Avengers: The Spirituality Behind the Superheroes

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This weekend, Avengers: Infinity War will roll into theaters worldwide. It’s kind of a big deal.

Infinity War, wherein an array of Marvel superheroes will try to prevent the evil Thanos from collecting super-powerful galactic artifacts known as Infinity Stones, is the culmination (along with next year’s untitled fourth Avengers flick) of a decade-long journey that began with 2008’s Iron Man—one of the first movies I reviewed in my tenure here. Since then, Marvel, Disney and even Sony have released 18 separate movies that belong in what’s called the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each movie stands on its own, but most contain narrative tendrils that tie in with all the others. And most, if not all, of the heroes in those movies will make an appearance in Infinity War.

Marvel’s umbrella strategy was as audacious as ideas get in Hollywood, but it has paid off critically (every single movie is rated “fresh” by the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes) and commercially (all told, the movies have made nearly $6 billion in North America), and it has spanned a collection of (less successful) copycats.

But for me, Infinity War has also been a perfect excuse for me to watch lots of superhero movies. And to think about them, too.

I’m on record as being a pretty dedicated superhero geek who loves delving into the spiritual underpinnings of these high-flying do-gooders. And for about the last four months, my family and I have spent a chunk of each weekend re-watching a movie from the MCU, mostly in order.

Part of my rationale was to figure out just where all those Infinity Stones are as Infinity War opens. Part of it was a geeky desire to catalog all of Marvel impresario Stan Lee’s cameos. And a lot of it was because I’ve successfully turned my whole family into superhero fans: My kids are grown now, and it was a great excuse to have them over for dinner every weekend.

But it also triggered some religious reflection, too. As such, I wrote a handful of posts for my personal “Watching God” blog over at Patheos. Those new posts join others I’ve done over the years on Marvel’s heroes, for movies such as Black Panther and Doctor Strange. I thought I’d share those posts with you here—just in case you’re super-jazzed for Infinity War but really don’t want to go unless you know how, say, the storyline in the Hulk reflects the spiritual age in which we live.

I didn’t get to every superhero on the docket.(Though if I have time, I’ll be writing about one or two more before the weekend.) And be warned: The fact that I wrote about a given superhero movie doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily an appropriate one for you and your family to watch. As always, check out Plugged In’s reviews for the lowdown.

But for those who are interested, here’s what I’ve got.

Why Iron Man’s the Perfect Imperfect Hero

The Incredible Hulk and the Terrific, Terrifying Power of Faith

Why Captain America Must Die

Why Black Panther’s the Movie We Need Right Now

How Thor: Ragnarok Connects With Christian Faith in Four Freaky Ways

Doctor Strange is the Most Religious Superhero Movie Ever

Guardians of the Galaxy: Grateful for Groot

7 Hungry Sins to Watch for in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Oh, and once Avengers: Infinity War is in the books, I may have something to say about that one, too. Just maybe.