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The Entire MCU Timeline Explained

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22:28   |   Jun 08, 2019

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The Entire MCU Timeline Explained
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  • The massive scope of the MCU has allowed Marvel Studios to create a sprawling, interconnected
  • universe built on a shared continuity, and much like the comics the movies are based
  • on, that means things can get pretty complicated.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't start with Tony Stark getting kidnapped in 2008,
  • Carol Danvers being taken to Hala in the '90s, or even with Steve Rogers volunteering for
  • the Super Soldier program in the '40s.
  • Instead, like most universes, this one starts at the Big Bang.
  • Going chronologically, the first event we see in the MCU is the creation of the Infinity
  • Stones.
  • As the Collector explains in Guardians of the Galaxy, they were formed from the "six
  • singularities" that caused the universe to explode into existence, before being scattered
  • across the universe.
  • That, of course, was billions of years ago, but "millions of years" before we get to the
  • present-day MCU, Ego the Living Planet comes into existence and starts seeding worlds with
  • his essence in an attempt to create another Celestial being like himself.
  • Thousands of years ago, as we find out in Thor: The Dark World, Malekith the Accursed
  • laid siege to Asgard and was fought off by Bor, the father of Odin.
  • Bor "vanquished" Malekith, which turns out to be a temporary solution.
  • While we don't know exactly when it happens, the next chronological event that we see from
  • our characters is Odin's conquest of the Nine Realms alongside his first child, Hela, Goddess
  • of Death.
  • During this era, the magic warhammer Mjolnir is forged in the heart of a dying star, and
  • long before Thor, Hela carries it into battle.
  • Once the realms have been conquered, Hela's bloodthirsty nature causes Odin to turn against
  • her, and in the battle that follows, Hela destroys the Valkyries.
  • The sole surviving Valkyrie flees from Asgard and eventually winds up drunk and depressed
  • on Sakaar.
  • Hela is then imprisoned in another dimension by Odin, who literally covers up all traces
  • of her existence.
  • Sometime after that, but still pretty far back, Odin and Frigga have a son, Thor.
  • Shortly thereafter, Odin slays the frost giant Laufey and adopts his son, Loki, as his own.
  • As children, they did not exactly get along.
  • "He transformed himself into a snake, and he knows I love snakes, so I picked up the
  • snake to admire it, then he transformed back into himself and said, ‘BYAH!
  • It’s me!’ and then he stabbed me."
  • Also "millions of years" before the present day, a meteorite made of the super-metal Vibranium
  • strikes Earth in Africa, drastically affecting the surrounding area.
  • Much, much later, this area becomes the country of Wakanda when a "warrior shaman" receives
  • a vision from the goddess Bast and founds a dynasty of kings known as the Black Panthers.
  • Believe it or not, there's not a whole lot that happens between the unification of Wakanda
  • and the 20th century.
  • The first big event that we see in the movies is the arrival of, well, the First Avenger.
  • In 1942, a Nazi officer known as the Red Skull creates a splinter group called Hydra.
  • With the discovery of one of the Infinity Stones, he creates a technologically advanced
  • army of his own.
  • That same year, Steve Rogers volunteers for an experimental attempt at creating a "super
  • soldier" using a technique created by Dr. Abraham Erskine.
  • The project works, giving Steve the body of Marvel's hunkiest Chris.
  • When Erskine is assassinated, the research is lost.
  • Rather than risking their only super-soldier by sending him to fight in the war, the army
  • gives Steve the codename "Captain America" and uses him primarily as a spokesman to sell
  • war bonds.
  • Eventually, Steve becomes an active soldier in the war, leading a strike team called the
  • Howling Commandos.
  • On one of their missions, his best friend Bucky falls from a train in the mountains.
  • Steve believes him to be dead, but he's actually taken into custody by the Soviet Army and
  • brainwashed into becoming a super-assassin, codenamed Winter Soldier.
  • After attempting to use the Tesseract, the Red Skull is sucked into a wormhole, and somehow
  • winds up on the distant planet Vormir, serving as a sort of spectral guardian for the Soul
  • Stone.
