We get it: the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a ton of lore, and it can be hard to keep track of it all, especially as the movies get increasingly bonkers. But worry not, true believers. We’ve taken the time to lay it all out as clearly as can be. Read on for the complete timeline to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from “Iron Man” to “Avengers: Endgame.”
The Beginning of Time
The Big Bang explodes from six preexisting singularities. As the universe is created, remnants of these singularities are forged into objects with incredible power over specific aspects of existence: Space, Mind, Reality, Power, Soul and Time. These objects, eventually known as the Infinity Stones, become dispersed throughout the universe, often in forms that make their true nature unrecognizable.
The Distant Past
Celestials, the most ancient beings in the universe, come into existence and gradually become sentient.
The oldest of them, Ego, finds itself alone and spends millennia slowly learning to control matter; his corporeal form eventually takes the appearance of a large habitable planet, though Ego also creates a humanoid extension of itself to explore the universe, searching for other life.
Ego finds life — and is underwhelmed. He becomes determined to replace other lifeforms with himself — by spreading himself across the universe. Ego travels the universe planting seeds of himself on different planets, but ironically, he can’t activate these seeds without help. So he begins fathering children with different species, hoping for a child that can handle his power and help Ego activate the seeds. Billions of years will pass without success.
Soon after Ego, other Celestials emerge and they become the first to understand and make use of Infinity Stones, creating weapons of unimaginable destruction. At one point, several celestials figure out how to share the Infinity Stones’ energy among themselves, but are quickly destroyed by it.
During this period, an unnamed Celestial is decapitated. Billions of years later, his severed head is turned into the interstellar mining colony called Knowhere.
Some time later, beings known in the comics as Elders of the Universe come into existence. Immortal (though not all -powerful), these beings cope with their long lives by indulging their obsessions. Among them are Taneleer Tivan, later known as The Collector, and En Dwi Gast, later known as The Grandmaster.
Millions of Years Ago
On Earth, a massive meteor made of pure Vibranium crashes in eastern Africa near Lake Turkana. Over eons, growth of foliage and normal terrestrial and tectonic activity leaves the meteor impact site buried beneath a large mountain; during this process, a species of plant that grows at the crash site is mutated by exposure to Vibranium and evolves into the Heart Shaped Herb, a rare plant that bestows super strength, endurance and other abilities on those who ingest it.
Approximately 10,000 Years Ago
Five allied peoples — who eventually become known as the River tribe, the Mining tribe, the Merchant tribe, the Border tribe, and the Jabari — discover the Vibranium meteor impact site and unite to found the nation of Wakanda. They are led and protected by the first person to consume the Heart Shaped Herb and receive its powers, who is given the title “Black Panther” by the Wakandans.
Wakandans establish a tradition that only the rightful king or the king’s designated champion is allowed to consume the Heart Shaped Herb and take the title of Black Panther. Over the subsequent centuries, Black Panthers protect Wakanda from all dangers, and its citizens develop a technologically and artistically advanced, unique pan-African culture in peace.
2988 B.C.E. — The Asgard-Dark Elf War
The Nine Realms — including Asgard (home of the Norse Gods), Midgard (Earth), Jotunheim (Frost Giants), and Svartalfheim (Dark Elves) — become aligned in an event called “Convergence,” which happens every 5,000 years.
During the Convergence, Malekith, genocidal leader of the Dark Elves, gains possession of the Aether — actually the Reality Infinity Stone — and tries to destroy the Nine Realms with it. He is defeated by Asgard, led by king Bor, and Asgard comes into possession of the Aether. Bor later hides the Aether in a pocket dimension separate from the nine realms, but over the following millennia it is forgotten.
Asgard also comes into possession of another Infinity Stone, the Space Stone, around this time. The Space Stone will eventually become known as the Tesseract.
Sometime later, BCE
Bor’s son, Odin, becomes king and leads Asgard in the conquest of the Nine Realms, assisted by his firstborn, Hela the goddess of death. But Odin comes to regret his wars of aggression, which forces him into a war against Hela, who is consumed with lust for destruction and conquest. Odin only defeats Hela through enormous sacrifices, including the death of all but one of his elite Valkyrie warriors. Hela is imprisoned in Hel, and Odin transforms Asgard into a peaceful, enlightened society built around culture and science rather than conquest, and all record of bloody conquest — or that Hela ever existed — is scrubbed from the historical record.
The last surviving Valkyrie abandons Asgard and wanders the universe trying to forget the horrors she endured.
965 CE — The Asgard-Frost Giant War
Odin leads Asgard in war to stop the Frost Giants of Jotunheim from conquering Earth. In the aftermath, he takes the Frost Giants’ prince and adopts him, naming him Loki. Raised alongside Odin’s natural born son, Thor, Loki is never told he’s a Frost Giant, and neither of the brothers are told about Hela.
Around this time, someone (likely Odin) hides the Tesseract among Asgardian worshippers in Tønsberg, Norway. This is eventually forgotten and the Tesseract is considered lost.
1,018 CE — Thanos is born on planet Titan.
Years later, Titan is threatened by a looming catastrophe as the planet is no longer able to sustain its growing population. Thanos proposes that 50% of Titan’s people be euthanized (killed) immediately to make room for the survivors to rebuild. His ideas are rejected as insane and he is banished from Titan.
Eventually, war and starvation lead to the collapse of Titan civilization, and the planet is laid waste, leaving Thanos the last survivor of his race. This convinces him not only that he was right, but that the entire universe will eventually face the same fate. He becomes obsessed with preventing this by killing half of all life in the entire universe.
Over the following centuries, Thanos becomes a powerful galactic warlord with a vast interstellar empire under his direct control. He routinely conquers whole planets, murdering half their populations as part of his quest to preserve the balance of life in the universe. He also frequently adopts orphans from conquered races and raises them as the Children of Thanos, who command his forces.
1400s to The early 20th Century
Thanks to the protection of the Black Panthers, Wakanda is spared the atrocities inflicted on Africa like the international slave trade and European colonialism. But fearing that if it becomes involved in those struggles, the country’s secrets might fall into the hands of enemies who would destroy it, Wakanda adopts a policy of isolation and deception, choosing to watch and observe the chaos, conquest, world wars, and such experienced elsewhere.
During this period, Wakandans begin to fully understand Vibranium’s unique properties and with it, their technological development is accelerated beyond anything known to the rest of the world. By the 20th century, Wakanda is the most advanced nation in history — even if the rest of the world believes Wakanda to be small, undeveloped nation of farmers and herders that somehow has still never been conquered.
1918: Steve Rogers is born in Brooklyn, NYC. Sickly and skinny, Steve is often bullied, but he’s protected by his childhood best friend, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes.
1934: In Nazi Germany, HYDRA leader Johann Schmidt convinces the Nazi High Command to allow HYDRA to conduct research and develop weapons for the Third Reich. Schmidt captures scientist Abraham Erskine and forces him to work on a super-soldier serum for the Nazis.
1936: 18 year-old Steve Rogers’ mother dies from tuberculosis in Brooklyn, New York. After the funeral, Bucky offers his support and help, telling Steve he’ll be “with you til the end of the line.”
