Mild spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War below.
Say what you will about Thanos, but the man believes in family. As we’d seen in previous Marvel Cinematic Universe installments, the monomaniacal nasty man raised two adopted daughters, Gamora and Nebula. In this weekend’s Avengers: Infinity War, we learn that he’s also responsible for an additional quartet of adoptees known as the Children of Thanos — or, as they’re known in the comic-book source material, the Black Order. Created by writer Jonathan Hickman and artists Jerome Opeña and Jim Cheung, they’re relatively recent additions to the Marvel canon, having only been invented on the page a few years ago. But who are these awful individuals? What can they do? And what actors are buried underneath all their layers of computer-generated extraterrestriality? Gird your loins and read on.
Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor)
The chattiest of the Children is the extremely mislabeled Ebony Maw, whose skin color is much closer to ivory. He’s sorta like a high priest of Thanosism. He can move things around telekinetically through subtle gestures of his hands, usually while preaching the gospel of death to those who are about to die. In the comics, he’s also able to control minds — most notably Doctor Strange’s — but in the film, he’s merely very persuasive (read: he’s into torture). He’s played by Tom Vaugahn-Lawlor, a relative unknown in the United States who had a notable role as a gangster in the Irish crime show Love/Hate.
Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon)
It’s hard to pick the best name in the Black Order, but man, “Proxima Midnight” is a strong contender for the top spot. She’s a blue-skinned, white-eyed, terribly strong person who carries around a giant spear and calmly tells people how much she’s going to mess them up. She’s a little more snarky and sadistic in her comics depictions than in her straightforward onscreen turn, but thanks to the acting talents of the inimitable Carrie Coon, she still manages to give off life while she brings death.
Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw)
Comics fans may find that the biggest letdown in the translation of the Black Order from book to movie is Corvus Glaive. In his print adventures, Corvus (these names!) is an operatic presence, full of verve and vigor, and more or less serves as Thanos’s right-hand man. In Infinity War, he barely gets any lines and feels like a generic baddie, albeit one who still gets to carry around a truly rad bladed staff. He’s portrayed by Michael James Shaw, a Juilliard-trained thespian who is no stranger to comics roles: He played magician Papa Midnite on the short-lived DC Comics TV adaptation Constantine.
Cull Obsidian (Terry Notary)
As if “Children of Thanos” and “Black Order” weren’t enough, there’s actually a third group moniker for this malicious band: In the comics, writer Hickman dubbed them the “Cull Obsidian.” Confusingly enough, they don’t get called that in Infinity War, but one of them has that name as an individual. He’s the giant bruiser of the group, the one who inevitably fights the Hulk (we won’t spoil who wins or loses). Though he’s known in the comics as Black Dwarf, he’s called Cull Obsidian here, which is admittedly a way more badass name, so who can blame the powers that be? He grunts more than he talks and he’s played by prolific stuntman and motion-capture actor Terry Notary. Notary is already a Marvel veteran, having done Hulk’s mo-cap for 2008’s oft-forgotten The Incredible Hulk, and you may also know him as the dude who embodied King Kong in last year’s Kong: Skull Island. Long may you digitally smash things, Terry.