (so far) does not look very interesting.
The Black Order are relatively new to Marvel canon, introduced in the 2013 Infinity storyline. It’s an interplanetary epic involving Thanos, the Infinity Stones, and so many characters that each issue begins with an explanatory chart. In other words, a lot like Infinity War. Here’s a quick guide to the lineup from the movie.
Corvus Glaive is the Darth Vader to Thanos’ Emperor Palpatine. Skills: Mass murder; toothy smirks. Signature accessories: A tattered black cloak, and a magical glaive (long-bladed spear) that allows him to regenerate a new body after death. In terms of sheer loyalty and taking pride in his job, this guy is employee of the month, every month.
Ebony Maw is a seductive manipulator. While the other members of the Black Order rely on physical attacks, he’s a psychological threat. Think of him as the Loki or the Black Widow of Thanos’ crew—someone who bides his time, whispering in the ear of the king. As you might expect from that description, he’s a lot less trustworthy than Corvus Glaive.
One of the coolest names in Marvel Comics, up there with Negasonic Teenage Warhead. She’s a deadly warrior, although her most interesting attribute is probably her marriage to Corvus Glaive. (Writer Jonathan Hickman, who co-created the Black Order, is not known for his scintillating female characters.) They’re very much in love, if you’re looking for a new ship among Infinity War‘s cast of thousands.
Black Dward is the heavy-hitter of the team. He’s Corvus Glaive’s brother, and his name definitely isn’t a reference to his size—he’s enormous. He’s named after black dwarf stars, following the overall theme of doom and gloom.
If he has a meaningful role in Infinity War, he could be the one Black Order character to fail his master. While Proxima, Corvus and Ebony Maw generally succeed in their missions for Thanos, Black Dwarf falls at the first hurdle in the Infinity comics, attacking Wakanda and being roundly defeated by T’Challa’s army. Since there’s a major Wakanda battle sequence in Infinity War, we may see him there.
Thanos and the Black Order are the polar opposite of emotionally complex villains like Black Panther‘s Erik Killmonger. Instead of having political motives or an allegorical role, they’re just… evil. Even if one of the Black Order betrays Thanos, it’s only ever for selfish reasons. This makes them kind of a hard sell, because “just evil” villains are a consistent weakness for Marvel Studios. For every Loki or Vulture, you get three or four villains like Malekith (Thor 2) or Kaecilius (Doctor Strange).
If the writers and directors of Avengers: Infinity War have any sense, they’ll lean into the sheer melodrama of the Black Order. These characters should be flinging skulls around and declaiming Shakespearean speeches from atop a wall of flame. If not, then why bother at all?