Originally posted by Stuart Kirkman
Marvel’s roadmap for the next three years is pretty much laid out at this point. Aside from any more late retractions (bye bye Black Bolt) we know what movies we’re getting, and we even have a fair idea of what’s going to happen in some of them.
It’s all but guaranteed that the main characters will survive until at least (the soon to be renamed) Avengers: Infinity War Part I, as the finale of Phase 3 will no doubt serve as a last hurrah for the old guard. But by the end of Part II it’s unlikely that the Avengers bench will be quite as deep.
The predictions that follow are predicated on the idea that something like the following happens during Infinity War:
- By the end of Part I, Thanos has all but taken over the Earth. Beating both sets of Avengers and sending them scurrying underground. Part II will see the remaining members rally and reunite for a final battle.
- Captain America dies, probably at the hands of Thanos. His death will serve to galvanise the remaining Avengers into fighting back against the Mad Titan and retake the planet.
- Iron Man will be guilt-ridden over the death of Steve Rogers and retire as a superhero, but he could take on another role so that Tony Stark remains a presence in the MCU. Maybe a re-established S.H.I.E.L.D has an opening for a new Director.
- Thor is taken off the board, either returning to Asgard to rebuild in the wake of Ragnarok, or dying/fading out of existence himself. As a Norse god, he’s a strong candidate for rebirth/reincarnation down the line.
This way the majority of the previous actors could retire or take on smaller roles within the MCU, most of their contracts will be up by this point anyway, and they’ll probably want to go off and do other things. This leaves a few holes that need to be filled, and provides an opportunity for a new group of heroes to rise to the forefront.
Some of Ed Brubaker’s seminal run on Captain America has already been translated to the big screen in The Winter Soldier, and the groundwork has been laid for the second big storyline:
In the comics, Steve Rogers is assassinated during the immediate aftermath of the Superhero Civil War. Bucky believes that Tony Stark is largely responsible for the death of his best friend, so he goes on a one-man rampage against him. Meanwhile, Tony is given a letter that Steve wrote before his death, asking him to do two things:
- Ensure that the mantle of Captain America continues
- Save Bucky from himself, and set him on the right path
Being nothing if not a practical thinker, Tony decides to kill two birds with one stone and have Cap’s former sidekick take up the shield. After almost dying at Bucky’s hands, Tony convinces him that this isn’t what Steve would have wanted, and he agrees to become the new Captain America. Having Bucky in the role presents an opportunity for a whole new dynamic, as rather than being the perfect man for the job, he’s constantly trying to measure up to the impossible standards of his best friend, while trying to make up for all the terrible things he did as The Winter Soldier.
This could present an opportunity for the past to literally come back and haunt him, as historical enemies from his Hydra days could re-emerge, and history could be fleshed out in a series of flashbacks – Chris Evans could even make a cameo if they go back as far as World War II. Between a new trilogy of solo movies, Bucky-Cap could serve as a member of a replacement super-team…
Regardless of how else the lineup might change, the MCU will always have a big team-up movie at the end of each phase. If the first three phases are considered a trilogy, as Kevin Fiege has said before, then what comes afterwards will probably be going in a different direction. There have been many incarnations of the Avengers; Mighty, Secret, Uncanny, Academy, The Initiative, All-New All-Different…way too many really. But the most most popular and enduring of the spin-off’s is the New Avengers.
There have been several line-ups of this team over the years, but most of the time they’re a more street level team made up of lower level heroes. They weren’t saving the world every week, quite often they were dealing with lower level threats and more personal stories, but that didn’t make them less entertaining.
In the wake of the Civil War comic series, there were two big teams of Avengers. The officially sanctioned Mighty Avengers, lead by Tony Stark, and the underground version, lead by Luke Cage, and then Bucky-Cap. The roster included Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, Wolverine, and Spider-Woman. That’s not to say that the MCU team will be anything like that, but there are some strong candidates emerging from the Netflix shows, and Spider-Woman isn’t out of reach now that Sony and Marvel are co-operating. The Wolverine was included because the team felt they needed someone willing to get their hands bloody, but The Punisher could just as easily fill that role.
