The footage includes a shot of Black Panther, whose nation is preparing for war with the Thanos’ army, battling a four-armed creature. This is one of the Outriders, a race of humanoids genetically modified to serve Thanos’ specific needs. Once their purpose is fulfilled they are granted the gift of death.
The Outriders played a role in the Marvel Comics event series Infinity, which seems to serve as at least the partial inspiration for Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos uses the Outriders to seek out new planets to target. When one of the Outriders finds a new planet they then report back to Corvus Glaive, a member of Thanos’ Black Order. The Black Order would then travel to that planet and demand tribute for Thanos. If the planet refused, it would be razed.
At the beginning of Infinity, one Outrider arrived on Earth. The creature uses its invisibility and telepathy powers to infiltrate the homes of many of the Earth’s mightiest heroes, including Attilan, the home of the Inhumans. The Inhumans king Black Bolt wakes and rips off one of the Outrider’s limbs, but the creature still manages to escape and inform Thanos that most of the Avengers are occupied fighting a war off-planet and that the Earth been left relatively undefended. Thanos sees his opportunity and decides to invade the Earth.
The Inhumans will not be in Avengers: Infinity War and the Avengers are not off-planet, but it seems this sequence could play out in a slightly different but very similar way. Rather than visiting Attilan, the Outrider creeps into Wakanda. Instead of encountering Black Bolt, he runs into Black Panther. The battle seen in the first Avengers: Infinity War footage occurs, the Outrider escapes and returns to Thanos and informs his lord that, while most of the Avengers are on Earth, their heaviest hitters – Thor and Hulk – are gone and the remaining Avengers are splintered apart following the events of Captain America: Civil War, presenting the perfect opportunity for the Mad Titan to strike.
While we can’t be certain that’s how the events of Avengers: Infinity War will play out, it makes a lot of sense if Marvel Studios is using Infinity as the skeleton of their story. Either way, the Outriders are just one more advantage that Thanos has over the Avengers.
Avengers: Infinity War brings the Guardians of the Galaxy to Earth to team up with the Avengers to face off against Thanos and his minions. It seems the Guardians now include Nebula among their crew.
Avengers: Infinity War is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and stars Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Benedict Wong, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Scarlett Johansson, Benicio del Toro, Tom Holland, and Anthony Mackie.
Avengers: Infinity War opens May 4, 2018.