What Does the Future Hold for the MCU after The Marvels?

The end of The Marvels teased some exciting developments, but we look at what else the franchise could — and maybe should — explore for its next big saga.

by | November 14, 2023 | Comments


IMAX poster for The Marvels (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)

In the last few weeks, leading up to the release of The Marvels, the story around Marvel Studios has been less around the saga its orchestrating and more about the apparent behind-the-scenes chaos involved in trying to make that overarching tale happen at all. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, meant to truly introduce the Multiverse Saga’s antagonist, was not well-received (46% on the Tomatometer) and most of the television series planned for Disney+ this year was pushed back, with Secret Invasion receiving the ignoble honor of becoming the worst-reviewed Marvel Studios TV project to date with a Tomatometer score of 53%.

Then the Hollywood trade papers started breaking major stories. The creative leads on Daredevil: Born Again were fired. Ultimately, that team was replaced by Moon Knight and Loki season 2 directors Justin Benson and Aaron Morehead. Even prior to that, the legal troubles and accusations against Jonathan Majors, who plays the central multiverse antagonist Kang and his variants, were causing many to wonder if he might be recast.

Last week, Variety went so far as to say some within the House of Ideas were considering scrapping the entire Multiverse Saga and Kang as the major villain. They even went as far as to suggest the studio would re-engage the original Avengers actors — including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson — to bolster sagging results. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has since denied this is the plan, and the season 2 finale of Loki was far more ambiguous than Variety’s source claimed, at least as far as “doubling down” on Majors’ interpretation of Kang goes.

But assuming, for a moment, that Marvel is considering dropping the Multiverse and Kang as a unifying idea across the remaining film and TV projects announced for the next four years, what else can they do?

Some ground rules, though: First, a full reboot is not an option. Second, all the Phase 4 and 5 projects that have been released are still part of the canon — even Secret Invasion — and anything that has been filmed (Echo, Deadpool 3, Captain America: Brave New World, etc.) will still be released. Third, as in the Infinity Saga, not every project ties back directly to the big event storyline.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at what has been established outside of the Multiverse and see if we can plan something like Marvel’s first cinematic saga.

Young Avengers

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios' MS. MARVEL

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)

Before Feige announced the Multiverse Saga at Comic-Con International: San Diego in 2021, many suspected the next big storyline would revolve around the next generations of heroes, a “Young Avengers” team picking up the slack from those lost fighting Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: Endgame and the survivors who chose to hang up their costumes in the aftermath.

There was good reason for this belief as Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), America Chavez (Xochitl Gómez), Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton), and Kid Loki (Jack Veal) made appearances in Phase 4 films and television shows. All of those characters derive from Young Avengers, a Marvel Comics title spearheaded by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung that was about a new generation of heroes learning the ropes. One more character from that book, Patriot (aka Eli Bradley), also featured in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (as played by Elijah Richardson), but he seemed far from interested in wearing a costume. Nevertheless, introducing most of that team (two more members also appeared in Phase 4, but we’re discounting them for the moment as they have only been projections or Multiversal variants) pointed toward the group becoming a key focus of the next few phases.

And now it seems that may still be the case, thanks to the final scene in The Marvels, during which Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) reprises Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) post-credit appearance from Iron Man to recruit Kate to her new ream.

Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Kathryn Newton as Cassie Lang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)

Presuming a pivot to a new hero team instead of the Kang Dynasty, what would a New Avengers look like? Kamala, backed by Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), would try to engender a team spirit among her unlikely recruits — a true challenge for her boundless enthusiasm as some vie for the leadership role, others get too infatuated to think straight, and Bruce Banner’s (Mark Ruffalo) son, Skaar, tries to figure out if he even wants to protect the Earth.

Of course, that’s just one film, and a saga dedicated to the Young Avengers would require an antagonist of appropriate weight and heft. The Skrulls of Secret Invasion would have been a good choice, but their story is clearly over thanks to that series and The Marvels revealing that Carol found a planet for all the Skrulls who didn’t remain on Earth. Other options would include Mother, an interdimensional parasite who befuddled the Young Avengers during a run by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jaime McKelvie; an older manifestation of Loki (played by Richard E. Grant, of course); or maybe someone like Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is none-too-pleased that Kamala wants to recruit her young daughter.

One other problem with this concept: It would be a rehash of Phase 1 and the lead up to the original Avengers team forming. Maybe the answer lies in something outside traditional superheroes.


Image of Mephisto from Marvel Comics

(Photo by ©Marvel)

Although the title we’ve chosen for this concept comes from a celebrated X-Men story, we mean it more in the infernal sense. Our big bad, naturally, would be Mephisto — rumored to finally make his debut in the upcoming Agatha: Darkhold Diaries. Being a true demon who espouses a lot of Devilish behavior and affectations, he certainly has the heft to stack up against the likes of Thanos. He is also deliciously insidious, and some of the stranger ideas presented since Endgame could turn out to be his doing. Why did Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) break bad? Mephisto.

