Avengers: Infinity War clearly took some liberties with Marvel Comics canon, combining and re-arranging famous storylines like "The Infinity Gauntlet" and "Infinity" into an epic cosmic quest, featuring the Marvel Cinematic Universe's big bad, Thanos.
Due to restrictions on the characters available for use in the MCU at this time, Infinity War had to make some significant changes and substitutions to the original storyline. We've already done the breakdown of how Hulk is filling Silver Surfer's role in the MCU version - now let's talk about how Doctor Strange plays the role that Adam Warlock did in the original "Infinity Gauntlet" comics. Warning - Major Avengers: Infinity War spoilers follow!
The original "Infinity Gauntlet" saw Thanos kill half the population of the universe early on in the storyline, leading the Marvel heroes to attack the Mad Titan, with Adam Warlock helping as their guide, as Warlock knows the most about the Infinity Gems, and is deeply connected to the Soul Gem, and its Soul World. Warlock allows a lot of dark and drastic events to play out (including Thanos slaughtering a lot of the major Marvel superheroes, as well as the cosmic entities of the universe) - until it's revealed that this is all a part of dangerous chess game Warlock is playing.
When Thanos has the Infinity Gauntlet stolen from him by Nebula, he is cast into space and nearly killed, until Doctor Strange's portal brings him to Earth, where Warlock reveals to Thanos that his defeat was pre-determined, as Warlock's connection to the Soul Gem allowed him the insight into Thanos soul, which ultimately felt unworthy of the Gauntlet's power. It's that last part that Avengers: Infinity War seems to be tapping into, with its pivotal Doctor Strange moment in the film.
In this MCU version of the story, Doctor Strange has a major moment that could draw from the original "Infinity Gauntlet" for a big twist development in Avengers 4. That scene sees Strange in some kind of mystical meditation, which he reveals to be a part of the Time Stone's power, allowing him to visit possible futures (14 million, to be exact), and witness how Thanos may be able to be defeated. At the end of the film, when Thanos erases half of all life in the MCU, Doctor Strange is one of his victims. However, before Strange disintegrates, he tells Tony Stark that "It was the only way," presumably referring to all the loss and destruction that has taken place since Strange had his time-jumping visions.
Based on Doctor Strange's vision, his final words, and the pretty much guaranteed restoration of the MCU in Avengers 4, it's fairly clear that Strange is being positioned for the Warlock role in the story - i.e., the one who knows that the path of death and destruction is the only way to an ultimate victory of the power of the destructive might of the Infinity Gauntlet. How that knowledge will help the MCU heroes finally win the Infinity War in the next film remains to be seen; however, given the original "Infinity Gauntlet" storyline, it wouldn't be surprising if Thanos is ultimately defeated by his own psyche, much like he was in the books. By letting the Mad Titan get what he thinks he wants, Strange may have opened the door for Thanos' doubt and angst to be his greatest weakness.
Avengers 4 could also take a different route, with Strange's prediction proving to be true (letting Thanos win temporarily being the only path to victory) - but the actual path to victory hinging on more active efforts by the MCU heroes, instead of Thanos psyching himself out.
Do you think Doctor Strange will completely fulfill Warlock's role, and end up being the new Guardian of the Infinity Stones? Or are you holding out hope that the real Warlock shows up in Avengers 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Avengers: Infinity War is now in theaters. Other upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies include Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6th, Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, the fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.