Marvel Studios’ return to San Diego Comic-Con was the showstopper fans have come to expect. After months of hand-wringing from Marvel devotees about their needing a clear map of where the post-Endgame phases were headed, and concerns that Marvel Studios didn’t have an overarching plan in motion (which, come on. Of course, it did), the scope was finally made clear. Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige unveiled trailers, release dates for the previously announced Blade, Captain America: New World Order, Fantastic Four and Thunderbolts, and sneak peeks at upcoming projects. He also outlined Phase 5 and 6, culminating with Avengers: Secret Wars and the conclusion of what’s now been revealed as The Multiverse Saga.
Unsurprisingly, the Marvel Studios panel delivered a lot of information to digest at once and there’s still at least eight other projects left to announced in The Multiverse Saga, some of which will certainly be revealed at D23 in September. But for now, we’ve got a pretty good idea of where things are headed. Though the scope of some projects, and how they’ll fit within the multiverse remains to be seen.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
The next and final Marvel show for the year, She-Hulk will be Marvel Studios’ foray into half-hour comedy. The nine-episode series, created by Jessica Gao, follows Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) whose life is changed after a blood transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), aka, The Hulk. The latest trailer for the series highlights the sibling rivalry between the two, with Walters proving to be better at navigating her Hulkness than Bruce, while also representing super-powered clients including The Abomination (Tim Roth).
The series looks to pull a lot from John Byrne and Dan Slott’s runs, and although the comedy aspect is being emphasized, with She-Hulk breaking the fourth wall, there may be larger stakes at play. As we saw in Avengers: Endgame, the Hulk has gotten used to the spotlight as Smart Hulk and become a celebrity. What happens when the spotlight shifts from him to someone better at being the Hulk? Perhaps the child-like persona of the original Hulk re-emerges, or Banner further experiments on himself to improve his abilities, with disastrous results.
She-Hulk might also play into the recently announced Thunderbolts, with the criminals Walters represents being recruited for the team in lieu of serving their sentence. Oh, and there’s the fact that Daredevil (Charlie Cox) will be making his return as a fellow superhero-lawyer, and sporting his classic yellow and ruby suit. It seems that despite the lighter tone and shorter episode runtimes, She-Hulk will make a sizeable impact in the future of the MCU.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The stunning trailer for Wakanda Forever debuted at Comic-Con, wowing fans who were rightfully concerned and still grieving the loss of actor Chadwick Boseman. Marvel made the controversial decision to have T’Challa die in the MCU, a decision worth discussing in further detail once the film is released. But there’s no doubt that director Ryan Coogler and company have crafted an emotional tribute while expanding the mythos of Wakanda. The sequel looks to place its focus on the women of Wakanda, with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Shuri (Letitia Wright), and newcomers, Aneka (Michaela Coel) who played an important role in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ celebrated Black Panther run, all taking center stage. And Ironheart, Riri Williams (Dominque Thorne) will also be crafting her own legacy as a technological genius and hero comparable to Tony Stark.
Feige also confirmed the sequel’s worst kept secret, Tenoch Huerta will be portraying Namor, King of an underwater Aztec civilization, Talocan. In the comics, Namor has a historic relationship with T’Challa in which their terse allegiance turns into a bitter, and deadly rivalry. It looks like Coogler is going to give the same attention to crafting this secret underwater empire as he did for Wakanda, and that is certainly worth being enthusiastic about. Namor will inevitably be around in the MCU for a while, but the question of whether the king of the ocean will end up as friend of foe by the time Wakanda Forever reaches its end remains to be seen.
And then there’s the question of the next Black Panther. Basically, everyone from M’Baku (Winston Duke) to Shuri has been theorized to take on the mantle. The trailer’s last-minute showcase of a black and gold Panther suit even has some fans guessing that Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) will be making his return. He did ask to be buried in the ocean after all. In any case, Wakanda Forever will mark the end of Phase 4, which has rather fittingly been about letting go and accepting new roles. Expect a hell of a post-credit scene as a third monarch is rumored to debut. All signs point to Doom.
The third Ant-Man film will kick off Phase 5 and explore the Quantum Realm, which we now know is the secret to unlocking time-travel. While the previous two Ant-Man films have been relatively low-stakes, it appears that director Peyton Reed will be upping the ante on this one with less time spent in San Francisco and more time with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), his daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton), his partner Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and her parents Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) exploring the Quantum Realm’s relationship to the multiverse.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
But it won’t just be a family vacation, as Kang (Jonathan Majors) the time-traveling conqueror will be the central antagonist in this film, and it would appear, the central antagonist throughout the majority of The Multiverse Saga. While Kang, one of the Avengers’ greatest enemies, may seem like an odd villain to introduce in an Ant-Man sequel, here’s hoping that he’ll set the stakes of Phase 5 high. Definitely expect some casualties. And Kang won’t be the only villain in the sequel as M.O.D.O.K. is set to make an appearance, and could be the transformed Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from the first film.
