Now that the dust has settled on Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or more accurately, in the case of Avengers: Endgame, I guess you could say that the dust has formed back into people), fans are eagerly looking ahead to Phase Four and beyond. Marvel Studios has given us a lot to look forward to, announcing a slate of ten films and Disney+ shows that will span the next two years, making up Phase Four, and even giving us a glimpse of what to expect in Phase Five. Noticeably absent from the schedule is another Avengers film, although MCU mastermind Kevin Feige has confirmed that there is indeed an Avengers 5 in the works, with a team that will be “very different” from the one we’ve watched solidify over the past decade.
According to Feige, the new Avengers 5 lineup will consist of “some people you’ve already met and some people you haven’t met yet,” but really, the cast of characters may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the major differences between the next Avengers film and the previous four movies. After spending its first three phases slowly cranking up the dial on just how much weirdness its audience could tolerate, Phase Four of the MCU looks to have almost reached a full boil, with a slew of titles that seem to fully lean into the audacious strangeness that is possible in comic books, from WandaVision and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to Thor: Love and Thunder. By the time we get to the next big team-up film, the MCU could very well contain mutants, vampires, and alternate realities, making the storytelling possibilities for Avengers 5 nearly infinite.
Still, while we don’t yet know what form the next Avengers film will take or when it will arrive in theaters, there are a few things we’re crossing our fingers for, no matter what. Marvel has spent the past eleven years proving that it can handle the massive cast of characters, sprawling storylines, and bizarre narratives of comic books. Now that the studio has earned the trust of both comics fans and non-comics readers alike, it can afford to go bigger, deeper, and a whole lot wackier as it dives into the next decade of its existence.
So although Avengers 5 is likely at least a few years away, here are the ten things we’re hoping to see whenever we get there.
Time to Shake Up the Team
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Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) snap at the end of Avengers: Infinity War supposedly only wiped out half of all life in the universe, but it would seem that people with superpowers got the short end of that particular stick. More than half of the heroes of the MCU got dusted at the end of Infinity War, leaving only the original Avengers — Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow — plus a couple others, to set things right in Endgame. While there was definitely a sort of poetry in returning to the founding members of the team, it also drove home just how much the MCU has changed since 2012’s The Avengers.
As amazing and iconic as this original Avengers lineup was, it stands in, ahem, stark contrast to a cinematic universe that is growing more and more diverse with every word that comes out of Kevin Feige’s mouth. With upcoming films such as The Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Blade,as well as Disney+ TV series like Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk, the next phases of the MCU are already shaping up to look very different than the ones that have come before, by pretty much any metric you could think up. With the current makeup of the MCU, it would be downright shocking if the next iteration of the Avengers didn’t contain multiple women and people of color, as opposed to the original team’s one and zero, respectively.
But the differences between the next Avengers lineup and the previous one likely won’t stop at the characters’ identities. The MCU started with six heroes whose abilities could all be boiled down to either fighting really well or punching really hard, but since then, we’ve met heroes and villains with a much wider range of talents, from the magical to the mechanical. The next Avengers team is sure to still have its fair share of martial artists and heavy hitters, but that will likely only be the very beginning of the group’s capabilities.
Bring on the Young Avengers
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In 2018, during the press tour for Ant-Man and the Wasp, Kevin Feige mentioned that the MCU was already “planting seeds” for an eventual Young Avengers film. Those seeds now seem to be germinating like crazy, with multiple recent announcements that all seem to point to the Young Avengers forming sometime in Phase Five, if not by the end of Phase Four.
In the comics, the inaugural lineup of the youthful superhero team was made up of Iron Lad, Hulkling, Wiccan, and Patriot, who were soon joined by Kate Bishop, taking up the Hawkeye mantle, and Cassie Lang, following in her father Scott’s footsteps as the size-changing Stature. However, similarly to how it has played fast and loose with both the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy rosters, the MCU looks to be deviating from the original comics team. While a teenage version of Cassie has already been introduced in Avengers: Endgame, and Kate Bishop will be shooting onto TV screens in Hawkeye, the MCU has yet to even hint at the arrival of any of the four male Young Avengers.
