If you haven't kept up with the various superhero standalone movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we wanted to make sure you knew who was who going into "Avengers: Age of Ultron." So behold, our handy guide. There are minor spoilers, so if you're squeamish, beware.
Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.)
New or Recurring? Recurring. Last Seen In: 2013's triumphant "Iron Man 3." At the end of that movie, he seemingly threw away the Iron Man persona (complete with the removal of the shrapnel in his chest that necessitated the little reactor) but then, at the last minute, admitted that he is still Iron Man. As any comic book fan will tell you, Tony Stark has always been an addict. This Time Around: Tony has moved away from the day-to-day responsibilities, instead issuing the creation of the Iron Legion, peacekeeping droids that he can dispatch to various corners of the world. (A sly commentary on drone culture, or just a really cool excuse to see flying robots? You decide!) Of course this initiative gets taken to the extreme when he creates an artificial intelligence known as Ultron (James Spader). Angst ensues. Will He Be Back? Yes. Downey Jr. is co-headlining next summer's "Captain America: Civil War," which, if it follows the comic-book arc at all, will see Stark and Captain America battling over the ideology behind a superhero registration act. He'll also return for the two-part "Avengers: Infinity War," beginning in 2018.
Captain America (Chris Evans)
New or Recurring? Recurring. Last Seen In: Last year's Cold War-y "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," where Cap learned that his beloved peacekeeping operation S.H.I.E.L.D. was not only slightly more war monger-y than he originally thought, but was also under the control of evil Nazi splinter group Hydra. Yikes. This Time Around: A soldier without a war, Cap has taken to a much stronger leadership position within the team, and at the start of the movie is cleaning up various Hydra cells around the world. Cap feels even more adrift after Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) works her mind mojo on him, giving him a glimpse of the life he was never allowed to live. Will He Be Back: Yes, he will. In next summer's "Captain America: Civil War" and the two-part "Avengers: Infinity War," starting in 2018.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
New or Recurring? Recurring. Last Seen In: 2013's regrettable "Thor: The Dark World," where he faced off against evil "dark elves," ascended to the throne of Asgard (the vaguely medieval alternate realm where he and his villainously mischievous brother Loki hail from), and dealt with his disgruntled scientist girlfriend (Natalie Portman). This Time Around: Thor is once again playful and funny (the first "Thor" is sort of like the "Splash" of the Marvel cinematic universe), although the weight of his existential crisis may loom the heaviest. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) shows him a vision of Asgard in ruin... and at his command, leading Thor to use questionable black magic (and the assistance of a familiar face) to get to the bottom of these otherworldly troubles. Will He Be Back? Yes. "Thor Ragnarok" is out on July 28th, 2017. He will also be back for the two-part "Avengers: Infinity War" saga that begins in the summer of 2018.
Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)
New or Recurring? Recurring. Last Seen In: The last "Avengers" movie, way back in 2012. Back then, Bruce Banner, the alter ego of the rage-filled Hulk and arguably the most reluctant member of the team, let the rest of the Avengers in on the secret behind his control of the monster: that he's always angry. This Time Around: In "Avengers: Age of Ultron," one of the biggest surprises involves Hulk and his romance with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The two dance around their mutual attraction, and it shoves Bruce into an even-more-angst-filled place. Things reach a crescendo when, after Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) douses him with her voodoo, he goes on a rampage in a fictional African country, leading to one of the more show-stopping moments of the film. Will He Be Back? While Hulk's fate remains purposefully unclear at the conclusion of the film, he will undoubtedly return for the two-part "Avengers: Infinity War," starting in 2018.
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)
New or Recurring? Recurring. Last Seen In: Last year's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," where she teamed with Cap to take down S.H.I.E.L.D., corrupted from within by villainous Nazi faction group Hydra. This Time Around: Black Widow, the deadly assassin, shows her softer side. Not only does she fall for nebbish scientist-turned-rage-monster Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), but the enchantment placed on her by the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) brings up memories of her childhood training in Russia, the same training that left her a cold-blooded killer. (These scenes are niftily realized, giving director Joss Whedon a chance to indulge in his horror movie roots.) Like her fellow Avengers, these visions shake her to her core. Will She Be Back? Yes! Not only will Black Widow turn up in next year's superhero battle royale "Captain America: Civil War," but she will also appear in the two-part "Avengers: Infinity War," which kicks off in 2018.
Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
New or Recurring? Recurring. Last Seen In: Like Hulk, sharpshooter Hawkeye hasn't seen action since 2012's "The Avengers" (the fact that he didn't appear in last year's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is kind of inexplicable, especially given Clint Barton's S.H.I.E.L.D. connections), where he spent most of the movie hypnotized by Loki's magical staff. This Time Around: Hawkeye doesn't get hypnotized -- not even once! Instead, one of the movie's bigger surprises revolves around Hawkeye's much-more-complicated personal life. We won't give it away, but will say that he ends up very much being the heart of "Avengers: Age of Ultron." And that it is awesome. Will He Be Back? Yes, which is good, because this movie will turn Hawkeye into pretty much everyone's favorite character. Renner recently confirmed that he shall return for "Captain America: Civil War" next year before suiting up for the two-part "Avengers: Infinity War," beginning in 2018.