  • As for Steve, he crashes a bomber jet into the arctic to keep Hydra from destroying New
  • York.
  • He is also presumed dead, but survives, frozen in suspended animation for the next 66 years.
  • While things are pretty quiet for the MCU between 1945 and 1995, there are a few notable
  • exceptions.
  • Peggy Carter continues to work for the Strategic Science Reserve, first in New York in 1946,
  • and then in Los Angeles alongside Howard Stark in 1947.
  • Around this same time, the Soviet Union produces the first graduates of its brutal Red Room
  • facility, where orphaned girls are trained as spies and assassins.
  • Sometime shortly after this, Steve Rogers travels back in time from 2023 to reunite
  • with Peggy.
  • She continues to work in military intelligence for the next few decades with Stark, whose
  • defense contracts turn Stark Industries into the world's leading arms manufacturer.
  • By 1970, both of them are working out of SSR Headquarters at Camp Lehigh, along with a
  • few other notable figures, including Arnim Zola.
  • His body dies in 1972, and his brain is transferred into a computer databank that continues Hydra's
  • infiltration of the government.
  • Also, Hank Pym is working here, assisted by Bill Foster in his experiments with the size-changing
  • "Pym Particles" that will allow him and his wife Janet Van Dyne to become the original
  • Ant-Man and Wasp.
  • In 1974, Howard Stark launches the Stark Expo, displaying the "City of the Future," powered
  • by a clean-energy "ARC reactor" that's about the size of a house.
  • For some reason, he also hides the structure of a "new element" in the arrangement of the
  • buildings, which is the kind of science it pays to not think too hard about.
  • In 1980, Ego comes to Earth, winning the heart of Meredith Quill, and nine months later,
  • her son Peter is born.
  • In '87, Janet Van Dyne is lost in the Quantum Realm after she and Hank Pym attempt to stop
  • a rogue Soviet missile targeting the United States.
  • In 1988, Meredith Quill dies from brain cancer, intentionally caused by Ego, leaving her son
  • a mixtape of classic rock favorites before she dies.
  • Peter is then abducted by a band of outer-space outlaws called the Ravagers, who give him
  • a pretty terrible childhood.
  • "Yondu was the guy who abducted me, kicked the crap out of me so I could learn to fight,
  • and kept me in terror by threatening to eat me.
  • "Eat you?!"
  • "Yeah."
  • In 1989, Pym resigns from the SSR after finding out that they intended to use his Pym Particles
  • to create weapons.
  • The organization has also now been renamed to the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement
  • and Logistics Division.
  • "That's quite a mouthful."
  • "I know ... we're working on it."
  • Also that year, Air Force Captain Carol Danvers, who uses the callsign "Avenger," volunteers
  • for a test flight of a lightspeed engine powered by the Tesseract.
  • When they're shot down by the Kree, a militaristic alien race constantly at war with the shapeshifting
  • Skrulls, Carol's body is overloaded with the Tesseract's energy, giving her incredible
  • powers and also wiping her memory.
  • A Kree soldier named Yon-Rogg abducts her and takes her back to his homeworld, Hala,
  • here she is made to believe that she's actually a Kree named Vers.
  • While all of this is happening on Earth, things continue to develop in space.
  • Thanos, an incredibly powerful alien from the planet Titan who's obsessed with balance,
  • begins to seek out the Infinity Stones, laying waste to half of the population of entire
  • planets.
  • He also occasionally abducts young survivors, training them as soldiers.
  • Assuming that most of the more humanoid characters are around the same age as the people portraying
  • them, then his two most notable "adoptions" happen in the late '80s or early '90s: Gamora
  • and Nebula.
  • Every time the two "sisters" spar, Gamora wins, and Thanos systematically replaces pieces
  • of Nebula's body with cybernetic parts.
  • In 1991, the Soviet government sends the Winter Soldier to assassinate Howard and Maria Stark,
  • making it look like a car accident.
  • Their brilliant slacker son, Tony, is left in charge of Stark Industries, along with
  • Obadiah Stane as CEO.
  • Unbeknownst to Tony, Stane makes a tidy profit from secret arms deals with terrorist groups.
