In the mad scramble to account for all the extraneous plot elements leading up to this summer’s surefire mega-hit Avengers: Age of Ultron, only one thing remains unaccounted for. As the movie’s title and trailers imply, the thrust of the movie is that the Mad Titan Thanos, that weird purple guy who keeps cropping up on a space=age hover-throne at the end of and as a minor plot point of so many of these movies since his debut in 2012, has finally come to Earth to collect all of the titular Infinity Stones: cosmic singularities that have appeared throughout the mega-franchise that individually have granted God-like powers to their wielder and collectively make the person who possesses them omnipotent.
And, to date, five of the six stone have been accounted for. The first to show up in a Marvel movie was The Tessreract, the Space Stone, the blue cube that was the driving McGuffin of Captain America: The First Avenger and the phase one capstone movie The Avengers. Next up was the AEther, the Reality Stone, which first appeared in Thor: The Dark World as a mercurial cloud of red liquid. We later saw the Orb, aka the Power Stone, in Guardians of the Galaxy, at which point the audience was explicitly filled in on their origin and function. Avengers: Age of Ultron revealed that Loki’s staff from The Avengers actually housed the Mind Stone, which was then used to bring the hero The Vision to life. The last one that has been revealed was the Eye of Agamotto, aka the Time Stone, in Doctor Strange.
The one that has until now remained absent has been the Soul Stone: an object that nebulously allows its wielder to control and interact with the souls of others. Generally, this has been utilized to possess people and speak with the dead, although other applications of the power have been explored in the decades of comic continuity that it has been around for.
Going into Black Panther, I assumed that Stone was housed somewhere in Wakanda, the afro-futurist nation ruled over by the movie’s title character. And although there was no explicit depiction or mention of it over the movie’s two-hour run time, I am convinced now more than ever that that’s exactly where it is having now seen it. In fact, there is no place in the entire Marvel universe that could possibly make more sense that it.
The first hint we have as to its whereabouts is actually from the Infinity War trailer. The big money shot of the whole thing is Thanos’ siege of Wakanda. It’s easy to gloss over given that that’s also when we see Captain America, Bucky, Hulk, Black Panther and other Marvel A-listers charging in the front line alongside the battle-hardened Wakandan soldiers, but the question is obvious upon retrospection. Why is Thanos attacking there in the first place?
Think about it. We see him land in New York and it makes absolute sense that that’s where he would start his mission to collect all of the stones. New York is a hotbed of Marvel superheroics and a concentration of many of the Earth’s Infinity Stones. The Mind Stone is embedded in the Vision’s forehead, and he lives and works in the Avengers’ training complex in upstate New York. Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, which houses the Time Stone, is located in the city.
But that, of course, begs the question of ‘why Wakanda?’ Why would Thanos go half a world away when all of the known Stones on the planet are right where he landed? The answer, of course, is that Wakanda also has one of the Infinity Stones, and after collecting the two in New York, he goes to claim the one located in Africa.
And if you want more proof than that, we undoubtedly saw proof of it being in Wakanda in Black Panther. No, we didn’t see a glowing rock in that movie (unless of course the vibranium counts), but we did see proof of its soul-based power.
Before a king of Wakanda can fully ascend to the throne, they must first visit the Ancestral Plane, where the souls of the dead kings of Wakanda reside and can offer counsel to the incoming monarch. They are buried alive in red Earth and emerge in a shimmering purple African plain, converse with the souls of the departed, then return to the living world to assume the duties of the throne.
Although we do not see its source, this is undoubtedly the result of the Soul Stone’s power. It is perfectly in tune with its abilities from the comics (and, presumably, the movies as well) and would explain why Thanos would make the trek to a well-fortified, technologically advanced nation when he is on an unshakable mission of conquest.
I would wager that the Soul Stone came to earth in that same vibranium meteor that struck primordial Wakanda. Whereas the indestructible metal provided that material wealth and resources that shaped the nation into the isolationist superpower it is today, the Soul Stone enriched their spiritual traditions. It connected them with the afterlife in a way that defies scientific reason. It allowed the living kings of Wakanda to seek the aid and advice of those long since passed. And it is what will draw Thanos to them later this year.