The Events of “Captain America: The First Avenger”
1940: Schmidt injects himself with a prototype of the super-soldier serum, which gives him powers, but disfigures his face, leading to him taking the nickname “Red Skull.” Erskine is rescued from HYDRA by British secret agent Peggy Carter. Taken to America, he continues his work on the super-soldier serum for the Allies via the Strategic Scientific Reserve. He’s assisted by American industrialist and polymath Howard Stark.
1942: following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bucky enlists in the U.S. army. Steve makes multiple attempts to join as well, but is repeatedly turned down due to his poor health and small stature.
That same year, Red Skull finds the Tesseract hidden in a church in Tønsberg, Norway. He uses it to power several experimental machines and weapons.
1943: Erskine meets Steve Rogers and, impressed by his character, fast-tracks his admission into the U.S. Army. After Steve proves himself during training at Army base Camp Lehigh, he’s selected to receive Erksine’s refined serum. The serum transforms Steve from a small, weak man into a super-soldier, but Erskine is killed by a HYDRA agent during the procedure. Because he is now the host of the only working sample of the super-soldier serum, Steve is forbidden from combat. Instead, he’s promoted to captain and dubbed “Captain America,” is forced to star in a nationwide tour to raise morale and sell war bonds.
1944: While appearing as part of a USO show for troops in France, Steve repurposes the persona of Captain America and becomes a war hero after he rescues Bucky and other American soldiers from a HYDRA facility overseen by scientist Arnim Zola, who conducts inhumane experiments on POWs. Bucky and some of the rescued soldiers then become known as the Howling Commandos, an elite squad led by Captain America. Cap and Peggy begin working closely together and fall in love.
Around this time, Red Skull murders his supervisors, declares himself independent from Nazi Germany, and embarks on a plan to conquer the world for Hydra instead.
1945: Captain America and the Howling Commandos successfully capture Zola, but Bucky is lost during the operation and presumed dead. Two months later, Captain America finally catches up with Red Skull just as he launches a massive bomber powered by the Tesseract that is designed to launch powerful nuclear bombs at all major world capitals, beginning with New York City.
While fighting, Red Skull attempts to use the Tesseract, only to be (apparently) disintegrated by it. Unfortunately, the bomber is largely disabled and on a direct course with New York. To prevent the death of millions, Cap is forced to crash the plane somewhere near Greenland, where he is lost and presumed dead.
After the war, Howard Stark conducts several voyages to the arctic ocean in search of Cap’s body — he never finds it, but during one such trip he recovers the Tesseract and brings it back to America.
The Early Cold War (1950s and ’60s)
In the late 1940s, Stark and Peggy Carter later become two of the founding members of S.H.I.E.L.D., which absorbs the assets and personnel of the Strategic Science Reserve — including the Tesseract.
Stark also turns his company, Stark Industries, into one of the largest munitions and military contracting companies in the world.
Meanwhile, Arnim Zola is released from prison as part of project paperclip and joins S.H.I.E.L.D., but he secretly enacts a plan to rebuild HYDRA. He starts by recruiting sleeper agents and spreading them strategically throughout S.H.I.E.L.D., but eventually plants infiltrators into governments around the world including the U.S. and Soviet Union.
During this time, the new HYDRA recovers Bucky Barnes, who survived his presumed death thanks to Zola’s earlier experiments. Bucky is brainwashed to become an assassin known as the Winter Soldier, and his left arm is replaced with a robotic prosthesis. The procedure removes his memories of his past life and identity, and when he’s not on mission, Bucky is frozen in cyrostasis, keeping him in peak physical condition for decades. He is stored at a secret facility somewhere in the Soviet Union, along with other, similarly-created assassins.
Throughout the cold war, the Winter Soldier is used for covert HYDRA missions — including the assassination of JFK — while Hydra operatives work behind the scenes to sow chaos worldwide as part of a plan to eventually create a fearful population so desperate for security it will willingly hand total power over to Hydra.
The Later Cold War (1970s to Early 1990s)
Sometime during the Vietnam war era, entomologist and physicist Dr. Hank Pym is recruited from the U.S. Army to become a researcher and consultant for S.H.I.E.L.D. His research will eventually lead to the creation of “Pym Particles,” subatomic particles with extradimensional properties that can reduce the space between an object’s atoms as well as increase or reduce relative mass and physical density, allowing objects to grow or shrink to sizes otherwise physically impossible. Pym creates a suit to help him harness these particles, and begins running covert S.H.I.E.L.D. operations under the code name Ant-Man.
Pym will eventually marry fellow scientist Janet Van Dyne, and together they’ll invent a device that allows them to communicate with and command ants. By the 1980s, Janet also makes a suit of her own to control Pym Particles, and joins Hank on missions for S.H.I.E.L.D. under the code name The Wasp.
1980: Ego, still seeding the universe, reaches Earth, where he falls in love with Meredith Quill. They have a son, Peter Quill. Ego leaves Meredith, although he returns on two occasions to visit her. Unfortunately, Ego fell in love with Meredith and feared that his love for her would lead him to give up on his plans to remake the entire universe in his own image. To prevent that from happening, on his final visit he acts to kill her by giving her cancer.
1984: Natasha Romanoff is born in the Soviet Union.
1987: Ant-Man and The Wasp are sent on a mission to disarm a Soviet missile launched toward the U.S. by separatists. The Wasp is forced to shrink to fit between the molecules of the casing to get inside and is lost in the subatomic Quantum Realm, seemingly forever. In his grief over Janet’s apparent death, Hank gives up being Ant-Man.
Around the same time, Prince N’Jobu, brother of King T’Chaka, is sent to Oakland, California, to act as a spy for Wakanda.
1988: Meredith Quill dies from cancer that was given to her by Ego. Moments after her death their son, Peter Quill, is abducted by members of an intergalactic clan of pirates known as The Ravagers, who have for some time been earning a living by retrieving Ego’s hybrid children and bringing them to him.
Soon after, The Ravagers’ leader, Yondu, discovers that Ego has actually been killing his children; he cuts ties with Ego and raises Peteras a Ravager instead.
1989: Pym resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to keep anyone from replicating his technology, and forms Silicon Valley tech company Pym Industries, which focuses on nanotechnology and human enhancements, as well as molecular and atomic studies.
In California, Air Force captains Carol Danvers and Marie Rambeau work as test pilots for a secret joint Air Force/NASA program called Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S.. The project is led by Dr. Wendy Lawson, who is studying the Tesseract in order to create an experimental space ship powered by a “light speed engine” she says will save millions of lives.
During a flight test of the light speed engine, Lawson and Danvers are suddenly attacked by an alien ship and shot down. After narrowly surviving the crash landing, Danvers discovers that Lawson is badly injured and that her blood is blue. Lawson reveals to Carol that: she’s actually a member of the Kree, a humanoid alien race from planet Hala that controls a vast interstellar empire; her real name is Mar-Vell; and that she created the light speed engine to help victims of the Kree’s brutal wars of conquest escape to a new homeworld.
