(CNN)For Marvel Studios, all roads have led to “Avengers: Endgame.” More than a decade and 21 films in the making, the fourth Avengers film finally arrives in theaters this month with almost impossibly high expectations — both for audiences and the box office.
In the build up we’ve accumulated dozens of characters in the ever-sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, after the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” — which saw the Mad Titan Thanos wipe out half of all sentient life with the snap of his fingers — their numbers are heavily depleted.For the sake of the franchise it won’t stay that way, but “Endgame” has to live up to its high-stakes billing. This writer isn’t out for blood, but deaths are all but guaranteed. So who lives, who dies and who’s coming back from the snap? Buckle up, because there’s a lot to cover — from what’s happening both on and off screen. Here’s a non-exhaustive (but still exhausting) run down of our heroes’ chances.Note: This list includes spoilers up to and including “Captain Marvel.” “Avengers: Endgame” had not been screened to the press at the time of writing and the blinkers are firmly on regarding set leaks and other online hearsay.Read MoreAnt-ManCurrent status: AliveIs Scott Lang going to be the secret sauce in the fight against Thanos? We’ve never really taken Ant-Man seriously (lord knows he doesn’t do so himself), but “Ant-Man and the Wasp’s” exploration of the Quantum Realm and its time-bending properties might be the way to travel back pre-snap without the Time Stone. Added incentive for Lang to pull his finger out: the snap wiped out the Wasp, mentor Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne (the original Ant-Man and Wasp).Dead or alive? Paul Rudd’s character is a relatively new entry into the MCU. Not a dead cert, but he’ll likely survive.Black Panther Current status: DeadDo you really think Marvel is about to drop the superhero behind an Oscar-winning, $1.3 billion-grossing film after one solo outing? Kevin Feige announced “Black Panther 2” was happening back in March 2018. Dead or alive? Wakanda forever!Black WidowCurrent status: AliveBlack Widow was the Avenger that never got the standalone film they deserved (sorry Hawkeye). That finally changed in 2018 when it was announced that Natasha Romanoff would receive a solo outing, with subsequent reporting that Florence Pugh has joined the cast alongside Johansson. Whether it will be an origin story or post-“Endgame” is still unconfirmed.Dead or alive? Killing off your lead before their first solo film would be an odd move, but if the “Black Widow” movie is a prequel that would leave Johansson open to explore other projects afterward and have the last say in what has been a decade-long injustice. I’m leaning toward death. Bruce Banner/The HulkCurrent status: AliveWhen we left Banner in Wakanda he was having a real Hulk impotence problem — kind of inconvenient for everyone. Banner/Hulk has been invaluable to the Avengers, but as a character he’s often worked as a foil within the group. With no solo outing under Marvel Studios announced, and the likelihood a number of his comrades will die in “Endgame,” you might think this is the end of the road for Banner. But Mark Ruffalo still has films outstanding on a six-movie deal he signed back in 2012. Dead or alive? Going to survive — and hopefully continue the intergalactic buddy road trip with Thor.Bucky Barnes Current status: DeadExpect Barnes’ death in “Infinity War” to be a motivator behind a self-sacrificing play from old friend Captain America in “Endgame” (whatever shape that might take). Barnes could well pick up the vibranium shield and become the new Cap’ post-“Endgame,” following a plot line from the comics. (Huge hint: Sebastian Stan is reportedly locked in to a nine-film contract.) There’s also the mooted Disney+ series with Falcon. Stan has also expressed an interest in the “Black Widow” film. He’ll be busy if that all comes to pass.Dead or alive? Alive — and possibly with a few personality tweaks if he’s to take up the shield.Captain AmericaCurrent status: AliveSteve Rogers came back from the wilderness in “Infinity War,” bearded and bad-ass. Now Captain America looks ready to lay down everything in “Endgame.” Chris Evans has dropped anvil-sized hints in interviews for over a year and seems to have already said goodbye to the character on Twitter. It feels like a done deal.Dead or alive? The all-American hero is a goner. We’ll miss you Cap’.Captain Marvel Current status: Alive”Captain Marvel” just cruised past the billion-dollar club at the global box office and Brie Larson’s take on spacefaring pilot Carol Danvers was a critical success too. “Endgame” is only the beginning, and there’s murmurs she could eventually head up the Avengers. We’ve only just started to see what she’s capable off.Dead or alive? You come at the queen, you best not miss. She lives.Doctor Strange Current status: DeadBefore falling victim to the snap, Strange told Tony Stark this was the only way; he had looked into multiple futures and seen doom in every other permutation. Being the raging narcissist that he is, don’t expect any self-sacrificing moves from Strange, who only made his debut in 2016. There’s also the small matter of a standalone sequel reportedly in development.Dead or alive? The good doctor will return.Drax the Destroyer Current status: DeadDavid Bautista led the “Guardians” actors in their vocal support of James Gunn after his firing. Gunn is back at the helm, and expect Drax to