SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War, specifically the film's after-credits scene.
Post-credits scenes have been a Marvel Studios tradition since the Marvel Cinematic Universe debuted in 2008's original Iron Man film. A decade later, it's only fitting that Avengers: Infinity War -- which in a very real way is the culmination of stories that started in Iron Man, and certainly ones from 2012's Avengers -- has one of the more consequential post-credits scenes of the franchise, and also features a character who debuted on-screen in that first MCU film 10 years ago.
In the fateful climax of Infinity War -- and seriously, don't keep reading this if you haven't seen the film! -- after Thor fails to stop Thanos with Stormbreaker (really, Thor, should have gone for the head), the Mad Titan snaps his fingers, much like in the classic comic book storyline The Infinity Gauntlet, and wipes out half of existence, thanks to the omnipotence newly granted to him by all six Infinity Stones. As that happens, life all over -- including some of our beloved Marvel heroes -- starts to vanish and fade into ash.
Which is exactly where the post-credits scene picks up. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury -- first seen in the post-credits scene of the aforementioned Iron Man, and not seen since 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron -- is in a car with Cobie Smulders' Maria Hill -- also not seen since Age of Ultron -- responding to the attack by Thanos' forces on Wakanda. A car nearly hits them, and they discover the driver is gone -- meaning that they also vanished as a result of Thanos' actions.
But, hold up. Soon, Maria Hill is ashed, as well -- leading Nick Fury to grab a noticeably old-school communication device. Except he starts to fade away, too, and right in the middle of letting out a trademark Samuel L. Jackson expletive. So, Hill and Fury are both gone, and hope just might be lost. Except the camera pans down to the communicator, which has successfully sent a message -- one that is indeed received, as the digital display turns into the red, yellow and blue colors and Hala star logo of Captain Marvel, the cosmically powerful hero created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, and first introduced in Marvel Comics in 1968.
Though it's been known a Captain Marvel film has been coming since at least 2014 -- and the movie's currently in production -- this is the first on-screen acknowledgement of Marvel mainstay Carol Danvers, who will be played in the 2019 film by Brie Larson (and was already known to play a role in as-yet publicly untitled Avengers 4). It's also a small beacon of hope in a film that ends with the villain winning, and many heroes freshly turned into dust -- so even though it's just a message on a superhero beeper, the nugget of optimism is welcomed.
Of course, plenty of questions remain. The Captain Marvel film takes place in the '90s, but what has the character been doing since then? Why hasn't she appeared or been mentioned in the 19 previous MCU films? How key is she to the heroic comeback that will certainly transpire in the fourth Avengers?
Those questions will linger for a while, but for now, take some solace that for Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Rocket and the other heroes left standing after Thanos' genocide -- that even though all may seem lost, help sure appears to be on the way.
Captain Marvel is scheduled for release on March 8, 2019. The fourth Avengers film is slated for May 3, 2019.