Mar-Vell/Lawson begs Carol to destroy the engine so it won’t fall into Kree hands. At that moment, the Kree soldier Yon-Rogg, who shot them down, finds the crash site and shoots Mar-Vell. Yon-Rogg tries to talk Carol into handing over the engine, and she shoots the engine to destroy it. The explosion destroys Lawson’s body, but Carol survives after being infused with energy derived from the Tesseract.
Yon-Rogg takes the unconscious Carol with him and leaves Earth. Carol is believed killed in the crash, and Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. is mothballed — though the site remains guarded and maintained by NASA/Air Force personnel.
Late 1980s/early 1990s: Young Natasha Romanoff is recruited into a ruthless KGB assassin program. This continues after the dissolution of the USSR and she becomes one of Russia’s top assassins, code-named Black Widow.
1991: HYDRA deploys the Winter Soldier to assassinate Howard Stark and his wife in order to steal S.H.I.E.L.D.’s remaining super-serum, while making their deaths look like an accident. Howard’s son, Tony Stark, inherits Stark Industries.
1992: Having secretly married an American woman, Prince N’Jobu has a young son, N’Jadaka, known in the U.S. as Erik Stevens, who N’Jobu raises fully aware of his Wakandan heritage.
The racism and stratification N’Jobu encounters during his time in the United States convinces him that Wakanda should abandon its isolationist stance and arm oppressed people across the globe. To fund such activities, N’Jobu secretly contracts arms dealer Ulysses Klaue to steal Vibranium from Wakanda; in the process, several Wakandans are killed, including the parents of W’Kabi, a friend of Prince T’Challa.
King T’Chaka comes to Oakland and confronts N’Jobu, who is killed in the dispute. T’Chaka takes N’Jobu’s body and all of his Wakandan possessions with him, but makes the fateful decision to leave Erik behind rather than bring him to Wakanda.
The Events of “Captain Marvel”
Summer 1995: After Yon-Rogg brought her to Hala, Carol’s mind was altered by the Supreme Intelligence, the supercomputer that governs the Kree empire. She is made to believe she is a Kree warrior named “Vers” who lost her memories due to injuries in battle, and that Supreme Intelligence gave her the ability to fire lasers out of her wrists via a cybernetic implant on her neck.
A member of an elite Kree military unit called “Starforce” — under the command of Yon-Rogg — Vers is a devoted patriot committed to the Kree empire’s war with the Skrull, shapeshifting aliens the Kree populace has been told is an existential threat to the empire.
During a raid on Skrull outpost, Vers is captured by Skrull scientists, who probe her mind and discover her hidden memories of Earth and Wendy Lawson/Mar-Vell. The procedure wakes Vers up and, confused by the memories, she escapes from her restraints and attempts to fight her way off the Skrull ship. In the process, she’s accidentally sucked out into space where she discovers the ship is now in orbit around a completely different planet — Earth.
On Earth, Vers’ behavior — and the fact that she clearly fell from space — attracts the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D., who sends mid-level agent Nick Fury to investigate. After witnessing Vers’ abilities, learning about the existence of the Skrull and surviving a fight with one of them, Fury and Vers team up to find out why the Skrull have come to earth and how they’re connected to her memories.
They visit the site of Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S., encounter Mar-Vell’s pet cat Goose (actually an alien lifeform called “Flerkens” that resembles earth cats), and learn Vers’ true name, Carol Danvers. A group of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives who have been tricked by Skrull infiltrators attempt to arrest Vers and Fury, who escape in a Quinjet with with Goose tagging along.
They travel to meet with Marie Rambeau, where they learn Marie was Carol’s best friend and Marie’s daughter, Monica, considers Carol her aunt. Several Skrulls arrive at Marie’s home and reveal the truth to Vers and Fury: The Skrull are actually victims of Kree oppression and Mar-Vell/Lawson was trying to help them escape
Carol eventually recovers her memories and disavows the Kree, and she and Fury join forces with the Skrull. They ravel to a secret space station built by Mar-Vell, where they find The Tesseract, along with several Skrull refugees who have been hiding there for several years. At one point, Goose swallows The Tesseract, storing it in the pocket dimension all flerkens have inside their bodies.
Aware that Carol now knows about his deceptions, Yon-Rogg summons the Accusers, the fanatical military leaders of the Kree, who arrive in an attack fleet led by Ronan the Accuser. Carol is captured by Yon-Rogg and forced to commune with the Supreme Intelligence, where she learns that the cybernetic implant doesn’t give her powers, it actually limits them. Carol removes it and her powers increase exponentially. Now able to fly under her own power, Carol single-handedly destroys one of the Accuser ships, forcing the others to withdraw. Ronan vows to return and capture her again at a later time.
Carol sends Yon-Rogg back to Hala with a warning to stay away from Earth and the Skrull. She then leaves Earth along with the surviving Skrulls to help them find a new homeworld. But before she goes, she gives Nick Fury a modified pager with a range of “at least two galaxies.” She tells Fury it’s for emergency use only.
Inspired by his experiences, Fury begins early development of what he calls “The Avengers Initiative,” a plan to locate other individuals like Carol for a team that can defend the earth from threats like the Kree. He brings fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson in on it.
Also, Goose scratches one of Fury’s eyes and it turns out her claws have venom that necrotizes flesh. This causes Fury to lose his left eye and adopt his trademark eyepatch. No hard feelings though, as Fury keeps Goose around as his pet.
Sometime later, Goose coughs up The Tesseract on Fury’s desk. Fury eventually returns it to Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S., which is taken over by S.H.I.E.L.D. and reactivated.
The Pre-Avengers Era (Late 1990s-2009)
~1998: Thanos conquers the planet Zen-Whoberi and executes half of its population. He adopts one of the survivors, an eight-year-old girl named Gamora, and raises her alongside another captive child named Nebula. Thanos trains his new “daughters” to become two of his top assassins by forcing them to compete in violent fights, with the loser of each fight forced to have a part of their body replaced with cybernetics. Gamora never loses and by the time they’re adults, much of Nebula’s body is machine, including her brain, which can record her memories.
News Year’s Eve 1999-2000: Tony Stark meets scientist Aldrich Killian, who promotes his company, Advanced Idea Mechanics. Stark promises to meet Killian later, but blows him off to spend the night with Maya Hansen. Hansen, another scientist, shows him her research into a means of rewriting genetic codes to regrow human tissue that has the side effect of causing biological material to explode. They sleep together, but the next morning, Tony leaves without saying goodbye.
~Early 2000s: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Clint “Hawkeye” Barton is sent to kill Natasha Romanoff, but convinces her to defect to S.H.I.E.L.D. instead.
2005: Dr. Bruce Banner is recruited for a secret government experiment he is told is an attempt to make human beings immune to gamma radiation. In truth, the experiment is an attempt to recreate Abraham Erskine’s super-soldier formula using gamma radiation as a possible substitute for the substances they can’t replicate. An unaware Banner tests the experiment on himself but the process turns him into The Hulk. Gen. Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross pursues Banner, and Banner goes on the run. He remains at large for the next six years.
