MCU: How Eternals Cliffhanger Sets Up Major Phase 5 Villain

MCU Phase 5 villain Galactus
By Matt Roembke

Eternals has hit theaters and delivered an entirely new roster of characters into the MCU. And while this movie certainly tells one of the most complex stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it also provides a potential jumping-off point for some of the biggest Marvel names in history. 

Eternals introduces a new level of the intergalactic hierarchy the MCU has been building for the past decade. This is hardly the first time audiences have been given a look into space through the stories of these characters. Through the Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Loki, and Avengers franchises, MCU Cosmic is a branch of Marvel Studios' story that has been building since 2011. 

Eternals MCU
Marvel

While this vision is certainly building an identity of its own, the characters, concepts, and consequences introduced in MCU Cosmic have a direct effect on Earth more often than not. Eternals introduces a wide variety of things that will have long-lasting effects on the greater MCU - one of which may be the arrival of a Marvel Comics villain that is one great on-screen adaption away from being a household name. 

Here is how Eternals and the background of Celestials may set up the Devourer of Worlds, Galactus! 

Warning: The following contains spoilers for the ending of Eternals.

Celestials in the MCU

MCU Celestials
Marvel

To start things off, it is important to catch up with where the MCU stands on the all-powerful cosmic beings that are at the center of the Eternals story - the Celestials. Throughout this movie, it is explained that the Celestials are a race of cosmic beings that pre-date the Infinity Stones, and they are responsible for the creation of the suns that power life in various galaxies across the universe. 

This is by no means the first time fans have heard of Celestials in the MCU. Knowhere is a location in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and Avengers: Infinity War that is actually the severed head of a Celestial. The people there mine the matter of being for resources. In the Guardians sequel, fans also meet Peter Quil's father, Ego, who is a Celestial. 

Unlike the Celestials that fans met in Eternals, Ego takes the form of a living planet, and his mission is to spread himself across the galaxy like a weed in a field. This is the first hint that not all Celestials are created equal and that some may have ulterior motives towards Arishem in the Eternals. 

Celestials and Planets

Celestials Eternals
Marvel

What are those motives? Well, the essential idea is to create worlds across the universe, farm the intelligent life on those planets, and use that energy to breed and birth other Celestials. That is the short version. 

The long version is that for a Celestial to be born, a "seed" needs to be planted on a planet that is capable of harvesting that seed into a full-blown Celestial. For that seed to begin sprouting a Celestial, there needs to be a certain amount of intelligent life on that planet to create enough energy to begin the "Emergence", the birth of a new Celestial. An Emergence is an event that destroys the entire planet housing the unborn Celestial, and every living thing on that planet. 

To ensure that intelligent life on these planets reached the levels needed for an Emergence, Arishem sent Deviants to these planets to hunt the predators threatening those numbers. However, the Deviants evolved past their primary function and began threatening intelligent life on those planets as well. Enter the Eternals.

Arishem created the Eternals in order to combat the Deviants and ensure that intelligent life reaches its required potential for an Emergence to begin. The Eternals are responsible for ensuring intelligent life evolves far enough for the quota to be met, are then mind-wiped, and sent to another planet to fulfill the same purpose. 

In Eternals, the team assigned to Earth discovers this hard truth before most of them set out to stop the Emergence on Earth, and the birth of the new Celestial, Tiamut. Through the power of the Uni-Mind, the Eternals combined their powers with Tiamut (either purposely or not) to stop the Emergence in its tracks and turn Tiamut into marble. This has left Earth in tact with parts of a Celestial popping out of the Indian Ocean in a marble state. 

So to recap, unborn Celestials are planted inside planets across the universe waiting for intelligent life to reach a point in which those Celestials can use that energy to be born, destroy said planet, and begin creating another sun that will power another galaxy in the place of the one destroyed. 

So what does any of this have to do with Galactus?

Galactus in Marvel Comics

Galactus MCU
Marvel

Before the lines get connected, it is important to gain some backstory on who Galactus is. After two live-action adaptions in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Fant4stic, the 2015 reboot, there is still a ton of confusion for the general audience as to what or who Galactus is. 

Like so many things in comics, there are a wide variety of origin stories and iterations of Galactus, one of the most feared and powerful villains in the Marvel Universe. But what it comes down to is that Galactus is a survivor of a previous universe. In Marvel Comics, Galactus is introduced as the last known survivor of the 6th iteration of the cosmos that was destroyed by the Big Bang that created the 7th universe (the one we all know and love.)

Being an ancient universe entity, Galactus is an all-powerful cosmic being that acts as a balance of power in the current universe. He does this by devouring planets throughout the cosmos as a source of energy to stay alive. The idea is that energy will build up over time and be released as the next big bang that will reset the universe. Very scary stuff. 

He is most famously a Fantastic Four villain that the First Family of comics fights to prevent the devouring of Earth, but he has been repurposed as one of (if not the most) threatening cosmic forces within the red brand lore. 