  • In 1992, King T'Chaka of Wakanda goes to Oakland, California, to investigate arms deals involving
  • stolen Vibranium.
  • The culprit is his brother, N'Jobu, who is killed in the altercation.
  • N'Jobu's son, Erik, is a witness to the whole thing and grows up craving revenge.
  • In 1995, Carol Danvers ... still without her memories of Earth ... returns to her home
  • planet after escaping from the Skrulls.
  • She teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • Agents Nick Fury and Phil Coulson to stop the Skrulls from invading Earth.
  • It turns out that the Kree are the bad guys, with Yon-Rogg and Ronan the Accuser en route
  • in search of the Infinity Stones that will end their war of conquest once and for all.
  • Finally at full power, Carol fights them off, and in the process, an alien cat scratches
  • Nick Fury's left eye, blinding it and causing him to sport a fashionable eyepatch for the
  • rest of the franchise.
  • Before she journeys back into space, Carol gives Fury a pager that can summon her in
  • case of a dire emergency.
  • Inspired by Carol and her original callsign, Fury lays the groundwork for the Avengers
  • Initiative, a program designed to create a team of super-powered heroes to deal with
  • large-scale threats like alien invasions.
  • In 1999, Tony Stark meets bio-engineers Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian at a conference
  • in Bern, Switzerland.
  • He's very rude to Aldrich, who remembers that as a sore point for about 14 years.
  • Throughout all this, Hydra continues its secret infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. and all levels
  • of the United States government.
  • "Hail Hydra."
  • In 2008, we finally catch up to the MCU as it happens.
  • Tony Stark is demonstrating his newest weapons in the Middle East when he's kidnapped by
  • a terrorist organization called the Ten Rings, in what will eventually be revealed as a plot
  • by Stane to get Tony out of the picture.
  • While he's imprisoned, the terrorists force him and another captive, Dr. Ho Yinsen, who
  • was also at that fateful 1999 convention in Bern, to make weapons for them.
  • Instead, Tony is able to recreate a miniaturized ARC reactor, using it to stabilize a piece
  • of shrapnel that's lodged near his heart.
  • "It's impossible!"
  • "Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave!
  • With a box of scraps!"
  • The reactor also powers the Iron Man, a suit of weaponized armor built from scrap, which
  • allows Tony to escape after Yinsen's death.
  • He returns to America, eats a cheeseburger, refines his design, and wipes out the Ten
  • Rings in a brutally effective display of the Iron Man's weapons.
  • He also defeats Stane, who attempts to kill Tony and create his own massive suit of powered
  • armor.
  • Tony then publicly reveals his identity...
  • "I am Iron Man."
  • ... which causes Nick Fury to approach him about the Avengers initiative.
  • Around the same time as Tony's capture, Dr. Bruce Banner is working on recreating the
  • Super Soldier program.
  • Instead of Erskine's "Vita Rays," he uses Gamma radiation, testing it on himself and
  • turning himself into a rampaging, green, monstrous Hulk whenever he gets angry… which is always.
  • After the Hulk inadvertently injures Banner's girlfriend, Betty Ross, he attempts to go
  • underground, but returns to America in search of a cure for his condition.
  • He winds up dealing with a scientist named Samuel Sterns, whose attempt to recreate the
  • Hulk turns special forces soldier Emil Blonsky into the monstrous Abomination.
  • Six months after revealing his identity publicly, Tony Stark is called to testify before Congress,
  • because they are justifiably concerned about a private citizen building a suit of armor
  • that can vaporize a tank.
  • To create their own version, they turn to rival weapons manufacturer JustIn Hammer.
  • After Tony's friend, Colonel James Rhodes, delivers a prototype Iron Man suit, Hammer
  • and Russian scientist Anton Vanko reverse-engineer them into an army of militarized drones.
  • Stark also gets a new personal assistant, who is revealed to be S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • agent and Red Room defector Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow.
  • Rhodes gets his own suit of armor codenamed War Machine, and he and Tony team up to defeat
  • Vanko and Hammer.
  • Speaking of hammers, while all this is happening on Earth, there's other stuff going on in
  • the Golden Realm of Asgard.