The Events of “Iron Man” — The Avengers Era Begins
2010: Tony Stark is captured by terrorists during a demonstration of Stark Industries weaponry in Afghanistan and held captive for three months. Stark takes shrapnel to the chest during the attack, but a fellow captive scientist named Yensin creates a device that keeps the shrapnel from destroying his heart. Tony adapts this into the power source for a prototype Iron Man suit, which he uses to escape. He now must live with the device permanently lodged in his chest, or he’ll die.
Upon his return, Stark discovers that his father’s business partner, Obadiah Stane, orchestrated Stark’s capture and has been using the company to sell weapons to terrorists. Stark perfects the Iron Man suit by adapting arc reactor technology initially developed by his father as a source of clean, renewable energy. He defeats Stane, and reveals he is Iron Man during a press conference, becoming only the second publicly-known superhero.
Soon after, he is recruited into the Avengers Initiative by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury.
The Events of “Iron Man 2,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Thor”
May 2011: In a single week, S.H.I.E.L.D. must manage three separate incidents involving “enhanced” people.
First, a year after going public as Iron Man, Tony Stark is enjoying life as a celebrity superhero, and he revives the Stark Expo, a once-annual technology and futurist convention last held in 1974. Around this time, at Fury’s behest, Romanoff, who now operates under the code name “Black Widow,” goes undercover inside Stark Industries in order to assess Stark’s fitness for the Avengers Initiative.
Stark refuses attempts to bring Iron Man under the control of the U.S. government, and in a congressional hearing chaired by Pennsylvania senator Stern, he brags that he has “successfully privatized world peace.” However, his bluster hides the fact that the Arc Reactor in his chest is slowly poisoning him and he’ll likely be dead within the year.
Soon after, Stark is attacked by Ivan Venko, who believes that Howard Stark ruined his father. Venko is captured alive and arrested, only to be freed — with his death faked — by rival industrialist Justin Hammer. Hammer hired Venko to secretly develop armor technology similar to Iron Man that he can sell to the military.
Tony’s best friend, Air Force colonel James Rhodes, is forced to use one of Stark’s prototype suits to stop Stark’s increasingly reckless behavior, and Rhodes confiscates the suit for U.S. Air Force, becoming known as War Machine. Fury and Romanoff provide Tony with a temporary treatment for the arc reactor poisoning. Fury urges Stark to dig through his father’s research for a lasting cure — Tony discovers a message his father recorded for him decades earlier, which helps him do just that. He then patches things up with Rhodes and they team up with Romanoff to defeat Venko and Hammer.
Meanwhile, in Asgard, Thor makes war on the Frost Giants in Jotenheim against Odin’s wishes. During the battle, Loki learns he is a Frost Giant. Odin banishes Thor to Earth as punishment for his defiance and strips him of his right to use the hammer Mjølnir. In Asgard, Loki is angry at having been lied to about his origin and plots to overthrow Odin. On Earth, Thor meets astrophysicists Jane Foster and Eric Selvig, uncovers Loki’s plan, and returns to Asgard to save the day. During the fight, Asgard’s Bifrost, a machine that creates artificial wormholes which Asgardians use to travel throughout the Nine Realms, is destroyed and Loki presumed dead.
Finally, Bruce Banner is discovered hiding in Brazil. After escaping capture by covert military forces, he makes his way north to the United States seeking a cure for his Hulk problem. Instead, the military replicates his condition in military contractor Emil Blonsky, who turns into The Abomination and rampages through New York City. Banner is forced to transform into the Hulk to defeat him, but in the process, large sections of Harlem are destroyed. Banner goes back into hiding.
S.H.I.E.L.D. keeps tabs on Banner but leaves him be for the time being. Meanwhile, aware that earth is vulnerable to extraterrestrial threats, S.H.I.E.L.D. recruits Selvig to study the Tesseract in order to develop weapons that could defend against invaders. Unknown to everyone, Loki survived, somehow made his way to Earth, and now secretly controls Selvig’s mind.
April 2012: Captain America is discovered frozen, but still alive thanks to the super-soldier serum. S.H.I.E.L.D. revives him.
The Events of “The Avengers”
May, 2012: Using a scepter that allows him to control minds, Loki steals the Tesseract and attempts to conquer the Earth with the help of an army of aliens know as the Chitauri. In response, Nick Fury assembles Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Tony Stark, and Bruce Banner as The Avengers, soon joined by Thor. After an uneasy start The Avengers pull together and defeat Loki in a battle that destroys much of New York City. During the fight, Tony Stark is nearly killed saving the city from a nuclear weapon deployed by the World Security Council.
Thor returns to Asgard with Loki, and takes the Tesseract with him. Bruce goes to work for Tony Stark, and Captain America becomes an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside Black Widow and Hawkeye. S.H.I.E.L.D. also takes possession of Loki’s mind control scepter.
Unknown to The Avengers, Loki was actually conquering Earth on behalf of Thanos, who has begun his quest to assemble the Infinity Stones. After Loki’s defeat Thanos is warned by his henchmen that Earth is a much greater threat than previously assumed. And by the way, Loki’s scepter? It was given to him by Thanos, and it is actually powered by the Mind Stone.
Shortly after the Battle of New York, contractor Adrian Toomes is hired by the city to salvage alien wreckage and clean up the battle site. They lose the contract when Damage Control, a joint venture between the government and Stark Industries, takes over. Toomes switches to a life of crime, using salvaged alien technology his crew didn’t turn over to Damage Control to build illegal weapons and sell them on the black market.
Spring-Summer 2012: Electrical engineer Scott Lang, a former cat burglar who went straight after getting married and having a daughter, discovers that the company he works for, VistaCorp, is willfully overcharging customers. Fired after trying to blow the whistle, he pulls off a daring heist, breaking into VistaCorp HQ to hack their systems and return the money to the customers. He’s arrested soon after and sentenced to three years at San Quentin prison.
The Events of “Iron Man 3”
December 2012: 7 months after the battle of New York, Tony Stark struggles with PTSD he developed after his near-death experience fighting the Chitauri. He once again encounters Killian, who has since teamed up with Hansen to create super soldiers based on her earlier work. Killian has nursed a grudge against Tony for twelve years and using a made-up terrorist called “The Mandarin” (actually a drug-addled actor) as a smokescreen, he plans to kill the U.S. president, sell super soldiers to the government, and destroy Tony Stark. On Christmas Day Stark, with help from Rhodes and Pepper Potts, saves the president and defeats Killian. Shortly after, he invents a way to remove the shrapnel from his heart, and decides to retire as Iron Man.
The Events of “Thor: The Dark World”
November 2013: The latest Convergence of the Nine Realms causes the pocket dimension containing the Aether — AKA The Reality Stone — to open into our world. The resulting scientific anomalies draw the attention of Jane Foster, who is accidentally bonded with the Aether in a process that will eventually kill her. Thor brings her back to Asgard in hopes his people’s advanced medical technology will save her. The Dark Elves attack Asgard and Earth in an attempt to reclaim the Aether, and in the chaos Frigga, Thor and Loki’s mother, is killed. Thor subsequently recruits Loki — still imprisoned for his previous crimes — help to stop the Elves and remove the Aether from Jane. During the battle, Loki is apparently killed, and Thor brings the Aether back to Asgard before returning to earth to spend some time with Jane.
