Avengers: Infinity War brought pretty much every character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe together for the first time (better luck next time, Hawkeye and Ant-Man), but the blockbuster brings back one MCU character that fans rightfully assumed they’d never see again. In order to understand how this character was able to appear in Infinity War, we need to look to the past — seriously. Travel back to World War II and the events of Captain America: The First Avenger.
This post spoils that big cameo, though it’s mostly focused on how the ending of Captain America made that appearance possible in the first place.
Infinity War finally revealed where the Soul Stone is. As the only Infinity Stone that hadn’t been seen in a previous MCU film, this is a big deal, so when Gamora and Thanos hit up the secret location of the Soul Stone, it’s a revelation. Even more surprising is the identity of the Soul Stone’s keeper. It’s Johann Schmidt, better known as Red Skull, the former head of Hydra and Captain America’s adversary in World War II.
In retrospect, we should’ve guessed Red Skull would show his ugly face again. But who expected to find him on the Soul Stone planet? Here’s how he go there.
When Cap and Red Skull are fighting aboard Hydra’s flying fortress, Cap is able to dislodge the Tesseract (a.k.a. the Space Stone) from the pedestal where it had been powering up the entire plane. Red Skull, in a panic, grabs it before starring at it, transfixed.
Soon, the cube emits a bolt of blue light which appears to open up a vision — or perhaps a portal — of distant space. Then, Red Skull starts to disintegrate. It looks painful, but instead of being unmade, he was whooshed into the far-off reaches of space.
An Infinity War tie-in comic, Avengers: Infinity War Prelude, makes it even more clear that Red Skull went somewhere instead of just being destroyed. A panel from the comic (which is much more insightful than these tie-ins usually are) literally has a “FOOSHHHH” sound effect.
The exact logistics of how and why Red Skull was sent to the Soul Stone’s location are not explained. Like, at all. You actually have to remember that he got sucked into the Space Stone to get this. But, his reappearance in the MCU doesn’t come from left field…entirely. One wonders, then, if the architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe knew what the future had in store for Red Skull.
Avengers: Infinity War opens on April 27.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that actor Hugo Weaving reprised his role as Red Skull. The part was actually recast, and Ross Marquand played the villain for Infinity War.