Warning: This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.
The comic book connections of one of Avengers: Infinity War‘s biggest twists may give us a hint of what’s next after that deadly ending. As detailed in The Hollywood Reporter, the inclusion of Captain America: The First Avengers‘ Red Skull as the keeper of the Soul Stone, an unexpected and surprising moment in the film, has a surprisingly long and storied history in the comics which could suggest how the film’s deceased superheroes will come back from the dead.
Thanos (Josh Brolin) forces Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to take him to the Soul Stone in the film. On the planet Vormir, they find that the keeper of the stone is actually Red Skull, who was killed thanks to the power of the Tesseract (which we later learned was the Space Stone) in Captain America. (Hugo Weaving didn’t return to play the character this time around; The Walking Dead‘s Ross Marquand took over instead.)
Red Skull explains that he was “judged unworthy” when he encountered the Space Stone, leading him to be sent to Vormir, where he has to lead others to the stone without ever being able to use it himself. In the comics, Red Skull’s relationship with the Infinity Stones is less present, but he does have a lot of history with the Cosmic Cube, an item with essentially the same powers as the MCU’s Tesseract, albeit not connected to the Infinity Stones.
In the comics, Red Skull, whose real name is Johann Schmidt, is one of Steve Rogers’ most frequent foes, and although the hero has vanquished him time and time again, he uses the Cosmic Cube to come back from the dead, transform into and possess people, and travel through time. Schmidt’s role in the MCU, though, places him not with the Space Stone, but with the Soul Stone, which is the only one of the stones that uses its owner, rather than letting its owner use it.
The Soul Stone, as THR notes, “traditionally sees its wielder as a ‘host.’ It uses its power to effectively try and harvest the souls of the living things around it, trapping them in an idyllic pocket dimension called the Soul World.” It is possible that Red Skull wasn’t trapped on Vormir to guard the stone; instead, he may have been one of the stone’s prisoners, used to trap others into its powers.
This could potentially answer the question of how some of the many superheroes who bit the dust (pun intended) in the film could be brought back in time for the fourth movie: could they be residing in the Soul World? Considering the fact that some of the characters who died in the movie have their own standalone films already planned, it seems that the fourth film will find a way to reverse at least some of Infinity War‘s dramatic deaths, and this could be one possible solution.
We’ll have to wait a while to find out, though, with Avengers 4 not hitting theaters until May 3, 2019. Avengers: Infinity War is in theaters now.