Of course, once again Loki was faking it. He secretly returns to Asgard, dethrones Odin, and now rules Asgard in secret disguised as Odin.
Shortly after, it’s decided that having two Infinity Stones in the same place is too dangerous, so Asgard gives the Aether to The Collector, who lives on Knowhere, for safekeeping.
The Events of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
May 2014: Arnim Zola — now a disembodied consciousness uploaded into a secret computer bank — and his hidden HYDRA sleeper agents in S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Government finally enact their plan to openly take over the world using S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to eliminate anyone who might be a threat. Nick Fury is apparently killed during the takeover by an assassin known only as The Winter Soldier, but it turns out Fury had been anticipating something like this and faked his death.
Captain America is declared a wanted criminal by S.H.I.E.L.D. bigwig Alexander Pierce, who is secretly a major Hydra leader, and he goes on the run with Black Widow. They travel to Camp Lehigh, which was turned into a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility after World War II, where they encounter computer consciousness Zola and uncover Hydra’s plans. After narrowly escaping an assassination attempt, Black Widow and Captain America team up with Cap’s new friend Sam Wilson.
After another fight, Cap discovers that The Winter Soldier is his old friend, Bucky. With the help of Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, Cap, Black Widow and Sam — who uses an experimental flying suit to become the hero Faclon — are able to defeat HYDRA. During the battle, Bucky regains some of his memories and goes on the run as a fugitive.
Afterward, Maria goes to work for Stark Industries, Cap and Falcon begin a worldwide search to find Bucky, Fury (still believed dead) heads to Europe to root out hidden HYDRA cells, and Black Widow releases all of S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA’s secrets to the public.
The Events of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”
August 2014: Peter Quill — now calling himself “Star-Lord” — betrays the Ravagers by stealing an object called the Orb and attempting to sell it for himself. Also searching for the orb is Ronan the Accuser, whoabandoned the Kree Empire because he opposes its peace treaty with Xandar and now serves Thanos. Thanos has promised to help Ronan destroy Xandar if Ronan brings him the Orb, and to help he has assigned Gamora and Nebula to advise Ronan.
Gamora volunteers to retrieve the orb from Quill, but her true plan is to betray Thanos by selling the Orb herself to fund her escape. Meanwhile, the Ravagers put out a bounty on Quill, and bounty hunters Rocket, a raccoon uplifted by illegal cybernetic experiments, and Groot, a member of a race of sentient plants, attempt to collect. All four meet on Xandar where they briefly fight before being arrested and sent to the interstellar prison known as The Kyln. Once there, they team with Drax the destroyer in order to escape and take the Orb to The Collector to sell it for a lot of money.
They learn the Orb is actually the Power Infinity Stone and unite to keep the Orb out of Ronan and Thanos’ hands. They prevail after briefly controlling the power of the Infinity Stone, an impossible feat that should have killed them. Unfortunately, during the battle Groot is killed, though Rocket manages to save his twigs and from them, Baby Groot, Groot’s son, is born. In the chaos, Nebula (who, like Gamora, also hates Thanos) escapes.
Quill, Gamora, Rocket, and Drax leave the Orb in the care of Nova Corps, and along with Baby Groot embark on new adventures under the team name Guardians of the Galaxy. Drax, who held Ronan responsible for the murder of his family, transfers his vendetta to Thanos after learning that Ronan was acting on the Mad Titan’s orders.
A few months later: While beating a hasty retreat after a job for an advanced race known as the Sovereign goes wrong, the Guardians encounter Ego, who has discovered Peter’s existence after hearing he briefly held the Infinity Stone without dying. Ego explains that Quill is his son and that he’s also part Celestial, which is why the Infinity Stone didn’t kill him immediately.
At first, Peter is overjoyed to meet his father, and doesn’t realize Ego’s plan is to use Peter to power up his seeds and take over the galaxy. But the Guardians, joined now by Nebula and Yondu, discover that Ego murdered all of his previous children, while Ego blithely tells Peter about how he killed his mother, not realizing that Peter isn’t a sociopath like Ego and thus won’t actually understand. Peter turns on Ego and the Guardians defeat him, but in the process, Yondu is forced to sacrifice himself to save Quill.
Nebula and Gamora repair their relationship and vow to treat each other as family from now on, while Ego’s former slave, Mantis, joins the Guardians as they move on to new adventures. Nebula goes on her own to try and assassinate Thanos.
Sometime after this, Gamora confesses to Nebula that she found the location of the Soul Stone, and burned the map so Thanos could never find out.
Throughout 2014: HYDRA boss Baron von Strucker conducts experiments on Sokovian siblings Wanda and Pietro Maximoff using Loki’s Scepter — AKA the Mind Stone — giving them superpowers.
The Events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
May 2015: Tony Stark comes out of retirement to help The Avengers mop up remaining HYDRA forces. They retrieve Loki’s Scepter — and the Mind Stone inside it — and Stark and Bruce Banner use it to create what they hope will be a peacekeeping artificial intelligence that could replace the Avengers. Instead, they accidentally create the powerful robotic entity Ultron, who rebels against the Avengers. Ultron recruits Wanda and Pietro, who blame Tony Stark’s weapons for their parents’ deaths, but they abandon him when they realize his actual goal is to destroy humanity and remake the planet in his own image. The Avengers defeat Ultron, but not before it destroys a city in Sokovia, costing many lives, including Pietro’s.
Ultron’s scheming results in the birth of The Vision, a merging of Stark’s JARVIS AI with the Mind Stone. He joins the Avengers along with Wanda Maximoff.
Meanwhile, Banner, traumatized by the events and his own uncontrollable nature as Hulk, leaves Earth in the Avengers’ Quinjet for an unknown destination.
The Events of “Ant-Man”
July 2015: Recently-paroled, Scott Lang breaks into Hank Pym’s home in hopes of stealing something valuable to pay for child support. Instead, he finds Pym’s Ant-Man suit and its capabilities. Pym and his daughter, Hope Van Dyne, convince Lang to become the new Ant-Man in order to help them stop Pym’s former protege, Darren Cross, from recreating Pym Particles and selling them to former HYDRA members. Amid all this, he fights Falcon, who will later recruit him during the Marvel Civil War. During his final battle with Cross, Scott is forced to shrink to subatomic size and ends up in the Quantum Realm, but manages to escape; this convinces Hank and Hope that Janet might still be alive.
As a result of his heroics, Scott repairs relations with his ex-wife, becomes friends with her fiancee and is accepted back into his daughter’s life. He and Hope also begin dating.
Late 2015: Queens high school student Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and develops super powers. He makes a makeshift costume and operates in Queens as the vigilante Spider-Man.
Early Fall, 2015: In Kathmandu, Nepal, the sorcerer Kaecilius and his zealots enter the secret compound Kamar-Taj and steal a few pages from an ancient, mystical text belonging to the Ancient One, a long-lived sorcerer who has taught every student at Kamar-Taj, including Kaecilius. The Ancient One pursues the traitors, but Kaecilius and his followers escape.
Around the same time, famous neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange suffers major nerve damage to his hands in a car accident and spends several months recovering. No longer able to perform surgery, Strange begins a desperate search for ways to heal himself.