Galactus and Planets

Galactus planets
Marvel

Galactus goes throughout the galaxy to find planets to literally consume in order to stay alive and build energy for what many believe will be the next big bang. Which planet he decides to devour is not a random sequence. He uses a herald to journey through the universe and find planets that meet the criteria of the all-powerful Galactus. This herald is most famously the Silver Surfer.

The Surfer explores the galaxy in order to find planets of sentient life that feed Galactus, which eventually leads him to Earth. And this is where the MCU tie-ins start picking up. 

Earth's Judgement

Eternals judgement
Marvel

At the end of Eternals, Arishem confronts the three remaining Eternals on Earth for stopping the Emergence. Arishem explains that since the Eternals turned their back on their mission, the people of Earth will face judgment. The memories of Sersi, Phastos, and Kingo will serve as the bar at which Earth is measured and determine the fate of humanity. 

In the comics, Arishem is the Celestial of Judgement and is oftentimes harsh in his rule. The folly in Eternals is that Sersi and co. decided that the humans of Earth are more valuable than the eventual galaxy that Tiamut would have created had he been born to completion. What is the backlash of poor judgment in this circumstance? That is unknown, but there is plenty of theorizing to be done. 

A big piece of that theory can be centered around Galactus. In the comics, Galactus is NOT officially a Celestial, despite their incredibly similar appearances. So there is no source material that supports the theory of Galacus being a Celestial, but as fans have seen with Ego the Living Planet, MCU Celestials are not identical to their comic book counterparts.

So, here are some Galactus-related ways that Arishem coming to judge earth could lead to this supervillain's emergence. 

Theory 1: Galactus IS Arishem's Judgement

Galactus Arishem
Marvel

Despite how much the Eternals vouge for Earth, it is more likely than not that Arishem considers the death of a Celestial as a punishable offense. In that case, Arishem will seek to punish Earth for the crimes of the Eternals by way of elimination. Galactus could be worked in as a tool the Celestials use to devour planets that have not reached the emergence of a new Celestial. 

The comic comparison here is that Galactus often prides himself as a force of balance in the universe. With Earth being such a keystone planet in the cosmos, removing it through am Emergence is likely a very important factor in the balance of this galaxy. With all of that intelligent life remaining, and an unborn Celestial in the center, Earth seems a place that could have a surplus of energy that Arishem needs to be removed. Enter, Galactus. 

Theory 2: Galactus Is Feeding On Celestials

Galactus Arishem MCU
Marvel

Theory 1 suggests that Galactus and Arishem would be working together in one way or another. But what if it was the opposite? What if Galactus was actually hunting planets with the immense amount of energy a Celestial seed would provide?

If Galactus is staying true to his comics origin, then his herald (likely Silver Surfer) is scouting planets with enough energy to feed his hunger. The idea of certain planets across the cosmos hosting a Celestial seed in them would probably stick out to the Silver Surfer more than others as a great source of energy to keep Galactus fed, and away from the Surfer's homeworld. 

Earth becomes the best item on the menu with a surplus of intelligent life AND a partially born Celestial inside of it. If Galactus is hunting Celestial embedded planets, that is going to create a cosmic conflict between him and Arishem that will surely rock the very fabric of existence. 

Theory 3: Shang-Chi and the Silver Surfer

Shang-Chi MCU
Marvel

This last theory is a combination of the events from Eternals and the events of Shang-Chi: And the Legend of the Ten Rings. In Eternals, Phastos uses the orb that allows the Eternals to communicate with the Celestials to create a series of bracelets that allow the Eternals to combine their powers in the Uni-Mind to prevent the emergence of Tiamut. 

In the post-credits scenes for Shang-Chi, Bruce Banner, Carol Danvers, and Wong study the Ten Rings and determine that their power is an ancient one with tech and energy beyond the Avengers' understanding. It is possible that the Ten Rings could be related to the bracelets created to defeat Tiamut, or Eternals-based tech in general. If we suspend our disbelief of the timeline issues that come with that, there is one more buzzword that ties these rings into Eternals and a potential Galactus showdown: the beacon. 

In the post-credits scene, Wong explains that when Shang-Chi uses the rings, he sets off an energy beacon that is felt across the world by anyone capable of tracking it. A beacon calling out to someone across the galaxy could be a number of things. But if these rings are of the same Eternals tech used to speak with Celestials, then that beacon could be a sign that this planet has reached its energy goal and is ready for consumption. 

If the Silver Surfer catches wind of this beacon, he will surely seek its source. A matchup between Shang-Chi and the Silver Surfer is not one that anyone likely expected, but one that would be a huge moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Galactus Is Coming

Galactus MCU
Marvel

However fans want to spin it, Eternals has put Galactus in the "Thanos" category of MCU theories: Inevitable. No names have been spoken or visual queries met, but the concepts of the Celestial emergence, using planets as hosts, and a beacon of energy being cast out all point to Galactus appearing in the MCU. Marvel Studios has built its reputation on patience and securely fleshing out the wildest of cosmic concepts before introducing them to general audiences.

There is no telling if and when Galactus will arrive, but Eternals has grown MCU Cosmic to a point where the idea of an all-powerful ancestral cosmic being that eats planets makes more sense than ever before. 

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