Avengers: Infinity War featured the surprising return from a major villain from the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Red Skull. Captain America's old enemy played a surprising role in the film, one that may make him the MCU equivalent of another Marvel Comics character, the Unseen.
In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos completed his quest for the Infinity Stones. This meant acquiring the long-lost Soul Stone. Thanos learned of its location on the planet Vormir from his "daughter," Gamora, and took her with him to retrieve it.
The planet was almost entirely deserted but for one cloaked figure floating before them. Once brought into the light, this figure is revealed to be the Red Skull.
The Red Skull explained that when he held the Tesseract at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger the Infinity Stone sent him to Vormir, where he has been left to serve as a guide and guardian for the Soul Stone. Red Skull's quest for power left him bound in servitude, much the same as another character from the Marvel Comics universe.
That character is now known as the Unseen but was once known as Nick Fury, director of SHIELD. In the 2014 Marvel Comics event series Original Sin by writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Deodato, Nick Fury revealed that he had been in space defending the Earth from galactic threats by any means necessary.
One of Uatu the Watcher's eyes was stolen by the supervillains the Orb, the Exterminatrix, and Doctor Midas. Fury arrived to investigate, but Uatu's oath to observe but not interfere with what happens on Earth prevented him from telling Fury who he had been assaulted by. Realizing that whoever possesses the Watcher's eye was a threat to Earth and that the only was to reveal who those assailants were was to use Uatu's other eye, Fury killed Uatu and took the eye for himself.
Fury used an LMD to send the Avengers and other Marvel heroes on a wild goose chase searching for Uatu's killer. Eventually, the Winter Soldier realized it was Fury himself and the Avengers were forced to fight Fury. When the dust settled, Fury was still alive, but the Watchers came to punish him for Uatu's death. They cursed him to be bound to the moon where he would forever observe the events taking place on the planet he went to such great lengths to protect, but would never be able to act to protect it again.
While Red Skull never shared Fury's noble intentions, the stories are similar. Both came too close to an item of cosmic power and were punished for their hubris. Whether intentional or not, Red Skull's design in Avengers: Infinity War is even similar to that of the Unseen.
The Unseen, despite his curse, is still finding ways to remain active in the Marvel universe, most recently assembling a team of Exiles to defend reality from an entity called the Time-Eater. If the Red Skull is fulfilling the Unseen's role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, could he have a role to play in its future as well?
What do you think of this theory? Let us know in the comments!
Avengers: Infinity War is now playing in theaters.
Other upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies include Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6th, Captain Marvel opens 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.