Sometime late 2015/early 2016: The Hulk’s Quinjet is discovered by the last surviving Valkyrie, who now works as a slave catcher for the Grandmaster under the name “Scrapper 142.” She brings Hulk to Sakaar to fight in the Grandmaster’s gladiator games.
Early 2016: Stephen Strange finds out about Kamar-Taj and travels to Nepal, where he spends the year learning sorcery from The Ancient One.
The Events of “Captain America: Civil War”
June 2016: Already distrusted after disasters like Sokovia and New York, the Avengers cause an international incident when an operation in Nigeria accidentally results in the death of several Wakandan aid workers. This prompts the Sokovia Accords, an international treaty to make the Avengers subject to UN oversight. Captain America opposes the accords while Iron Man supports them, forcing the other Avengers take sides.
A bomb is detonated at the signing of the Sokovia Accords in Vienna, killing T’Chaka, the king of Wakanda, and Bucky Barnes is subsequently framed for it. The king’s son, T’Challa, assumes the identity of Black Panther and vows to kill Bucky, while Captain America moves to protect him. Barnes and Cap learn that Helmut Zemo was really responsible for the attack, and believe he is trying to get control of several remaining HYDRA super-soldiers. But the Accords make unsanctioned attempts to stop Zemo illegal, and he is now a wanted man.
Tony Stark convinces the authorities to let him be the one who brings Steve in. He assembles the Avengers who support the accords — Vision, War Machine, Black Widow, joined by Black Panther — and recruits Peter Parker as well. Steve gathers those who oppose the accords — Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Falcon and Bucky — as recruits Scott Lang. The two factions clash, but in the battle, War Machine is severely injured. Steve and Bucky escape, and the Avengers who joined Cap’s side are arrested and sent to The Raft, a secret prison for “enhanced individuals.”
Stark realizes that the Avengers have been manipulated by Zemo and goes to help Steve and Bucky. But his friendship with Steve is nearly destroyed when he learns Bucky killed his father. While the three of them fight, Black Panther apprehends Zemo.
Afterward, the Avengers functionally break up. Cap goes on the run with Wanda, Falcon and Black Widow. T’Challa takes Barnes to Wakanda to heal his mind. And Hawkeye and Ant-Man cut deals for extended house arrest in order not to be separated from their families. Only Vision and War Machine remain on the team, and War Machine’s recovery is very slow-going. But Steve sends a message to Tony apologizing for not being forthcoming about Bucky’s role in the deaths of Tony’s parents, and promises to help if the need ever arises.
The Events of “Black Panther”
Days after the Marvel Civil War Ends: T’Challa returns to Wakanda for his coronation, officially becoming king and Black Panther. When Ulysses Klaue resurfaces, T’Challa and his allies team with the CIA to capture Klaue, but Klaue is rescued by his ally, Erik Stevens, who is also known by his U.S. Special Forces nickname, Killmonger.
T’Challa returns to Wakanda and admits he couldn’t stop Klaue, but soon after, Killmonger arrives in Wakanda with Klaue’s body. Killmonger uses killing Klaue, an enemy of Wakanda, and his status as N’Jobu’s son to challenge T’Challa for the throne. Weakened by recent events, T’Challa is defeated and Killmonger becomes the new king. T’Challa’s allies manage to escape before Killmonger can harm them, and later find T’Challa’s injured body, reviving him using the Heart-Shaped Herb.
Killmonger prepares to use Vibranium weapons to arm people across the world and create a Wakandan-led revolution. T’Challa returns and eventually defeats and kills Killmonger, but decides to end Wakanda’s isolationist practices in favor of using the nation’s wealth and technology to help the rest of the world.
Sometime later, Bucky is revived, fully healed.
The Events of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”
October 2016: Months after the civil war, Peter Parker uses the new technologically advanced suit Stark gave him, and sticks to low-level crime-fighting while struggling to balance high school and a social life with his responsibilities as Spider-Man. He encounters criminals robbing an ATM, using powerful weapons created from salvage from the Battle of New York. Spider-Man tracks the sales back to Toomes, who uses specially designed flying “vulture” armor to steal technology from Damage Control to build weapons.
Spider-Man stops Toomes, who is sent to prison, where he encounters one of his buyers, Mac Gargan (aka the Scorpion), who vows revenge against Spider-Man. Tony Stark offers to make Spider-Man an Avenger, but Spider-Man turns down the offer, opting to help the regular people of New York instead. Tony Stark proposes to Pepper Potts.
The Events of “Doctor Strange”
Fall 2016: After months of training, Stephen Strange has become a powerful wizard. He learns that The Ancient One has lived for centuries by tapping into the power of an ancient godlike being from the Dark Dimension called Dormammu. Soon after, The Ancient One is killed by Kaecilius, who seeks to allow Dormammu to take over Earth and end death. With the help of his former teacher and fellow master Wong and his friend and magical mentor Karl Mordo, Strange defeats Kaecilius by locking Dormammu in a time loop using the Eye of Agamotto, which is actually the Time Infinity Stone, convincing Dormammu to cease his attack on earth in exchange for being released.
Disillusioned by The Ancient One’s violation of “natural law” and Strange’s use of the Time Stone, Mordo leaves the order of the Mystic Arts. He later vows to wipe out all unsanctioned sorcery.
Strange takes up residence in New York City as the city’s master of the mystic arts and helps manage the world’s magic alongside Wong. Strange begins cataloging all supernatural and magical threats to the earthly realm.
The Events of “Thor: Ragnarok”
Late 2017-May 2018: After spending a couple of years looking for more information about the Infinity Stones and their connection to Ragnarok (he had a vision during the fight against Ultron), Thor finally learns that Loki deposed Odin and returns to Asgard to find out WTF. The pair go to Earth to locate Odin, where they’re aided by Dr. Strange. Odin reveals he is dying, tells Loki and Thor about Hela, and warns his death will end her imprisonment. Hela subsequently arrives on Earth, destroys Mjølnir, and exiles Thor and Loki, who wind up on planet Sakaar.
On Sakaar, Loki ingratiates himself into The Grandmaster’s social circle, while Thor is forced to fight in The Grandmaster’s gladiator games. During his first battle, Thor discovers that the Hulk has become The Grandmaster’s champion and Sakaar’s favorite fighter. Eventually, Thor convinces Hulk and Scrapper 142, AKA the last surviving Valkyrie, to help him fight Hela, who has conquered Asgard in his absence.
Back on Asgard, Hela gouges out Thor’s eye. But with the help of Valkyrie, Hulk and Loki, Thor manages to defeat Hela by actually letting Ragnarok begin. Asgard is destroyed, but the Asgardians survive as refugees on a massive spaceship. In the escape, Loki takes the Tesseract with him.
Around this time Thanos invades and devastates Xandar, and takes possession of the Power Infinity Stone.
As the Asgardians, with Thor as their new king, head to Earth, they’re intercepted by a massive spaceship. That ship is the Sanctuary II, commanded by Thanos.
The Events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp”
(Warning! All the spoilers for “Ant-Man and the Wasp” beyond this point!)
