With Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming to a close. The films and TV series that have hit theaters and Disney+ since Avengers: Endgame, the epic finale to the so-called Infinity Saga, haven’t always hit. With major heroes and villains eliminated from the story, Marvel Studios has found itself in a rebuilding stage
The sheer length of the television series on Disney+ means it’s harder for casual fans to keep up with the goings-on of the MCU. And Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury no longer pops up in post-credits scenes of the films to connect the dots from movie to movie and hint at some looming threat. Many have been left wondering, where is this all going?
During San Diego Comic-Con in 2022, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige set out to assure fans that, yes, there is a plan. And, yes, the events of Moon Knight and Doctor Strange and Loki and Wakanda Forever are all somehow related. And, yes, the Avengers will return in some form.
Feige teased Phase 5 and Phase 6 of the MCU, which he said will culminate in two ensemble Avengers films: Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars. And don’t worry, Fantastic Four and X-Men fans: Those superheroes will invade the cinematic universe soon enough.
Here’s everything you need to know about the future of Marvel.
Wakanda Forever will end Phase 4
Phase 4 has been a bit of a mess. After Avengers: Endgame, Marvel found itself without some of its marquee heroes—particularly Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), who all retired from the superhero business. Unexpectedly, the studio also lost Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in 2020. Boseman, one of Marvel’s bright new stars, would have anchored the franchise.
Even as Marvel tried to create new characters to headline its series, like Florence Pugh’s Yelena, and promote familiar ones, like Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, to more prominent roles, fate intervened. The pandemic screwed up Marvel’s planned release schedule. (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, for instance, was supposed to premiere before Wandavision, not after it. The switch-up fored the writers to change major plot points.)
Marvel tacitly acknowledged the worldwide chaos of the last several years in the opening seconds of its panel at Comic-Con. Miss Minutes, the insidious cartoon clock from Loki, greeted thousands of fans waiting for news on their favorite superheroes. “You survived a looping, endless apocalypse and made it here to a Comic-Con panel at the end of time,” she said.
Feige echoed the sentiment. “This phase has been about resetting the MCU and meeting all these new characters,” he said of Phase 4. He added that Phase 4 will soon conclude with a final show and a film: The She-Hulk series starring Tatiana Maslany as Bruce Banner’s cousin and the long-awaited Black Panther sequel, Wakanda Forever.
Marvel concluded its panel with the Wakanda Forever trailer. Before he introduced the teaser, writer-director Ryan Coogler recalled Boseman grabbing his shoulder in excitement when Coogler debuted the first Black Panther trailer at Comic-Con in 2017. “I promise I can feel his hand on me now. Chad is no longer with us physically, but his spirit, his passion, his genius, his pride and his culture, and the impact he made on this industry will be felt forever,” the filmmaker said. “We put our love for Chadwick into this film.”
Wakanda Forever introduces a new Black Panther, sure to join the Avengers team. It also gives audiences their first glance at Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), a genius who builds her own Iron Man-like suit and takes on the Iron Man mantle. She will star in her own Disney+ series, Ironheart, in Phase 5 of the MCU. Even the villain Namor looks set to play a bigger role in future Marvel films.
Kang is the next big bad in Phases 5 & Phase 6
Thanos (Josh Brolin) tied the early Marvel movies together. Beginning with Avengers, the purple, genocidal alien loomed large as the major threat to the universe. He popped up in post-credits scenes and made cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. Even when he didn’t appear in a film, the Infinity Stones he coveted did. The audience knew for years that, inevitably, the Avengers would have to fight him—and, in one of the best twists in blockbuster cinema—travel back in time to fight him again. Each film slowly built toward that moment, and he gave all our heroes a reason to band together.
During the panel at Comic-Con, Kevin Feige hinted that Kang the Conquerer may serve a similar purpose in Phases 5 and 6 of the MCU. He invited actor Jonathan Majors onstage and introduced him as the villainous genius who wants to conquer the multiverse. Kang will serve as the villain in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, but that will be just the beginning of his quest for power.
“There’s a very special reason this is kicking off Phase 5,” Feige said of Quantumania. “And you just met him right there, Mr. Jonathan Majors.” Feige then revealed that the penultimate film in Phase 6 will be titled Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. (More on Phase 6 later.)
So Majors is the future of Marvel. Given Majors’ stunning debut playing a Kang variant in the television show Loki, that’s great news. In just a single episode of that series, it became clear that Kang would pose a larger existential danger to the MCU than Thanos ever did.
The title Avengers: The Kang Dynasty holds another essential clue to Marvel’s future. There will be another Avengers team. Who, exactly, will make up that team remains to be seen. But Phase 5 is setting the board.
The Thunderbolts will be our street-level anti-heroes
If Kang the Conquerer is focused on conquering the entire multiverse, there must be some other villainous threats that are more local, right? Most likely that team will be lead by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. She has been recruiting a crew of anti-heroes and villains in the end-credits scenes of shows and movies Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow.