However, Marvel has announced a Ms. Marvel show centered on teenage Pakistani-American superhero Kamala Khan, and there are now rumblings of a Miss America show about gay Latin-American superhero America Chavez, although that one hasn’t been confirmed yet. Both characters would be perfect for an MCU version of the Young Avengers, and with the additions of one more female hero — Riri Williams, a.k.a. Ironheart, perhaps? — and one of the male heroes from the comics, it would be a perfect inverse of the original Avengers lineup, which consisted of five men and one woman.
Most likely, the Young Avengers wouldn’t take the place of the main Avengers team, but would fight alongside them, much to the chagrin of the old guard. Their introduction could add a jolt of youthful energy to the MCU, which may be especially welcome after the abrupt exit of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.
Finally, the Mutants Have Arrived
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It’s almost hard to fathom it now, but there was once a time when Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were considered second-string heroes. One of the reasons the MCU was built on their broad shoulders and not on more widely beloved characters like Spider-Man and Wolverine is because Marvel didn’t have the rights to some of their most popular characters — they sold them off piecemeal in the ‘90s to avoid going bankrupt.
However, while Sony has swooped in to reclaim Spidey, Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men are now back in Marvel’s possession after Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox, leaving them free to fold into the complex fabric of the MCU. Introducing mutants into such a well-established universe — and one that has gone out of its way for the past ten years to avoid so much as uttering the word “mutants” — will be a daunting task, but based on Kevin Feige’s teasing of some sort of upcoming mutant-related property, it seems as though Marvel’s figured out a way to do it.
The arrival of mutants in the MCU opens up a wealth of rich storytelling possibilities, any number of which could tie into the next Avengers film. A number of popular Marvel Comics events have the X-Men right at the center, including “House of M,” “Secret Invasion,” and “Decimation.” Or, if Marvel is feeling exceptionally bold, they could always introduce the X-Men well ahead of the next Avengers film, giving them time to eventually lead up to “Avengers vs. X-Men.”
The Fantastic Four Finally Get Their Cinematic Due
The first family of Marvel has been done dirty by Hollywood, and it’s time things were set right. Like the X-Men, the rights to Fantastic Four were sold off to Fox in the ‘90s, and were recently bought back by Disney. However, unlike Marvel’s mutants, who managed to still have a successful film life over at Fox, the Fantastic Four didn’t fare nearly as well, stumbling through three movies that received middling-to-horrid reviews and eventually fizzled into obscurity without much more than a whimper.
It’s truly tragic for a super-team that has been the backbone of the comics universe for decades. Now that the Fantastic Four are back in Marvel’s hands, the studio finally has a chance to give them the cinematic justice they deserve. Kevin Feige teased the Fantastic Four at SDCC, but didn’t make it clear whether he was talking about a film, a TV show, or something else. However they enter the MCU, though, the Fantastic Four have earned the right to make a grand entrance. Hopefully, by the time we get another Avengers film, the Fantastic Four will not only have been properly introduced to the MCU, but will have had some time to truly make it their own.
An Expansive Multiverse
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Although the multiverse was teased in Spider-Man: Far From Home, it turned out to be a con orchestrated by Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), leaving the actual MCU version of the multiverse still a giant question mark. While Mysterio postulated that the multiverse was spawned by Thanos’ snap at the end of Infinity War, it seems unlikely that Marvel would lay that groundwork and reveal it to be fake, only to then reverse their position again to say that, actually, it is real.
What seems more plausible is that the events leading to either the formation or discovery of the MCU multiverse haven’t yet taken place, but if the titles for the upcoming Phase 4 films are any indication, they’re certainly about to. By the time Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness rolls around in 2021, the multiverse will either have to already exist, or will be on the verge of creation. And with Elizabeth Olsen set to co-star in the Strange sequel, it seems like a safe bet that the events of WandaVision will have something to do with it.