Early 2018: In the two years following the “Civil War” battle between the Avengers, Scott Lang has been under house arrest in San Francisco as part of a plea deal, after he violated the Sokovia Accords. Because he used Hank Pym’s shrinking tech, Hank and Hope van Dyne are also wanted under the Accords, and have gone on the run. While evading the FBI, Hope and Hank have started working on a quantum tunnel that will allow them to reach the Quantum Realm and hopefully rescue Janet van Dyne.
Just after Hank and Hope complete their quantum tunnel, Scott has a vision of Janet, as a result of his time in the Quantum Realm. Hank and Hope recruit Scott to help them find Janet. As the three try to finish the quantum tunnel to rescue Janet, they run afoul of Sunny Burch, a black market technology dealer, and Ava, also known as Ghost. Ava’s father was formerly a partner of Hank’s, but died in an accident that caused Ava’s body to lose its quantum stability, allowing her to phase through matter.
Ghost and Sunny both independently try to steal Hank’s shrunken lab, but Scott as Ant-Man and Hope as the new Wasp stop both. Hank manages to save Janet from the Quantum Realm. Janet has gained powers from the Quantum Realm, which she uses to stabilize Ava and save her from dying from her affliction. The authorities fail to catch Scott breaking house arrest, and he’s finally released.
(Warning! Every possible spoiler for “Avengers: Infinity War” beyond this point!)
Around the same time: Thanos attacks the Asgardian ship, killing half of Thor’s remaining people. Thanos subdues Thor and easily beats the Hulk in a short brawl. Heimdall is killed after he uses the bifrost to send Hulk back to Earth to warn the Avengers about Thanos. Loki turns over the Tesseract to Thanos in return for Thor’s life, but then attempts to stab Thanos, who kills him. Thanos sends his lieutenants, the Black Order, to recover the remaining two Infinity Stones on Earth.
On Earth, Ebony Maw, one of the Black Order, manages to capture Doctor Strange in order to take the Time Stone from him, despite the intervention of Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Wong and Spider-Man. Tony and Spider-Man infiltrate the Maw’s ship and manage to save Doctor Strange, and the three decide to go to Titan to try to stop Thanos.
Meanwhile, the Guardians of the Galaxy respond to the Asgardian distress call and find Thor. He enlists the help of Groot and Rocket Raccoon to go to Nidavellir, where Thor’s hammer Mjolnir was forged, to get a new weapon that can beat Thanos. While there, Thor receives Stormbreaker, an axe capable of killing Thanos, and then returns to Earth with Groot and Rocket.
The rest of the Guardians go to Knowhere to stop Thanos from recovering the Reality Stone, but arrive too late. Thanos then captures Gamora, who he forces to reveal the location of the Soul Stone by torturing Nebula. On Vormir, Thanos encounters the Red Skull, sent to the planet by the Space Stone in 1945, and recovers the Soul Stone by trading his “love,” Gamora, for it — i.e. killing her, “a soul for a soul.” Meanwhile, the remaining Guardians head to Titan and team with Stark, Strange and Spider-Man to ambush Thanos.
On Earth, Captain America bands with War Machine, Falcon, Black Widow, Bruce Banner and Scarlet Witch to protect Vision — the Mind Stone is part of him, and if Thanos gets it, they expect Vision will die. To avoid that, they take him to Wakanda to make a stand against Thanos’ army, while Shuri, sister of T’Challa and Wakanda’s top scientist, attempts to make connections in Vision’s mind that would allow him to live without the stone. The plan is to destroy it to stop Thanos from getting it.
The Black Order attacks Wakanda, but the heroes and its army, along with help from a returning Thor, defeat Thanos’ lieutenants and his army. But on Titan, Thanos defeats the combined efforts of Stark, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and the Guardians thanks in part to Peter Quill losing it when he learns Gamora is dead. Strange, having used the Time Stone to view millions of alternate futures, eventually gives up the Time Stone to save Tony Stark’s life.
With five Infinity Stones, Thanos heads to Earth to get the last stone from Vision. Scarlet Witch destroys the stone while the other heroes hold Thanos back, killing Vision, but Thanos uses the Time Stone to reverse the act. He tears the Mind Stone out of Vision’s head, killing him. Before Thor can stop him with Stormbreaker, Thanos snaps his fingers, killing half the life in the universe. Trillions of beings — including Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, and all the Guardians of the Galaxy save for Rocket — are turned to dust. Before he dies, Doctor Strange tells Tony Stark that his decision was “the only way,” and that they were “in the endgame now.”
Thanos escapes to an unspecified planet, triumphant.
Around this moment in San Francisco, Hank, Janet and Hope send Scott into the Quantum Realm, using a shrunken version of the quantum tunnel in the back of the van, so he can collect “quantum healing particles” to help Ghost. While he’s gone, Thanos’s snap happens in Wakanda. Hank, Janet and Hope turn to dust, and Scott is left marooned in the Quantum Realm.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye’s entire family is snapped out of existence while he watches, helplessly.
At the same time, Nick Fury and Marie Hill watch as people start to disappear thanks to Thanos’ victory. As he himself turns to dust, Fury digs up the pager Captain Marvel from the trunk of his car and sends a message — successfully. Captain Marvel has been summoned.
The Events of “Avengers: Endgame”
(Warning! All the spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame” beyond this point!)
Three weeks later, Tony Stark and Nebula have left Titan aboard the Guardians’ space ship, The Benatar. Having long since run out of food and fuel, their oxygen is nearly depleted. But just hours before they die, they’re rescued by Carol Danvers, who brings them to Avengers HQ on Earth, where they find Cap, Thor, Rocket, Rhodey, Black Widow and Bruce Banner.
Tony gets angry at Cap over their “Ultron” and “Civil War” ideological difference, as Tony believes the measures he supported could have helped make the fight against Thanos something other than a curb stomp. Using tech from the Benatar, Rocket detects an energy signature identical to the one emitted when Thanos did his snap, which reveals the location of his new homeworld. Tony is too weak from starvation, but Cap, Danvers, Banner, Rhodey, Rocket Black Widow, Nebula and Thor take the Benatar on a voyage to confront Thanos, steal the Infinity Stones, and reverse everything he did.
Unfortunately, they discover that Thanos has been further crippled by using the Infinity Stones one more time — to destroy the Infinity Stones and prevent anyone from undoing the snap. In a fit of rage, Thor beheads Thanos with Stormbreaker.
The Five Year Time Skip
2023. Five years later, Earth is still recovering from the damage caused by Thanos’ snap.
Black Widow leads the Avengers in their efforts to maintain some kind of stability around the earth, while keeping in close contact with Okoye, who leads Wakanda, and Captain Marvel, who spends months at a time away from Earth helping people on other worlds. Wanda and Rhodes have been trying to track down Hawkeye, who has in the years since the snap becomes a ruthless vigilante, traveling the world and straight up murdering dangerous criminals taking advantage of the post-snap instability.
Captain America has started a therapy group for people still coping with the losses caused by Thanos. Bruce Banner has somehow figured out how to make peace with the Hulk and they now share the same body, essentially becoming a new person with Banner’s intelligence and Hulk’s strength, and a much calmer, more balanced personality, and he’s now something of a beloved celebrity. Thor is king of New Asgard, which has been established somewhere in Norway, but devastated by his failure against Thanos, he has withdrawn into a deep depression, spending most of his time drinking and playing video games. Tony and Pepper married and have had a daughter, Morgan Stark.
