Editor's note: You might have seen this recently and in case you weren't sure what was going on, allow us to fill in some gaps.
When it comes to items of absurd power in the Marvel Universe, you’ve got your gaudy Infinity Gems, your function-over-form Ultimate Nullifier and then, the most stylish of uber- weapons, the Cosmic Cube. This galactic geometric’s been around since the 60s and has been having something of a comeback lately, showing up in the pages of ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN & WOLVERINE, THE THANOS IMPERATIVE and even ULTIMATE AVENGERS. What’s really thrown the gristle onto the grind and gotten the ever-so-curious fans talking, however, is this telling, leaked image from a certain superhero period piece that’s coming to theaters this summer. Supposedly, the Cosmic Cube’s been renamed Tesseract for said flick (dropping the alliteration to sound a little less comic-booky.)
Some fans might not be familiar with this thing but, really, what could be easier to understand than a Cosmic Cube? Like Sauron’s One Ring to rule them all, this little box grants tremendous power to anybody, from lowly schmucks to fearsome space lords. That’s simple enough to grasp, right? == TEASER ==
Well, as I mentioned, the Cube’s been a fixture of Marvel continuity for five decades. Thus, its history is much more complex and messy than its neat-and-tidy cubic form. Not only does the Cosmic Cube's existence stretch eons back into Marvel mythology, it’s also been the subject of many retcons and revisions over the years.
At basics, the Cosmic Cube is container for a massive amount of primordial energy that grants whomever holds it the nigh-omnipotent ability to reshape reality. Earthlings and other species throughout the cosmos have created their own Cubes over the years and, after a certain amount of time and usage, a Cube will actually gain sentience and become an incarnate being whose appearance and personality is shaped by those who've wielded it. Thus, while human-used Cubes will become humanoid entities like the Beyonder or Kubik, a Cube used by aliens like the Skrulls will look like the Shaper of Worlds. Similarly, if a good person wields a Cosmic Cube, the resultant entity will be good. But if a villain wields one? Hoo boy…
...as if there weren’t already many important reasons for a villain to never possess something so powerful.
The aforementioned spoilery image will seem fitting to anybody who’s been a fan of CAPTAIN AMERICA comics for more than a little bit. While other villains like Thanos and the Magus have wielded the Cosmic Cube to grand and hideous result, the one who’s used it the most is the already-grand-and-hideous Red Skull. The first Cosmic Cube to show up (in print) was a creation of those evil eggheads, A.I.M. and the Skull subsequently stole it from them to shape the world according to his warped principles. He lost it in a battle with Cap, of course, because he got overconfident, but he’s gotten his hands on it and other Cosmic Cubes several times since then. The Skull’s so closely identified with the Cube that, even though his recently-introduced Ultimate universe counterpart is significantly different than his 616 counterpart, he still received his own Cube very quickly.
Enough talk about history and ownership though. Let’s get to what the fans really care about - - power stats! I don’t know if anybody’s ever sat down and worked out whether the Cosmic Cube’s got a greater degree of omnipotence than the legendary, all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet (if there even is such a scale.) However, maybe it’s telling that the sequels to THE INFINITY GAUNTLET mini-series, THE INFINITY WAR and THE INFINITY CRUSADE, saw the previously-mentioned Magus and the sinisterly-benign Goddess needing to collect several Cosmic Cubes to rule the universe like Thanos had with his godly glove. What's additionally interesting about those circumstances is that the two villains collected Cosmic Cubes from across the multiverse and discovered that they didn’t always have to be so square. There were, indeed, Cosmic Spheres, Tetrahedrons, and so on.
Whatever shape it is and wherever it comes from, the Cosmic Cube is not something that should fall into anybody’s hands - - least of all the Red Skull's. If Steve Rogers is going to be taking on a Johann Schmidt who’s got this in his arsenal, the Sentinel of Liberty is going to be in store for one hell of an uphill battle to save the day.