However the multiverse winds up entering the MCU, though, it will likely have a major effect on the films going forward. Characters who were dead in one universe could be alive in another, villains could be heroes, and familiar events could’ve played out entirely differently than the way we witnessed them. By the time the next Avengers film rolls around, we could have characters fighting alternate-universe versions of themselves, interdimensional travel, and villainous plots that could ripple out across multiple dimensions. And you thought time travel was confusing.
The Earned A-Force
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There’s a moment during the final battle of Avengers: Endgame that seemed well-intentioned, but has proven pretty divisive among female fans in particular following the film. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) accepts the Infinity Gauntlet from Peter Parker, and has to carry it across the battlefield in an attempt to toss it into the quantum realm and out of Thanos’ reach. As the armies of Thanos consolidate their ranks in an attempt to thwart her, every single surviving female superhero assembles around Captain Marvel to help clear her a path, a clear nod to the A-Force comics that feature an all-female Avengers team.
While the scene was obviously intended to be a tribute to the women of Marvel, to many in the audience, it felt unearned, especially with the death of Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) still fresh in our minds. What’s more, it didn’t even make much sense — why were all the women gathered so closely together in the first place, and why would they be the only ones attempting to help Carol Danvers complete such a crucial task? You’d think with the entire universe hanging in the balance, at least a couple of the men might have stepped in to lend a hand.
However, just because the scene in Endgame didn’t entirely work doesn’t mean that Marvel shouldn’t try to bring A-Force to life again. It just needs to feel more organic to both the characters and the storyline, so that it doesn’t come across as forced. In Infinity War, when Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, and Okoye (Danai Gurira) teamed up to fight Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), it worked because it made total sense that those characters would all be near one another at that moment in time, and would come to each other’s aid.
By the time we get a new Avengers film, Marvel will have had years to develop their existing female characters and establish the new women on the team, building relationships between them and showing them working together to fight for the greater good. Maybe by then, we’ll be able to get a version of A-Force that not only feels natural to the story, but also comes together for more than a single shot.
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Along with the Young Avengers and a new Avengers lineup, another team Marvel seems to be quietly building on the down-low is the Ultimates, a superhero team that came together in the comics to fight against Galactus, one of Marvel’s most intimidating supervillains. The Ultimates team in the comics consists of Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Spectrum, Miss America, and Blue Marvel, three of whom either already exist in the MCU or are about to make their debut. We’ve already met Monica Rambeau, a.k.a. Spectrum, as a child in Captain Marvel, and have already learned that she’ll appear as an adult in WandaVision, which is practically a guarantee that we’ll see her take up her superhero persona.
As for Miss America and Blue Marvel, there are rumors that the former might already be primed to join the MCU, and the latter would be easy enough to introduce considering his pretty standard science-experiment-gone-wrong origin story. Introducing the Ultimates into the MCU would do more than just bringing together a great group of characters; it would also kick the door open to some pretty wild storylines. Not only would the planet-swallowing Galactus be an even bigger baddie than Thanos, but the Ultimates’ space adventures could help the MCU lean even further into its wacky cosmic side, moving the conflict at the center of the next Avengers film away from Earth and out to… everywhere else.
Embrace the Weirdness of the Comics
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If you haven’t read comics in a while (or ever), you should know that they are infinitely stranger than the more-or-less straightforward storylines of the MCU. Even with all the time travel and reality-shaping magic stones of Endgame, the films have nothing on their source material, which routinely brings characters back from the dead, sends them into alternate dimensions, hurtles them through space, and reveals them to be evil clones.
The MCU has been gradually acclimating its audience to the vast and perplexing potential of comics, from a character who looks like a tree and only speaks three words, to the idea of magic portals and sentient capes, to living planets and Tesseract-swallowing Flerkins. Time travel was probably the biggest curve ball Marvel lobbed at its audience during Phase Three, but judging by the box office numbers for Endgame and Far From Home, fans were able to roll with the punches pretty well.