survive “Endgame” and feature prominently in “Guardians 3.” Trivia: It’s not going to happen in the Marvel Studios’ PG-13 universe, but in one story from the comics Drax defeats Thanos by ripping out his heart. Dead or alive? Alive. His reflexes are too fast.Falcon Current status: DeadThe Disney+ series with Bucky all but guarantees he’ll be back from the dead and make it through “Endgame.” Dead or alive? The second string Avenger lives.Gamora Current status: DeadGamora’s demise was a tough watch. Sacrificed by Thanos to gain the Soul Stone, if you didn’t realize already, here was proof that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Killed pre-snap, but “Endgame” marketing art keeps her in the frame, suggests she can still be brought back to life.Dead or alive? If anyone deserves to survive “Endgame” it’s probably Thanos’ long-suffering adopted daughter. Alive.Groot Current status: DeadBig call, but no character is more beloved in the MCU. Groot already sacrificed himself once at the end of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and is only just returning to his normal size. No way they’d off him permanently.Dead or alive? Alive. There’d be riots outside Marvel HQ.Happy HoganCurrent status: AliveThe fate of Happy’s employer Tony Stark is very much in the air (more of which later). If he does die, Stark’s long-suffering friend and chauffeur would appear surplus to requirements. But he’s right there in the “Spider-Man: Far From Home” trailer, which arrives in theaters in July and, according to comments from producer Amy Pascal back in 2017, starts “a few minutes after Avengers 4 wraps.”Dead or alive? Alive.Hawkeye Current status: AliveAbsent in “Infinity War” because he was under house arrest (a lame excuse in my book), Hawkeye returned in the “Endgame” trailer with an outré haircut and world-weary scowl. What he’s been up to is anyone’s guess, but after two Avengers films in the shadow of bigger superheroes, will Hawkeye finally have his moment in the sun? Yeah, that could pretty underwhelming.Dead or alive? This smells like a redemption narrative — I suspect Hawkeye’s family might not have survived the snap. Given there’s not many other places for the character to go, he could easily bite the dust.Iron Man Current status: AliveTony Stark’s first outing in 2008 was the cornerstone on which this entire cinematic universe was built. If that sounds like a eulogy, that’s because it’s supposed to. Robert Downey Jr. is out of contract after “Endgame” and let’s face it, there’s no shortage of wise-cracking egotists in the MCU ready to carry the torch. Will Stark really be able to just walk away from all of this unscathed?Dead or alive? If it happens it will be glorious, tragic and (hopefully) delivered with a wry smile. But he’s a prime contender to die. Loki Current status: DeadAn early victim in “Infinity War,” Loki never made it past the intro, never mind the snap. Intriguingly, one of the Disney+ series in development focuses on the loveable antihero from Asgard — with Tom Hiddleston to star, Disney have confirmed. What Disney hasn’t confirmed is when it will be set. Marvel offered no comment to The Hollywood Reporter when sources suggested the series would have Loki popping up through human history like a god-level Forrest Gump. So it sounds like a prequel.Dead or alive? The master of cheating death could feasibly do it again, but the signs say he’s a goner.MantisCurrent status: DeadA latecomer to the Guardians clique, Mantis bit the dust in “Infinity War.” But there’s no good reason for her to stay dead. Fingers crossed we get plenty more laughs from this intergalactic oddball in “Guardians 3.”Dead or alive? Death would be a senseless move. Mantis should live.M’Baku Current status: AliveCould M’Baku become king of Wakanda with T’Challa out of the equation? It’s possible. M’Baku hasn’t featured in any “Endgame” trailers, but Winston Duke has confirmed he’s returning. It seems unlikely Marvel will kill off the affable vegetarian, especially given the “Us” star’s ever-rising profile.Dead or alive? Alive.Nebula Current status: AliveThanos’ adopted daughter could make a big play in “Endgame.” Marvel aficionados will know that in one plot from the comics, Nebula managed to seize the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos and used it to undo his murders. She then went on a power trip and had to be stopped and imprisoned. We don’t know if any of this will happen in “Endgame,” but if some of it does, Nebula could end up as collateral in restoring order to the universe. That said, there’s rumors a Gamora and Nebula series is in early development for Disney+, and Karen Gillan has talked about “Guardians 3” as if she’s involved.Dead or alive? On the basis of her “Guardians 3” hints she’ll make it. But there’s a huge case for her dying in “Endgame” otherwise.Nick Fury Current status: DeadFury set the wheels of “Endgame” in motion when he dropped Captain Marvel a message on his pager mid-disintegration. He’s been through the wringer, but every time Fury has come out swinging. So don’t expect the small matter of Thanos and the destruction of half the universe to spell his end. Dead or alive? Alive. He’s in the “Spider-Man: Far From Home” trailer.Okoye Current status: AliveNo one had Black Panther’s back more than Okoye. Expect her to return with vengeance in “Endgame” to try and bring T’Challa back from the dead. No word on whether Danai Gurira is confirmed to reprise the role in “Black Panther 2,” but killing Okoye in “Endgame” would