But who could stop him? In this scenario, it would fall upon Captain America (Anthony Mackie) to form a team, but in lieu of Avengers or Defenders, this group would be composed of more mystical heroes like Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac), Werewolf by Night (Gael García Bernal), Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), and Blade (Mahershala Ali). Oh, and let’s throw a Ghost Rider in for good measure.

Unfortunately, you can probably already guess some of the issues with this scenario. It ignores characters like Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), and avoids the Avengers altogether. It also still uses the Phase 1 beats, as Sam tries to get these disparate characters to work together. Maybe we need to look to the one Marvel Comics title the studio has yet to use for the next evolution in MCU storytelling.

House of X

Image from House of X from Marvel Comics

(Photo by ©Marvel)

The X-Men are the crown jewels in Marvel’s library, after all, and it would be interesting to position them as a group who were always there, but hidden in shadow until the moment they declare their own sovereign nation on the island of Krakoa — itself a mutant who can resurrect any of its citizens. The idea may seem wacky, but it fueled the last four years of the X-Men comics line.

It also creates a new conflict in the MCU. Instead of building a team, the X-Men already present themselves as a highly trained and organized force intent on saving their brothers and sisters from hostile human nations. In that scenario, both the mutants and characters like Captain America, the Thunderbolts, and even She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) could be the heroes or villains, depending on whose story they appear in. As an example, imagine Cyclops orchestrating a jail break that Sam must stop, or what might happen when Kamala learns, definitively, that she is a mutant. Will she go to Krakoa or remain with the people she’s idolized all her life and has now befriended?

Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman in Deadpool 3 (2024)

(Photo by Instagram: @VancityReynolds)

Like the Young Avengers concept, this has a key weakness, namely the ultimate villain. Sure, the X-Men have great antagonists like Magneto and Apocalypse, but would either have the impact necessary to resolve the conflict between mutants and the other heroes?

One thing is for sure, though: The X-Men are inevitable, as Deadpool 3 and The Marvels mid-credits scene prove.

Maybe we’re thinking on too grandiose a scale. Perhaps part of the answer is in not replicating the complexity and scale of The Infinity Saga but instead plotting a tale that only requires a handful of movies and a TV show or two to tell.

In The Grip Of Doctor Doom

Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four (20th Century Fox Film Corp. courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp. courtesy Everett Collection)

With a shorter-term story in mind, Doctor Doom presents himself as a very interesting antagonist for one good reason: He can win.

Imagine a scenario in which he appears without having to deal with the Fantastic Four directly. His plot, as revealed across a few projects, really concerns getting his country, Latveria, recognized by the international community and his unquestioned rule of it embraced by other world leaders like, say, Queen Shuri (Letitia Wright) of Wakanda. In the end, heroes like Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) stop Doom from a more violent objective, but fail to expose the truth about him.

Doom then becomes a recurring threat and a fact of life for those who failed to prevent his rise to power.

But then what? A subsequent saga could concern itself with the coming of Galactus, the planet-eating archfoe of Marvel Comics lore, forcing Doom to ally with the heroes in order to stop a much larger threat. In that scenario, though, Doom is merely a prelude to Galactus, and we’re back to something with the complexity of the Multiverse Saga because nearly everyone introduced in the recent phases would have a stake in stopping Galactus. So if we’re back to that level, why not stay the course with the Multiverse?

Finishing The Multiverse Saga

Jonathan Majors in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)

For the moment, Marvel Studios appears to be doing just that. Season 2 of Loki ended with the title character holding all of reality together in the hopes that his friends can stop the Kang variants from waging endless war across all of time and space. It has the scope and scale of the Infinity Saga even if it hasn’t been realized with the same precision so far. And even if Kang must be recast, the storytelling already has a mechanism to make this workable — Spider-Man: No Way Home already established variants do not have to look exactly alike.

But one thing that needs to change whether Kang gets recast or not is the momentum of the saga. Right now, only the TVA knows just how perilous the Kangs are to the cosmos. Okay, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) suspects something, too, but he gets so easily distracted. It is therefore incumbent upon the TVA to reach out to others. Yeah, it’s another team-building story, but that seems as inevitable as the X-Men.

Jonathan Majors in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)

There is also the issue of the other variants to contend with. We suspect Rama-Tut, the Kang variant wearing the pharaonic nemes glimpsed in Quantumania’s stinger scene, will be the villain of the eventual Fantastic Four film. Additionally, a reported Agatha character shares a name with yet another Kang variant. It’s an interesting way to bring various characters into the major plot, but at some point the variants need to coalesce into the Kang who proves to be as fearsome as Thanos was when he snapped his fingers. It can be done, even at this point, with the right combination of talents, timing, and projects.

Provided the will is there, of course. As we’ve outlined above, there are other stories to tell across multiple films and TV shows. In each case, the problems they all present could be solved with the right people. So, too, can the Multiverse Saga correct its course and deliver something that resonates the way Endgame did in 2019. It just remains to be seen if the same passion will drive it to the finish line in 2027.

Thumbnail image by ©Marvel Studios

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