MCU mysteries we're still trying to comprehend

The Marvel Universe has done an amazing job of linking up numerous films and characters in a fairly cohesive world. We can see that the stories are heading towards something really big involving Thanos and the Infinity Stones, even if we're not 100 percent sure what that will entail just yet. But for all the work Marvel has put into making the stories seem real and fully fleshed out, there are still a few things going on that just make no sense.

Where do the Infinity Stones come from?

We know Thanos is a very bad purple man. We know he wants the Infinity Stones and we know mortals cannot wield their power. What we don't know is literally anything else. Where did the Stones come from? The Collector tells the Guardians that they existed before the universe as singularities and were distilled into powerful ingots. How does he know that? And how did Thanos know enough about them to make a glove that would fit all of them ahead of time? There's just too much mystery surrounding the Infinity Stones right now to make them even seem like a practical threat. If one can destroy planets on its own, just what could all of them do together — and why is Thanos so confident he can control them?

Do non-Marvel Studios properties exist there?

The introduction of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron introduced a whole bucket of trouble Marvel can't possibly explain. We, as an audience, know that Disney/Marvel owns the core properties of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They own the Avengers and their constituent members, and now they share Spider-Man with Sony, but they can't use the X-Men — except Quicksilver, evidently, which is strange. He was even in an X-Men movie.

As far as legalities go, the fact that Quicksilver has been both an Avenger and X-Man in the comics is probably what allowed him to appear in two separate film franchises. You'll notice that in the Avengers, he and his sister are never called mutants, and their father Magneto is never mentioned either. Those things are owned by Fox. But does Quicksilver's existence in the MCU mean that the X-Men and the Fantastic Four share a world with the Avengers? Which other mutants have the same crossover ability? A number of X-Men have fought alongside the Avengers over the years, notably Beast and Wolverine. Is there a way they could ever show up in the Avengers universe? Or if not them, then other less prominent X-characters?

Why aren't more heroes being recruited?

One of the key points in the Avengers is that Earth isn't ready. Nick Fury mentions that when Thor drops from the sky, he proves humanity is not ready to face threats from beyond the stars and they need to up their game. This, in part, is why the Avengers are formed. But if you consider the events of both Avengers and the individual films, the world is at risk a lot — like, several times a year — and the Avengers really should make better plans. At the end of Age of Ultron it looks like they have a B-squad, but in the comics the team has had literally dozens of different members over the years. From characters like Nova to Captain Britain to Havok and so many more, there are a lot of Avengers members out there, and they're going to be necessary if villains like Thanos, wielding the Infinity Gauntlet, are on their way to Earth. No offense to the current roster, but Hawkeye and his bow against Thanos is on par with a toddler arm-wrestling the Hulk.

How is Loki in charge?

Obviously Loki is a pretty crafty dude — we've seen that enough times already — but a lot of his power comes from an Infinity Stone no one even knows he has. On his own with no super-powered alien staff, most of his power seems to be related to casting illusions. So how does he usurp Odin? It's one thing to pull a prank and make people see things that aren't there. It's another to overthrow the throne of Asgard and take out Odin, who seems to be one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Odin can take Thor's powers away just by saying it. He can imbue Mjolnir with powerful magic to ensure only the worthy can wield it, and he has the ability to send Thor to earth even when the bifrost is all busted. What illusion could Loki have possibly cast to counter all that?

As it stands right now, Loki has the Asgardian throne and we don't know if Odin is alive or dead. Either one would be a heck of a feat, and both require some kind of explanation. Here's hoping it gets cleared up soon.


Towards the end of Iron Man 2, Tony Stark meets with Nick Fury at a SHIELD outpost. In the background, there's a map that has certain areas marked as points of interest, including a spot in New Mexico for Thor, Wakanda in Africa for the Black Panther, and then a random spot in the middle of the ocean. This was a pretty obvious reference for Atlantis, the underwater kingdom ruled by Prince Namor, a.k.a. the Sub-Mariner — and one of Marvel's oldest heroes. Unfortunately, Marvel hasn't announced any plans for a Namor appearance in any of their movies, and they might not even own the film rights to the character. It's never actually been revealed what Fury was looking at in that part of the ocean. There were so many other clues in that scene, and they've all panned out except this one.

Lingering questions: Does Atlantis exist? Are there super-powered fish? Is Nick Fury's impaired vision taking a toll on his road trip planning abilities?

