After Endgame, the future of the MCU has been clouded in mystery. While Kevin Fiege loves to hide easter eggs and teasers in his movies and shows, there is no clear plan for the future or big bad threat to the Avengers after Thanos. However, just because it’s not apparent what the next phase of the MCU will bring, doesn’t mean there aren’t many clues towards ideas that could be the next big thing for the Marvel Universe.
In Falcon and the Winter Soldier, viewers are first introduced to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine. Valentina is a woman working for an organization trying to recruit powerful individuals. In the show, she recruits John Walker to become the U.S. Agent, and at the end of Black Widow, it is revealed she is also working with Yelena Belenova, Black Widow’s sister. So far, she has collected two morally grey analogs to previous Avengers. We have also seen the return of The Abomination in Shang Chi and the upcoming She-Hulk series, which could be a possible Hulk equivalent. Additionally, Sam Rockwell will return as Justin Hammer in the Armor Wars show, so he could serve as an Iron Man alternative or possibly build the next one. Together these people could be being assembled by Valentina to form a government-sanctioned, perhaps sinister alternative to the Avengers in the form of the Thunderbolts.
In the comics, the Thunderbolts are Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil masquerading as heroes following the deaths of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. They were initially meant to be a con to access the S.H.I.E.L.D. Databases and all their secrets. Eventually, the heroes began to enjoy their fame and success as heroes and wanted to go legit, but Zemo is stuck. While this eventually fell apart when the Avengers and Fantastic Four returned, and over the years since, the Thunderbolts have seen a variety of variations, including adding Hawkeye as a team leader after being betrayed by Zemo at one point.
On the other hand, Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine is a high-ranking member of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Marvel comics, serving as a long-time ally of Nick Fury. However, Fontaine later reveals herself as a double agent and becomes the new Madam Hydra. Though she has no connection to the Thunderbolts, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the MCU.
In Phase 4, we have been introduced to many new heroes, many of whom have been legacy heroes. We have gotten Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye, Billy and Tommy in Wandavision, who could grow up to be Wiccan and Speed, and a brief appearance of Eli Bradley, grandson of Isaiah Bradley and the superhero Patriot. We even got an older Cassie Lang in Avengers: Endgame, who will likely get expanded on in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, who becomes the hero Stature. In the comics, these people and the hero Hulkling, a half-Kree half-Skrull shapeshifter, come together to form the original Young Avengers. While Hulkling hasn’t appeared in the MCU yet, he could be introduced in the Secret Invasion series, where the Skrulls will be playing a more prominent role. Outside of the original team, the MCU has also introduced Kamala Kahn’s Ms. Marvel and America Chavez. They could also end up as members of a future Young Avengers team. Vision had served as the team’s mentor in the comics when they started and was brought back in Wandavision but escaped into the unknown, so this could be a path for his return to the franchise. This team could be trained by Vision as the next generation of Avengers or to function as a separate new team from the primary Avengers. Whatever the MCU decides to do with them, it will be exciting to see what they do with these characters.
In Spider-Man: No Way Home, amongst the multitude of cameos, callbacks, and surprise appearances, the MCU brought back Daredevil from the continuity limbo of the Netflix Marvel series. In addition, in the Disney+ Hawkeye series, there is also the return of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin, confirming that the Netflix Marvel series are in play for future content. To what extent, we do not know yet, but Disney has announced plans for a new Daredevil show on Disney+ written by Matt Corman and Chris Ord, starring Charlie Cox returning to the role. This announcement further proves the possibility of other characters from the Defenders universe like Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Punisher to get continued screen time in the future of the MCU.
While there is a show of the same name coming soon to Disney+, the Secret Invasion was a massive event in Marvel Comics that changed the universe for years. In the event, many characters are revealed to have secretly been Skrulls for as long as decades. In the MCU, the Skrulls are much more benevolent than their comics counterparts, being refugees looking for a new home world. Whether or not the show will follow the plot from the source material or is mostly just taking its name, it still can provide large-scale change and storylines for the franchise’s future. Stories spinning off from the secret invasion could come in the form of characters revealed to have been Skrulls for most of their screen time or the creation of S.W.O.R.D., a space-based organization equivalent to S.H.I.E.L.D. that could open up a new realm of stories.
Early in the MCU, the idea of magic was ignored entirely, with most things that seemed magical, like the Asgardians, waved off as being super-advanced science. However, since Doctor Strange debuted, it has become a large part of the franchise. With it, we have gotten many mystical heroes who could come to create a new team dealing with their magical threats. We have heroes like Oscar Isaac’s Moon Knight, who fights the likes of ancient gods and monsters, and Kit Harrington’s Dane Whitman, who is being set up to become the Black Knight, as well as the upcoming appearances of Blade and Werewolf by Night. Also, despite the questionable canon status of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the show introduced Robbie Reyes, one of many Ghost Riders, to the franchise, so there is a possibility he could return or a new Ghost Rider be brought in. Other prominent mystical characters sitting around the MCU’s forgotten character bin include Nico Minoru from Hulu’s Runaways, Daimon Helstrom and many of the supporting characters from the Helstorm show, and Cloak and Dagger from the aptly named Cloak and Dagger. With these characters, and possibly Doctor Strange, they could put together a team of mystical-based heroes similar to the Midnight Sons team.
In Marvel Comics, the Midnight Sons are a team of mystical defenders assembled by Doctor Strange. The group consisted of Ghost Riders Danny Ketch and Johnny Blaze, the mystic-hunting team the Nightstalkers (consisting of Blade, Frank Drake, and Hannibal King), the Darkhold Redeemers (consisting of Louise Hastings, Victoria Montesi, and Sam Buchanan), and Morbius the Living Vampire. Strange gathered all these people to defeat Lilith, the Mother of Demons, and Zarathos, an enemy of the Spirits of Vengeance. Unfortunately, the team was only ever brought together for this one mission and afterward parted ways. However, it would be cool to see a version of the team serving a similar purpose in the MCU.
Possibly the most significant source of narrative possibility is the creation and exploration of the multiverse. Spinning out of the Loki series and the creation multiverse, we have already seen it come into play in several MCU projects. From the many universes showcased in the episodes of What If…?, to the returns of previous Spider-Men in Spider-Man: No Way Home and the entirety of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. The potential of the multiverse is essentially infinite. Maybe the MCU will use the multiverse to explain the possible inclusion of mutants and the X-Men in the future, or it could be explored by the Fantastic Four further when they enter the franchise. It could also be as simple as giving the audience another season of What If…? which would still be very fun.
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