come as a shock.Dead or alive? More alive than dead.Pepper PottsCurrent status: AliveEagle-eyed viewers of the “Spider-Man: Far From Home” trailer will have spotted a giant check from Stark Industries signed by Pepper Potts. I’m not sure how long it takes for one of those to get printed, but remarkably Potts might outlive her maverick boss-turned-partner. Dead or alive? With Tony Stark probably heading for the exit, is the MCU going to see its first conscious uncoupling? Pass me a Goop-branded hanky.Rocket Current status: AliveA tougher call than it should be. Rocket has had quite the character arc since he was first introduced in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and a self-sacrificing move — especially when it comes to Groot — wouldn’t be out of the question. But there’s no way they’ll leave Groot without his translator, right?Dead or alive? Alive and quipping.Scarlet WitchCurrent status: DeadSnapped after watching Vision die twice over, but reportedly returning in Disney+ series “The Vision and Scarlet Witch“. So this shouldn’t be the end of the road for Wanda Maximoff.Dead or alive? Alive.Shuri Current status: DeadThe internet was shocked when Marvel released marketing art suggesting Shuri was victim of the snap — it was the first we’d heard of it. An off-camera death is short shrift for a character that stole nearly every “Black Panther” scene she was in. Don’t expect her to stay out of the picture.Dead or alive? T’Challa wouldn’t last two minutes without his little sister. She’s going to pull through.Spider-Man Current status: DeadTom Holland delivered a gut punch of a death scene in “Infinity War,” with Peter Parker watched over by helpless mentor Iron Man. Expect Parker’s resurrection to be a prime motivator for Stark.Dead or alive? Not a chance. Unless Sony and Marvel Studios have played us all and “Far From Home” is in fact a prequel, flying in the face of all previous reporting.Star-Lord Current status: DeadWhen the third installment of “Guardians of the Galaxy” was in the doldrums there was a question mark hanging over the fate of Peter Quill/Star-Lord, but not any more. The Guardians need their leading man.Dead or alive? He’ll make the cut, you big turd blossoms.The Ancient OneCurrent status: DeadDied in “Doctor Strange,” but Tilda Swinton is reportedly among the cast of “Endgame.” Expect the Ancient One to feature in some form of flashback or time travel to impart some wisdom, but not to stick around beyond “Endgame” — she’d just get in the way of Strange in future films.Dead or alive? Dead. ThorCurrent status: AliveArguably “Infinity War’s” MVP, Thor levelled-up his weaponry and so nearly killed Thanos. Chris Hemsworth has said he’s out of contract after “Endgame,” but after the roaring success of Thor’s last solo outing “Ragnarok,” it doesn’t feel like the Norse god has run his course. Dead or alive? Strong chance Thor lives.Valkyrie Current status: AliveCritics agreed that Tessa Thompson knocked it out the park as warrior drunk Valkyrie in “Ragnarok,” and there’s plenty of room for this character to grow. Marvel Studios know an asset when they see one.Dead or alive? Only just beginning to spread her wings. She lives.VisionCurrent status: DeadWhatever lies beyond the mortal plane, Vision still probably has a killer migraine after Thanos ripped the Mind Stone from his forehead. His story arc has arguably run its course, but an upcoming Disney+ series alongside Scarlet Witch would likely make him indispensable. Dead or alive? Probably going to survive, proving you can never keep a part-android, part-space gem down. War Machine Current status: AliveJames Rhodes survived the snap, but as a long-term vet of the MCU and with associates likely to die in “Endgmae,” the next chapter for the colonel is murky.Dead or alive? This could go either way. Assuming Stark dies, donning the Iron Man suit wouldn’t be a big leap for War Machine. On the other hand, with no Tony Stark to keep in check, Rhodes loses some of his raison d’etre. But paralyzing him, fixing him with robotic legs, only to kill him would be a cold, cold move.Wasp Current status: DeadKilled by the snap that brought the end of “Ant-Man and the Wasp” in line with “Infinity War,” Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne has only had two outings in the Marvel films. Lilly’s badinage with Paul Rudd’s Steve Lang was one of the best things about the Ant-Man sequel, and there’s no reason why that need come to an end — unless to lend emotional heft to as-yet-unannounced “Ant-Man 3.”Dead or alive? Likely to survive, but not a lock.WongCurrent status: AliveNot a huge presence in “Infinity War” (someone has to protect the Sanctum Sanctorum), Wong will likely be thrust into the action in “Endgame,” especially given his knowledge of the mystic arts. Dead or alive? Doctor Strange is going to need a friend in his next standalone, and their budding bromance has room to grow. He lives.Bonus: ThanosCurrent status: AliveThe Mad Titan’s victory at the end of the last chapter wasn’t surprising, but the manner of it shocked audiences. It also prompted a deluge of think pieces asking if, in an epoch of unsustainable resource consumption, he was really the villain after all. But while Thanos won the battle for the universe, he’s never going to win the war. That’s just not how superhero movies work.Dead or alive? He should enjoy his retirement while he still can. Definitely dying.”Avengers: Endgame” arrives in cinemas in international territories beginning April 24 and in the US April 26.