Marvel Studios has turned its connected cinematic universe into a bit of a video game, ticking off its 'Infinity Stone' MacGuffins one by one on the countdown to Avengers: Infinity War movie and climax of the studio's Phase Three.
But what are these Infinity Stones? Which ones has the Marvel Cinematic Universe turned up already? And where might the remainder be lurking in the upcoming MCU films?
(Warning: Contains spoilers for Black Panther)
The Infinity Gems in the comics
Called the Infinity Gems in the comics (maybe Marvel Studios thought 'stones' sounded less whimsical), the cosmically powered doodads were introduced in the '70s and quickly became the obsession of villain Thanos (that big intergalactic purple guy glimpsed in The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and, most recently, in the Avengers: Age of Ultron post-credits scene).
There are six stones - the Time, Space, Mind, Reality, Power, Space and Soul Gems, all colour coded for your convenience. They confer predictable abilities on their owners like teleportation (Space), telepathy (Mind) and time-travel (Time). Oh, apart from the Soul Gem, which sends people to a heavenly pocket dimension. Don't ask us why.
Together they form the Infinity Gauntlet, a serious piece of bling that, despite its ability to do anything its wearer can possibly imagine, still never manages to let Thanos actually win.
The gems are best known for their role in the 1991 Infinity Gauntlet event miniseries, which is widely considered a classic despite being - and we'll probably get in trouble with the comics police for saying this – a bit incoherent.
Which Infinity Stones have turned up in the films?
The Collector gave us the lowdown on the Gems in Guardians of the Galaxy, explaining that they are "six singularities... forged into concentrated ingots" at the birth of the universe. Got that?
Four of the six have showed up so far, though not always in very stone-like forms – take Thor: The Dark World's big red cloud, for instance. Anyhow, here they are:
The Space Stone: This is the blue stone otherwise known as the Tesseract, which first appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger and showed off its wormhole powers in the climax of The Avengers. It was shut up in Odin's vault, but (luckily?) it looks like Loki took it with him before the destruction of Asgard.
The Mind Stone: This yellow rock was knocking around for longer than we realised, hidden in Loki's mind controlling staff. It gave powers to Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and is currently embedded in the Vision's forehead (that's Paul Bettany's post-android character from Age of Ultron). Why Thanos was loaning this out in the first place remains a mystery.
The Reality Stone: The aforementioned red cloud, which the Dark Elf Malekith called the Aether and used to try to destroy the universe. Which seems a bit extreme. The Asgardians gave it to the Collector for safe keeping, which may have been a bad idea because that guy is a creepy slaver.
The Power Stone: The purple crystal inside that orb was just lying ignored until Star-Lord wandered in and picked it up. It makes things and people explode, and the (highly incompetent) Nova Corps is now looking after it. Who signed off on that?
The Time Stone: As speculated, the green gem in the amulet called the Eye of Agamotto (which Doctor Strange used to manipulate time) was the Time Stone, which explains his presence in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.
Which Infinity Stones are yet to rock up?
One gem is still unaccounted for: the Soul Stone, which by a process of elimination will be orange (rather than its traditional green).
There were various theories that the stone was hidden inside Thor's hammer Mjolnir or behind Odin's eyepatch, and would have a part to play in the Thor: Ragnarok storyline – theories which came to nothing.
And following it's no-show in Black Panther (unless we just totally missed it), we now know it won't be showing up until Avengers: Infinity War. Where it has been hiding remains a mystery.
As for the Infinity Gauntlet itself, well there are actually two knocking around. The first was an Easter egg in the first Thor film, stored among the other treasures in Odin's vault and bizarrely revealed to be a fake in Ragnarok.
The Infinity Stones will come together in Avengers: Infinity War on April 27, 2018, in the UK and May 4, 2018, in the US.
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