The first generation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – now officially “The Infinity Saga” – has come to a close with Avengers: Endgame. While I’m only beginning to process all the film had to offer, I still can’t help imagining what will come next. More Black Panther! More Captain Marvel! More Dr. Strange! Plus we know there are movies in the works for new characters like the Eternals and Shang-Chi. But, as the name “Infinity Saga” implies, it’s not all about the heroes. The name points towards the reality that the past eleven years and twenty-two films all led to our heroes’ iconic encounter with the Mad Titan Thanos, in an attempt to stop his destruction of half of all life with the Infinity Stones. So, thinking of the future of the MCU naturally begs the question…what villain comes next? Who can possibly follow Thanos?? My (first) guess? Annihilus – the Living Death that Walks. BOOM.
And so, a new series on the ol’ blog is born. This is the first installment in my however-long-my-imagination-runs-and/or-until-Kevin-Feige-reveals-the-real-answer part series. Credit for both the idea of the series as well as it’s name goes to Bryan, one fourth of the wonderful podcast Pods & Ends and a wonderful banter buddy when it comes to all things pop culture. Bryan and I spend a lot of time talking about the MCU and have spent a lot of time of late (I mean, it’s a healthy amount of time…it’s not like we have a problem (maybe you have the problem…ever think about that?!?)) speculating about who could be evil enough, intimidating enough, powerful enough to follow Thanos. What character in the Marvel Universe is worthy of another decade long build-up? Well, I’ve found my (first) answer, even if it wasn’t my first thought.
My first thought was Galactus. Who better to be the next overarching big bad for the Marvel Cinematic Universe than the Devourer of Worlds right?!? Also, he’s a Fantastic Four villain which I think will be important going forward. Now that Marvel Studios/Disney own the rights to the FF and the X-Men, it’s only a matter of time until their MCU incarnations are born. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, with the Disney/Fox merger final, it is unlikely Marvel’s first family or Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters will arrive onscreen before 2021 at the earliest. Still, both are vital to Marvel Comics and, arguably, none more so than the Fantastic Four.
The Marvel Universe was born with the Fantastic Four. So, no matter what’s coming down the line, I think it’s safe to presume the FF will play a major role. It makes sense to me then that an FF baddie would be the next slow burn threat to grow within the MCU, especially with the FF themselves not showing up for a few years at the soonest. When you think of the Fantastic Four’s greatest villains two names jump immediately to mind – Doctor Doom and Galactus. I don’t see Doctor Doom hiding in the shadows for another decade (unless the introduce him and build to something like Jonathan Hickman’s 2015 “Secret Wars”). So Galactus seemed logical.
But…then I thought about it. The Fantastic Four have been stopping Galactus from consuming the Earth on their own since 1966! Why would they need the entire second generation of the MCU heroes to do it this time? Plus, Thanos was a threat to all of creation. Galactus would be a threat to all life on Earth. That feels like a step down to me. So no, I think I was wrong. Yes, we’ll see Galactus with all the wild cosmic heralds who proceed him. But he’ll show up in a solo Fantastic Four movie, not as the next Avengers/Guardians (maybe) /Fantastic Four/X-Men big bad. Galactus would feel too small after the scope of their battle with Thanos, the Black Order, and the collective power of the Infinity Stones.
And this realization led me to Annihilus, the Living Death that Walks!! I say again, BOOM.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Annihilus first appeared in Fantastic Four Annual #6, released in November of 1968. He is the ruler of the Negative Zone – an alien universe which has begun to contract (unlike our universe which is still in the process of expanding after the Big Bang) due to a black hole growing at its center (called the Annihilation Area). This contraction, which began roughly one million years ago, has led the once-varied cultures and species of this universe to abandon their cultural growth in the name of survival and/or brought about their extinction. The Negative Zone is also composed completely of anti-matter so anything moving from our universe to it must reverse its polarity on a molecular level before it enters or it will be destroyed upon arrival. Time passes much quicker in the Negative Zone than it does in our universe and evolution there is very difficult, leading to many species’ extinction and allowing great swaths of it to remain uninhabited. Located inside the singularity at the heart of the Annihilation Area is the Crossroads of Infinity, a path branching into many different universes.
In addition to having a brilliant nickname which totally rings with the brilliance of 1960’s sci-fi (you have to love “The Living Death that Walks”) Annihilus, the Lord of the Negative Zone, has one great fear – death. Because of this, he prizes his Cosmic Control Rod above all else, as it extends his life. He seeks to conquer or destroy anything which can be a threat to his existence. Anything he sees as a potential threat – real or imagined – he will destroy.
Given the length of time he’s been exposed to the Cosmic Control Rod, Annihilus has gained incredible power that allows him to “easily rival Thanos” and Thanos himself has said Annihilus was evolving into a being “apart from the ‘Cosmic Norm’” like both the Mad Titan and Adam Warlock. Annihilus’ strength is incalculable, exceeding even the Hulk. He can fly and move at incredible speeds. He doesn’t tire easily either, being able to go full-out for twenty-four hours straight. Of course he has your standard high power energy attacks. He can survive in a complete vacuum for over a year and is invulnerable to a wide variety of attacks, even without the Cosmic Control Rod.
