Before we get to the Black Order, let’s catch up. It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since Marvel Studios first dropped Iron Man in theaters back in 2008. When Nick Fury appeared at the end of Iron Man to talk about the Avengers Initiative, fans went wild with possibilities. I know that I was dumb enough to think that Iron Man 2 would be an Avengers film. After all, who could have possibly known what Marvel was planning for the Avengers. It simply hadn’t been done before. For all we knew, Iron Man 2 was going to follow the trend of superhero movies going from 0-120mph without any real back story.
Well, Iron Man 2 was just an Iron Man film and what we got instead were three other films before seeing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in action. We’ve since seen these heroes come together and separate in a couple ways and all of it has been building toward Infinity War. When Thanos arrived at the end of Avengers, folks dreamed of the day when the Mad Titan would assemble the stones and create the legendary Infinity Gauntlet. Now that day is nine days away and I am here to give you some background on Thanos’ minions, known in the film as the Black Order.
Last time around, I gave you a deep dive on the Cosmic Couple from Hell, Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight. In the first column, I covered who Thanos is and why he is coming to Earth. This last piece is going to take a look at the remaining two members of the Black Order, Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian, who was known as the Black Dwarf in the comics. This will round out my features on Thanos and the Black Order. So, without any further ado, let’s get cracking on our villains. As an aside, if you want to read my predictions for the film based on what we know from the trailers and previous films, you can check out my Infinity War Preview and Predictions column from earlier.
*** Potential Spoilers Ahead ***
As mentioned in our previous articles, the Black Order is a relatively recent creation in the comics. They first popped up in the pages of New Avengers Vol. 3 #8 back in 2013. They were introduced as part of the Infinity storyline. The basic plot saw Thanos searching the globe for an Infinity Stone. The real plot was much more sinister; he wanted to track down and kill Thane, his son. In order for Thanos to maximize his chances of finding Thane, he sent his various generals to do his bidding. These generals are known as the Black Order, which in the comics is referred to as the Cull Obsidian. As mentioned above, last time we looked at Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight. This time we will take a look at the two remaining Black Order members adopted for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ebony Maw and the Black Dwarf, renamed Cull Obsidian for the MCU and referred to as such in the remainder of this article.
Who is Cull Obsidian? Brother of Corvus Glaive, Cull Obsidian is the muscle of Thanos’ Black Order. He has an uncanny amount of strength and impenetrable skin. He is not, however, known for his brains. He’s typically known to carry one of two weapons, a huge two-headed axe or a huge mace. His weapons are less than impressive, especially when compared to his brother and sister-in-law. Really, he doesn’t need impressive weapons, because he is the weapon. He can give even the Hulk a run for his money.
How about Ebony Maw? Ebony Maw stands apart from the other members of the Black Order. His strengths lay not in is limbs, but in his mind. He is the master persuader. Just a whisper from Maw can force even the strongest minds to do his bidding. He needs no weapons. He operates in the shadows more than in the open. He is stealthy and manipulative. With this sort of control over anyone he chooses, it can be argued that Maw is the most dangerous member of the Black Order.
Let’s talk a little bit about Cull Obsidian’s role in Infinity. Like Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive, Thanos tasks Cull Obsidian with storming a location on Earth in search of the Infinity Stone. Cull is sent along with the Outriders, Thanos’ army, to Wakanda to breach the Golden City. However, when he arrives, he quickly finds that his is out matched by the Wakandan army and two Black Panthers, T’Challa and Queen Shuri. Cull and the Outriders retreat after an intense battle. Returning to Thanos as an utter failure, Cull is banished from Thanos’ side and remains with the space armada for the remainder of the story and, ultimately, his life.
During this invasion of Earth, most of the Avengers are off world in a battle with a different intergalactic threat. Once that threat has been neutralized, they receive message of Earth’s attack and high-tail it back along with a few members of the Galactic Council and their armies. While attempting to break the blockade Thanos has created around Earth, Cull Obsidian decides this would be a good chance to redeem himself by defeating the Avengers before the can make it past. Suffices to say, this does not end well for Cull who ultimately gets judged and executed in fantastic fashion by Ronan the Accuser of Kree.
Ebony Maw probably fairs the best of the Black Order in the Infinity storyline. Unlike the other Black Order members, Maw does not concern himself with the location of the Infinity Stone. Instead, he goes straight to the heart of things and sets out to find Thane, son of Thanos. Because Maw’s strength lays in his mind and not in his muscles, his target is none other than the Sorcerer Supreme himself, Dr. Strange. He breaks Strange’s mind and takes it for his own, turning Strange into a double agent without him even knowing it. Through a lengthy series of events, Stange ultimately uncovers the secret inhuman settlement in which Thane lives and never has any idea he’s betrayed his fellow Avengers.
Ebony Maw, as it turns out, is less loyal to Thanos and more of an opportunist. Like a good general, he reports back his findings, bringing Thanos, Corvus Glaive, and Proxima Midnight to Thane. However, it turns out that Thane’s inhuman abilities make him far from defenseless. When the Avengers show up for their final showdown with Thanos, Thane takes matters into his own hands, encasing his father in amber, along with Proxima Midnight and the glaive of the defeated Corvus Glaive. Maw, who whispered the encouragement into Thane’s ear to destroy his father, knows his best bet is to change allegiances at this point and leaves Earth with Thane as his new master (or maybe puppet is more appropriate).
As with the other members of the Black Order in the MCU, not much is known about Cull Obsidian or Ebony Maw. We can glean from trailers that he will likely be tied up with Doctor Strange for a portion of the film. As mentioned in the comics, Strange was never able to overcome Maw’s powers. It took Maw himself dropping the enchantments for Strange to recover. Even then, Strange was still clueless about what had just happened. Maw also has similar powers to a member of the Black Order not seen in the film, Supergiant. It’s possible that they could combine Supergiant’s powers with Maw’s and make him one hell of a foe in the MCU.
The big question here is whether or not Maw will betray Thanos at the end of these films like he did in the comics. Maw is a pretty self-serving guy and it would add to the chaos if he turned out to be a double agent. They’re not going to use Thane as a plot point — I wouldn’t think — but there are other ways for Maw to betray Thanos. Perhaps it is Maw that could talk the Gauntlet off Thanos at the end by convincing him to become a God. Thanos took on Eternity at the end of Infinity Gauntlet, doing so turned him into the Eternal body he had hoped for but it also meant he was unable to physically hold onto the Gauntlet, which Nebula then took and returned everything the way it was after a bit of talking down.
As far as Cull Obsidian’s mandate, he looks like he will be in Wakanda just like in the comics. Given that Bruce Banner is already in Wakanda before Thanos’ invading army arrive, one would figure that Cull Obsidian and the Hulk have a date with destiny. It’s worth remembering that Cull Obsidian was one of the least effective members of the Black Order in the comics, so whether or not Marvel choose to portray him in this fashion has yet to be seen. I don’t doubt that he will have his share of moments, if only to showcase his raw strength and ability, but he is one of the weaker members despite being one of the physically strongest.
The Black Order is one of the greatest ideas Marvel had back in 2013. The characters give Thanos an army of evil that has the ability to keep up with even the most powerful heroes. It’s odd to watch it all unfold, too. Brutes like Black Dwarf getting crushed by Ronan while Ebony Maw rides off into the sunset laughing at Thanos. These characters have it all; intelligence, strength, weapons of mass destruction, raw power, cunning ability, and master deceivers. This motley crew is bound to thrill and excite fans as they intend to tear our heroes down in an effort to reshape the world as they see it.