The Red Skull's fate

Throughout Captain America: The First Avenger, the Red Skull uses the Tesseract to power his weapons. It's revealed to be a doorway to another world, and in the movie's climax, we get a glimpse of it. While he's fighting with Captain America, the Skull ends up touching the Cube with his bare hands, releasing the Cube's energy, opening the doorway, and getting sucked in. He's never been heard from again. We know from Thor that the doorway actually opened up to the World Tree, which connects each of the nine realms. Loki also gets sucked into the World Tree, and he survives.

Lingering questions: So where did the Skull end up? We know from The Avengers that the Chitauri were waiting on the other end of the Cube's portal. Is Red Skull a prisoner of the Chitauri? Is he working with them? Did he finally get that painful skin condition fixed?

The Leader

At one point, Marvel seemed like it was trying to pretend that The Incredible Hulk didn't exist — but then William Hurt reprised his role as General Ross for Captain America: Civil War, a signal that the studio is finally acknowledging the events depicted in the film. Which is good, because we need to find out what's happening with Samuel Sterns, also known as the Leader. He was last seen being knocked aside by the Abomination and getting gamma-irradiated blood samples spilled on him. Now that the Hulk's popularity has grown, it's time to find out what his archenemy is up to.

Lingering questions: Did Sterns go on to become a super-villain? Did he continue to experiment with gamma mutations? Did his insurance cover the injuries sustained from a gamma monster that he helped create? How much does gamma insurance cost, anyway?

The Vankos vs. the Starks

Marvel created a very elaborate backstory for Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2. Then, the filmmakers decided to cut most of it, leaving audiences with only brief references. All we know for sure is that Ivan Vanko considered the Starks to be monsters. This is one of several hints that maybe Howard Stark isn't really that great of a guy. We know from Agent Carter that he develops dangerously powerful weapons and sometimes let them fall into the wrong hands. That show also takes place before the elder Vanko has his falling out with Stark. Nick Fury makes a brief reference to the incident, but he's also been known to lie to get people to do what he wants them to do.

Lingering questions: Whatever happened between Howard Stark and Anton Vanko was bad enough that it drove Ivan want to murder several people while trying to kill Tony. What exactly happened that forced Howard to have Anton deported? Did they disagree on the feasibility of developing electric energy whips?

How is it that the Avengers aren't aware of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s existence?

During Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain Rogers and Black Widow discover that HYDRA had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. decades ago and that the evil organization was planning on annihilating millions of their enemies to take full control of the world. However, along with the help of Falcon and Maria Hill, the duo stopped HYDRA by dumping all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files on the internet, effectively bringing down both organizations.

In the aftermath, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series significantly altered its premise, forcing the titular S.H.I.E.L.D. team to go into hiding and operate covertly. That was in 2014. Since then, everyone seems to know S.H.I.E.L.D. exists in the series, yet no one in the movies — not even the Avengers — are aware of their existence, even though they are on the forefront of uncovering the world's Inhumans.

With the organization having officially reintroduced itself to the world, in the fourth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the question is, will future Avengers movies — or, perhaps, any of Netflix's Marvel TV shows — acknowledge the existence of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Or, at least, Agent Coulson (who was initially killed off in The Avengers), whom the Avengers may still believe is dead?

What happened to Odin in Thor 2?

There were many twists and turns in Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World, but perhaps the most jarring comes at the end of the film, when it's revealed that Loki had somehow survived his encounter with Algrim, returned to Asgard, and usurped Odin from the throne.

After bringing about peace across the Nine Realms and returning to Asgard, Thor tells his father, Odin, of Loki's sacrifice. Instead of taking his rightful place as King of Asgard, Thor rejects the throne, saying he would rather act as a protector. When he leaves, Odin transforms into Loki, who appears to be alive and well. But how did he get there, and what happened to Odin? These are two questions that elude fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When asked about it, Anthony Hopkins, who plays Odin, told MTV he thought Odin was dead. "I've done two [films], that's enough."

Interestingly, though, in Doctor Strange's mid-credits scene, Thor informs the Doctor that he and Loki are in New York searching for their father and that they will return to Asgard when they find him. Therefore, it seems that Odin's whereabouts will be a plot point in Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok. And since Hopkins has appeared in set photos for the film, it seems like Odin is still alive.

What happened in Budapest?

Budapest plays an integral role in the lives of several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, namely Nick Fury, Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), and Clint Barton (Hawkeye), though we'll focus on the latter two for now.