Now we know that team will be named the Thunderbolts. The comics originally presented the Thunderbolts as a team of heroes who came together after the Avengers were declared dead. But eventually as their goals diverged, the heroic members split from the villainous ones.
Given that Iron Man and Black Widow are dead, and Captain America and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are retired, it makes sense that the Thunderbolts would arrive on the scene now to take advantage of the dearth of A-list Avengers on the scene. (Sorry, Hulk.)
At D23 in 2022, Feige revealed that the Thunderbolts membrs would include Louis-Dreyfus’ Valentina, Pugh’s Yelena, Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier, David Harbour’s Red Guardian, Wyatt Russell’s John Walker, Hanna John-Kamen’s Ghost, Olga Kurylenko’s Taskmaster, and will be lead by Harrison Ford’s Taddues ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross.
The Fantastic Four and Secret Wars finally arrive in Phase 6
As fantastic as the Thunderbolts might sound, Marvel Studios knows that fans expect something even bigger from the MCU. Specifically, they expect an Avengers movie. That’s why Feige went ahead and teased three movies set to release in the far-off Phase 6 of the MCU: The long-awaited reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise, the Avengers vs. Kang film, and Secret Wars.
Now before you get too excited by the above photo, know that no one from Marvel has confirmed that John Krasinski is coming back to play Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four films. In fact, Marvel Studios seemed to cast Krasinski in the role of a parallel-universe Reed Richards in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness just to gruesomely kill him and thereby send a (playful, if a bit dark) message to viewers about their fan-casting fantasies.
On to the two announced Avengers film: The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars. We don’t know yet who will make up this new Avengers team, but Marvel has plenty of pieces in place, including Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and perhaps Spider-Man if Tom Holland decides to return as Peter Parker.
Based on the title of the film, we can expect Kang Dynasty to see Kang striving to accomplish his goal of conquering the multiverse. How Kang’s quest will set up Secret Wars remains to be seen. The Marvel Comics have written two Secret Wars storylines. In the 1980s version of Secret Wars, all the superheroes are teleported to a battle arena planet to fight. A 2015 iteration of the story gets a bit more complex: The action begins with an incursion, or two timelines crashing into each other with devastating consequences. (We’ve already seen an incursion in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.) The characters who survive live in a post-apocalyptic universe called Battleworld that’s policed by a bunch of different versions of Thor called the Thor Corps. And, yes, there’s plenty of face-offs between favorite superheroes.
The X-Men are coming…soon…probably
What about the X-Men? Feige mentioned nary a mutant during the Comic-Con panel. That said, a variant Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) already appeared in Multiverse of Madness. And Wandavision planted the seeds for a storyline. (Wanda has canonically been both an X-Men and an Avenger in the comics. Now that Disney owns Fox and thus the rights to the mutants, they rewrote Wanda’s history to give her powers at birth, implying that she is a mutant.)
The era of the multiverse would seem the perfect time to introduce the X-Men as a group of young heroes that have been training at Professor X’s school in a parallel universe. Somehow, they get pulled into the main MCU plot. But Phase 5 seems to be full. So we likely won’t see any mutants again until Phase 6 when Deadpool 3 starring Ryan Reynolds as the titular mercenary and Hugh Jackman as wolverine, debuts.
Phases 4-6 are now called the “Multiverse Saga”
If Phases 1-3 were the “Infinity Saga,” in which the heroes and villains gathered up various Infinity Stones before engaging in an Infinity War, Feige has dubbed phases 4-6 the “Multiverse Saga.” The name makes sense: Increasingly the films and TV shows wrangle with the question of how the various parallel universes in Marvel intersect.
In the comics, the Secret Wars storyline terminated many universes in the multiverse, save fan-favorite strands, essentially hitting the reset button on the whole of Marvel comics. Could Marvel be heading for a hard reboot as well? Perhaps. Or maybe they’re just looking for a way to integrate the X-Men (a key part of the Secret Wars storyline) into the saga.
All the dates and details for the future MCU movies and shows
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Feb. 17, 2023)
Marvel dropped a sneak peak of the third Ant-Man film for fans at Comic-Con. At the beginning of the movie, Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang (Ant-Man) has written a book about how he helped save the world. His family, including daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), girlfriend and fellow crimefighter Hope (Evangeline Lilly as The Wasp), and her mother and father (Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas) are rather sick of hearing him talk about his heroics. Then they all get sucked into the Quantum Realm, where they encounter Kang the Conquerer and some unknown character played by none other than Bill Murray.
What If…? Season 2 (Early 2023)
The animated series is back. Given that the first season previewed specific characters and visuals for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, expect the second season to similarly hint at what will happen in the live-action MCU films.
Secret Invasion (Spring 2023)
Secret Invasion also got a Comic-Con exclusive teaser. The showhaw is a spy thriller television series centered on Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Fans of Captain Marvel will recall the Skrull alien race who can disguise themselves as humans. In this show, the Skrulls are impersonating characters we know and love, and it’s impossible to determine someone’s true identity. Fury, who has been avoiding earth since the events of Endgame, finally returns to deal with the Skrull invasion. The show also stars Emilia Clarke, Cobie Smulders, Olivia Coleman, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Ben Mendelsohn.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5, 2023)
Director James Gunn took the stage at Comic-Con to introduce a teaser trailer and reveal that Vol. 3 will, indeed, be the last entry in the Guardians saga. In the footage, Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord finally reunites with a variant of Zoe Saldana’s Gamora. But this version of Gamora still doesn’t know who Star-Lord is, leaving our hero heartbroken.
But the main plot centers on the origin of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). We see that as an adorable baby raccoon, poor Rocket was experimented upon and turned into the talking, blaster-toting creature he is today. Life form advancement seems to be at the heart of the movie: The main antagonists are Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), a perfect Sovereign created by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) in order to help her destroy the Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of the second Guardians film, and the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a new character whose main purpose is to advance lifeforms through experimentation.
Echo (Summer 2023)
Echo (Alaqua Cox) from Hawkeye is getting her own spinoff. It’s a major milestone since Echo is the first deaf superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Given Echo’s involvement with the gangster Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), it’s likely that Echo will crossover with Kingpin’s other franchise, Daredevil. Marvel has not yet confirmed whether Hailee Steinfeld, who played Hawkeye’s protégé Kate Bishop, will also appear in the series. Kate is poised to be a major player in any future Avengers team.
The Marvels (July 28, 2023)
Feige didn’t share much about the Captain Marvel sequel at Comic-Con. But we know that Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) will appear alongside Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel in the film. Candyman’s Nia DaCosta is directing.
Loki, Season 2 (Summer 2023)
Aside from Miss Minutes, Marvel didn’t tease anything from Loki, Season 2. No doubt Kang will be a connective tissue between this new season of Loki and movies like Quantumania.
Ironheart (Fall 2023)
After making her debut in Wakanda Forever, the character of Riri Williams will star in her own Disney+ TV series. If the Marvel Studios folks are planning to rebuild the Avengers team, Ironheart seems an obvious inheritor of the Iron Man role.
Agatha: Coven of Chaos (Winter 2023-2024)
Wandavision breakout star Agatha (Kathryn Hahn) is getting her own television series. Marvel has remained mum on the details, but the name suggests audiences will get to see more of the witchcraft that the Scarlet Witch wielded in Doctor Strange.
Daredevil: Born Again (Spring 2024)
Fans of Charlie Cox’s Daredevil, rejoice! The fan-favorite character who starred in his own Netflix series is getting ported over to Disney+ for a whole new TV show. Feige revealed that the first season will have 18 episodes, an unusual commitment for Marvel who tends to limit its shows to six or eight installments. Feige also confirmed that Kingpin, who appeared in that Netflix Daredevil series and again in the Disney+ show Hawkeye, will be the main antagonist in Born Again.
Captain America: The New World Order (May 3, 2024)
After the events of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson has finally graduated to the title of Captain America. That show’s creator, Malcolm Spellman, is set to pen Sam’s cinematic debut as the storied superhero. Who he’ll be fighting is unclear, though the Thunderbolts are good candidates.
Thunderbolts (July 26, 2024)
Phase 5 will end with the Thunderbolts, a villainous team that’s been slowly coming together in the end-credits scenes of various Marvel movies and TV shows.
Blade (Sept. 6, 2024)
At the last MCU Comic-Con panel in 2019, Mahershala Ali announced that he would play the iconic role of Blade, the vampire hunter. Ali has not yet appeared in a Marvel film, though fans heard his voice in an end-credits scene for The Eternals. That film seemed to hint at a larger, darker underbelly to the MCU that would include characters like Black Knight (Kit Harington).
Deadpool 3 (Nov. 8, 2024)
The R-rated superhero is headed for Disney. Who knows what havoc will ensue. We do know that star Ryan Reynolds will be joined by none other than Hugh Jackman, reprising his role as Wolverine despite dying at the end of Logan. (We suspect Deadpool will explain this away in some fourth-wall breaking monologue about the multiverse.)
The Fantastic Four (Feb. 14, 2025)
No word yet on director or casting for the long-awaited Fantastic Four movie. But considering the Fantastic Four and their nemesis Doctor Doom play an important role in the Secret Wars comics, there’s a good chance this movie becomes the marquee franchise of Phase 6 of the MCU.
Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (May 2, 2025)
Aside from Kang, we have absolutely no idea who might appear in this film. Possible members of a future Avengers team include Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and Captain Marvel, but also newcomers like Yelena taking on her old sister’s role as the Black Widow of the group, and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) taking over for her mentor, Hawkeye.
Avengers: Secret Wars (Nov. 7, 2025)
Secret Wars has historically served as a reset button in the comic books, giving writers the opportunity to eliminate characters, storylines, and universes that weren’t working. Whether Marvel intends to reshuffle the deck at the end of Phase 6, as they did at the end of Phase 3, remains to be seen.
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