This article contains MCU spoilers
Where is the Marvel Cinematic Universe heading? That’s a question on the minds of many fans, and the answer may be unveiled sooner than you think. It was recently announced that Kevin Feige would finally reveal more about Phase 5 of the MCU in the near future; in the upcoming months in fact!
But according to the Marvel Studios boss, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise for those who have been paying attention. He told Total Film in an exclusive interview, “I think there have been many clues already, that are at least apparent to me, of where this whole saga is going.” So, what’s already been hinted at in previous projects, and where do we think Phase 5 might be going based on that info?
From new teams to major comic book arcs, and threats beyond the scale of Thanos, the next era of Marvel might be the wildest yet!
Whether it’s the Thunderbolts or the Dark Avengers, it’s obvious that a slightly more sinister unit is being built throughout Phase 4. Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has made her presence felt in both Black Widow and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, adding to her potential team in the process.
John Walker is basically a signed-up member at this stage, taking on the new mantle of US Agent. Yelena Belova seems to have been manipulated into working with the Contessa, and it seems likely that she’ll suit up as White Widow as part of the group. The groundwork has also been laid for the Abomination (Tim Roth) to join the team, with clues ranging from his surprising return in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, to his unexpected role in She-Hulk.
Who else might join the team remains a mystery, but former antagonists like Zemo, Ghost, and Taskmaster are all prime candidates. Valentina obviously has a much larger plan, and she might not be working by herself. Phase 5 will surely unveil what her strategy is, and see the debut of this unpredictable team together. They may even be disguised as heroes, just like the original comic book run, playing off of the pre-established themes of Walker’s turn as Captain America.
Even if an ensemble of Avengers enemies is being brought together, that doesn’t mean that an additional team uniting the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes isn’t also in the works. One of the most obvious directions that the MCU appears to be going in is the creation of the Young Avengers, a hugely popular group in the comics.
There has been a wave of younger heroes joining big and small screen MCU projects, often learning from their older mentors. Kate Bishop as Hawkeye, Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, and America Chavez as Ms. America have already suited up for the superhero cause. The future Speed and Wiccan, Tommy and Billy Maximoff respectively, have entered the MCU, alongside Eli Bradley the future Patriot, and Cassie Lang, aka Stature.
While there are a few missing components, including Theodore Altman as Hulking and Iron Lad (who will be mentioned further later), it’s fairly clear that the Young Avengers are going to have to assemble. The question is, how will the grown-ups deal with this unexpected and potentially reckless emergence, and will they be dubbed with their usual moniker or classed as Champions instead? The passing of the torches has already begun and will continue to play out.
With Thanos as the big bad of the opening MCU phases, it was always pretty easy to guess who to punch at the end of them. With the next phase of the universe opting for a more unique approach, the Skrulls might be an alternative enemy that causes a large-scale threat in a quite unexpected way, leaning more toward their nature in Marvel Comics.
The Skrulls were introduced back in Captain Marvel where they were, to the surprise of comic book fans, interpreted as allies instead. Since then, there have been a handful of Skrulls infiltrating humanity, as seen in Spider-Man: Far From Home and WandaVision. What’s the end goal here? The upcoming Secret Invasion on Disney+ should answer that.
Nick Fury and Talos are set to uncover the truth behind the Skrull infiltration, but perhaps that’s not where this ends. The assumption right now is that the narrative will be concluding in that streaming series, but it’s entirely plausible that the Skrulls are just too entrenched to remove that easily! It’s definitely time to start guessing who might have been an alien all along. Definitely Sharon Carter …right?
Kang the Conqueror
It had to be addressed! All signs point to Kang. The time-traveling conqueror has already been seen in the guise of He Who Remains in Loki, attempting to keep a single sacred timeline intact. Thanks to Sylvie that isn’t happening anymore, which gives Kang a chance to strike.
There are so many iterations of Kang in the comics, from Iron Lad (who is so heavily linked to the Young Avengers narrative), to Rama-Tut, an Egyptian Pharaoh that could have ties to Moon Knight’s lore. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has been confirmed to feature the antagonist, and it’s almost certain that Loki Season 2 and Fantastic Four will do the same.
It’s fair to say that Kang could be on another level than Thanos, since he can quite literally manipulate the timeline to his will. If that is the threat that the Avengers are facing in Phase 5, then the roster will have to be of a higher quality than ever. Right now though, as clues go, Kang is staring everyone right in the face.
An extension of that Kang narrative is the more recent iteration of Secret Wars, a comic book event that saw the Ultimate Universe collide with Earth-616, and Marvel’s heroes pitted against one another on a plane of existence called Battleworld. He Who Remains spoke of a multiversal threat that created mayhem across the cosmos. The MCU has leaned into the multiverse heavily with What If…?, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Loki, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It’s probably just the beginning.
