When it comes to Marvel, one villain looms larger than any other – Thanos, the Mad Titan, successfully gathered the Infinity Stones and (temporarily) killed half the living beings in the universe. But while Thanos is a cunning and powerful enemy, he’s not the worst the Marvel Universe has to offer. Deep down, Thanos knows he doesn’t deserve to win, ultimately defeating himself even when he holds cosmic power. But out in the wilds of space, there’s a threat every bit as ambitious, infinitely more patient, and utterly assured of the righteousness of their mission.

Introduced in S.W.O.R.D. #1, and created by Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders, Unit is a perennial prisoner, allowing himself to be held by those who could never truly stop his escape in order to enjoy a pampered existence while studying different cultures. So far, Unit has been held by space agency SWORD, the Mutant-Atlantis Alliance facility controlled by the X-Men, and a cell in the interdimensional bulwark known as the Shield. Each time he has been freed, generally using the time to carry out further research on how to bring about a disaster of universal proportions.

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Billions of years in the past, a super-advanced society of immortal aliens achieved the impossible – a perfect, self-sustaining world. They had created a heaven in which they could have lived forever, if not for the attentions of those outside. Other alien races coveted what Unit’s creators had, and while some could be reasoned with, an immortal perspective meant that ultimately, any independent civilization was a threat. As Unit says, “they could not make heaven stick without washing away those who would undo it.”

Unit’s creators embarked on a process of galactic fascism, wiping out any civilizations that would not consent to their rule. To that end, they invented the Unit – a tool of diplomatic genocide which would be dropped on a “hostile” world and either persuade it to fall in line or else nudge it into self-destruction. Units were designed to be masters of coercion, equipped with an array of powers such as hypnosis, artificial pheromones, and false minds that allow them to trick biological psychics. To immortals who could live forever in endless pleasure, even wiping out a million planets full of temporary life could be justified in the long-run.

Thankfully, the universe struck back, with heroes from across the galaxy (including Galactus) teaming up to wipe them out. Only one Unit survived… but that didn’t necessarily mean the struggle was over. The Marvel Universe is full of devices capable of rewriting reality, and Unit knows that if he learns enough – and waits long enough – he can bring back his masters and fulfill their plan.

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Unit is a diabolical villain – cooly vicious but infinitely persuasive, and always plotting. The events of 2012’s AvX, in which the Avengers and X-Men went to war, were due to Unit experimenting with the Phoenix Force, and it turns out he even considered trying to trick Thanos into handing over the Infinity Stones in Infinity Gauntlet, but decided his chances weren’t good enough to risk his overall mission. Unlike the tyrannical Thanos, Unit is a cold, calculating machine prepared to wait generations to wipe out the majority of life in the galaxy, and having escaped or defeated everyone who’s ever stood in his way, it seems like it’s just a matter of time until he gets what he wants.

While Thanos is a villain driven by passions and a thirst for knowledge, Unit isn’t anywhere near as human. Brutally logical, the X-Men villain is biding his time on a near-infinite scale, waiting to do near-infinite harm. When Unit finally strikes, it will be with the certainty that he can’t be stopped, and with a plan that’s been cooking for millennia. Until then, he’s happy to wait in one cell or another, slipping out occasionally to dissect any interesting species who cross his path.

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