As the MCU builds towards the culmination of its next saga with the Avengers: Secret Wars event, many are eager to see classic heroes return via the Multiverse. After all, fans have been clamoring for more of Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man and Chris Evans' Captain America since their stories reached a climax with Avengers: Endgame.
With talk of the Multiverse continuing to heat up, rumors have begun to spread that the Iron Man and Captain America actors may be primed to come back to the MCU. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness already offered a taste of this potential with Patrick Stewart's Professor X, but fans remain desperate to see the two MCU veterans back in action.
Now, The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars have finally become official, with both ready to hit theaters in 2025, wrapping up Phase 6 and the Multiverse Saga. Talk of Evans and Downey Jr. remains nothing but speculation for now, especially with Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson firmly in place as the MCU's Captain America.
However, there is plenty to suggest the two MCU icons may be back in the coming years before the current saga comes to a close and the next begins.
How Chris Evans Could Return in Avengers: Secret Wars
Even with Chris Evans' openness to reprise his MCU role, the actor appears eager to be careful with how a Captain America comeback would be handled. The Marvel veteran has long been clear about how perfect he finds his Avengers: Endgame ending and has been clear about how anything that messes with that would "require a near-perfect recipe."
The primary criterion for Evans appears to be finding a meaningful reason to return as Steve Rogers under another mantle as the role of Captain America now belongs to Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson. After giving up the mantle of Cap in the past, Rogers has gone under Nomad, who interestingly, has been rumored to have his own project in the works at Marvel Studios.
So when it comes to returning to Earth-616's Rogers, Evans appears to be precious about finding an appropriate reason to make that happen other than plain fan service. But how does Evans feel about coming back via the Multiverse?
Even though Evans doesn't appear interested in fan service, he has shared his interest in coming back as Fantastic Four's Johnny Storm, aka Human Torch, through the Multiverse. The actor has already shared how reprising his 2005 hero would be an "easier sell to [him] than coming back as Cap," because of the perfect ending his MCU hero received.
While he doesn't want to "disrupt what a beautiful experience" playing Captain America was, Evans feels his Human Torch "didn’t really get his day." Perhaps if Evans does come back for Secret Wars, it may be as his Fantastic Four (2005) hero as opposed to the MCU icon, unless Kevin Feige can create a solid reason for him to return.
With Secret Wars being a Multiverse-wide crossover, there is any number of unique Captain America Variants that Evans could play and maybe even fight against his former teammates. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige could undoubtedly find a meaningful way for this to work.
Deadline previously shared in January 2021 that Chris Evans will return in “in at least one Marvel property with the door open for a second film,” with these being separate from Captain America 4. If these reports are accurate, Secret Wars is almost certainly one of the projects in question due to the scale of the event.
How Robert Downey Jr. Could Return in Avengers: Secret Wars
Unlike Chris Evans' Captain America, who took early retirement, Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man met his demise in Avengers: Endgame, bringing his decade-long MCU journey to a close. Despite reaching the end of his heroic journey as Downey Jr. moves on to other projects, fans are still begging for his return to the MCU.
Obviously, bringing back the MCU's biggest star from the dead would be a game-changing moment that has to happen in a major big-screen project to draw a massive crowd reaction. Some fans have already been speculating how Tony Stark could fit into Ironheart or Armor Wars on Disney+, but the chances of either are slim.
With the level of pay Downey Jr. was raking in by the time his MCU tenure came to a close, only an Avengers blockbuster that would generate billions could justify his return. So, if Robert Downey Jr. is coming back as Iron Man, Secret Wars would be the place for that to happen.
There is any number of ways the MCU veteran could come back including either short-term or long-term resurrection, artificial intelligence, or a Variant from across the Multiverse. Looking at the options, a Variant appears to be by far the most likely way Downey Jr. could return in Secret Wars, as the Avengers cross paths with an alternate Tony Stark.
Just as has proven to be the case with Evans, Downey Jr. has maintained a strong "never say never" stance on reprising his MCU role. Meanwhile, the Russo Brothers have described how Iron Man's return "has to be earned" and "surprising and shock audiences."
Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. Return to the MCU
In the case of both Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., the condition of their return seems to come down to finding a good story to tell and a meaningful reason to bring them back. Neither of the actors appears to be interested in just fan service, but perhaps the right paycheck could change that.
As Marvel Studios seeks to please the crowds with the culmination of the Multiverse Saga, surprise appearances from Downey Jr. and Evans would be a sure-fire way to achieve that.
In the case of Downey Jr., the most likely way for him to appear comes via a Variant from across the Multiverse crossing paths with the MCU's heroes in Secret Wars. Reintroducing Earth-616's Tony Stark through resurrection or time travel would run the risk of undermining his Avengers: Endgame sacrifice, which neither the actor nor studio would be willing to do.
When it comes to Evans, Marvel Studios has far more options. There are countless Chris Evans Variants that could be pulled into play through the Multiverse, such as an alternate Captain America, the villainous HYDRA Supreme, or his original Human Torch. The elderly Steve Rogers is also still kicking about the MCU and might still have some fight left in him, or at least some wisdom.
To conclude, although there is a high chance that fans haven't seen the last of Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans in the MCU, they will never come back to the forefront of the franchise. Any future appearances will likely come down to a cameo or limited role that won't be unveiled officially until the next Avengers blockbusters are playing in theaters.