**This article is a spoiler-free primer for Avengers: Endgame.**

Fans are counting down the hours until the blockbuster phenomenon Avengers: Endgame hits theaters. Over the last decade (2008–2019), Marvel Studios produced a vast network of films and characters within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, all of which culminate to this moment of the “Infinity Saga”—the release of Endgame.

To prepare for the finale, some fans, like myself, are watching all the films in chronological order (not order of release) to refresh our memories, relive the journey, and celebrate the end of this epic adventure. It’s like world-renowned author and storyteller C. S. Lewis once put it: “We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness.”

The most impressionable takeaway from the 2,868-minute MCU movie-watching marathon is the string tying the stories together: the infamous Infinity Stones. If you don’t know by now, the Infinity Stones—six singularities that existed before the universe began—contain distinct powers that villains in the MCU films are desperate to get their hands on for varying, but mostly destructive, purposes. In this ongoing “good versus evil” cosmic war, all the characters, even the heroes, are beautifully flawed (yes, even the noble Captain America himself) and are affected by the villainous crusades for these stones.

Hidden in the shadows of these movies are cosmic truths worth unearthing and revisiting as they help us understand our culture and what we can uniquely contribute to it.

We see the culmination of these stories tied together in the 2018 movie Avengers: Infinity War, where one, virtually unstoppable villain, Thanos, completes his universal quest for all five Infinity Stones. The nearly three-hour film ends differently from any other film in the MCU, because for the first time, the heroes—the Avengers—lose, with about half of them dying at the snap of Thanos’s fingers. For the past year, fans have been left with only a sliver of hope imagining how the rest of the Avengers can defeat the seemingly unbeatable mad titan Thanos. But before the exclamatory mea culpa of a failed unified effort by the Avengers is revealed in Infinity War, it is worth reflecting on the lessons their individual stories can teach us leading up to this moment.

The Iron Man trilogy, Incredible Hulk, and Doctor Strange films show us that even the most competent, intelligent, strong, and wealthiest men are devoid of understanding their true worth apart from a well-grounded, truth-telling community. Captain Marvel disseminates false ideas and culturally damaging norms about women that devalue their God-given emotions, strengths, and talents. Black Panther helps us look beneath the veneer of our cultural and ethnic biases of people groups not our own. Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and Spider-Man show us that even the most derelict, despicable, juvenile, and ill-tempered misfits aren’t too far from redemption. The Captain America and Thor trilogies show us how history informs and effects our present—and that virtues and idealistic visions for neighbor and country are viable attributes to overcome hatred and division.

These revelations can have relevant applications in many different avenues of our present reality. For example, Captain America: Civil War can show us our potential fate in the arena of American cultural politics if we are consumed by hatred, division, and vengeance. In Civil War, the primary goal of the villain, Zemo, is to cause division among the Avengers. It’s now obvious that was a similar goal of Russian operatives in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as outlined in the Mueller Report. As seeds of division are planted on our social media and news feeds, we’d do well to heed Zemo’s words for our next round of elections: “An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumbles from within? That’s dead. Forever.”

Politics aside, the Infinity Saga is a beautiful portrait of the multifaceted stories that thread humanity together. It is a story markedly flawed, even with the best intentions. Hidden in the shadows of these movies are cosmic truths worth unearthing and revisiting as they help us understand our culture and what we can uniquely contribute to it.

Like every category and genre of our beloved arts, music, and films, the Marvel Cinematic stories unveil revelations about the culture and our place in it. We look for ourselves in the process of classifying the protagonist and antagonist characters—and find it all the more enthralling when they are betwixt, because we are not one thing at all times. In God’s story, we are both. Sometimes we are the heroes proclaiming the gospel and helping our neighbors, and other times we are villains sinning against an infinitely good God for our own glory.

