WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Avengers #700, by Jason Aaron, David Marquez, Ed McGuinness, Frazer Irving, Adam Kubert, Andrea Sorrentino, Justin Ponsor, Erick Arciniega, Matthew Wilson, Giada Marchisio and VC's Cory Petit, out now.
There is so much information to unpack from Avengers #700, that we’ll no doubt be talking about it for weeks. With the main story plus three backups, writer Jason Aaron doesn’t waste a panel of it’s oversized page count, but as you read through the issue, there’s one surprising character in particular that looks to be an important figure for the future of the Marvel Universe.
While in the main story the Avengers are dealing with the very immediate threat of both Namor’s Defenders of the Deep and Russia’s newly reformed Winter Guard, it’s the backup stories that look to the future. In one, Ghost Rider is confronted by Odin and brutally stabbed by the Asgardian Allfather. Recovering quickly, Ghost Rider soon learns that Odin has come seeking vengeance against him for the death of Starbrand from 2017's Marvel Legacy #1. “He was your brother in arms since the dawn of this world!” Odin cries, before going in for another blow. Robbie Reyes explains he didn’t mean to harm the god's friend, and readers of that issue will remember he’s telling the truth.
In Marvel Legacy #1, the Starbrand appeared in front of Ghost Rider, angry and seemingly insane, attacking Robbie and nearly killing him until the Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare caused him to explode, all while ranting about the Final Host. Upon hearing this, Odin realizes that the fault rests with him, that the mortal body of the Starbrand went insane due to the revelation of the fallen Celestials. He also explains that Ghost Rider’s experience in killing Starbrands will no doubt come in handy in the near future, telling Robbie that he will learn a lot more about Starbrand soon enough, as “this realm is never long without one, especially in trying times like these.”
Later in Avengers #700, we see Loki facing judgment from the Celestials regarding his involvement with the waking of the fallen Celestial, when the proceedings are interrupted by none other than Wolverine. Rather than the version of Logan who’s currently in the midst of a return to the Marvel Universe, this is a version that is the wielder of the Phoenix Force. He saves Loki from the Celestials’ judgment, before revealing to the God of Mischief visions of the dangers yet to threaten the Marvel Universe.
There are many fascinating teases in these visions, including Moon Knight leading an army of mummies, and Man-Thing brandishing Mjolnir. One of the more obscure aspects of the vision, however, is the image of multiple hands raised into the air, all bearing the sigil of the Starbrand. Whether this means that there will be more than one Starbrand to emerge, or perhaps a whole army, isn’t quite clear, but their presence in Logan’s vision is prominent and striking.
Writer Jason Aaron has also been using the power of Starbrand over in his other series, Thor. In that book, we’ve recently seen a far future in which Doctor Doom wields not only the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme, Ghost Rider and Iron Fist, but he bears the Starbrand symbol on his left hand. Throw in the fact that Aaron has previously reinforced the Starbrand as one of the oldest powers in the universe by including it on his 1,000,000 BC Avengers team, and it’s clear that he's rolling out plans to position the Starbrand in a prominent position, one that will affect the very future of the Marvel Universe.