The Mad Titan is not the only villain finally arriving in Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War. He's bringing with him a group of henchmen known in the comics but barely seen in the snippets of Infinity War we have so far: The Black Order. Here's what you need to know going in.
Our only real good shot of the Black Order (and Loki) in Avengers: Infinity War so far. Image: Avengers: Infinity War (Marvel Studios)
The Order themselves aren't actually that old a comics concept - they were first introduced in 2013, during Jonathan Hickman's incredible New Avengers run, eventually spinning off into the crossover event Infinity. There, they hunted down the Infinity Stones that had been acquired by the Illuminati - a secretive cabal of the smartest heroes on Earth, including Iron Man, Mr Fantastic, Namor, Beast, Black Bolt, Dr Strange and Black Panther.
The Illuminati and Captain America at the end of New Avengers #1. Image: Steve Epting, Rick Magyar, and Frank D'Armata (Marvel Comics)
It's an entirely different story as to why these heroes had the stones, but long story short: The Illuminati had detected other universes in the multiverse colliding into each other and destroying themselves in cosmic events called "convergences", and decided to protect their own reality by any means necessary, namely re-assembling the Infinity Gauntlet themselves. That plan didn't work, things got bleak as hell, and then Secret Wars happened, bringing with it a convergence that destroyed the Ultimate Marvel and prime Marvel universes. You should really, really go read this New Avengers run, but the point here is that because of this attempt to use the gauntlet, the Order - Thanos' heralds who do his bidding and act as generals when he sends his armies to raze worlds and conquer them in his name - came to Earth.
There have been a few incarnations of the Order in their relatively short existence (mostly thanks to them frequently betraying each other and getting each other killed) but the Order we'll be seeing in Infinity War is mostly based on its initial roster. We say mostly, because there's actually a reduced headcount: Black Swan and Supergiant, as far as we've seen, are not in the movie. But the rest of the original team - Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Ebony Maw and Black Dwarf - are. Say hello to them below! Or run away screaming! Look, they're pretty evil.
Corvus, and his glaive, in New Avengers #8. Image: Mike Deodato Jr. and Frank Martin (Marvel Comics)
The defacto leader of the Black Order, Corvus Glaive is Thanos' right-hand man, going around to worlds Thanos had targeted and demanding a tribute from them before commanding the armies that would ravage the planet. Although enhanced with super-strength and speed, the most special thing about Corvus is something that you might have guess from his name: He wields a special glaive (a fancy pole-sword thing) that can slice through anything with incredible precision. The glaive also has the added bonus of effectively making Corvus immortal - as long as the weapon is unbroken, Corvus can be revived from death.
He's done that a few times, having been handily beaten and killed by Hyperion (Marvel's alt-reality answer to Superman). After the events of Secret Wars and the re-formation of a new Marvel Universe, Corvus found himself on his last life after taking advantage of Thanos' seeming disappearance from the new universe to reform his own Black Order, amassing an empire of his own. When Thanos eventually returned, he was not pleased, and quickly dispatched Corvus, snapping his blade and offering him a choice: Corvus could kill himself, or Thanos would.
Corvus took part of the blade and killed himself. This being comics, though, he got better after he was revived (along with rest of the original Black Order) by one of the Elders of the Universe, the Challenger, as part of a deadly match between him and the Grandmaster.
A broken Atlantis bows to Proxima in Infinity #2. Image: Jerome Opeña, Dustin Weaver, and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Studios)
We've probably seen more of Proxima in the movie - she's the only one with an action figure, giving us a good look at her design - than any other member of the Order, and even then, we've seen more of her spear than anything else. In the comics, Proxima is perhaps the most loyal of Thanos' soldiers, sticking beside the Mad Titan even as other members of the Order broke away, got killed off or betrayed him. That is, until in the pages of The Unworthy Thor, when the Asgardian goddess of death, Hela, murdered Proxima to prove to Thanos she had something to offer him. Like Corvus, she's currently been revived for the Challenger and Grandmaster's arena squabble, though.
Also, like Corvus, Proxima is probably best known for her weapon (except hers doesn't keep her immortal). Her spear was hand-forged by Thanos himself out of a timey-wimey cosmic impossibility that existed as a star, supernova and black hole all at once. The spear itself could become pure energy, power that could endlessly pierce targets or turn into netting strong enough to even detain the Hulk.
Doctor Strange under Maw's thrall in Infinity #2. Image: Jerome Opeña, Dustin Weaver and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Comics)
Less of a warrior and more of a strategist, Ebony Maw's abilities were based on intelligence rather than raw strength. He's capable of teleportation and also supernatural persuasion; when the Black Order arrived on Earth, Maw used his skills to brainwash Doctor Strange, and used the Sorcerer Supreme to find out the location of the Infinity Stones and Thanos' son Thane, who'd been secreted away to a colony of Inhumans in Greenland to be kept safe from his father.
Maw ended up betraying Thanos upon finding Thane, though, taking the young man under his wing and shaping him into a weapon even more deadly than Thanos, under his control. After Thanos disappeared for a time in the post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe, Ebony Maw and Thane cut a path through the galaxy, gathering power, and Thane became as bloodthirsty as his father. Unfortunately for Maw, he and Thane ended up being captured by Corvus' new Black Order. In a running theme, Maw then betrayed Thane, escaping their prison while abandoning him to imprisonment. Eventually, Maw was recruited by the Challenger alongside his former teammates.
T'Challa schooling Black Dwarf in New Avengers #9. Image: Mike Deodato Jr and Frank Martin (Marvel Comics)
Renamed Cull Obsidian - which was actually an alternate name for the Order itself in the comics - for the movie, Black Dwarf is the most physically imposing member of the Black Order, with superhuman strength and even density, as well as unbreakable skin that can deflect almost any attack. But at the same time, he was also kind of the most mediocre?
When the Order arrived on Earth, Black Dwarf went to Wakanda in search of victims to appease Thanos. But, you know how Wakanda is - rarely are the Wakandans people to mess around with. They promptly kicked Dwarf's arse, forcing him to retreat, and Thanos was so embarrassed by Dwarf's failure he promptly expelled him out of the Order. Dwarf was given one more chance to redeem himself against the Avengers in battle, only to find himself promptly brained by Ronan the Accuser's Universal Weapon. Womp womp.
Black Dwarf doesn't even get the second chance the rest of the Order gets between the events of New Avengers and Secret Wars, as he's promptly forgotten about until the Challenger revives him to take part in his game with the Grandmaster. Just goes to show that size isn't everything!