Ever since Samuel L. Jackson first appeared as Nick Fury in a hidden scene at the end of Iron Man, we’ve all become trained to sit through the credits of a Marvel superhero film. Last year, the post-credits scene of Iron Man 2 featured a first glimpse of Thor’s fun-to-spell-but-hard-to-pronounce hammer Mjolnir. Thor continued the tradition this weekend, ending with a quick scene that simultaneously pointed toward this summer’s Captain America and next year’s superhero mega-team-up The Avengers. But I’m guessing that, if you’re not a comics fan, you probably left the theater with one question: “What the *$%#@ just happened?” Let’s unpack the scene a little bit. (SPOILER ALERT!)

In the scene, Stellan Skarsgard’s Erik Selvig met Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury inside of a warehouse. Fury said he was very interested in Selvig’s research involving parallel dimensions, which implied that Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster had made some serious headway with all her astrophysics research. (Since Portman herself didn’t appear in this scene, I’m guessing that Jane Foster probably won’t be in Avengers.) Fury then opened up a large metal case that contained what appeared to be a glowing cube. (Finally, we know what was inside the Pulp Fiction briefcase!) Fury said the cube was an object of “immense power.” Then, twist! In the mirror, where Selvig’s reflection should have been, stood Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Mirror-Loki said “That’s interesting,” and then Selvig repeated, “That’s interesting.”

So, just what was that cube-thing? Here’s the short answer:

Long answer: The object of “immense power” is called the Cosmic Cube. It’s essentially a god-machine, capable of making absolutely anything its holder imagines come true. Think Green Lantern’s power ring, but infinitely more powerful — the Cube has been used to bring people back to life, to bind one carrier to the fabric of the universe, and to generally twist all of reality to various nefarious purposes. The Cube has popped up all around the Marvel Universe since it’s first appearance in 1966, and there have been multiple Cubes with varying origin stories, but it holds a special place in Captain America’s history. (At least once or twice a decade, the Red Skull will try to get his hands on a version of the Cube.)

So what does this mean for future Marvel movies? There have already been images released from this summer’s Captain America of Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull holding what appears to be an evil-looking ice cube, so consider this a confirmation that the Cosmic Cube will make an appearance in that film. But the scene’s real revelation might be pointing towards next year’s Avengers. Loki has already been officially confirmed as that film’s Big Bad, and now it looks like the plot of the movie may be Cube-centric.

If the Cube is indeed The Avengers‘ MacGuffin, you can start anticipating all sorts of exciting reality-altering special effects, a scene where Loki lifts up the Cube and screams “The universe is mine!” and lots of sparkling Joss Whedon argue-dialogue between Iron Man and Thor about who is most worthy to hold the Cube, before Captain America finally solves everything by crushing it with his mighty shield. Just guessing.

Follow Darren on Twitter for more Cosmic Cube updates @EWDarrenFranich

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