Warning: This article includes some Captain Marvel spoilers.
It’s a question that’s been pondered ever since her Star Force crest appeared on screen in Avengers: Infinity War: Is Captain Marvel an Avenger? The Brie Larson-embodied superhero has long been touted as the most powerful hero in the entire Marvel Comics canon, but she’s never once appeared on-screen or alongside her more Earth-focused compatriots from the films that came before. Until now. Thanks to some interesting new developments unleashed in Captain Marvel, we can definitively plot out the connection between Captain Marvel and the whole Avengers squad. And it’s pretty out of this world.
In the original superhero supergroup film, 2012’s The Avengers, it is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who recruits a team to his Avengers Initiative. And by that movie’s end, Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson), Dr. Bruce Banner (Hulk, Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rodgers (Captain America, Chris Evans), Tony Stark (Iron Man, Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Clint Barton (Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner) have all joined forces to become the Avengers. But where did the name for the Avengers Initiative come from? Was it S.H.I.E.L.D.? Fury himself? Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg)? Or something else?
The truth, in the cinematic universe — the comic book has several Avengers origin story iterations — is revealed at the end of Captain Marvel after Carol Danvers saves the day. Sitting at his computer, working on a new protocol for alien invasions, Fury codifies an initiative: The Protectors Initiative. Something about a group, organized through S.H.I.E.L.D., to help protect the world from threats bigger than we might imagine. But he doesn’t stick with the name, wanting to pay homage to the woman that could do it all so effortlessly. So he takes a quick peek at an image of Air Force days Carol. And what’s the call sign she’s revealed to have on the side of her plane? "Avenger." There it is: the reason the Avengers are even called that?
You can thank Captain Marvel — the original Avenger.
It’s the sort of slow-burn retcon reveal that’s as satisfying as it is empowering. Because let’s face it: after decades of Marvel maligning the importance of their female heros (hey, remember when they were going to make a Black Widow movie?), to have it revealed that the inspiration, and namesake, for the Avengers themselves was a woman this whole time? It’s a powerful move and statement towards a certain faction of fandom that gets upset when female superheroes take center stage.
And while it’s sure to upset more than a few fanboys out there — we all lived through the Ghostbustersgate of 2016 — what it says about the importance of women to Marvel, and their equality on the superheroic stage, speaks far louder than any Captain Marvel troll's tweets, fake reviews and Rotten Tomatoes scores. They may not have been able to claim the title of first female superhero movie before DC Comics (Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman gets that distinction), but it rights some wrongs the studio has long trafficked in: Namely, making their female characters little more than love interests for the men at the stories’ hearts. (Seriously, justice for Black Widow. Let her and Carol be friends in Endgame, I beg of you. Scarlet Witch and Wasp can come, too.)
The MCU hive mind could have made up any reason for Nick Fury to name the group the Avengers, but to make it squarely about Carol Danvers places the women of Marvel on a much more even playing field going forward, and gives them the respect others women in their pantheon have so long deserved. We didn’t get Carol Danvers, human-alien hybrid in love with a young Nick Fury or Agent Coulson. She wasn’t even in love with Yon-Rogg, and he was her mentor (and he was played by flippin’ Jude Law): the greatest love in her life was her best friend, Maria Rambeau.
That sort of messaging in media matters, to everyone, be they man, woman, or nonbinary. To say nothing of how inspiring it will be for young girls in Carol’s universe and our own, be they named Monica or something else. Besides, Earth is going to need all the help it can get now that Thanos has dusted half the population: who better than, as Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige put it, the most powerful superhero Marvel Comics has ever created?
So the next time someone asks you if Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers is an avenger, you can tell them she really was the original, baby! Hate to break it to you, Tony Stark.