Spoilers for Black Panther below!
The countdown to Thanos’s arrival in the MCU with Avengers: Infinity War has officially started thanks to today’s release of Black Panther, the final solo lead-up film before Infinity War. The landscape of the shared cinematic universe now includes the astronomically cool and hyper advanced Wakanda, and not a moment too soon, with the armies of Thanos’s Black Order quite literally knocking at Earth’s gates.
There’s just one problem: we’re still, officially, down one Infinity Stone. For all Black Panther gave us, the location of the Soul Stone wasn’t a box that got checked off–unless, of course, it was. There’s a chance that the Soul Stone was actually hiding in plain sight for the duration of Black Panther–did you catch it?
If not, don’t worry. The MCU has been playing fast and loose with not only the colors of the Gems, but the forms they take onscreen too, for the six years they’ve been in play. After all, the Space Stone isn’t a stone at all, but a glowing blue box called the Tesseract. The Reality Stone is glittering red dust called the Aether. The Mind Stone was blue for the better part of two movies before it was cracked open, turned yellow, and put in Vision’s forehead. You get the idea–these things are tricky, and Marvel hasn’t been making it easy to pin them down.
Bearing that in mind, there’s a decent chance that the Soul Stone is actually somehow connected back to Wakanda’s mysterious and powerful “heart-shaped herb.”
The herb, if you remember, is the source of the Black Panther’s power both in the film and in the comics, but its movie incarnation had the distinction of being neon purple and glowing on top of being mystically and spiritually empowering. Of course, the purple color might have been more of a distraction than a flag. Currently, the MCU’s Power Stone is sitting pretty in purple on the color spectrum. However, like the Mind Stone, the actual color of the herb itself may have nothing to do with the Soul Stone’s ultimate orange destiny.
Simply being neon and glowing does not an Infinity Stone make, but the rules established in the MCU over the last six years certainly throw a flag on that play. Wakanda has some strange properties, just inherently, thanks to its abundance of vibranium and its technological advancement, so there’s always the chance that the heart-shaped herd really is just a naturally occuring phenomena born of any combination of those two things.
It does have some strange characteristics, though. For example: Vibranium is a powerful metal, yes, but since when does it have anything resembling the mystical properties exhibited by the heart-shaped herb? And if the heart-shaped herb really is just the product of vibranium in the soil and the right atmospheric conditions, why would it only grow in one tiny cave? We know that the heart-shaped herb is a limited commodity–and one that’s presumably now extinct, thanks to events in Black Panther–but what about that specific plot of land made it so special and so powerful?
One possible explanation is that the heart-shape herb garden is, in fact, centered around or constructed on top of whatever vessel is containing the Soul Stone. That would explain the power-imbuing properties of the herb, as well as its ability to send those that consume it on rather on-the-nose soul-searching journeys that may or may not involve actually, genuinely contacting the dead.
That last part is important. In the comics canon, the Soul Stone’s (rather esoteric) powers include being able to send people’s souls into an idyllic alternate dimension, an offshoot of its endless desire to collect and consume souls. It really didn’t get its name for nothing. Another of its abilities is the “cold light of truth,” which enables it to reveal the deepest, most hidden parts of a person–another very pointed part of the transformative Black Panther dream state.
Obviously, for a human to be consuming parts of, or organisms created by, an Infinity Stone, it had to be diluted down in some way–we’ve seen what the Stones can do when they come into contact with people. It’s generally pretty gruesome. But another one of the Soul Stone’s properties is the fact that it’s actually sentient, and has a conscious will to collect souls. So really, it’s far from a stretch to believe that, if the Soul Stone really did wind up on Earth, it could have (consciously or otherwise) begun crafting ways for human beings to interact with it safely as part of its ultimate soul harvesting goal.
After all, the Black Panther transformation does seem to involve coming precariously close to death–so maybe the properties of the herb have been diluted enough over the generations to allow the Panthers to gain the net positive effects without experiencing the negatives. It’s also worth noting that the Wakandans have devised a way to reverse the heart-shaped herb’s effects which, if the herb’s power is really cosmic in origin, might be something important for the coming battles in Infinity War.
The Soul Stone being in Wakanda would also explain why we’re seeing Thanos’s invasion force on the ground, storming the city in the Infinity War trailer. It seems like overkill, even for the Black Order, to send a full on invasion force to an an otherwise isolated nation if they weren’t also on an extremely important, and specific, mission. Maybe that mission is to attack the Avengers currently calling Wakanda home, or maybe it’s something else entirely.
There’s always the chance that we just haven’t seen the Soul Stone at all yet. In the comics, it has some lengthy and deep ties to Adam Warlock, who very recently received an MCU wink, care of the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 post-credits stinger. So in the interest of not putting every egg in one hypothetical basket, it’s worthwhile to note that the Soul Stone might honestly just be light years away from Earth, joining its siblings Reality (currently with the Nova Corps), Space (with Loki on the Asgardian refugee ship), and Power (with the Collector) out there in the cosmos.
No matter where the Soul Stone is, we’ll find out May 4 when Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters.