This story contains spoilers for all Marvel movies and television series
Marvel movies have become obsessed with parent-child relationships. Recent Marvel Cinematic Universe projects have seen just about every adult superhero step into the role of a mentor or guardian. Wandavision‘s Wanda created and nurtured her super-powered sons, Billy and Tommy Maximoff; Natasha Romanoff fought alongside her adopted sister, Yelena Balova, in Black Widow; Hawkeye shot trick arrows with his ward, Kate Bishop, in his titular television series; Doctor Strange protected the multiverse-jumping teen America Chavez in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness; Thor adopted a daughter at the end of Thor: Love and Thunder; and even Falcon and the Winter Soldier laid the groundwork for the new Captain America to mentor a teen named Eli Bradley. And the trend will continue: Next year, The Marvels will team Captain Marvel with young super-teen Ms. Marvel.
A casual fan might be tempted to conclude that Marvel Studios’ writing team has become unusually preoccupied with the burdens of parenthood, perhaps prompted by the pandemic parenting crisis. That may be the case. Maybe the writers have just reached an age where the challenges of parenting feel suddenly more urgent than explosive battles with aliens.
But there’s also a world-building reason that kids, teens, and young adults are invading the MCU. As the original Avengers’ contracts expire, the MCU must look to the future. We are witnessing a changing of the guard: The Young Avengers are coming.
First introduced in a 2005 comic by writer Allan Heinberg and artist Jim Cheung, the Young Avengers are a group of teens and young adults who formed a group to fight crime. The second Young Avengers comic series from writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie debuted in 2013 and built out the roster. Members have included Kate Bishop (Hawkeye), America Chavez (Ms. America), Eli Bradley (Patriot), Cassie Lang (Stature), Billy Maximoff (Wiccan), and Tommy Maximoff (Speed). Others who have not yet been introduced in the MCU include a young version Kang the Conquerer (though his older variant was briefly introduced In Loki), and Billy’s eventual boyfriend, Hulkling. New MCU characters like Yelena and Ms. Marvel never joined the Young Avengers in the comics, but may very well do so in the films and TV shows.
The ages of these young heroes vary widely—Yelena and Kate are in their 20s, whereas Thor’s adopted daughter can’t be older than 10, and the other heroes are in their tweens and teens. There’s a world in which Yelena and Kate get their own movie. There’s another in which they’re the founders and leaders of the Young Avengers and teach younger kids. There’s yet another scenario in which characters like like Billy and Tommy age up through some sort of witchcraft or multiverse tinkering. Options abound.
And some of the young characters recently added to the MCU roster may simply disappear. Marvel Studios has written plenty of characters into its scripts that have since been dropped from the cinematic universe without much fanfare. Remember Madame B. from Age of Ultron? No? What about Michelle Yeoh’s character from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? We never heard from her again! Or Aaron Davis from Spider-Man Homecoming? Casting Donald Glover as Miles Morales’ uncle for a cameo and never bringing him back was a crime against filmmaking.
But worry not. At least some of these kids will stick around and grow into Black Widow and Iron Man-level stars. Here are all the characters who represent the next generation of heroes in the MCU.
America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) makes her MCU debut in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as a teen who can punch star-shaped holes in the multiverse, a power that allows her to travel across parallel worlds. In the comics, she’s a prominent member of the Young Avengers team.
While America doesn’t have total control over her powers early in the film, we get the sense that she will also pack a powerful punch when she learns to wield her strength. By the end of the movie, she is training in the mystic arts under Wong (Benedict Wong) at Kamar-Taj.
Billy and Tommy Maximoff (Wiccan and Speed)
In Disney+’s Wandavision, Wanda Maximoff manifests her twin sons Billy and Tommy (Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne) through a magical delusion. Billy is able to use magic like his mother. Tommy has the power of superspeed like Wanda’s twin brother Pietro, a.k.a. Quicksilver, who died in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Wanda creates an entire sitcom-esque existence for herself, an imagined version of her love Vision, and their two sons, but uses mind control on everyone in the town of Westview, N.J. to achieve her goal. By the end of the show, Wanda gives up her hex over the town, and her boys disappear.
In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness she seeks to reunite with a version of her boys that exist in a parallel universe. She realizes her quest is misguided and gives up on the reunion. Still, that’s probably not the last we’ll see of Billy and Tommy. In the comics, as teenagers, Billy and Tommy become the superheroes Wiccan and Speed, respectively, and join the Young Avengers.
Yelena Belova (Black Widow)
Natasha Romanoff reunites with her adopted sister, Yelena, in Black Widow. Both women are graduates of a Russian spy program that trafficked and brainwashed young girls. The two team up to free the remaining Black Widows and then part ways. But we see Yelena again after Natasha’s death in Avengers: Endgame. Yelena blames Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) for Natasha’s death and shows up in the show Hawkeye to try to kill him. The two come to an understanding after Yelena briefly bonds with Hawkeye’s apprentice Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld).
Yelena has a, well, strange history in the Marvel comics that involves swapping faces with Natasha, building an underwear business empire, and other misadventures. It’s safe to say, based on the events of Black Widow, that the MCU is diverging dramatically from Yelena’s storyline in the comics. She could become a leader of the MCU’s Young Avengers team. She seems a bit old for the task—it’s also possible she will simply replace Black Widow.
Kate Bishop (Hawkeye)
Clint Barton has retired from his role as Hawkeye, and Kate Bishop is poised to take on his mantle. In Hawkeye, skilled archer, fencer, and all-around fighter Kate worships Clint and aspires to be an Avenger. Her dream comes true when a plot led by gangster Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) entangles her fate with that of Clint’s, and they must work together to protect their respective families.
In the comics, Kate and Clint often team up to take on New York street level bad guys and Kate prepares to take over for an aging, bruised, and battered Clint. In the original Young Avengers comic, Kate uses her family’s immense fortune to finance the burgeoning superhero group.
Eli Bradley (Patriot)
Eli Bradley is introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as the son of Isaiah Bradley, a Black Captain America who has been erased by history. And though Eli doesn’t play a prominent role in the plot, his comic book story hints that he will likely be a key team member of the Young Avengers in the MCU.
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Isaiah Bradley reveals his history to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Isaiah tells Sam that following the apparent death of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in World War II, the U.S. government experimented with the supersoldier serum on Black soldiers in hopes of creating another Captain America. Isaiah was one of the few soldiers to survive the tests. When others who had taken the supersoldier serum were captured by the enemy, the U.S. Armed Forces decided to bomb the P.O.W. camp to hide evidence of the serum. Isaiah disobeyed orders and lead a team to save the prisoners (much like Steve Rogers did during World War II in The First Avenger). But instead of rewarding him for his bravery, the military punished Isaiah for disobeying orders and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Eli Bradley hears Isaiah share this history with Sam. Later, he accompanies his grandfather to a new and improved Captain America exhibit that honors Isaiah’s legacy. In the comics, Eli receives a blood transfusion from his grandfather and gains supersoldier abilities. He takes on the name Patriot and becomes the original leader of the Young Avengers team.
Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel)
New Jersey teen Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) has the ability to stretch her limbs, grow her fist, and manipulate her body. In her television series, Ms. Marvel, the young teen tries to balance these revelations about her skills with school life and social challenges. Kamala is set to appear alongside her hero, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) in The Marvels in 2023.
In the comics, Kamala becomes part of a group called the Champions, not the Young Avengers. But Marvel Studios has been known to mix and match different plotlines, and for the sake of simplicity, it’s likely they will create one young super-team rather than multiple different ones. It’s also possible that Kamala will just stick with whatever super-team might form in The Marvels, which is also set to feature Teyonah Parris’ Monica Rambeau.
Cassie Lang (Stature)
The second Ant-Man film hinted that Cassie Lang (then played by Abby Ryder Fortson) aspired to be a superhero. Cassie, at 10 years old, tells her dad Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) that if he is going to be Ant-Man he needs a partner to watch his back. When Scott muses about an adult partner, Cassie clarifies that she would like to accompany him on his adventures. Scott explains that allowing her that he would be a terrible father if he allowed that to happen, but Cassie seems determined.
About a year later, Scott gets stuck in the Quantum Realm. Fast-forward another five years, Scott finally emerges from the Quantum Realm to discover his daughter is now 16 years old (and played by Emma Fuhrmann). A third actress, Kathryn Newton, will take over the role in 2023’s Ant-Man: Quantumania.
In the comics, Cassie, like her father, uses Pym particles to grow and shrink in size. A member of the Young Avengers, she’s been known as Stature, Stringer, and Ant-Girl.
It’s difficult to predict where the story of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his adopted daughter (played by Hemsworth’s real-life daughter India Rose Hemsworth) is headed. Though Thor has several children in the comic books, there’s no real parallel to the storyline in Thor: Love and Thunder.
At the end of that film, Thor’s enemy Gorr the Godbutcher lies dying and frets that no one will look after his daughter once he’s gone. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is also dying, promises that Thor will watch over the girl. Both perish, and Thor takes the young girl back to New Asgard. It is revealed that the girl has magical powers. We see him making pancakes for her and teaching her about how to defend innocent people against villains. Together, they are known as Love and Thunder.
One comic storyline in the Captain Marvel comics introduced a daughter of Thor named Brigid who carries on her dead father’s legacy. But that was a 20-something incarnation, not a little girl. Still, it’s possible an aged-up or parallel universe version of this Thor trainee could become part of some super-team.
Loki on Disney+ introduced MCU audiences to the concept of “variants” or different versions of the same character that live in different universes. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) meets several different versions of himself, including an alligator variant, a female variant, an older variant, and a Kid Loki variant played by Jack Veal. Does Loki mentor him? No, not really. But the show is returning for a second season, so given the mentor-mentee pattern, it’s possible that Loki and Kid Loki will reunite.
Kid Loki does join the Young Avengers in the comics and—perhaps unsurprisingly—gets up to quite a bit of mischief.
Maybe it’s not quite accurate to say that Iron Man has a mentor-mentee relationship with Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) considering Robert Downey Jr.’s iconic character sacrificed his life and no longer exists in the MCU. But in the Marvel comics, Riri is a genius who builds her own Iron Man-esque suit in her M.I.T. dorm room and becomes Tony’s protege.
With Tony now out of the picture, it’s unclear who might guide Riri in the MCU. Riri is set to make her cinematic debut in the Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever before starring in her own television series on Disney+, Ironheart. Perhaps she will bond with likeminded inventor Shuri (Letitia Wright) in Wakanda. Or maybe she’ll team up with Tony’s best friend James Rhodes, who still has a suit of his own and is starring in his own series, Armor Wars.
Like Kamala, Riri is more associated with the Champions than the Young Avengers in the comics, but as a college kid, she would fit in perfectly with Kate Bishop, Eli Bradley, and other new heroes.
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