The climactic battle of Avengers: Endgame is full of memorable and surprising moments.
From Captain America (Chris Evans) wielding Mjolnir to Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) almost single-handedly killing Thanos (Josh Brolin), individual character moments, along with Marvel Cinematic Universe pay-offs, helped elevate the battle above standard MCU action fare.
According to one keen-eyed fan, the battle also features a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to one of the most shocking and brutal moments in Marvel comics history.
A Makeshift Shield — TikTok user @ifyoulovemovies recently highlighted a brief moment during Avengers: Endgame’s third act climax when Thanos lifts Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in front of him and uses his body to take the impact of Thor’s thrown hammer. The interaction happens early in Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Tony, and Steve’s 3-on-1 fight against Thanos, long before Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and the proverbial cavalry arrive.
It’s a brief, savage moment, and one that the TikTok user believes, given the way Thanos picks and holds Tony up, is a subtle callback to the moment in the comics when the Mad Titan killed Iron Man by literally tearing him in half.
A Very Different Death — The comics moment in question happens during the Thanos Wins storyline, which envisions a world in which Thanos uses his completed Infinity Gauntlet to launch a devastating and successful attack on Earth. Not only does the comic arc see the Mad Titan succeed in taking over the planet, but it also shows him single-handedly killing many of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Tony Stark.
Of course, in Avengers: Endgame, things go wildly different than they did in that comic book arc. While Tony still dies as a result of his battle with Thanos, he loses his life by willingly taking on the full might of the six Infinity Stones and snapping the Mad Titan and all of his minions out of existence. Unlike how he goes out in Thanos Wins, Tony dies on his own terms in Endgame.
As for whether Endgame knowingly included this moment as a reference to Tony’s death in Thanos Wins is, frankly, hard to say right now. That said, Thanos lifting Tony the way he does in the film is very visually reminiscent of the latter’s death in Thanos Wins, so it certainly seems like a legitimate possibility at this point.
The Inverse Analysis — Until the Russo Brothers or someone at Marvel officially confirms the validity of this Easter egg, there’s no way of knowing for sure just how intentional of a comic book reference it is. That doesn’t mean fans can’t take it as one, though.
After all, Marvel Studios does have a habit of including these kinds of subtle comic book callbacks in its films. Maybe this is just the latest one that fans have discovered.
Avengers: Endgame is now streaming on Disney+.