'Avengers' Comic Hints at Devilish Threat in Marvel's Future

Avengers Mephisto Marvel Entertainment
Ed McGuinness/Marvel Entertainment
The publisher touts this week's issue as leading into its 2021 plans.

[This story contains spoilers for this week's Avengers No. 38.]

Marvel Entertainment has teased this week’s issue of Avengers as offering “the road to Marvel Comics 2021” — but, as the issue reveals, that road started a long, long time ago. As in, the pre-history of the Marvel Comic Book Universe.

Avengers No. 38, titled “The Fly That Laid a Billion Maggots,” isn’t an issue that offers a clear first chapter of an epic with obvious repercussions for the many superheroes throughout Marvel’s comic book landscape; it is, however, something that offers a new version of the history of the company’s comic mythology that places Mephisto — the demonic Satan stand-in first introduced in 1968’s The Silver Surfer No. 3 — at the center of events as the dominant corrupting force of existence.

Mephisto is shown to have been present throughout history, leading multiple villainous threats to their fates, including Thanos, X-Men villain Apocalypse, an early incarnation of the Hulk, and a future version of Fantastic Four arch-nemesis Doctor Doom, seemingly reborn as a technological planet.

Simultaneously, the Avengers have uncovered evidence that Mephisto is in the process of a plan that doesn’t just span history, but also alternate timelines and realities. As Captain America helpfully puts it, “So we’re talking about time travel and alternate universes and a self-proclaimed devil who’s been plotting something going back to the Stone Age.”

Part of that plot, the issue reveals at its climax, involves Howard Stark, Iron Man’s adoptive father, seemingly resurrected in service to Mephisto and helping him with some kind of resurrection spell — but to what end, left purposefully unclear. Whatever is being planned, however, it looks to set Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on a collision course with the devil… and perhaps figures from their own pasts, as well.

If Marvel is planning a Mephisto-centric event storyline in 2021, it’ll have to wait until after King in Black, the Venom-focused storyline that spans the entire comic book universe that begins this December, which started on the heels of X-Men event storyline X of Swords, which began in September and concludes at the end of this month. That storyline followed Avengers/Fantastic Four: Empyre, which ran from July through August.

Avengers No. 38 is available digitally and in print now.