War Machine (Don Cheadle)
New or Recurring? Recurring. Last Seen In: 2013's excellent "Iron Man 3," where he truly became Tony Stark's contemporary, and not just because his gunmetal grey suit is just as cool. This Time Around: Not sure we're allowed to say. But he does make an appearance and people will not be disappointed. Will He Be Back? This is unclear, since the "Iron Man" standalone films have ended their run, but if Rhodey sat out both "Captain America: Civil War" and the "Avengers: Infinity War" movies, we'd be very, very surprised, especially given how this film ends.
Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
New or Recurring? Recurring. Last Seen In: Last year's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," which introduced the fan-favorite character as a modern-day ally for Captain America in his fight to end the corruption that had plagued S.H.I.E.L.D. This Time Around: Again, not sure we can say... but he is present and accounted for (and references the events that closed out "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"). Will He Be Back? Yes, in next year's "Captain America: Civil War" and, probably, in "Avengers: Infinity War" (although it should be noted that this last bit is pure speculation on our end).
The Vision (Paul Bettany)
New or Returning? New. Last Seen In: This is his big debut, although you might have heard him before. Since the first "Iron Man," back in 2008 (which, for those playing at home, was also the beginning of what we now know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Tony Stark's computerized butler Jarvis has been voiced by Bettany, whose brittle British take on the character was very lovable. For "Age of Ultron," though, he gets to actually physically go toe-to-toe with the other characters. This Time Around: The Vision is a Frankenstein-ian monster born out of evil robot Ultron's mad quest for evolutionary change and the magic of the so-called "infinity stones," along with Tony's ingenuity and Jarvis's personality. The Vision is detached but also deeply sympathetic; one of his best lines is when the Avengers are trying to recruit him in the battle against Ultron and he says, coolly, "I am on the side of life." Will He Be Back? Nothing has been confirmed but the way that "Avengers: Age of Ultron" ends, it seems like The Vision is very much a part of the team now. If he doesn't show up in next year's "Captain America: Civil War," then you can be sure to spot him in "Avengers: Infinity War," which starts its two-part sprawl in 2018 since those movies will concern the infinity stones, one of which is lodged in The Vision's forehead...
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)
New or Recurring? Recurring. Last Seen In: Fury was last seen in "Captain America: Civil War," where he faked his death and went underground following his discovery that S.H.I.E.L.D. had become compromised and overtaken by Hydra. This Time Around: Fury is still very much in the shadows, which isn't a place he was entirely unfamiliar with before he went into hiding. Still, he lacks the resources and the manpower of S.H.I.E.L.D., relying only on his penchant for inspirational speeches and... Some other tricks he's got lodged up his sleeve (or is that his eye patch?) Will He Be Back? Yes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe isn't the Marvel Cinematic Universe without Nick Fury. Again, if he's not back in next year's "Captain America: Civil War" (which seems pretty unlikely), he'll make an appearance in the giant-sized, two-part "Avengers: Infinity War," beginning in 2018.
Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)
New or Recurring? New. Sort of. Last Seen In: While Quicksilver is new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character of Quicksilver made a brief appearance in Bryan Singer's 2014 blockbuster "X-Men: Days of Future Past," where he was played by Evan Peters (in probably the most memorable scene in the entire movie). So even if this is a technically "new" character, chances are you'll recognize the bleached-out hair and super speed from another, different franchise based on another, different Marvel property. This Time Around: Quicksilver sticks closer to his Eastern European origins, as a a twin to Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) who voluntarily subjected himself to Hydra medical experiments (it's unclear whether those experiments gave him the powers of if they merely enhanced them). Quicksilver's life had been touched by the Avengers before (and not in a good way) and he oscillates, speedily, between good and evil. Will He Be Back? Unknown.
Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)
New or Recurring? New. Last Seen In: This is the character's first movie, but hopefully not her last. She's one of "Avengers: Age of Ultron's" breakout stars. This Time Around: Scarlet Witch is Quicksilver's twin, and like Quicksilver possesses an otherworldly ability: she can levitate objects and get inside people's heads, exposing them to lifelike visions of their worst nightmares. It gives the action an added, psychological dimension, and Olsen's hand gestures and body language are perfection. I love Scarlet Witch. Will She Be Back? Recently Olsen revealed that she will indeed return for "Captain America: Civil War" and (most likely) "Avengers: Infinity Wars," the two-part saga that begins in 2018. This is very good news indeed. The Marvel Cinematic Universe needs a little more girl power.
Ultron (James Spader)
New or Recurring? New. Last Seen In: Tony Stark's imagination. Ultron was designed as an extension of Stark's international peacekeeping force, although, as they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions... and killer robots. What's great about Ultron (and Spader's brilliant motion-captured performance) is that, since he is based on a program designed by Tony, he's able to incorporate elements of Downey Jr.'s wise-ass delivery and body language. It's really quite a feat of both technical virtuosity and actor-y pyrotechnics. Will He Be Back? While it should surprise no one that Ultron is, ultimately, defeated at the close of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (as far as "ages" go, this one is relatively brief), this is a series of movies based on comic books, where just about anything can happen. So we may not have seen the last of Ultron.