The 26th film of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe hit theaters this past Friday, ushering in 10 new superheroes as Hollywood’s most lucrative franchise steps further into its new era of modern mythmaking. Eternals introduces a race of 7,000-year-old alien protectors that defend the world from the monstrous Deviants and stave off the Emergence, a doomsday event that would create a cosmic god and implode all of Earth in the process. But as always with the MCU, what comes next is more important than what just happened, and Eternals finishes with two of the more surprising after-credits scenes in recent memory, introducing two more new heroes: Eros and the Black Knight.
It’s fine if those names mean nothing to you. What’s more important for now are the actors behind them: Harry Styles and Kit Harington, respectively. Harington also played a minor role in Eternals as an ordinary human, Dane Whitman, but Styles snuck his way into the epilogue of a movie that already boasted Marvel’s most star-studded cast outside of a crossover film.
Eternals yields mixed returns: It’s an uneven film that sometimes falters under the weight of its cumbersome lore, but it still tells a distinct story with its share of stunning visual moments and strong performances from an impressively diverse cast. It was spurned by many critics, but still opened to the tune of $161.7 million at the global box office, good for the second-biggest worldwide opening for a Hollywood title in 2021. With all of the movie’s lengthy exposition out of the way, and this concealed history of Eternal aliens, Celestial gods, and Deviant monsters now established, the future of the Eternals looks more promising. And as the two post-credits scenes suggest, Eros and the Black Knight are our next steps—and latest clues—into Phase 4’s unknown.
So, who are these guys?
The film’s first stinger finds Thena, Druig, and Makkari traveling through space on the Eternals’ ship when they discover that three of the other Eternals—Sersi, Kingo, and Phastos—have suddenly disappeared. Just as they’re figuring out what to do, they’re joined by a pair of strange visitors: a CGI troll named Pip (voiced by Patton Oswalt) and Eros, the forgotten brother of Thanos.
It’s a shock that Styles, one of the most famous musicians in the world, has entered the MCU, but the arrival of Eros himself is almost as surprising. Though he is less famous than his genocidal brother, Eros arrived in the comics at the same moment as Thanos, in the pages of 1976’s Iron Man no. 55:
Eros is an Eternal like Thanos, and like all Eternals, his name has roots in ancient mythology and folklore. In Greek mythology, Eros is the god of love and sex, and, well, that’s pretty much all he concerns himself with in Marvel comics, too. (Casting Styles as a sex god—the stans oblige, I’m sure.) Thanos is the harbinger of death; Eros travels the galaxy in search of love and lust. After leaving his home world of Titan, Eros eventually finds a spot on the Avengers for a while, where he’s given the code name Starfox. (In case you’re wondering: In 1983’s Avengers no. 232, Eros is casually bestowed this moniker from the Wasp, who finds her inspiration in the fact that he is, and I quote, “a pretty foxy guy” who has “been out among the stars.” I mean, hey, I guess you could say the same about the popular Nintendo character, too?)
In the comics, Eros has the ability to fly and has super strength, but his trademark power is his euphoria effect, which stimulates a person’s pleasure centers and causes them to become infatuated with him or someone else of his choosing. It’s a rather creepy, problematic superpower depending on how the character is written, to the point that Eros is actually put on trial for sexual assault in 2006’s She-Hulk series. This is, somehow, a real story line after the Eternal—unaware that he has lost control of his powers due to Thanos’s meddling—coerces a married woman into having sex with him. But it’s also a thinly veiled attempt by Marvel Comics to address this character’s problematic abilities and defining traits. The She-Hulk series is about as meta as it gets for Marvel outside of a Deadpool comic, and writer Dan Slott and artist Will Conrad use their tales of attorney Jennifer Walters’s superhuman defense trials to weave in the little-used space traveler. Here are two of Walters’s coworkers referencing Starfox’s comics history, with one of them likening him to Pepé Le Pew, the “horny skunk” from Looney Tunes who was cut from Space Jam 2 earlier this year:
Eros enters the MCU joined by Pip the Troll, who serves as the comedic relief and sidekick to the genetically engineered hero Adam Warlock in the comics. Needless to say, Marvel Studios may have to temper Eros’s euphoric power and take some steps to modernize the character on the big screen, but he may play an important role in Phase 4. The Eternals post-credits scene reveals that he wields the familiar golden orb that allows him, like Sersi, to communicate directly with the all-powerful Celestials, and Eros also offers to help the Eternals find their pseudo family members. Together, the Eternals—along with humanity—are set to face the judgement of Arishem in a likely Eternals 2, as the godlike being decides their fate after they prevented the birth of a new Celestial.
Eros also crosses over into Guardians of the Galaxy comics from time to time—most recently in 2019’s The Final Gauntlet series—so it’s also possible he will show up in James Gunn’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. In 2017, Gunn told Variety that the third Guardians installment would be “the final [movie] in this iteration of Guardians of the Galaxy.” Given that Adam Warlock has already been cast in Vol. 3 with Will Poulter in the role, as well as Pip and Eros’s ties to Warlock in the comics, Eros and Warlock could become part of a new crew of Guardians should the team reconfigure in Phase 4.
