Will the MCU simply continue going forward forever, or do we have a potential reboot planned sometime in the future?
Marvel’s Phase 4 is now officially halfway through its roster of films with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness(MoM), which after its first weekend, has already grossed over $132 million worldwide.
With plenty of inspiration from comic book runs, especially the House of M, The New Avengers: Illuminati, and Rise of the Darkhold storylines, we can make a fairly educated guess about where the MCU will go, once Phase 4 comes to an end in circa 2023.
With phase 4 pumping out films roughly 2.4 times faster than phase 1, it seems that Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige is moving towards the next Endgame event – and after looking at the comics, we think it just might be a bit more permanent than what we saw back in 2019.
Before we dive further into the possible events of Phase 5, let’s take a closer look at what the MCU’s latest film has established.
Let’s start with Wanda Maximoff. After enjoying her time with the Darkhold, killing a bunch of people, and nearly shattering reality, she (sort of) redeems herself by apparently sacrificing her life to destroy every universe’s copy of the Darkhold. Now that’s one way to ban a book!
Fortunately for Wanda fans, the MCU is no stranger to resurrecting its characters, and the ‘pulse’ of energy that radiates from Wanda’s crumbling evil tower at the end of MoM may confirm that she’s either survived or teleported to safety; she is easily the strongest Avenger as far as sheer power goes, after all. We also know that Elizabeth Olsen has a few years left to go with her Marvel contract, making a return nearly 100 percent certain.
WandaVision and Multiverse of Madness carry out a loose adaptation of The House of M comic series, where Wanda reshapes the Earth in order to recreate her lost children. This naturally leaves her with an incredible amount of guilt – it’s suggested that as she sacrifices herself at the end of MoM, Wanda also wipes clean her memory – a trauma coping mechanism that stands perfectly in line with her inability to cope with the several tragedies she experiences in the MCU alone.
It’s here that we find a way to redeem her recent evildoing – while simultaneously tying into the end of WandaVision’s first season. Vision — who is now rocking a pretty cool blue-white paintjob — has now been reconstructed with his memories rebuilt, flying off into the sky during the season’s final episode.
While it isn’t clear as to what he’s up to, chances are that Vision has either spent time in solitude to process his thoughts, or seek help at Wakanda’s labs, now that Tony Stark is dead. This means that in the upcoming Wakanda Forever film, we might see Vision grapple with difficult existential questions (as he often does – the guy now has memories of two deaths on his hard drives), while perhaps finding a way to locate and help bring Wanda back on her feet.
It’s a beautiful and touching way to cap off WandaVision Season 2, as two broken heroes find a way to rebuild and find new meaning in their lives.
Let’s also take a moment to address the real main character of this film — Doctor Strange himself.
Strange undergoes a pretty satisfying arc between his first and second mainline films – we’re introduced to him as an arrogant, self-obsessed Grey’s Anatomy caricature, and see him now accepting his place in the world as a protector of the innocent, subordinate to Wong, and even see him finally move past Christine Palmer.
Which brings us to a certain flaxen-haired character named Clea, played by Charlize Theron. In the comics, Clea is a multiversal traveler from the Dark Dimension – the niece of Dormammu, the villain of Strange’s first film. She’s also Strange’s ‘true’ love interest in the comics, and becomes his lover, wife, and in some storylines, succeeds him as the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s neat that we finally get to see some romance potential in the MCU again – perhaps something a bit less tragic than Wanda and Vision would be refreshing.
The ending scene of Clea is pretty straightforward. She corners Strange and his uncanny third eye, imploring him to help out with an incursion – more on that below.
One of the most important Marvel concepts introduced in this phase concerns ‘Incursions’ – initially explained by the Illuminati.
According to the recently butchered superhero team, Incursions are the collision of two separate universes which result in one (or both) of these realities being destroyed. While the exact mechanics of how this happens are left to the audience’s imaginations, we glimpse a world undergoing an Incursion towards the film’s end — where Strange encounters a more… sinister version of himself.
As incursions spread across the multiverse, we’ll probably be seeing several more of these situations as different realities begin to defend and invade others in order to preserve themselves – bringing us to the events of 2015’s Secret Wars and 2010’s Avengers: The Children’s Crusade.
As teased in Loki, we learn that the ultimate fate of a timeline-fractured multiverse is to be destroyed – something that Wanda and Dr. Doom, who are both lovers in the Crusade comic storyline — work to research and prevent. With us already glimpsing Reed Richards in Multiverse of Madness and a Fantastic Four film already in the works, we’ll probably see Dr. Doom show up at some point before phase 4 ends.
In the comics, Dr. Doom attempts to understand incursions and determine the nature of the multiverse – eventually allowing him to salvage a ‘pocket dimension’ of sorts, stitching together the remnants of Earth 616 and other universes right before total annihilation. Unfortunately, while Doom saves much of the world, he also becomes something of a God-Emperor in this new reality – which he unimaginatively names ‘Battleworld’. While the comics let Doom derive this power from an extra-multiverse race called ‘The Beyonders’, it’s possible that he uses or teams up with Wanda’s strength to save Earth 616 from the incursion.
Filled with weird and wacky factions that stitch together several ideas across the Marvel universe, Battleworld is likely to be the most weird Marvel possibility yet teased – complete with a police force entirely composed of Thors, a ‘Sheriff Strange’ character, Reed Richards literally devolving into an ape, and many more unusual combinations of the Marvel formula.
The event itself is notoriously complex. So here’s a very, very simplified version of the final battle:
In the end, Black Panther battles with Doctor Doom armed with an Infinity Gauntlet, backed by Reed Richards and a classic Fantastic Four villain-turned-hero named Molecule Man. By playing a bait-and-switch, the team manages to get the better of Doom, as Richards inherits the Beyonders’ power and uses it to restart reality from beyond the multiverse with his family, while T’Challa uses the Reality Stone to recreate a new world.
Reed Richards and his family leave the new Earth Prime alone, crafting each cosmos one at a time while exploring them as peaceful guardians and researchers.
If you haven’t caught on yet, the result of 2015’s Secret Wars is essentially a full reboot of the entire Marvel Comics multiverse.
Molecule Man helps Miles Morales safely make it to Earth Prime where he fights crime alongside Peter Parker. The Wakandans take to space, forging Earth’s first starfaring empire. Dr. Doom becomes a good guy – even becoming Iron Man for a while.
While there’s several points of very valid criticism against the directions taken by the comic book writers after Secret Wars, we have no clue of what Marvel Studios might choose to do. Some hope for a truly unified MCU with X-Men, Spider-Man, and The Fantastic Four (previously Sony properties) incorporated right from the get-go.
This will also allow for a full-scale recasting of all Marvel characters, giving us new faces for old names. We could even see a massive change in age targets for the films, with more adult themes taking up center stage for a new set of character origin stories.
While Kevin Feige himself has discouraged the idea of a full-scale reboot, it’s certainly an exciting possibility to consider. With a whole wealth of multiversal-franchise-building knowledge in the bank, we could possibly see an even-better MCU in the future.
Just make Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. canon this time. Thanks.
(Featured Image Credits: Marvel Studios)