Going into Phase Four, it feels as though the kid gloves are off, and Marvel is going to start letting its freak flag truly fly. Maybe by the end of Phase Five, Marvel will be able to introduce the characters and story elements that would never have worked during its first three phases. Perhaps we’ll meet the horse-headed Beta Ray Bill, or get transported to a world where all of the characters we know suddenly have totally different lives and personalities, or visit a secret island populated by dinosaurs. There’s really no limit to what Marvel can do, and as far as we’re concerned, the stranger things get for Avengers 5, the better.
A Truly Epic Villain
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For years, even as Marvel fans have embraced its films and celebrated its heroes, the villains of the MCU have been a serious problem. Although there have been a few exceptions here and there — Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), and more recently, Mysterio come to mind — the vast majority of the MCU’s villains have felt flat and uninteresting, characterized only by their evil plotting and lack of a moral compass.
Thanos was a welcome departure for the MCU’s typical one-and-done villains, receiving his own emotional arc that fleshed him out as a fully formed character, and not just an evil punching bag for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Still, we had to wade through a lot of forgettable baddies in order to get to him, and we hope that we don’t have a similar slog ahead of us for Phases Four and Five.
With Disney’s acquisition of Fox, Marvel has a huge array of villains to pick from, many of which could lend themselves to a years-long arc that could eventually pay off in an Avengers film, such as Galactus, Doctor Doom, or Kang the Conqueror. But no matter who Marvel picks to oppose their heroes for the next Avengers, we can only hope that they take the time to fully develop the film’s antagonist. After all, a good villain needs more than swagger and a cool costume. Over the next two or three phases of the MCU, we hope that Marvel takes the time to develop a Big Bad just as nuanced as their heroes, who may not be right, but whose motivations can at least be understood. If we actually care about the villain, their decision to ultimately oppose the Avengers in the next big team-up film will not just be overwhelming; it’ll be tragic.
A Major Event
As most Marvel Comics readers are aware, there are solo character runs, team runs, and then there are Events. Events pull in characters from across a wide variety of titles, having the heroes either team up to fight some sort of massively daunting common foe — or, less frequently, bringing them together to fight each other. Marvel has already made a number of Event films, including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and of course, Infinity War and Endgame,
As we head into Phase Four and the MCU continues to expand, its cast of characters growing increasingly more unwieldy, it seems like the only types of storylines that can justify a film pulling in characters from all its films would be major comics Events. Fortunately, Marvel has a few to pick from. Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed the Infinity Saga, have said on a number of occasions that they’d return to the franchise in order to film “Secret Wars,” an Event in which a number of Marvel heroes and villains were transported to a distant planet called Battleworld in order to duke it out with one another.
However, as enticing as “Secret Wars” could be, there are a few other candidates that would provide a pretty epic framework for Avengers 5. The film could follow the “Secret Invasion” storyline, in which the Avengers have to thwart a stealthy invasion by the shape-shifting Skrulls, or the “Annihilation” arc, which involved the team coming together to stop a planet-destroying force tearing through the universe. There’s also the possibility that the MCU could revisit Events that were previously tackled by Fox’s X-Men films, such as “Age of Apocalypse” or “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” which could lead directly into “Avengers vs. X-Men.”
Whatever story Marvel chooses to serve as the foundation for its next Avengers film, we expect the finished product to be a sprawling behemoth, on an unprecedented scale that dwarfs even Endgame. As a matter of fact, Avengers 5 will likely be bigger than Endgame in every conceivable way, from the size of its cast and the scope of its conflict to the risks it’ll be willing to take in its storytelling. It’s almost hard to fathom right now what such a gargantuan film might look like, but remember that back in 2008 when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) told Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) that he wanted to talk to him about the Avengers Initiative, no one could picture that either. Back then, the idea of six superheroes from across three franchises teaming up to fight aliens in New York City seemed impossibly ambitious. Now, the idea of an Avengers film with only six players feels positively puny.
Can the MCU sustain such an extraordinary rate of growth? Who knows. But if we’ve learned anything over the past ten years, it’s that it’s not wise to bet against Marvel. After all, they can do this all day.