This is definitely a way to bring in past Marvel alumni, just like the other iterations of Spider-Man or Professor X. But what’s more, the recent iteration of Secret Wars in the comics played out quite similarly on a multiversal level. How could the MCU top the portals sequence in Avengers: Endgame? By taking it to a Variant level, boasting countless variations of Marvel’s beloved heroes and villains. It appears as if the first foray into the multiverse is going to expand rapidly into new worlds, and Loki basically told us all it was happening.
Skipping over to the horror side of Marvel now, and there’s already been an attempt to seemingly bring elements of the Midnight Sons together, a team made up of the supernatural beings from across Marvel. Sorcerers, vampires, witches, and werewolves have all joined up in the source material to protect against demonic forces. Black Knight, Moon Knight, and magical entities like Doctor Strange, are now heavily featured in the universe. Blade is upcoming, and Morbius is out in the multiverse. Werewolf By Night is on his way as well. There’s a definite trend here!
It seems that Marvel is allowing its shows to get darker than ever; if we’re ignoring the Defenders saga, that is. Those horror elements are hard to ignore, and with so many brilliant characters like Ghost Rider yet to appear, there’s a lot of ground to cover with Midnight Sons. It’s a path that no phase has taken yet, and fans are searching for this kind of series.
It might be a long-term plan, and definitely won’t be the focal point of Phase 5, but the destruction of the Darkhold has surely got to have some kind of impact on the multiverse that only darker minds can solve.
Calling All Mutants
Super-powered people will completely shift the face of Marvel moving forward, if the studio commits to mutants. The only sign of any mutant in the MCU on-screen before Multiverse of Madness was the indication that Wanda Maximoff might have had special gifts all along. Even if she is the Scarlet Witch of old, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an X-gene influencing that.
Professor X’s appearance has changed everything, though, and was less of a whisper of a hint and more of a giant megaphone. The multiverse could continue to open the door to the X-Men, and what’s more, it might even bring mutants into Earth-616. But Wanda’s own story could have the reverse impact of the ‘No More Mutants’ arc that saw the species wiped out in the comics. Either method is entirely plausible right now, and Phase 5 will have to address it at some point.
The unknown factor in all of this is Deadpool. The Merc with a Mouth is getting a third movie installment, which is set within the MCU (and all the fourth-wall-breaking that comes with that). Deadpool 3 may just be the first project featuring mutants on Earth-616 fully.
There had always been rumors, but the revelation that Matt Murdock was in Spider-Man: No Way Home was still a brilliant surprise for Daredevil fans. Kingpin’s subsequent appearance in Hawkeye nodded towards a larger plan. Are the Defenders inbound?
There are a lot of projects where the members of the canceled Netflix shows could show up next, most notably Jessica Jones for She-Hulk and any number of characters in Echo. This street-level focus could follow a similar path to the horror approach: a side project that seeks to expand the different sections of the Marvel Universe. The debut of the Defenders saga on Disney+ only further cements the notion that Marvel Studios want to bring that world back in the near future.
It’s an exciting prospect, but with very little in the way of an end goal. Shadowland, an arc that saw a corrupted Daredevil lead the Hand and take over New York as a totalitarian state, might be the natural story to tell that utilizes these street-level characters. That hasn’t been hinted at in the main MCU canon, though.
The Shadow of Galactus
Eternals introduced the idea that the Earth was under threat from a monstrous deity of epic proportions. That the Celestials themselves were to pass judgement on the planet and decide its fate. There might be a final plan in place for the planet’s destruction, and that could be Galactus!
There are very few threats of this scale that are as terrifying. With the Fantastic Four arriving in the MCU soon, one of their most dangerous enemies can’t be far behind. It’s an outside-the-box choice of a big bad, since Kang has been teased so heavily. But with all this talk of beings of imaginable scale, even Gorr the God Butcher’s quest to kill these impressive deities might all be a setup for one of the most supreme of them all. Here’s hoping that he isn’t just another huge CGI cloud again!
Kevin Feige is definitely getting more ambitious when it comes to planning out Phase 5. There are a lot of potential routes on the table, and plenty of indicators that any one of them could be viable. It might seem obvious to him, but it’s still a mystery to all of us until those official announcements are made. Who’s the big bad? Galactus, Kang, or the Skrulls? What’s the next MCU team? The Defenders, Midnight Sons, Thunderbolts, or Young Avengers? And what will be the upcoming story to tie it all together? It’s definitely going to be fun finding out!