After Dane Whitman is left waiting on the sidelines as Sersi, her “pilot” ex-boyfriend, and the other Eternals deal with the end of the world, Eternals’ second stinger promises that there will be an exciting future for Harington’s Whitman in the MCU. Though Whitman gets limited screen time in the film, Eternals teases his complicated family history, and right before Sersi is scooped up into outer space in the story’s final moments, Whitman nearly shares a spicy secret with her. When he returns in the post-credits scene, Whitman opens a mysterious box with his family crest on it that contains the storied Ebony Blade, accompanied by an ominous warning inscribed in Latin that translates to “Death Is My Reward.”
Before we unpack the fact that Jon Snow is about to become entrenched in the MCU, let’s dive into that “complicated family history” for a minute. In the comics, Dane Whitman is better known as the Black Knight, a member of multiple iterations of the Avengers teams, including one lineup that featured Sersi and, for a brief time, another that included Eros. But Dane is actually Marvel’s third Black Knight, with the original dating all the way back to the 1950s, before Atlas Comics had even evolved into the publishing company we know it as today. The first Black Knight, Sir Percy of Scandia, was created by the great Stan Lee and Joe Maneely, and their Black Knight series drew inspiration from the character of the same name in Arthurian legend.
Percy’s descendent, professor Nathan Garrett, later took up the mantle, but he used the name for his own evil intentions. Garrett became a classic Avengers villain in the 1960s, fighting alongside the likes of Baron Zemo—yes, that Baron Zemo—and Kang the Conqueror. After suffering a fatal wound in a battle against Iron Man, Garrett calls his nephew, Dane Whitman, to his death bed and reveals to him his secret identity as the Black Knight. He then asks Dane to help him repent for his life of crime:
When Whitman becomes the Black Knight in place of his uncle, he keeps true to his promise and later joins the Avengers. He uses the same sword that Sir Percy once used, the Ebony Blade—a powerful, mystical weapon that can cut through any object and protect its user from even the strongest of magic. But it also comes with the price of a blood curse that feeds upon its wielder’s darkest impulses, slowly driving them into madness.
For those who are already familiar with Dane Whitman’s Black Knight from the comics, the inclusion of the Ebony Blade in the stinger might have been expected—especially after Thena and Sprite reference it earlier in Eternals. The big surprise of the post-credits scene, rather, comes when a mysterious off-screen voice calls out to Whitman before the screen cuts to black, asking him, “Sure you’re ready for that, Mr. Whitman?”
There are a few candidates who might immediately come to mind after hearing that voice. One potential option could be the new Captain America, Sam Wilson. It would be an unusual move for Marvel to withhold his appearance after Anthony Mackie has already been in six MCU films and starred in his own TV show, but it could be a strategy to hide the fact that the new Captain America is finally bringing together a fresh team of Avengers. With Eros, Black Knight, and Sersi—wherever she may be—all introduced in the same movie together, and all having ties to the Avengers in the comics, they could be a part of a new group as Phase 4 pushes toward Marvel Studios’s next major crossover event.
But after the movie hit theaters on Friday, multiple members of the Eternals crew seemed to put a stop to the speculation before it could even really begin, revealing to the public that the voice belongs to none other than Mahershala Ali, who’s set to play Blade in the MCU. In an interview with Fandom, director Chloé Zhao confirmed the scene as Ali’s big debut. “That was the voice of one of my favorite superheroes, Mr. Blade himself,” Zhao said. “I don’t know what they’re doing with the [solo movie], but Mahershala is a treasure. It’s going to be epic.” And then on Friday, Kumail Nanjiani stopped by for a chat with the Midnight Boys on The Ringer-Verse podcast, and he confirmed the same. “It’s a specific voice,” Nanjiani teased to The Ringer’s Van Lathan and Charles Holmes. “It’s Blade. It’s Mahershala. I hope I’m not in trouble, but yeah.”
Though they don’t cross paths too often in the comics, the pairing of Blade and the Black Knight could make sense given their shared experience in the realms of magic, monsters, and fantasy. There are any number of ways we may find them teaming up in an MCU project in the future: Like Black Knight, Blade also ran with the Avengers at some point in the comics, and the two spent time together in the British agency known as MI: 13 that was established to deal with paranormal occurrences.
While Blade’s involvement is still uncertain beyond these surprising revelations from the Eternals team, what we now know for sure is that Kit Harington will be the MCU’s Black Knight, two years after the former King of the North walked beyond the Wall at the conclusion of Game of Thrones. The Black Knight is a true fantasy character, and the casting is almost too fitting, as Harington leaves one of the most popular TV shows ever created to join the most lucrative franchise Hollywood has ever seen.
Eternals provides explanations to the very creation of the Marvel universe itself, but it also asks a host of intriguing questions about where the MCU is headed after the Infinity Saga. The future is still uncertain with world-destroying witches, multiversal conquerors, and now, space gods looming overhead, but the studio’s lineup of new heroes set to face whatever Avengers-level threat comes next just got a little clearer.