The allegorical elements of spirituality, faith, and human purpose embedded within the MCU films can give new life to our sometimes mundane and despondent world. Though each tale is similar, the unfolding of each unique plot and subplot awakens our senses to a real world our souls are desperately longing for.

And when it comes to the sequence of films in the Infinity Saga, each scene acts like the flip of a page in a novel, come alive in the theater of our imaginations, subsumed within an orb of inescapable cosmic and spiritual realities. It is indeed enthralling, because these are our stories. So cheers to the next phase dedicated to our beloved on-screen heroes and villains, as we await with great expectations for the Endgame of both our fantasies and realities.

Below you’ll find a roundup of Christ and Pop Culture articles and podcasts covering the MCU stories over the years.

In This Issue

Avengers: Infinity War: When Death Isn’t Final

Movies with such a dismal ending don’t usually inspire audiences to keep coming back for more—let alone smash box office records—so what’s really going on with Infinity War?

by K. B. Hoyle

Seeing and Believing 149: Infinity War Review and the Top 5 MCU Moments

A spoiler free review of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ from Wade and Kevin along with their Top 5 MCU moments from the previous 18 films.

by Jonathan Clauson

Oikos and Idolatry in Spider-Man: Homecoming

In Spider-Man: Homecoming, the villain Adrian Toomes represents a disturbingly plausible version of a very natural human tendency: the idolization of family.

by Geoffrey Reiter

Your Favorite Marvel Superhero Has an Off-Screen Life

Comic books have the ability to be informative portholes for everything ranging from pop culture, science, and history, to governmental, economic, and social structures.

by Timothy Thomas

Doctor Strange Helped Me Survive Election Night

The new movie Doctor Strange reminds us that there are forces at work that we cannot see.

by Jason Morehead

Seeing and Believing: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON + Summer Movie Preview

Puny humans Wade and Kevin are joined by Christianity Today‘s Jessica Gibson to review the new AVENGERS flick.

by Cray Allred

The Role of Black Women in the Church: A Wakandan View of Flourishing

The women in Black Panther are the best representation I’ve seen of God’s intention for His daughters.

by Kathryn Freeman

Thanos the Maniac

Thanos is a maniac in the sense used by G. K. Chesterton in his classic work Orthodoxy.

by Geoffrey Reiter

Captain Marvel and the Importance of Telling Female Hero Stories

Women and girls must know they can be agents of change—that their voices are as loud and as true, their strength and dedication just as valued and valuable, as their male counterparts.

by K. B. Hoyle

The Comic World as We Know It, Thanks to Stan Lee (1922–2018)

Perhaps his greatest legacy will be that he never treated comics and superheroes as mere disposable entertainment.

by Jason Morehead

Is Iron Man More Ethical Than Captain America?

“If one can disarm another of his powers if he misuses them, then that is better than detaining them and letting them keep their powers.”

by Christopher Hutton

‘It Matters Who You Are’: Character and Character Formation in ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

“On a more substantive level, however, many of Whedon’s favorite themes are also present, and none more so than the juxtaposition of the extraordinary with the ordinary.”

by Geoffrey Reiter

‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Is a Gourmet Cheeseburger for Christian Fans

The Avengers can’t be stopped, and their latest big-budget adventure shows the cinematic superhero genre at its zenith.

by E. Stephen Burnett

‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ and the Subversion of Human Nature

We may cheer for real-life heroes as if they’re beyond evil. But we understand completely when poser heroes in our fiction reveal their evil nature—and we favor their punishment.

by E. Stephen Burnett

“Something Good, Something Bad, a Bit of Both”: Natural Law, Nihilism, and Guardians of the Galaxy

It is precisely the contrast between the damaged yet ultimately sympathetic heroes and their maniacal foes that make Guardians of the Galaxy tick.

by Geoffrey Reiter

Living within the Story: Marvel’s Scriptural Form

What Marvel has tapped into is the power of extended narrative meaning, of situating a life story within a universe governed by order.

