Captain Marvel answers an enduring mystery about the Avengers

Why are they called the Avengers? What are they "avenging" exactly?

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As well as introducing us to Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers, new superhero movie Captain Marvel also serves as a fun little prequel to the main Avengers franchise, explaining why spy boss Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) decided to assemble Earth’s mightiest heroes in the first place.

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Perhaps most intriguingly of all, the film also reveals why they are called “The Avengers” in the first place – because let’s face it, Fury’s choice of name doesn’t make that much sense on the face of it.

What are they meant to be avenging, anyway? It doesn’t exactly imply a proactive approach to heroism.

Well now we know the reason. At the end of Captain Marvel, when Carol has flown off into space and left Fury with a handy pager to call her if he needs her, we catch up with the SHIELD bigwig at the spy agency’s headquarters.

He’s working on a new project – The Protector Initiative – designed to protect the world from more extraterrestrials threats like the Kree and Skrulls.

“SHIELD alone can’t protect us,” Fury explains to Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). “We need more heroes.”

But something about the “Protector” name doesn’t quite click with Fury. He starts re-examining some photos of Carol from her pilot days, and notices her distinctive callsign emblazoned on the side of her plane: Captain Carol “Avenger” Danvers.

Inspired, Fury renames his project “The Avengers Initiative” – the same full name he refers to in early Iron Man movies and the first Avengers film. The distinctive Avengers theme plays while he looks, satisfied, at the screen.

Did we need a full explanation for the Avengers’ awkward name? Well, no – the real answer behind it is that it’s from the comics, where a lot of superhero culture is a bit more over-the-top. 2012’s original Avengers film tried its best to make it sound less strange when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) tells Loki that they will “avenge” the Earth, even if they can’t save it.

But it’s still a fun little detail that shades in some background to the wider Avengers saga, and just the thing to get us in the mood for the release of Endgame in April. We reckon it’s high time for Cap, Black Widow and company to meet the OG Avenger herself…

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Captain Marvel is in UK cinemas now