In San Francisco, Scott Lang escapes from the Quantum Realm through the shrunken tunnel. Though five years have gone by in our world, thanks to the weird way time works in the Quantum Realm he personally experienced only five hours. He discovers a San Francisco still recovering from the snap, but also that his daughter survived and is now a teenager. Scott travels to Avengers HQ where he explains that his experience in the Quantum Realm means it might be possible to use it to travel through time, take the Infinity Stones from the past, then use them to undo Thanos’ snap in the present.
Black Widow goes to Japan to recruit Hawkeye, who has become inconsolably despondent thanks to the loss of his family. Bruce-Hulk and Thor are also recruited.
The reunited Avengers ask Tony for help building a time machine, but Tony refuses because he doesn’t want to erase his daughter from existence. After talking to Pepper about it, he realizes there’s another option and tells the Avengers he’ll help on the condition they don’t undo the five-year skip.
The Time Heist
Tony and Bruce-Hulk figure out how to make the time machine using Pym Particles to access the Quantum Realm. Banner explains that changing the past won’t actually change their current present, it’ll only create branching timelines, parallel dimensions.
The Avengers split up into teams sent back to different points in the past where they know for a fact they’ll find the Infinity Stones. Cap, Tony, Bruce-Hulk and Scott go back to 2012 during the battle of New York from “The Avengers” to fetch the Time Stone (in the New York Sanctum), Space Stone (AKA the Tesseract) and Mind Stone (from Loki’s scepter). Black Widow, Hawkeye, Rhodey and Nebula go back to 2014 before the events of “Guardians of the Galaxy” to retrieve the Power Stone from the orb before Peter Quill can take it, and the Soul Stone from Vormir. Thor and Rocket go back to 2013 to retrieve the Reality Stone, aka The Aether, from Jane Foster on Asgard.
In 2013, Bruce-Hulk encounters The Ancient One, who at first refuses to hand over the Time Stone. She relents after Bruce-Hulk explains that Doctor Strange voluntarily gave the stone to Thanos in the future, convincing her that he had some greater reason for doing so. Meanwhile, Cap, Scott and Tony sneak into the aftermath of the Battle of New York. Cap pretends to be his past self and takes possession of the Scepter from a group of S.H.I.E.L.D. Hydra moles by pretending to be a member of Hydra. Tony and Scott meanwhile team up to take the Tesseract, but accidentally screw up, allowing Loki to grab it and escape. Bruce-Hulk and Scott return to the present, while Cap and Steve decide to go even further back, to…
1971, to Camp Lehigh, where they know A) the Tesseract is being stored and B) Hank Pym is working, which means they can nab some more Pym particles for a return trip to the future. Cap briefly sees Peggy Carter, while Tony has a meaningful interaction with his father, then they return to the present.
In 2013, Thor and Rocket manage to grab the Reality Stone, and Thor has a conversation with his Mother just hours before her death, which gets him back in the right headspace for the heroics necessary to maybe save the world.
In 2014, Black Widow and Hawkeye steal Peter Quill’s ship and travel to Vormir, where they discover what Gamora learned: That someone has to die in order for someone else to gain the Soul Stone. Hawkeye tries to sacrifice himself but is stopped by Black Widow, who wants him to be reunited with his family. We also learn from Red Skull that anyone killed as a sacrifice to gain the Soul Stone is permanently killed and can never ever be brought back. Why this information was never previously revealed isn’t explained.
After she dies, Hawkeye receives the Soul Stone and returns to the present.
Meanwhile, Nebula and Rhodey acquire the Power Stone. He returns to the present with it, but before she can activate her own time device, her software interfaces with Nebula 2014’s software, allowing 2014 Thanos to discover that he will eventually succeed, but will also be betrayed by Nebula and Gamora, and later executed by Thor. She is subsequently captured by Thanos.
2014 Nebula, still half-mad from a lifetime of being tortured by Thanos, declares she would never betray him and agrees to take 2023 Nebula’s place as a mole for Thanos, while 2023 Nebula remains captive under the supervision of Gamora.
In 2023, after very (very, very) briefly mourning Black Widow’s sacrifice, the remaining Avengers assemble the stones on a gauntlet created by Tony Stark based on Iron Man tech. Bruce-Hulk does an infinity snap of his own, restoring everyone dusted by Thanos back to life. At the same time, 2014 Gamora uses the time machine to bring Thanos and his massive warship to 2023, and Thanos basically nukes Avengers HQ immediately.
Somehow, Bruce-Hulk, Tony, Cap, Scott, Hawkey, Thor, Rocket and Rhodesy survive the attack but find themselves outmatched by Thanos, who intends to steal the Iron Gauntlet and undo the snap that undid his original snap. A revived Doctor Strange shows up alongside a bunch of other sorcerers, who use their powers to bring the restored Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the armies of Wakanda, Asgard, and the Ravagers to the battle. Captain Marvel also returns to earth at this time.
During the mayhem, 2023 Nebula convinces 2014 Gamora to rebel against Thanos, and the two of them escape. 2023 Nebula kills 2014 Nebula in the process, but isn’t erased from history, proving Bruce-Hulk correct. 2014 Gamora joins the fight on the same side as the other Marvel heroes.
After a fierce battle, Thanos gets his hands on the Iron Gauntlet, but before he can re-snap, Tony Stark steals the stones and places them on his own Iron-suited hand. Tony snaps Thanos and his forces out of existence, but is mortally wounded by the power of the stones. He dies surrounded by friends and in Pepper Pott’s arms.
After a funeral for Tony Stark, attended by survivors of the snap and those brought back after a 5-year gap, The Avengers and other Marvel heroes largely go their separate ways.
2014 Gamora is now a completely separate person from the Gamora murdered by Thanos and whose soul, which was confirmed to still exist at the end of “Infinity War,” is trapped in the Soul World forever. 2014 Gamora subsequently has no memory of the character development her future self went through — including her 4-year long romantic relationship with Peter Quill, which comes as a real bummer of a surprise for poor Peter. 2014 Gamora secretly departs Earth after the battle; no one knows where she went.
Thor appoints Valkyrie as the new ruler of New Asgard and leaves Earth with the Guardians — he jokingly refers to them as the Asgardians of the Galaxy. A still-heartbroken Peter Quill indicates they’re going to go looking for 2014 Gamora.
Peter Parker returns to his high school, where we learn most of his friends were also dusted in the snap, so they’re all still the same age.
Finally, Bruce-Hulk rebuilds the time device and send Cap back in time to return the Soul Stones to their proper time period. The trip will take however long Cap needs, but for Bruce-Hulk and Bucky and Sam Wilson, who are there, Cap should only be gone for a few seconds. Cap doesn’t return through the time machine, however — instead, an elderly Steve Rogers appears nearby. It seems after returning the stones, he went back in time to live out his life in a parallel universe with Peggy; it’s not explained how Steve was able to return to his original reality without using the time machine. Steve says goodbye and gives his shield to Sam.