  • Loki tricks Thor into antagonizing the Frost Giants against Odin's orders.
  • As a consequence, Odin exiles Thor to Earth and enchants his hammer, Mjolnir.
  • "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, should possess the power of Thor."
  • It lands in New Mexico, where Agent Coulson discovers it, and a bunch of locals try to
  • yank it out of the ground with pickup trucks.
  • Thor eventually proves himself worthy, regains his hammer, and stops Loki from staging a
  • coup in Asgard.
  • In 2011, the crashed Hydra plane is discovered in the arctic.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • thaws out Captain America, and after realizing that he's in the 21st century, he teams up
  • with Nick Fury's Avengers Initiative.
  • It turns out he was just in time!
  • In 2012, Loki, last seen adrift in space after his failed coup in Asgard, is enlisted by
  • Thanos to recover the Tesseract from Earth.
  • In exchange, Thanos gives him control of the Chitauri, a massive army of hive-minded destroyers.
  • Loki agrees, because he's apparently in One Of His Moods that day.
  • The result is the Battle of Manhattan, in which the Avengers ... Captain America, Iron
  • Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, and Hawkeye ... are gathered for the first time as a team.
  • The good guys win after Loki is smashed against the ground a lot, but the battle is extremely
  • destructive.
  • The reconstruction is mostly handled by the newly formed Department of Damage Control,
  • who take over the lucrative contract and leave construction foreman Adrian Toomes embittered
  • and in possession of advanced technology.
  • In 2013, Tony Stark is left with post-traumatic stress as a result of the battle and his concept
  • of the universe suddenly expanding to include gods, aliens, and other unknowable cosmic
  • forces.
  • Unfortunately, this coincides with the return of Aldrich Killian, who has been experimenting
  • with Maya Hansen's regenerative "Extremis" treatment, which has a tendency to cause its
  • subjects to explode.
  • To cover his operations, Killian creates a fictional terrorist called the Mandarin, hiring
  • an actor named Trevor Slattery to play him in threatening videos.
  • Needless to say, Tony and Rhodey stop Killian's plot after they uncover the truth.
  • "If you want something, take it.
  • Although the guns are all fake, because the wankers wouldn’t trust me with the real
  • ones."
  • “What?!”
  • “Hey, they’re fancy!
  • Great with all the birds.”
  • Also, Malekith comes back and Thor fights him, and Loki becomes the latest in a long
  • line of presumed deaths that actually aren't.
  • He stashes Odin in a retirement home in New York and then takes his identity, ruling over
  • Asgard and putting on critically acclaimed plays for the next two years.
  • In 2014, Hydra's decades-long plot to infiltrate and take over America is finally discovered
  • by Captain America and Black Widow.
  • "Before we get started… does anyone want to get out?"
  • They also learn that the Winter Soldier is Bucky Barnes.
  • While Cap fights to restore his best friend's memories, the Hydra plot is exposed, and in
  • the aftermath, S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • collapses, leaving the Avengers without the oversight and support of the larger organization.
  • Tony Stark and Bruce Banner then attempt to create an artificial intelligence that would
  • help protect the world.
  • Unfortunately, they goof that plan up big time, instead creating a genocidal robot named
  • Ultron who winds up destroying an entire country, Sokovia.
  • Tony and Banner decide that if at first you don't succeed, make another robot and hope
  • it's not genocidal.
  • They use the Soul Stone to transform Tony's onboard AI, J.A.R.V.I.S., into a much more
  • heroic AI called the Vision.
  • In the fight that follows, the Hulk hijacks a Quinjet and blasts off into space, landing
  • on Sakaar.
  • Also, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, two definitely-not-mutants, join the team.
  • Quicksilver immediately dies, partly from bullets but mostly because Disney and Fox
  • were having a fight over who had the character's film rights.
  • The destruction of Sokovia also kills the family of Helmut Zemo, who then dedicates
  • his life to revenge.
  • While all that's going on, Peter Quill is out in space on a job to steal a valuable
  • orb, which ... unbeknownst to him ... contains an Infinity Stone.
  • That puts him in the sights of both Ronan the Accuser, who's been looking for another
  • Infinity Stone since 1995, and Thanos.
