There is no denying it: Avengers: Endgame was the superhero event of a lifetime. The culmination of over a decade’s worth of storytelling into one massive, immensely satisfying conclusion is not a usual occurrence in the world of cinematic storytelling. Yet Marvel Studios successfully pulled it off. The only issue, however, was the big question fans kept asking: what’s next?
The answer to that has been what fans have seen in Phase 4 so far: more stories, characters, and intriguing lore. WandaVision showcased the birth of the Scarlet Witch, Loki introduced the Multiverse to the world, Eternals revealed an entirely new layer of cosmic storytelling––and there’s been so much more.
The addition of Disney+ has allowed the MCU to expand and grow at a speed and depth at which it could never have done before. However, there is something notably absent among the seemingly endless amount of projects: an Avengers 5.
Despite Endgame’s title, everyone knows it won't be the last Avengers. The team always comes back––and more importantly, the money-making machine that is the franchise won’t stay down forever. So what could be next? Well, all signs are pointing towards a massive adaptation of one of Marvel Comics' biggest events: Secret Wars.
What Is Secret Wars?
Before diving into why Avengers 5 will be a Secret Wars adaptation, it’s best to explain just what the story is.
The title has been used for more than one tale, with some vastly different than those before. The original one in 1984 involved a cosmic being named The Beyonder teleporting Marvel’s greatest heroes and villains into a place called Battleworld to face off against each other for all of their dreams and desires to come true. In reality, the storyline existed almost exclusively to make more toys.
The version of the story that the MCU will almost certainly take most of its queues from is the version from Jonathan Hickman in 2015. The stakes of his story literally couldn’t be higher.
Worlds start to collide with each other, leading to various universes dying off explosively and destructively. These events, called Incursions, start happening at an exceedingly faster rate, as countless worlds crash into one another, ending entire realities. Even worse, nothing can stop them. This leads to all of existence coming to an end. So how do people make it out?
Life continues thanks to none other than Doctor Doom, who, sparing lots of technical details, acquires unfathomable cosmic power just in time to create a patchwork existence made of pieces of worlds he was able to save.
Sounds like the perfect story for an MCU epic.
The Avengers Will Return
Let’s state the obvious: another Avengers film will happen. There might not seem like a clear build-up to one just yet, but do not doubt that another event movie will arrive eventually.
If one needs any further confirmation, Marvel Studios Kevin Feige himself confirmed that another entry in their biggest franchise will release "at some point... more than a couple of years" after 2021.
Obviously, there’s no world where fans don’t get an Avengers 5. The real question is not only when, but who will be the focus, and what the big event will be. Will they immediately try to do an Endgame level event, or maybe something smaller, with the group taking on a lesser threat (at least, in comparison to one with universal stakes)?
The Brand Name
All of the previous Avengers films have taken their queues from famous storylines. Though, despite the names, the events depicted don’t always line up with what exactly happens in the source material.
The biggest example is Age of Ultron. Besides having the infamous murder-bot as its antagonist, nothing else lines up with its time-travel-based counterpart. Infinity War has Thanos and the Gauntlet, but there are plenty of bigger, universal elements at play that never made it into the live-action version.
This is all to say that the situations leading up to these big stories don’t have to line up perfectly. The biggest requirement is that the brand name is a significant one. This makes Secret Wars the perfect candidate.
Introduction of the Multiverse
The one concept that Secret Wars depends on the most is the Multiverse itself. The entire story is based on this, and how it becomes unstable and ends up collapsing––with various universes and worlds crashing into each other, leading to all realities being destroyed.
As most reading this probably know, the Multiverse is the key concept of Phase 4. While the Infinity Saga had the stones, these next few years of MCU storytelling are likely to continue leaning on alternate realities and the many creative tools they bring with them.
In order for the Multiverse to collapse and all realties to cease existing, it has to be there in the first place. Now, after Loki, What If…?, and Spider-Man: No Way Home, fans have a pretty good idea of what it has to bring to the table.
With its formal introduction in Loki, more vital information was introduced, which pointed the story right towards Secret Wars territory. Jonathan Majors’ He Who Remains has been staving off his Variants from starting another Multiversal war that could destroy all of existence. This certainly sounds like something which will come to pass eventually––much like Thanos’ fateful snap.
As an aside, Kang the Conqueror, the Variant(s) Majors’ character feared, is not normally a Multiverse-centric bad guy in the comics. The timeline and the Multiverse are far more removed from each other than the concepts being taught to audiences in the MCU. Clearly, the finer details are going to work differently than some fans might be used to.
But it seems Marvel is clearly setting him up to not only be one of, if not the villain going forward, but also someone who is the lynchpin to the entire Multiverse. Loki writer Michael Waldron previously stated that Kang “[is] probably going to be the next big cross-movie villain.”
While audiences have only gotten a taste of alternate realities, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness promises to explore the more chaotic side of these ideas. Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff is also set to be a key part of the proceedings.
The Scarlet Witch's previous story, WandaVision, included some foreboding teases, ones that, if they come to pass, could put the fate of the Multiverse on the line––potentially producing the exact environment and conditions needed for incursions to start occurring across existence.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige also confirmed that the Multiverse will continue to be explored after Doctor Strange’s upcoming film—the madness is here to stay.