After constantly escalating the stakes over the course of four Avengers movies, it would make sense to take things down a notch, and maybe tell some more personal stories where the world isn’t perpetually in jeopardy. That’s not to say that there isn’t some world-ending conflict looming on the horizon, like the infinity stones, there’ll inevitably be some large-scale threat bubbling away under the surface…
During Brian Michael Bendis’ run on New Avengers, he introduced the idea of a team who operated from the shadows and tackled problems before they became world-ending threats. They came up against some of the biggest threats the Marvel universe had to offer, but they made unilateral decisions that affected the rest of the world, and it ended up getting them in trouble.
One of those choices was to track down the Infinity Stones to prevent anyone else from using them, and each member became the custodian of a specific gem. This idea could fit in nicely with the conclusion of Infinity War, as those little weapons of mass destruction have to go somewhere safe.
The idea was the brainchild of Tony Stark, who gathered experienced heroes from the various corners of the MCU. He kept the Reality stone safe, while The Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange was the keeper of the Reality stone. As the leader of the Inhumans, Black Bolt had the Space stone. Charles Xavier represented the mutant interests and held onto the Mind stone. Namor the Submarinor, King of Atlantis was the bearer of the Time gem. Black Panther was also invited onto the team, but decided it was a bad idea for them to make decisions on behalf of the world. But there was one more member who was in possession of the Power stone, Reed Richards, the head of Marvel’s first family…
Fox have tried and failed, and tried and failed (again) to make the Fantastic Four a viable box office success. The problem isn’t that it’s a bad property, it’s that they made some bad movies. With the unprecedented Spider-Man deal, Marvel have proven that they have the financial clout and the inclination to take back the properties they auctioned off so long ago, and after that recent travesty of a film, Fox have run out of reasons not to play ball.
Phase 4 would be the perfect time to introduce the Fantastic Four – not just because of the obvious marketing potential, but because there may be a void left by a certain super-team that needs to be filled. The team don’t need to be rebooted back to when they were college kids, they can be a full fledged family from the get-go. Aside from the obvious benefit of having these great characters interact with the rest of the MCU, there are a whole host of villains that would be back on the table.
Doctor Doom has never been given the treatment he deserves on the big screen, so you’d be forgiven for overlooking his importance if you aren’t familiar with the comics. The leader of Latveria is a true megalomaniac who spans the realms of magic and science. He’s been a long-standing frienemy of not just Reed Richards, but Tony Stark and Doctor Strange as well.
They also have a host of cosmic-level threats in the stable, including Annihilus, the leader of an insect horde known as the Annihilation Wave, The Skrulls, a shape-shifting race of aliens (and relation of the Chitauri) who can disguise themselves as humans, and the biggest, baddest, purplest planet-eater in the Universe; Galactus. If Marvel really want to fully explore the cosmic realm with teams like the Guardians of the Galaxy, they need to get their hands back on these characters.
With that in mind, a street-level Avengers will need a more intimate threat to deal with…
There’s no shortage of big comic book storylines to draw inspiration from, and after Captain America: Civil War, there’s a lot of conjecture about which storyline they might adapt next. Any of a dozen enemies could serve as an ongoing problem to the Avengers throughout phase 4 and beyond, but the Secret Invasion of the Skrulls was an assault that had a very personal effect on the hero community, and could make for an intriguing new direction for the MCU.
These shape-changing aliens slowly and methodically replaced key players in the Marvel universe, taking on the persona’s of superheroes, as well as their friends and families. When the Avengers became aware that the Skrulls were living among them, and that they had no way of detecting them, the divide that had existed since the Civil War only grew deeper.
Having a situation like this sew distrust among the remaining heroes as they struggle to fill the shoes of their predecessors would make for good source of drama. There’s really know way of knowing what direction Marvel will decide to go in after they conclude Thanos’ storyline, but this would certainly be an interesting option.
The MCU is a big place, and there’s plenty of other things to discuss, such as whether an Inhumans movie will ever come out, or how the Thor series might continue into the future, but those are discussions for another time. This is all blind speculation based on the source material available, and there are a lot of different directions that future storylines could go in. Let us know what you think of these predictions in the comments, and tell us what you’d like to see happen in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.