With the now-adult Cassie Lang getting her own costume and powers for this third entry, Marvel Studios continues to move closer to having a full roster of Young Avengers. It’s not a question of if we’ll see the team appear, but when.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
James Gunn is gearing up to break some hearts. The third and final entry of the Guardians, at least this iteration, as Gunn and Feige continue to note, is promising to be an emotional one. The teaser trailer, set to The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize?” is certainly pointing towards the death(s) of beloved heroes. With the film set to focus on Rocket (Bradley Cooper), his origins, and his relationship to the villain, The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), audiences are already desperate to know whether the furry fellow makes it out alive. Gunn wouldn’t kill Rocket, right? Right?
The third volume will also feature the debut of Adam Warlock (Will Poulter), the golden space “god” teased at the end of Vol. 2, and Cosmo the Space Dog (Maria Bakalova). It’s unknown how they’ll play into Rocket’s journey, but their inclusion, along with the threads of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora’s (Zoe Saldana) relationship, and Nebula’s (Karen Gillan) place in the universe after the death of her father Thanos, suggests that Vol. 3 is going to be the biggest Guardians film yet.
Given that Gunn’s previous Marvel films were largely self-contained, expect the same to be true of this trilogy-capper. While we’re sure to see some of the characters in this film in the grand finale of The Multiverse Saga, Avengers: Secret Wars, it seems unlikely that the film will be too caught up in alternate realities and time travel.
Daredevil: Born Again
Cox keeps winning. After his cameo as Matt Murdock in Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), the confirmation of his role in She-Hulk, the upcoming Echo, and in the animated series, Spider-Man: Freshman Year, Cox is finally entering the ring as Daredevil for a solo series once again.
At Comic-Con, it was announced that ‘ol hornhead would return in an 18-episode season, Daredevil: Born Again, from Matt Corman and Chris Ord, with Cox reprising his role as Matt Murdock and Vincent D’Onofrio returning as the Kingpin. 18 episodes definitely seems like a lot, especially compared to the usual six-episode Marvel series on Disney+. It seems hard to believe the series will run for 18 consecutive weeks and won’t be broken up over the course of its run. But the length of the series also suggests a lot of room for other characters to show up, perhaps the rest of Marvel’s Defenders, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. And if we’re lucky, maybe even an appearance from Spider-Man.
We can presume that the Marvel Netflix series will all remain canon, but the series also begs the question of whether we’ll see the rest of the cast from the original series return, or if Daredevil’s world will be populated by new characters and maybe even a lighter touch, similar to Mark Waid’s Eisner-winning run. While the subtitle Born Again shares its name with Frank Miller’s classic story, those narrative beats were covered in season three of Daredevil and given how influential Miller proved to be on that series, it feels like it’s time to move away from him and to some other creators who have helped shape Daredevil over the years.
Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars
Phase 6 only has three entries announced so far, though it will surely become more populated over the coming years. The final phase of The Multiverse Saga begins with Fantastic Four and concludes with two Avengers movies, with titles that both carry tremendous weight for longtime-comic book fans.
The Kang Dynasty was a 16- part arc in The Avengers that ran from 2001 to 2002. In the series, Kang arrives from the 31st century alongside his son Marcus and doesn’t merely attempt to take over the world, but succeeds! That is until the Avengers fight and eventually defeat him. For a time-travel based story, The Kang Dynasty is surprisingly straight forward and feels reminiscent of Star Wars, in which a band of rebels, the Avengers, seek to overthrow an evil emperor in a space station. But much like the previous Avengers movies that borrowed titles from famous comic events, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty will likely have little resemblance to the comics, other than the fact it will be focused on Kang’s play for complete control of Earth. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton will helm the project.
Given that Avengers: Endgame already did the time-traveling back into the Avengers history, assume that the time-travel tactics will be used to different effect here, maybe even featuring the Avengers traveling to the future and seeing what all their heroism and legacies have wrought upon the multiverse. Maybe this is where we see the Young Avengers become The Avengers, and see a middle-aged versions of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) having assumed the mantle of Captain Marvel.
As for Avengers: Secret Wars, it seems likely that the film will be more inspired by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic’s 2015 series than the 1984 event, due to the idea of incursions being introduced in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and the multiversal focus of that comic event. The storyline sees fragments of different versions of Earth throughout the multiverse splintered and brought together to form Battleworld, a world divided into territories in which Doctor Doom, having gained omnipotence, rules above all. Think Game of Thrones in the Marvel Multiverse. Battleworld of course means there’s room for pre-MCU versions of characters to appear in the film, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Men, Eric Bana’s Hulk, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, and even Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider. Variants of deceased characters could also show up. Basically this would be the movie that some imagined Multiverse of Madness would be instead of it being a Doctor Strange sequel. Secret Wars is an ambitious undertaking with an end result that could rewrite the history of the MCU and perhaps even reboot versions of characters.
So how do The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars relate to each other? In the comics they don’t. But if the movies were going to take an aspect from the 1984 version of Secret Wars, the war for power between Kang and Doom could make for a compelling link. Even more compelling if the MCU takes the comic book route and reveals that Kang, real-name Nathanial Richards, is a descendent of Reed Richards and Doctor Doom.
While Marvel Studios’ Comic-Con timetable suggests The Multiverse Saga concluding in 2025, a little over three years, expect the effects of the saga to play out a little longer. After all, there are so many worlds to explore.