The Profitability of Cameos
After Spider-Man: No Way Home, there is a clear observation to be made: audiences love nostalgia. The movie brought back old villains and the previous two Spider-Men—and it made serious money.
With Multiverse of Madness coming up, there is an endless string of rumors about characters who might cameo as the story takes viewers across the Multiverse.
Fans might end up seeing Doctor Strange and Wanda Maximoff interact with mutants for the first time, or the old Fantastic Four, or even the Inhuman king Black Bolt—all thanks to the opportunities the movie allows for. It’s clear Marvel sees the potential in the various cameos and the joy it brings to fans.
Secret Wars is the perfect place for occurrences like that. The entire concept lends itself to strange recreations of the heroes and stories viewers know—the creatives could literally make anything and anyone possible.
This opens the door to returning visitors like Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield, it can provide an easy way to see Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans once again, or even bring to life worlds where completely different MCU events occurred.
It’s a hard story to pass up. No matter what, whether it’s the next event or not, it’s difficult to imagine a universe where Marvel doesn’t adapt Secret Wars.
Those Legacy Characters
This next hint might be coincidental, but it’s certainly worth noting. Back when the 2015 Secret Wars storyline began, it was on the tail end of a push for legacy characters to take the spotlight.
This included Miles Morales as Spider-Man, Sam Wilson as Falcon, and Jane Foster as the God of Thunder. While the MCU may not have Miles just yet, in a couple of months, the other two will be mainstays in a couple of months.
They aren’t the only ones either. There’s Tatiana Maslany’s She-Hulk, Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, and Dominique Thorne’s Riri Williams, who are all also set to pick up legacy spots.
Obviously, this is a long way from any sort of confirmation. It is, however, yet another hint of what the future may hold.
Russo's Writing On The Walls
Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame are two of the most successful films of all time, and critically speaking, they tend to be ranked as some of Marvel Studios’ best works. Both films turned out the way they did thanks to their brilliant directors: The Russo Brothers.
Given how well they handled the Infinity Saga’s conclusion, Marvel will undoubtedly be looking for a reason to work with them once again. Luckily for them, the directors have publicly spoken about their desire to helm an adaptation of Secret Wars.
In interviews, the duo has all but confirmed that discussions had been had between them and the studio. So, while the whole Scarlet Johansson lawsuit situation briefly put it all in jeopardy, the recent word from the two brothers indicates the possibility of their return remains on the table.
The Marvel project that they’re talking to Marvel Studios about isn’t confirmed to be anything specific, but given the brother's vocality, the writing is on the wall: Secret Wars.
The Disney+ Expansion
The recent explosion of Marvel content is thanks to none other than the studios' new tool: Disney+. The streaming platform has allowed the studios to not only release more stories but give more characters a chance in the spotlight and more time to be developed.
This allows more stories to be told, enhancing the overall richness of the narrative. Within the last year alone, there have been more MCU content than the cinematic universe had in its first nine years combined.
How does this relate to Secret Wars? Well, in the most recent 2015 version of the story, after Battleword was created, there were dozens of spinoff comics that explored what life was like in these various patchwork worlds.
Examples of these places include a territory where the superhero Civil War never really ended, an entire world consisting of various versions of the God of Thunder as they lead a police force, and one ravaged by the zombie apocalypse––and so much more.
With several streaming series opportunities, if Marvel Studios were to make Secret Wars a multi-part epic, they could bring some of these alternate worlds into not only big blockbuster movie spin-offs, but also several Disney+ series.
In the end, it would serve to flesh out the massive event in a way that simply wasn’t possible before their fourth phase of content.
Then there is the elephant in the room: The Mutants. The group of super-powered individuals has been something fans have wanted to see come to the MCU since its inception. Yet, there still hasn’t been much movement on that front––even after Disney acquired Fox.
The other problem is figuring out their introduction into the world. The logistics are anything but easy, and there are plenty of aspects that are hard to line up.
This is what likely makes an adaptation of Secret Wars so tempting for Marvel Studios. At the end of the day, the event can serve as a complete reset of the entire MCU, letting the creatives behind the scenes completely reinvent concepts within the story and have it as if they’ve always existed, such as the mutant gene.
However, a completely fresh take on House of M with Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch could do the trick. Though, the entire foundation of the event would have to be changed, seeing as mutants don’t exist in the first place.
Marvel’s Secret Future
Mark these words: Secret Wars will happen, and all signs point to it being the next big Avengers film. It’s just a matter of when Marvel Studios has the pieces to assemble the massive event.
One thing that may hold up the event’s adaptation's arrival is how the MCU needs its Victor Von Doom. Fantastic Four is still years away, and the team, as well as the infamous villain, are arguably the most important aspects of Hickman’s 2015 story. Though, as theorized above, there’s always the chance Marvel Studios will pawn off those roles to others.
While the next proper Avengers project is still brewing behind the scenes, plenty of rumors have pointed to a Young Avengers spin-off—which makes perfect sense given the introduction of nearly all the core team over the last year. The group has plenty of offshoots in the comics, so it’s only a matter of time before the same happens for the MCU.
While fans wait for bated breath about the next big MCU event, they can brace themselves for the next entry in the cinematic universe: Moon Knight, which is set to hit Disney+ starting on March 30.