Interestingly, despite all his incredible power, Annihilus is exceedingly paranoid. He basically believes everyone is out to steal the Cosmic Control Rod from him. This, I think, would make for a fascinating departure from the cool, calculated, and focused mind of Thanos which shaped the first generation of the MCU. It would add a new dimension to the MCU villains overall too, as heightened paranoia hasn’t really been a part of superhero cinema since Willem Defoe’s Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002). Annihilus is far beyond Defoe’s Goblin when it comes to paranoia and a creature so powerful yet so paranoid could yield fertile ground for stories.
All of this, I think, combines to make for the perfect follow-up to Thanos as the next overarching big bad for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. First, there’s a logical rationale for conflict here. If Annihilus seeks to destroy anything he sees as a potential threat to his long life and rule, well, can there be a bigger threat than the people/realm that stood up against Thanos and the omnipotence granted to one who could wield all the Infinity Stones? Once word of this battle begins to move through the universe(s), the Avengers would obviously be on Annihilus’ radar.
Second, this creates a potentially very different setting for conflict than we saw in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. I can imagine Marvel won’t want to just redo what’s come before. So the introduction of the Negative Zone would allow the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy (and maybe the Fantastic Four and maybe the X-Men too) to do battle in another universe/dimension. Think of what that could look like! Plus the mechanics of the Negative Zone would present a challenge for the big brains of the MCU. It would also allow for a Negative Zone invasion of Earth too. Given the size and shape of Annihilus’ armies, there could be a battle playing out simultaneously on two different fronts in two different universe/dimensions!! This sounds pretty exciting to me.
Third, it’s cosmic. Kevin Feige has said the future of the MCU will be increasingly cosmic. That means cosmic threats, obviously, will be the direction they’re heading. Annihilus certainly fits the bill there. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s 2006 cosmic crossover “Annihilation” (which set the stage for the birth of the comics which inspired James Gunn’s take on the Guardians of the Galaxy) sees Annihilus go to war with the Heralds of Galactus and all of Marvel’s cosmic heroes show up to try and stop his Annihilation Wave from destroying everything. I’m not saying they’ll adapt (or even should adapt…that’s still in up in the air for me) this story for the next Infinity War/Endgame finale. But I think it shows Annihilus more than has the clout necessary to be the cosmic-level threat Marvel is most likely looking for.
Fourth, he looks awesome. How creepy and intimidating and monstrous does this guy look?? Have you even been looking at the pictures in this post?! Annihilus will look great on the big screen and will make for some pretty b.a. action figures and Halloween costumes too.
Lastly, whoever Marvel chooses for their next universe-wide threat has to have a power level to make them at least a credible threat to Captain Marvel. Once Carol Danvers hit the scene last March, there was no longer any debate about who the most powerful Avenger is (sorry Thor and Bruce…you’re second-class now (but I still love you both!)). Annihilus and his armies – their size, power, ferocity, and the unpredictability of Annihilus’ paranoid mind – would present a unique challenge for Carol. And any villain who can’t at least give Captain Marvel pause can’t be a credible big bad. I think Annihilus fits the bill here too.
So there you have it folks (in general) and Bryan (in particular). Annihilus is my (first) official guess as to the next mega, overarching big bad to threaten the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And if I’m right, I can come back to this post and be all, “Um, yeah, guess who called it?? Allow me to pretentiously answer my own question – it was me” forever and ever, to anyone who will listen, happily ever after for me!
P.S. After googling “Annihilus” to make sure I was spelling his name right, it turns out a zillion people have already guessed he will be the MCU’s next big bad. I guess there was even a rumor he’d be the real villain in Avengers: Endgame?? As I read no spoilers, this is all news to me. All I can say is I guess great minds think alike.
P.P.S. I have to admit, when I say “great,” I didn’t read any of those other posts so they may say terrible things I don’t agree with but I’m presuming the best in everyone first, especially those who agree with me here. Will history vindicate me? Who knows?
P.P.P.S. I like Annihilus and think he’d be the perfect follow up to Thanos…you know, to bring us back to the main point of this piece. Okay, goodbye. Have a great day! Thanks for reading!
But this wasn’t my only idea! If you’d like to see more ways to top Thanos, here they are:
 Christopher Marc, “Kevin Feige Officially Titles Phase 1-3 As ‘The Infinity Saga’ – Will Conclude With ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Next Month,” HN/Entertainment, https://hnentertainment.co/kevin-feige-officially-titles-phase-1-3-as-the-infinity-saga-will-conclude-with-avengers-endgame/ Accessed May 19, 2019.
 Borys Kit and Aaron Couch, “X-Men Franchise Poised for Shake-Up as Fox’s Marvel Heroes Migrate to Disney,” The Hollywood Reporter, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/x-men-hit-marvel-cinematic-universe-at-2021-1195846 Accessed May 19, 2019.
 “Annihilus.” Marvel Database. https://marvel.fandom.com/wiki/Annihilus_(Earth-616) Accessed 19 May 2019.
 Dani Di Placido, “The Cosmic Future of Marvel Looks Set to Eclipse Star Wars,” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danidiplacido/2019/05/09/the-cosmic-future-of-marvel-looks-set-to-eclipse-star-wars/#5631d87d5330 Accessed May 19, 2019. [[NOTE: This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. You’ve been warned.]]