For many fans, the worst part about the gut-punch ending of Avengers: Infinity War was the uncertainty of it all — there’s no way of knowing what happens next. Readers of Marvel comics have an advantage when it comes to making guesses about Avengers 4, however, because they know how the Avengers beat Thanos in the comics.
The events of Infinity War were loosely based on a Marvel limited series titled Infinity Gauntlet, and several scenes were directly ported from the page to the big screen. Thanos’s cataclysmic hero-halving snap was one such moment, and fans can more accurately theorize about the next film by looking at how the Avengers recovered from “The Snap” in the comics.
Originally released over the latter half of 1991, Infinity Gauntlet was the brainchild of writer Jim Starlin, who created Thanos along with several other cosmic characters. It only lasted six issues, but it remains one of Marvel’s all-time best and most influential storylines — as evidenced by the fact that the greater plot of Marvel Cinematic Universe was structured around the saga of the Thanos and the Infinity Stones.
As much as the surviving Avengers will want to start avenging in the wake of Infinity War, they likely won’t be able to focus on tracking down Thanos right off the bat. In Infinity Gauntlet, the heroes of Earth aren’t immediately aware Thanos is the cause of half the sentient life in the universe disappearing, but they are immediately aware of the aftereffects - pilotless planes falling from the sky, supervillain prisons with no guards, and hundreds of car accidents.
The surviving heroes do their best to save the remaining half of the populace before they even think about resurrecting the dead half, and this will likely be true in the MCU, as well - as evidenced by the helicopter crash in the post-credits scene.
With half of the people on Earth disappearing in an instant, there’s going to be a lot of casualties to tally up. After dealing with the immediate aftereffects of The Snap, the protagonists of Infinity Gauntlet figure out who they have left, and who has vanished.
Captain America puts the results together in a reader-convenient PowerPoint presentation. It’s revealed that the list of the dead includes Hawkeye, Daredevil, and every single member of the Fantastic Four. It’s a heavy toll, but one that conveniently leaves the Earth with most of its mightiest heroes.
While the heroes of Earth try to figure out why half the planet’s population has vanished, Thanos continues to spend his time on a giant shrine to Death floating through space. In the comics, his motivation for killing half the sentient life in the universe is much different than his Infinity War reasoning - he does it to impress Death, the literal and lady-like personification of death and the subject of his obsession. While Thanos’s motivation onscreen may differ from his comic book portrayal, both versions share a common trait of inner conflict.
In Infinity Gauntlet, this characteristic leads Thanos to bring his remaining family members — his brother Starfox and Nebula, who claimed to be his granddaughter — to his floating Death shrine. It isn’t a friendly reunion, either, as Thanos removes Starfox’s ability to speak and transforms Nebula into a crippled and painful form referred to as “living death.” Despite the cruelty, this demonstrates that Thanos still has some issues related to his past.
Over the decades, a number of supergenius groups have been formed in the pages of Marvel comics, including Tony Stark’s benevolent Illuminati and Norman Osborn’s evil Cabal. During the events of Infinity Gauntlet, this role is filled by an impromptu team-up of Doctor Strange, Doctor Doom, the Silver Surfer, Pip the Troll, and Adam Warlock - a character famous for his conflicts with Thanos. These four are the only ones with the cosmic awareness to understand the existential threat presented by Thanos, and it is up to them to formulate a plot to get the Infinity Gauntlet back and undo his horrific actions.
Of course it should be noted that all of these characters are either dead or nonexistent by the end of Infinity War, so expect others to fill this role in Avengers 4.