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Ways Captain Marvel could defeat Thanos

You might still be in shock following the ending of Avengers: Infinity War, but hope is on the way in the form of Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson. Reportedly a '90s-set period piece exploring the character's origin story, the movie is poised to answer a few of the questions left dangling by Infinity War's post-credits scene, which seems to imply that a certain cosmically powered blonde Air Force pilot will be showing up in Avengers 4 to turn the tide of battle against Thanos.

It's worth wondering how any new superhero can beat back Thanos after the Mad Titan took down the Hulk and Thor (not to mention just about every other Avenger), so for the curious, we've combed through decades of comics and months of interviews to find out just how powerful Captain Marvel really is. From her superpowers to her intergalactic political prowess, here are the ways Captain Marvel could win the war against Thanos in Avengers 4.

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A Marvel-ous power set

In the comics, Captain Marvel is one of the heaviest hitters in the Marvel Universe. During Infinity, one of the Thanos-centric storylines that inspired Avengers: Infinity War, Carol Danvers is part of the team of Avengers that attacks Thanos and his Black Order on Earth, fighting alongside Hulk, Thor, and Hyperion — basically Marvel's equivalent to Superman. That's a powerful group, and Captain Marvel is as strong as any of them.

Beyond her super strength, flight, and energy blasts, she can also absorb energy as diverse as antimatter from Blue Marvel (one of the other Superman analogues in Marvel) or magic (in a Doctor Strange team-up). Much like Chumbawumba, Captain Marvel gets knocked down, but gets back up again, usually two, three, or even four times as strong. Thanos might be tough, but this will be the first time he'll face someone onscreen who gets stronger the more power he throws at her.

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She'll use her own glowing rock

Considering how powerful Thanos proved himself even before wielding the Infinity Gauntlet, it might take another powerful artifact to defeat him. Luckily, the Marvel Universe is packed with cosmic doohickeys. There's the Infinity Gauntlet, of course, but there's also the Cosmic Cube, the Eye of Agamotto, and many more. 

In the MCU, most of these items have been repurposed as Infinity Stones, but there are still a few out in space that haven't been mentioned yet. One is the M'Kraan Crystal, which houses massive stores of energy and serves as a nexus for alternate realities. It's usually protected by the Shi'ar, one of the more well-known alien races in the Marvel Universe. Captain Marvel's going to be returning to Earth after years spent in space, presumably interacting with Marvel's many alien empires. It might take an artifact of that level of importance to even the odds against Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet, and if anyone has access to the M'Kraan Crystal, it'll be Carol Danvers.

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As Binary

Captain Marvel's adventures often take her to space. In one such story, Carol and the X-Men were kidnapped by the Brood, a race of alien creatures who performed experiments on their prisoners. Their genetic meddling unlocked a new level of power for Danvers, giving her a new identity, Binary, and a physical connection with the connective tissue of the universe.

As Binary, Carol Danvers has all the powers of a White Hole: massive amounts of heat, light, energy, and gravity, as well as a level of cosmic awareness that lets her find her way through space and sense danger. In addition to controlling fundamental forces of the universe, she's also much, much stronger as Binary; in a fight with Rogue while the mutant possessed Carol's old Captain Marvel powers, Binary was able to punch Rogue straight into orbit. Carol eventually burned out her new powers after restoring a dying sun to full health and returned to her previous power levels — although when she overloads her absorption powers, she's still able to tap into Binary form temporarily. Thanos has no idea what he's in for.

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Cinematic smackdown

Even if she's powerful in the comics, Captain Marvel can't possibly be more powerful than an Asgardian god or the Sorcerer Supreme in the movies, right? Wrong. According to Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige, Carol Danvers is more formidable than anyone we've seen in the MCU thus far. In a talk with Vulture, Feige said, "With Captain Marvel, she is as powerful a character as we've ever put in a movie. Her powers are off the charts, and when she's introduced, she will be by far the strongest character we've ever had."

Note Feige's phrasing — he doesn't just say she'll be the strongest superhero introduced so far, he goes so far as to say she'll be the strongest character they've ever had, including villains. Considering we've seen Dormammu, Hela, Odin, and Thanos, that's quite the statement. There's a very good chance that the cinematic Carol Danvers can take down Thanos in a straight-up fight, even without the help of the other Avengers.

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Adapting Infinity Gauntlet

Infinity served as a major inspiration for Infinity War. But while it was an influence on the events of the film, it wasn't the biggest. Instead, that honor goes to Infinity Gauntlet, a miniseries that features Thanos assembling the Infinity Gauntlet, killing half of the universe in a single snap, capturing and torturing Nebula, and fighting various Avengers. Sound familiar?

In Infinity Gauntlet, the remaining heroes who fight Thanos after surviving the genocidal finger snap are led by a being with cosmic awareness named Adam Warlock. Although he's not familiar to most of the heroes, they trust him enough to follow his plan. While Warlock is due to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy 3, it's been confirmed that we won't see him in Avengers 4 — so it's much more likely that directors Joe and Anthony Russo will sub in Captain Marvel. Carol will be likewise mysterious to the surviving Avengers, and her time spent in space will give her the awareness of the cosmic balance that would allow her to fill Adam Warlock's role.

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She'll get powered up by the surviving scientists

If there's one thing Tony Stark is good at, it's building powerful armor. If there's one thing Shuri is good at, it's making jokes at her brother's expense (and making suits that are even better than Stark's). While we don't know whether Shuri survived the end of Infinity War, that still leaves the two second-smartest people in the MCU, Stark and Bruce Banner, to figure out a plan of attack against Thanos.

The best plan might be powering up Captain Marvel. If you add Stark tech to Wakandan technology, you're likely to end up with someone who can go toe to toe with Thanos even without superpowers. Infinity War established how useful Banner could be by wearing armor even without Hulking out. Imagine if they outfitted someone who already has superpowers. If they load Captain Marvel up with that level of tech, the fight might be over quicker than you can say "arc reactor."

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All according to plan

The reason we're even talking about Captain Marvel in the upcoming Avengers film is due to Nick Fury dialing her up on a space pager at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Considering everything Fury has seen go down in the MCU, his decision to call Carol Danvers back from space is a big deal. On the other hand, he's relatively calm in doing so, especially considering he's watching people fade to dust around him.

Fury has faked his death at least once onscreen, and the man's got a plan for everything. It's not unlikely that he's anticipated an event on this scale, and worked out that plan with Danvers before she left for space. While Fury might be gone in Avengers 4, the  network of SHIELD operatives and contingency plans should still be around (or half of them, anyway), and it makes sense that they would turn to the woman that's most experienced to take advantage of it. There's precedent in the comics as well: In the Ultimate Universe, she was an Executive Director of SHIELD.

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Military expertise

Speaking of experience in leading soldiers, there's another aspect to Captain Marvel that could easily come into play for Avengers 4: her military service. She was an Executive Director of SHIELD in the Ultimate Universe — and even in the "regular" Marvel Universe, she's a colonel in the Air Force. Not to mention the many times she's led a team of heroes for interplanetary defense or as the head of Alpha Flight. While her superpowers and fighting prowess are arguably the flashiest aspects of the character, it might just be her military leadership that helps her rally the Avengers together to finally kill Thanos.

If you're wondering why Captain America wouldn't be leading the team, well, she actually outranks him. Even if he hadn't given up the mantle and turned in his shield, her rank as colonel would make her the commanding officer over Steve Rogers' honorary rank.

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She's bringing some outer-space friends

Carol Danvers has been a part of almost every team in the Marvel Universe. One of her most important roles was as the Ambassador Extraordinary, Earth's representative on the galactic stage. In that role, she was called upon to do everything from negotiating trade embargoes between the Shi'ar to rallying Earth's fairweather allies to defend against extraterrestrial invasion.

It's a role that takes full advantage of Captain Marvel's alien-related origin. She originally received her powers in an encounter with the beings known as the Kree, giving her a complicated relationship with the ultra-advanced alien race. We already know they're not exactly fans of Thanos — when Ronan is working for Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy, he's doing so as a terrorist with no official support from the Kree Empire. While they might be willing to turn a blind eye to some light murder by a Kree soldier, it seems likely that they won't have the same leniency toward Thanos once the curtain rises on Avengers 4.

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Carol Danvers, the Guardian of the Galaxy

Carol Danvers is a pretty busy woman in the Marvel Universe. In addition to her role as an Avenger, an Ultimate, the leader of Alpha Flight and the Ambassador Extraordinaire, she's also been an occasional member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. With her cinematic counterpart spending time roaming space between the '90s and the present, this is the perfect chance to connect her to the MCU's Guardians of the Galaxy.

Most of the Guardians were wiped out in Thanos' galactic purge, but they aren't the only ones who go by that title. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 showcased a team that had been around years before Peter Quill started grooving around to his Walkman. In Carol's years of space travel, it makes perfect sense that she would run into the team. If she's coming back to fight a universe-threatening foe, it would be a fitting moment for her to return with some galactic guardians of her own in tow.

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Yoink

Captain Marvel could play the Adam Warlock role from the original Infinity Gauntlet comic series, but there's another part she could play: that of the Silver Surfer. In Infinity Gauntlet, one of Adam Warlock's main plans involves rallying the surviving superheroes to fight Thanos long enough to distract him while the Surfer flies at top speed to snag Thanos' gauntlet and restore the universe.

While the plan didn't quite work in the comics (unless we count What If: The Silver Surfer Possessed the Infinity Gauntlet), the plan is instrumental to Thanos' ultimate defeat. In addition, it relies on someone able to fly so fast that they actually stand a chance of actually nabbing the glove. Who better than Captain Marvel, who's been able to fly at mach speeds? Of all the possibilities outlined above, this is arguably the most likely to happen, since it foregrounds Captain Marvel's presence in the film while also allowing room for the other Avengers to contribute.