by Corey Latta

“Is It Too Late to Change the Name?” Redemptive Identity in Ant-Man

Ant-Man takes on the identity of a hero first, and only starts to act like a hero afterwards.

by Geoffrey Reiter

Family Matters in Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp

In Ant-Man and the Wasp, Marvel reveals the importance of intact families—wherever we might find them.

by K. B. Hoyle

Panel Discussion: ‘Captain America’ and Overcoming the Reality of Regret

Can we live a life for the sake of Christ and the kingdom of God without carrying any regrets about the consequences down the road?

by Jeremy Writebol

The Moviegoer: Exorcising Iron Man’s Demons

Iron Man’s Avengers PTSD isn’t the only history that’s creating turmoil in the hero’s life.

by Nick Olson

‘Captain America: Civil War’, A Prophetic Spectacle for Our Time

Perhaps the spectacle of ‘Captain America: Civil War’ can give us pause enough to consider our cultural situation and the precipice over which we stand.

by Jeremy Writebol

Black Panther or King T’Challa: The Search for Identity in Marvel’s Groundbreaking New Film

Black Panther offers a powerful lesson for us today: our fully realized identities are not found in responsibilities that can be relinquished, but in the sacrifices made when most seemingly unnecessary.

by Timothy Thomas

Seeing and Believing 191 | Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel and Our 2019 Summer-Movie Preview!

Captain Marvel from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck is up for review this week along with Wade and Kevin’s Summer Blockbuster Preview!

by Jonathan Clauson

Panel Discussion: Captain America and the Gospel’s Political Perils

So what is Captain America’s crime in the eyes of the political pundits? His sin seems to be caring about people.

by Jeremy Writebol

Spider-Man Comes Home to Marvel and His Fans

Spider-Man finally joins his superhero friends in the Marvel universe. Is he still the same Spidey?

by E. Stephen Burnett

It’s Not About You: Doctor Strange and the Dichotomy of Self

It’s not about us. And we think too little of ourselves.

by K. B. Hoyle

Seeing and Believing Episode 60: ‘Captain America: Civil War’ + An Interview with the Director of ‘Last Days In The Desert’

Christianity Today’s Jessica Gibson joins Wade and Kevin for a review of one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year.

by Jonathan Clauson

Panel Discussion: ‘Black Panther’ Reveals Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Multi-Medium Mastery

Ta-Nehisi Coates wants to see if comic books can handle the load that we often attribute to higher forms of intellectual activity.

by Jeremy Writebol

Seeing and Believing Episode 142: Marvel’s Black Panther and Our 2018 Oscar Preview!

Wade and Kevin journey to Wakanda this week as they review Ryan Coogler’s trailblazing contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther.

by Jonathan Clauson

Persuasion 130: The Flourishing of Black Women in Black Panther, with Kathryn Freeman

With an African-American cast and female-strong story line, the movie Black Panther has broken the Marvel mold. What will be the lasting impact of this film?

by Persuasion

In the Shade of Wakanda: The Resurrection of Broken White Boys

If we are ever to see difference as a gift, then we need a resurrection of sorts, but we would do well to remember that resurrection requires a death.

by Justin Phillips

Sin Demands a Reckoning in Thor: Ragnarok

On whose graves, and whose suffering, is our greatness built?

by K. B. Hoyle

1 Comment

  1. As I prepare to watch Endgame myself in a few hours, I appreciate this opportunity you gave us to reflect on the deeper lessons that the MCU has taught us up to this point. It is fascinating to me that although the directors do not intend to point viewers to Christ, we can still find glimmers of truth in the midst of these movies. I had never considered these movies from the angle that we are both heroes and villains on this side of heaven, and that is why we are drawn to the complexity of Marvel’s characters, but you are right—these movies are a more realistic portrayal of humanity, our culture, and our history than people see at first glance. Thank you for writing this piece; with your points in mind, I will watch Endgame with a new perspective and look for the truth within!

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