Chloé Zhao’s The Eternals is a sprawling epic that sets up massive stakes for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, introducing the ageless Eternals and the terrifying Celestials, who see humans as mere fuel for more galaxy-building. It also teases where the MCU could be heading next in its two post-credit scenes. You may have already heard about the first one: yes, pop star Harry Styles is now in the MCU, playing a full-fledged superhero. Let’s go over that surprise scene and what it all means.
The Celestial Arishem is none too happy that Sersi and her fellow Eternals killed the Celestial Tiamut and stopped countless galaxies from being born, all for humanity. (Which honestly is understandable, as Phastos himself points out that humanity kind of sucks.) As punishment, Arishem whisks Sersi, Phastos, and Kingo away for “judgement,” leaving Thena, Makkari, and Druig at loose ends wondering where their friends went. Just as it dawns on them that Arishem has taken them, a furry fantasy character, voiced by Patton Oswalt, teleports into the ship. He jauntily announces that he serves the great Starfox, who did great things like defeat Black Roger, whoever that is. Starfox then struts in and, hey, it’s Harry Styles looking very suave and confident in a form-fitting suit.
As he explains, his name is Eros and he’s Thanos’ brother. He’s also a fellow Eternal, and he knows Sersi and the rest are in trouble, so he’s here to help.
Introduced the 1973 comic The Invincible Iron Man #55 by Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin, Eros hails from Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, a locale familiar to Marvel moviegoers. Eons ago, a group of Eternals left Earth and decided to form a peaceful society focused on advancing science and technology. Eros is the planet’s prince and ruler alongside his father, Mentor (once called A’Lars). Dismissed by Thanos as “frivolous,” he’s a gallant adventurer and, by his own admission, a notorious horndog who’s experienced “more romance on more worlds than most sentient beings could imagine.” Basically, he’s relatively principled compared to the Mad Titan Thanos, but his womanizing ways can make him a pretty unreliable ally.
Yep, they’re really blood-related, born to the Eternals Sui-San and A’Lars (who is the son of Kronos, one of the first Eternals on Earth, giving Eros a prestigious lineage). Eternals typically can’t have children, but the Titans spent a long time tinkering with genetic engineering to make it possible. That all seemed well and good until Thanos was born with what they called “Deviant syndrome,” which gave him a hulking body and a predisposition for violence. While Starfox grew up as the conventionally attractive, philandering prince, Thanos got bullied a ton, grew obsessed with creating dangerous weaponry, and once banished, returned to raze Titan.
In the comics, he was when he was first introduced! But that later got retconned so that only Thanos was purple, to highlight his Deviant mutation.
Listen, all the Eternals are hot, but it’s purposeful that Eros is especially so, as he’s meant as a foil to his infamous, evil brother. The fact that Eros is very beautiful and Thanos is very ugly is constantly remarked upon in the comics. It’s a fitting reflection of who the brothers are based off of: Eros is named after the Greek god of love and sex, while “Thanos” is a play off of Thanatos, the Greek personification of death.
It’s his Avengers code name, but it’s got a pretty ridiculous origin. While the Avengers quickly accepted Eros into their ranks, the president at the time (a fictional Ronald Reagan) felt that “Eros” was “too provocative” of a name for America’s public-facing superhero team. So the Wasp suggested Starfox, as he’s a “pretty foxy guy” who’s been “out among the stars.” Listen, naming isn’t the Avengers’ strong suit.
Eros has consistently sided with the Avengers, and has always stood against Thanos and his tyranny. But whether he’s a “good guy” himself is often a question in the comics. In his earliest stories, he was portrayed as a shameless flirt, but still generally a stand-up guy. But later writers complicated his legacy by revealing a power that he never bothered to tell the Avengers about before: the ability to manipulate people’s emotions, particularly their sexual and romantic feelings, around him.
This leads to the female Avengers distrusting him, and culminates in Dan Slott’s 2004 She-Hulk, when Starfox is put on trial about whether his powers can be qualified as sexual assault. (Somewhere in there Thanos appears to try and convince everyone that Eros made him fall for Death and that’s why he tried to commit genocide, but that’s quickly debunked.) While it’s later proven that Eros didn’t use his powers to romance his fellow Avengers, the whole ordeal leads to him swearing off using them — at least for a while. While this is a core part of his story, we don’t yet know if the MCU will use this to explore relevant themes around consent, or just write out his unsavory past entirely — particularly given that they cast a famous singer with a massive female following.
Patton Oswalt’s character is probably Pip Gofern aka Pip the Troll, whom Eros meets briefly in the comics after Pip saves one of Eros’ many paramours, Heater Delight, from slavery. While Marvel is likely going to avoid delving into that storyline in too much detail, Pip’s inclusion does have interesting connotations for who could appear in the MCU next. For example, Pip is often in the company of the hero Adam Warlock; Adam was teased at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and in October, Will Poulter was cast to play him.
With Marvel keeping all its cards close to the vest, it’s still not totally clear where we’re heading in Phase 4. Eros is definitely not powerful enough in the comics to defeat a Celestial, so it’s unclear how he’s going to help Sersi and the others. And we know that some of the major characters that Eros was involved with in the comics, like Thanos and Mar-Vell, are no longer alive in the MCU. But as a galactic wanderer, he could easily appear in Guardians of the Galaxy 3 alongside Adam Warlock. And as a close friend of the original Captain Marvel, he also bonded with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) during his stint with the Avengers. After gaining powers in WandaVision, Monica is set to appear again in the 2023 film The Marvels, and a Starfox cameo doesn’t feel out of the question there either.
Casting someone as beloved as Styles likely means Starfox is going to have a major role somewhere going forward, but he may be on the backburner for a while (think Michelle Yeoh and Sylvester Stallone’s brief cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy 2). One thing’s for certain: with Eros and the Eternals’ introduction, this next MCU phase will take to the stars.