Avengers: Infinity War truly shows how powerful Thanos is. The 'Mad Titan' is perhaps one of Marvel's most powerful beings whose powers aren't into the reality warping scale like that of Franklin Richards or Scarlet Witch. This begs the question: how can you beat Thanos? Today we'll answer that question but we'll make it interesting. We won't be using reality warping abilities - we can't just get Molecule Man to turn him into a chocolate teapot or Scarlet Witch to teleport him to the surface of the sun. We'll also be basing our version of Thanos from the Earth-616 (the mainstream) universe in a pitched battle.
What are Thanos' powers?
|Thanos defeating Thor|
Even before he wielded the Infinity Gauntlet Thanos was, and still is, extremely powerful. The Nova Corps even counts him as a Category 1 Life Ender, something he ended up actually doing in the Infinity Gauntlet story. Thanos is a Deviant Titanian, a mutated member of the Titanians from Titan, which gave him enhanced abilities to an already powerful species. Titanians already had enhanced endurance, strength, speed, and agility and as a Deviant these abilities were amplified. As a result Thanos can move at fairly quick speeds despite his immense size, (quite paradoxically his reflexes are actually average for a member of his species), and withstand intense pressure. In Infinity #4 Thanos stood against Black Bolt shouting - to show how powerful this is a whisper from Black Bolt can cause powerful earthquakes. Thanos even was hit by Thor who was wielding the Power Stone and just got a nosebleed! He has intelligence to match his physical abilities as well. His mind is perhaps his most powerful weapon. Thanos is extremely intelligent, most of the ships and devices he uses he made himself, and his intelligence passes that of Earth's smartest heroes, like Bruce Banner. He is a skilled tactician as well. Mid-battle Thanos can form expert plans to change how he fights. Thanos is also a telepath, can manipulate matter and energy, and may even be able to use magic. Overall, even without the Infinity Stones Thanos is extremely powerful.
Thanos has minions as well. For our case study we'll focus on the ones shown in the new movie: the Black Order. A while back I looked at the Black Order here and I would recommend reading it to just know their powers, I will go over some of their abilities later though. Corvus Glaive, Proxima Midnight, Black Dwarf, Ebony Maw and Supergiant (who is not featured in the movie) are all powerful individually and can prove to be a huge challenge before we even get to Thanos.
|Corvus Glaive about to kill Hulk|
Thanos has been beaten and killed several times - once even against Squirrel Girl but we'll ignore that as she's an intentionally jokey character. First we'll have to defeat the Black Order. For this scenario we'll have to fight the Order and then Thanos although the best way to be to eliminate the Order beforehand and even then individually. The best way to do this would be to eliminate the two non-fighting members of the order: Supergiant and Ebony Maw. Supergiant is a powerful telepath being able to control several individuals at once and even consume their mind; meanwhile, Ebony Maw can manipulate minds and even manipulated Dr Strange into releasing the demonic Shuma-Gorath into the world. For reference it should be impossible to manipulate Strange's mind. These two can defeat our heroes before we even get to Thanos. An easy solution to this is to get someone like Hawkeye to put an arrow through their eyes, or get Cyclops to render them unconscious although these are unlikely to work. Instead we'll have to use magic and telepaths. Dr Strange, Professor X, Jean Grey and Emma Frost can be used to distract these two and then we may be able to get someone like Hawkeye in if possible. Despite their intense mental abilities they are mortal - Supergiant was blown up with bombs for example. Black Dwarf is quite simple to beat. He can be described as the Black Order's version of the Hulk or the Thing. He is slow and his head is a weak spot. In Infinity Black Dwarf was defeated by Black Panther and the Dora Milaje so we can simply use them. Like with Maw and Supergiant Glaive and Midnight will be difficult. At the end of Infinity the two for a while, (and with little input from Thanos), held their ground against the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Captain Marvel and Hyperion (Marvel's version of Superman). In the end they didn't really defeat Midnight - both she and Thanos were betrayed by Maw and that is how they were defeated. To defeat these two we just need one thing: luck. Midnight's spear never misses a target and through sheer luck in Infinity it hit Captain America's shield which made it rebound and hit Glaive. This in turn gave Hyperion an opening to vaporize Glaive. We would to hopefully replicate that ideally hitting Midnight instead. The final one would still be a challenge but would be far easier to defeat - ideally if Maw or Supergiant (or both) were taken out the ones fighting them could intervene or could distract Thanos.
Now for Thanos. He can be beaten in physical combat but it is very difficult. With his strength, speed, agility and intelligence on top of his energy/matter manipulation it will be a challenge to personally fight him. It would take several heroes working together to take him down and even then there would have to be a mix. Strong, heavy hitting characters like Captain Marvel, Thor and Hulk would be needed, agile characters like Spider-Man, and telepaths/magic users like Dr Strange and Emma Frost. Thanos has a regenerative ability but it is not as powerful as that of the Hulk or Wolverine. During Annihilation Drax actually tore out his heart which killed him. We would need to do that but how we do that is difficult. Drax only managed to kill Thanos as he was distracted and Thanos was defeated during Infinity as at last minute he was betrayed and frozen in an amber like substance. Someone like Dr Strange would have to cast a spell to make it appear that someone, like Wolverine, has been defeated so Thanos would not be expecting them to fight back. Then when Thanos is fighting someone like Captain Marvel our surprise hero can spring out and land the blow. However, they would have one shot to do this. Despite not being an efficient regenerative ability it is still a powerful one so whoever does strike Thanos would have to make sure that they could hit the heart, brain or even decapitate him. Wolverine could be a good option; in an alternate reality What if? story Wolverine did cut of his arm. Wolverine has a chance of decapitating Thanos or cutting through his heart. Similarly, Captain Marvel could possibly punch her way through his body to get to his heart. It is difficult to do but not impossible.
|Drax killing Thanos|
What if Thanos had the Infinity Gauntlet?
Everything would change if Thanos had the Gauntlet and the simple answer is this: you don't beat him. During Infinity Gauntlet when Earth's remaining heroes go to fight Thanos he demolishes them: Wolverine's bones are turned to rubber, Thor is turned to glass, Captain America is killed by a backhand, Scarlet Witch's hex is reversed onto her, and Cyclops is suffocated when a glass block is placed over his head. Thanos' one hubris is the thing to bring him down. After the defeat of the heroes the Cosmic Entities including Marvel's devil Mephisto, the world-consuming Galactus, and the embodiment of Love all went to face Thanos and were turned to stone. One such beings was Eternity, the living embodiment of the universe, and with Eternity gone Thanos decided to become the new embodiment which meant that his soul left his mortal body. Nebula (currently in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie) then obtained the Gauntlet and reversed all that Thanos did. You do not defeat Thanos, you let him create his own weakness.