  • Ronan sends Gamora after Quill, and winds up running across Drax, a very literal warrior
  • whose family was killed by Thanos; Rocket, a space raccoon who was painfully experimented
  • on and given cybernetic enhancements; and Groot, a tree.
  • "I am Groot."
  • After being imprisoned together, the five of them stage a jailbreak, defeat Ronan in
  • a dance-off, recover the Power Stone with the help of the power of friendship, and turn
  • it over to the Nova Corps, a bunch of space cops on the planet Xandar.
  • Shortly thereafter, Thanos attacks Xandar and recovers it for himself.
  • In 2015, an electrical engineer named Scott Lang gets out of prison and stumbles onto
  • Hank Pym's old size-changing equipment.
  • Under the guidance of Pym and his daughter Hope, Lang becomes the second Ant-Man, and
  • helps to keep the Pym Particles from falling in the hands of an evil arms dealer.
  • More importantly, it's likely somewhere around this time that a kid named Peter Parker is
  • bitten by a radioactive spider, and tries to capitalize on his new super-powers by becoming
  • famous as Spider-Man, and fails to stop a robber that later kills his Uncle Ben.
  • None of this is covered in the MCU, but you might've seen five other movies about it.
  • The following year sees Helmut Zemo's plan to destroy the Avengers reach its fruition.
  • As the world responds to the destruction of Sokovia by trying to install new governmental
  • oversight over the Avengers, Zemo furthers the a wedge between Captain America and Iron
  • Man by revealing that Bucky was the one who killed Tony Stark's parents.
  • He also uses his control over Bucky to assassinate King T'Chaka of Wakanda, leading the king's
  • son T'Challa to take over leadership of the country ... not to mention the identity and
  • powers of the Black Panther.
  • The end result of all of this is that the Avengers break up, the ones loyal to Cap go
  • underground, and T'Challa refuses to give Zemo the death he desires.
  • While all this is going on, Dr. Stephen Strange, who lost the fine motor control in his hands
  • after a car accident, seeks out the Ancient One and, following her death, becomes a Master
  • of the Mystic Arts.
  • He stops an invasion by Dormammu, a demonic force from the Dark Dimension, by using the
  • Time Stone to die over and over again until the cosmic villain gets annoyed enough to
  • leave the Earth alone.
  • Meanwhile, the Guardians of the Galaxy encounter and subsequently kill Ego before he can manipulate
  • Peter Quill into aiding his conquest of the entire galaxy.
  • “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”
  • In the absence of the Avengers, Tony Stark begins to mentor Peter Parker.
  • As Spider-Man, Peter tries to deal with the ... wait for it ... evil arms dealer known
  • as the Vulture, who turns out to be none other than Adrian Toomes, his homecoming date's
  • dad.
  • The Vulture is defeated, arrested, and sent to prison, but not before he and several of
  • Peter's classmates figure out Spider-Man's real identity.
  • Also, Tony Stark finally proposes to Pepper Potts.
  • In Asgard, Thor returns from two years of looking for Infinity Stones in various realms
  • to discover Loki's deception.
  • When they find the real Odin, he's at the end of his life, and his death allows Hela
  • to escape her millennia of imprisonment.
  • She destroys Mjolnir, blasts the two brothers into space, and takes over Asgard.
  • Thor winds up on Sakaar, where he recruits Hulk and Valkyrie for a mission to overthrow
  • Hela, which goes about as well as it can for a plan that ends with the complete destruction
  • of Asgard via fire giant.
  • “Hulk stop! Just for once in your life, DON’T SMASH!”
  • “BIG MONSTER!”
  • In Wakanda, T'Challa's rule is challenged by his cousin Erik, who teams up with another
  • evil arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, another evil arms dealer.
  • There are a lot of evil arms dealers in these movies.
  • Erik betrays Klaue in order to gain favor with Wakandans.
  • He seemingly kills T'Challa and takes over, but T'Challa returns and regains control of
  • his country.
  • "I never yielded!
  • And as you can see, I am not dead!"
  • After six years of waiting around, Thanos decides to personally seek out the Infinity
  • Stones, and the results are devastating.
  • He kills Loki and nearly obliterates the last surviving Asgardians.
  • An attack on Earth leads to things getting so desperate that the whole Avengers crew,
  • except Hawkeye and Ant-Man, who are under house arrest for violating the Sokovia Accords,
  • need to get back together to sort it out.
  • They don't do so well.
  • "Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards."
  • “I don’t…”
  • "It's okay stand down."
  • "Keep an eye on him?"
  • Despite fighting on two fronts, with one small team in space and a massive force on Earth,
  • Thanos gathers the stones, snaps his fingers, and kills half the life forms in the universe,
  • dissolving them into dust.
  • As he dissolves, Nick Fury uses the space-pager to alert Captain Marvel that Earth needs her
  • help.
  • A month later, Captain Marvel and the surviving Avengers track Thanos down in space, only
  • to find out that he's destroyed the stones.
  • Thor beheads Thanos, and the Avengers return home, having won this battle while losing
  • the bigger war.
  • Weirdly enough, all of this happens while Ant-Man is involved in a relatively low-stakes
  • heist movie.
  • When the snap happens, he's left stranded in the Quantum Realm, which turns out to be
  • an extremely lucky coincidence.
  • While he's there, five years go by, during which the heroes deal with the horrific trauma
  • of losing trillions of lives in various, mostly unhealthy ways.
  • Thanks to an assist from the most heroic rat in the universe, Ant-Man returns from the
  • Quantum Realm, where, for him, only a few hours have passed.
  • When he reunites with the Avengers, the heroes realize that the solution to their problem
  • is:
  • "Time travel!"
  • With the help of Iron Man and the now-smart Hulk, the heroes travel back to various key
  • points in the timeline to gather up the Infinity Stones of those eras, along with Mjolnir,
  • circa 2013.
  • They also inadvertently bring the Thanos of 2014 forward to 2023, along with all of his
  • minions.
  • Right before he starts attacking, the Hulk uses a rebuilt Infinity Gauntlet to wish everyone
  • back to life, and virtually every hero in the entire MCU takes Thanos on at once.
  • The final blow is dealt by Iron Man, who dies on the battlefield like a freaking rock star.
  • After gathering for a funeral, Steve Rogers hops into the timestream to return everything
  • to where it should be.
  • After living a full life with Peggy Carter in an alternate past, he returns to this world
  • one more time as an old man to bequeath his shield to Sam Wilson, the Falcon, naming him
  • the new Captain America.
  • Check out one of our newest videos right here!
  • Plus, even more Looper videos about the MCU are coming soon.
  • Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the bell so you don't miss a single one.

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Description

The massive scope of the MCU has allowed Marvel Studios to create a sprawling, interconnected universe built on a shared continuity, and much like the comics the movies are based on, that means things can get pretty complicated.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't start with Tony Stark getting kidnapped in 2008, Carol Danvers being taken to Hala in the '90s, or even with Steve Rogers volunteering for the Super Soldier program in the '40s. Instead, like most universes, this one starts at the Big Bang.

Going chronologically, the first event we see in the MCU is the creation of the Infinity Stones. As the Collector explains in Guardians of the Galaxy, they were formed from the "six singularities" that caused the universe to explode into existence, before being scattered across the universe.

That, of course, was billions of years ago, but "millions of years" before we get to the present-day MCU, Ego the Living Planet comes into existence and starts seeding worlds with his essence in an attempt to create another Celestial being like himself.

Watch the video to see the entire MCU timeline explained!

In the beginning... | #
A long, long time ago... | #
Life during wartime: the 1940s | #
The Silver Age: the mid 20th century | #
Recent history: the late 20th century | #
Meanwhile… | #
Only '90s kids will remember the Kree-Skrull War: 1990s | #
The Marvel Age of Cinema: 2008 | #
Phase One: 2009 - 2011 | #
Assembly: 2012 - 2013 | #
Phase Two and aftermath: 2014 - 2016 | #
Disassembled: 2015 - 2017 | #
Three very different homecomings: 2017 - 2018 | #
The Infinity War(s): 2018 - 2023 | #