For something to be considered an Avengers-level threat, a villain needs to have an army. In both Marvel comic books and the MCU, there have been several notable alien races with a predisposition for being cannon fodder. Among these formidable forces, the Chitauri emerged as memorable antagonists, notably making their presence felt in the first Avengers film. But who are the Chitauri?
While the MCU provided a menacing portrayal of these extraterrestrial marauders, their comic book counterparts unveiled a darker and more sinister side. In this exploration of the Chitauri, we’ll take a look into their origins, their cinematic journey, and their transformation in the comics.
Comic Book Origins
In the annals of Marvel Comics, the Chitauri first made their debut in 2002 within the pages of The Ultimates #8.
These malevolent creatures were conjured into existence by the creative minds of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. Originally, they were the universe’s answer to the Skrulls, but the Chitauri eventually transcended their comic book origins to become a formidable presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Going back to the source material, the Chitauri’s entry into the comic book universe marked a turning point. It revealed their true nature, one that was far more twisted and sinister than their cinematic counterparts.
This narrative shift exposed the Chitauri as brutal warriors who enslaved other species, forcing them into mass gladiatorial combat. The blood spilled in these savage contests froze mid-air, creating what can only be described as “beautiful red snowflakes.” The Chitauri then harvested these chilling, coagulated creations and fed them to their young as an initiation.
The MCU Chitauri: A Glimpse of Their Ferocity
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Chitauri emerged as formidable adversaries in the 2012 film The Avengers. This marked their first significant appearance, where they served as mindless expendables in the service of the mad genius Thanos.
The film showcased their destructive capabilities as they descended upon New York City, leaving chaos and destruction in their wake.
However, the MCU, operating under PG-13 constraints, could only hint at the true depths of Chitauri brutality. While they were portrayed as ruthless invaders, the comic books provided a deeper delve into their dark and violent nature.
Chitauri in the MCU vs. Comics
The MCU Chitauri are depicted as a hive-minded, cybernetically enhanced alien race, predominantly subservient to the enigmatic Thanos. Their appearance consists of grayish, humanoid beings with insect-like features, often engaging in battles under the control of a collective intelligence.
In contrast, the comic book Chitauri exhibit significant differences. Their physical appearance is more distinct, resembling large, lumbering reptiles with pale gray skin. Most notably, the comic book Chitauri display heightened intelligence and independence.
They can employ intricate strategies in battle, demonstrating a capacity for individual thought, unlike their cinematic counterparts.
The Chitauri’s Mysterious Origins: Victims of Thanos’ Influence?
Still, the origins of the Chitauri in the MCU remain shrouded in mystery. Were they always a malevolent and destructive force, or did the influence of Thanos corrupt them into the formidable army seen on screen?
A compelling Easter egg in Guardians of the Galaxy hinted at a tragic reality. Among the curiosities held by the enigmatic character known as The Collector is a lone Chitauri imprisoned in a cage. Given the Chitauri’s hive-minded nature, the isolation of this creature from the mothership raises questions about their true intentions as well as their culture.
Alone, Thanos realized that he couldn’t enact his plan of universal balance, which involved eradicating half of all life in the cosmos.
Lacking knowledge of how to obtain the Infinity Stones, Thanos resorted to a more conventional approach. That would be building an army with the strength and numbers to decimate entire planets. In doing so, he likely encountered the Chitauri, subjugating them and enhancing their abilities with cybernetics.
As part of a hive mind, it remains uncertain whether this hive mind structure was an inherent aspect of the Chitauri’s existence or a system imposed by Thanos to maintain control.
This raises even more ethical questions about Thanos’s actions, suggesting that he had no qualms about finding and subjugating a race to further his ambitions. That’s not surprising at this point.
And seeing as Thanos died, there’s a chance that the Chitauri might have been freed from his authority and are now free to wage war on other fronts of their choosing.
Powers and Abilities
Exploring the powers and abilities of the Chitauri in both the MCU and comics reveals intriguing parallels and differences.
Both iterations favor physical and energy-based attacks, with a penchant for using space travel as a means to wage war. Despite the constraints of the cinematic medium, the MCU Chitauri and their comic book counterparts share many attributes in this regard.
Interestingly, the original Ultimate-universe Chitauri in the comics possessed shapeshifting abilities, which made them alternatives to the Skrulls, another race of shapeshifters.
Eventually, as the Chitauri were adopted into the Earth-616 continuity following their MCU debut, their powers were adjusted to align more closely with their cinematic depiction. This reflected the influence of the cinematic universe on the portrayal of these war-mongering aliens in comic books.
Comparing Chitauri in the MCU and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Video games further complicate the comparison for the Chitauri. They also notably appeared in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy video game.
The Chitauri played essential roles in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. While they serve as supporting antagonists in both narratives, there are significant differences in their level of threat and impact on the storylines.
In the MCU, the Chitauri initially appear under the command of Loki during the events of The Avengers and, subsequently, under the control of Thanos in Avengers: Endgame.
Meanwhile, the in-game incarnation of the Chitauri emerges as a more substantial threat, actively participating in the Galactic War and engaging in actions that significantly shape the galaxy’s destiny.
While the MCU showcased their destructive potential, the comic books and even the Guardians of the Galaxy video game unveiled the darkest depths of Chitauri brutality, portraying them as a merciless force willing to enslave, conquer, and kill.
The enigma surrounding the Chitauri’s origins and the extent of their ruthlessness remain a compelling element of the Marvel Universe that will surely be used again as a plot device in the future.