Not every interplanetary conquest can be won by might alone. Sometimes, the pen genuinely is mightier than the sword. Avengers: Infinity War will introduce audiences to Ebony Maw, the silver-tongued member of Thanos’ Black Order who uses language as a weapon. Unlike the rest of the Black Order, we know quite a bit about the big screen version of Ebony Maw, who can be seen in the trailer for the film and has been the source of much discussion from Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors of Infinity War. So, what do we know about Ebony Maw and how does it line up with his comic book origins?
For starters, Ebony Maw will be played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor. The Infinity War directors likened Vaughan-Lawlor’s performance to that of Josh Brolin’s Thanos, as it sounds like the actor’s role will be slightly more sedate than those playing action-heavy Black Order members like Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight. The Russo brothers described Ebony Maw as Thanos’ herald or “hype man,” which means you can likely expect a more nuanced performance that does not involve a multitude of stunts. Ebony Maw may even be likable, with a sense of humor and a predilection for stealing scenes. That does not mean he is a nice guy, though.
Ebony Maw’s true disposition can be glimpsed in the trailer for Infinity War, in which he can clearly be seen torturing Doctor Strange, likely to gain access to the Eye of Agamotto, which holds one of the Infinity Stones Thanos has become utterly obsessed with. While Ebony Maw’s goals might be similar to his comic book origins, his methods seemingly are not. The Ebony Maw in the comics is a whisperer and does not need such overt methods to gain information, preferring instead to use language to force his victims to do his bidding. Of course, once their usefulness has passed their fate is often not a kind one, but Ebony Maw rarely gets his hands dirty.
Introduced in New Avengers Vol. 2 #8, Ebony Maw was created by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña for the Infinity arc. The Infinity arc sees Thanos invade Earth while the Avengers are off fighting the Builders in outer space. Unlike the premise of Infinity War, Thanos is not wholly set on collecting the Infinity Gems (the comic book version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Stones). Instead, he is looking for his bastard son, Thane. The Infinity Gems are a bit of an afterthought in Infinity, but once the Mad Titan learns there could be even one gem on Earth he dispatches his Black Order to find it. Ebony Maw disregards his orders and goes looking for Thane instead.
Ebony Maw’s travels take him to the Sanctum Sanctorum, where he takes control of the Sorcerer Supreme. He then uses Doctor Strange to locate Thane among a lost Inhuman tribe. It might sound like Ebony Maw’s journey ends there, but here is the thing about him -- Ebony Maw is concerned with only one thing, which is his own survival. When it becomes clear that Thanos and his Black Order have fallen against the might of the Avengers, Ebony Maw abandons his former allies, hijacks Thane’s mind and gets off Earth as quickly as possible. While Thane likely will not be making an appearance in Infinity War, it will be interesting to see if Ebony Maw’s will to survive makes it to the big screen. If so, who might he cart off at the end of the film, and what mischief might the duo get up to in future installments?
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Tom Hiddleston and Josh Brolin, among others. The film opens April 27 worldwide.