The first time we hear about Budapest is during the Battle of New York in The Avengers, while Hawkeye and Black Widow fend off a Chitauri invasion alongside the Avengers. Something about the battle reminded Black Widow of a classified mission she and Hawkeye conducted in Budapest. She remarks, "Just like in Budapest," to which Hawkeye responds, "You and I remember Budapest very differently."

Then again, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when Black Widow attempts to dump all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files on the internet to defeat HYDRA (which had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.), she is reminded by Alexander Pierce that doing so would expose her actions in Budapest. He wondered if she was ready for that kind of scrutiny.

The thing is, we still don't know what happened in Budapest. All we know is that it was a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission involving Hawkeye and Black Widow, and that the ramifications have affected them years later — so much so that a former member of the World Security Council knew about it, specifically.

Why does the Chitauri possess a hive mind?

In the early 2000s, Marvel launched an alternate, all-encompassing universe known as the Ultimate Universe, which featured re-imagined versions of the publisher's iconic superheroes. Along with these updated versions came new characters and races, such as the Chitauri — an extraterrestrial race of shapeshifters who were meant to replace the mainstream Marvel Universe's Skrulls race.

Casual moviegoers may recognize the Chitauri as the race of aliens who invaded Earth during the Battle of New York in The Avengers movie. In that movie, Iron Man redirects a nuclear bomb through the open portal above New York, toward the Chitauri's mothership in space. When the bomb detonates and destroys the mothership, all of the Chitauri on the ground suddenly drop dead — why?

The Chitauri are a sentient alien race, who do not utilize a hive mind, yet in the movie, they all die as if they were nothing more than drones. It's a stark difference compared to the comics, and something that remains a mystery to this day.

Who is the real Mandarin?

After the enormous success of The Avengers, everyone was looking forward to the release of Shane Black's Iron Man 3, which was going to pit Iron Man against his comic book archenemy, the Mandarin. Unfortunately, it appeared to be a ruse by Marvel to draw audiences in and connect all three Iron Man movies.

Throughout the film, audiences are led to believe that Ben Kingsley's character is the Mandarin, the leader of the multinational terrorist organization known as the Ten Rings. However, we later discover that Kingsley was actually playing the eccentric actor Trevor Slattery, who was hired by Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian — the head of Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) and creator of the Extremis virus — to act as a decoy for him, the "real" Mandarin.

The following year, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige explained that Killian's version of the Mandarin was taken from various legends throughout the world and adapted to cover his illegal activities. However, in the Marvel One-Shot, All Hail the King, Slattery is approached in prison and kidnapped by operatives of the real Mandarin. So we're still left wondering who the real Mandarin is. And will we ever see him (or her) in the MCU?

How was Tony able to remove the shrapnel from his chest?

Throughout the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, audiences are under the impression that if Tony Stark removed his arc reactor, the shrapnel in his chest would reach his heart and he would die. But in the final moments of Iron Man 3, without any explicit reason, the arc reactor suddenly became removable.

In the film's final battle, Aldrich Killian infects Pepper Potts with the Extremis virus, which she, in turn, uses to destroy Killian. After the battle, in order to ensure Potts' safety, Stark finds a way to stabilize the effects of the virus. He says, "As promised, I got Pepper sorted out — took some tinkering. But then I thought to myself, 'Why stop there?' Of course, there are people who say progress is dangerous, but I'll bet none of those idiots had to live with a chest full of shrapnel, and now neither will I."

What changed between the battle and Stark's surgery that allowed him to remove the shrapnel? Did he find some way to utilize the Extremis virus to repair any damage within his chest? Or was there a scientific breakthrough we don't know about? Perhaps it was just a convenient way to end the Iron Man trilogy, but really, it just seems like a mystery we'll never get the answer to.

Shouldn't the Infinity Stone in Loki's scepter be the Soul Stone, not the Mind Stone?

Infinity Stones (or Infinity Gems, in the comics) are primordial objects imbued with the powers of the universe. In James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy, the Collector (played by Benicio del Toro) describes them, saying, "Before Creation itself, there were six singularities. Then the universe exploded into existence, and the remnants of these systems were forged into concentrated ingots — Infinity Stones."

Thus far, five of the six Infinity Stones have been identified or recovered in the MCU: Space Stone (Tesseract, from Captain America: The First Avenger), Mind Stone (Loki's scepter, from The Avengers), Reality Stone (Aether, from Thor: The Dark World), Power Stone (Orb, from Guardians of the Galaxy), and Time Stone (Eye of Agamotto, from Doctor Strange). The sixth, the Soul Stone, has yet to be identified. But the question is, shouldn't Loki's Scepter house the Soul Stone, not the Mind Stone?

In The Avengers, Loki places his Scepter on people's chests, near their hearts, in order to control and manipulate them — nowhere near their minds. And when he tries do the same to Tony, nothing happens, because Tony's arc reactor is covering his heart. Furthermore, in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Vision is created by Tony uploading his A.I., J.A.R.V.I.S., into a synthetic android created by Ultron, augmented by the Mind Stone. But, in actuality, doesn't the Infinity Stone provide Vision with a soul, since J.A.R.V.I.S. already acts as the mind?

Why is Thanos recruiting lackeys to use Infinity Stones that he eventually needs?

Speaking of Infinity Stones, the overarching narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been leading up to an ultimate showdown between Earth's mightiest heroes and the Mad Titan, Thanos, in Anthony and Joe Russo's Avengers: Infinity War. However, thus far, Thanos has yet to recover one Infinity Stone. Instead, he has been recruiting lackeys, like Loki, Ronan, and possibly Ultron, to use and obtain said Infinity Stones for him. Why?

In The Avengers, Thanos gives Loki a scepter housing the Mind Stone so that the Asgardian could mind-control S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to do his bidding. Then, in Guardians of the Galaxy, Thanos promises to destroy Xandar if Ronan the Accuser obtains the Power Stone for him. And, in Avengers: Age of Ultron (though this point is contentious), it appears that Ultron may have been working for Thanos — evident by the fact that Thanos said in the film's mid-credits scene, "Fine, I'll do it myself."

In all three circumstances, both Infinity Stones — the Mind Stone and the Power Stone — have fallen into the hands of the Avengers, and later Asgard. If Thanos wants the Infinity Stones for the Infinity Gauntlet, why doesn't he obtain them himself? He is more than capable of fighting the Avengers without the Infinity Gauntlet, and he can certainly command his own army. Because, after all this time, it appears that using hirelings hasn't worked out in his favor.

Why are there two Infinity Gauntlets?

In the aforementioned mid-credits scene of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thanos opens a vault and puts on the Infinity Gauntlet, saying, "Fine, I'll do it myself." It's a curious scene because it makes you wonder if Thanos stole the Infinity Gauntlet from Odin's vault. The first time we see the Infinity Gauntlet is in Kenneth Branagh's Thor, inside Odin's vault in Asgard, alongside a handful of other powerful relics. However, as it turns out, there are actually two gauntlets in the MCU.

While promoting the release of Age of Ultron, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told CinemaBlend, "There are two different gloves. That was not Odin's vault that you see at the end." So, then why are there two Infinity Gauntlets? We know by looking at them that they are each for different hands. And since there aren't 12 Infinity Stones, that must mean one of them is a fake; something that executive producer Jeremy Latchman indirectly confirmed while promoting the home video release of the film.

While speaking to /Film, Latcham asked, "Which one do you think is the real one?" It seems strange, then, to incorporate two gauntlets in the MCU — both of which have appeared in some capacity of fan service, either as an Easter egg or in a mid-credits scene. If we accept that there are actually two gauntlets in the universe, then which gauntlet is the real one?

Does T'Challa no longer support the Sokovia Accords?

In Anthony and Joe Russo's Captain America: Civil War, T'Challa (Black Panther) is from the country of Wakanda, which hosts a special United Nations session to pass the Sokovia Accords — legislation that allows for the international governing body to regulate enhanced individuals, namely the Avengers. He and his family support the initiative, especially after the catastrophic events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, the question of the matter is, at the end of the film, does he still support the Accords?

The session is interrupted by an explosion, one that killed the Wakandan leader (and T'Challa's father) T'Chaka. At the time, the primary suspect was Bucky Barnes. And to exact vengeance, Black Panther hunts down Barnes, whom Captain America aids in escaping. After all, Captain Rogers and a handful of other superheroes aren't exactly onboard with the idea of registering themselves (and their abilities) with the United Nations. But, by not signing the Accords and aiding the Winter Soldier, Captain America became a fugitive.

By the end of the film, Black Panther discovers that Barnes was only a scapegoat, and the real villain is Baron Zemo. After that, he offers Captain America and the Winter Soldier asylum in Wakanda, while the Wakandan scientists search for a cure to Barnes' brainwashing. Since T'Challa is now technically harboring fugitives who are strict opponents of the Sokovia Accords, does that mean he no longer supports the new legislation?