Marvel Studios is already expanding heavily into Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with thrilling sequels and exciting origin stories for franchise newcomers alike. Not only are these projects delivering long-anticipated new heroes, but they're also introducing the MCU fandom to a new round of powerful villains and antagonists that will make these heroes' lives difficult.
Additionally, due to so many of the MCU's upcoming Phase 4 projects being sequels of some kind, fans are expecting villains that have already debuted to make some kind of return in the future. Where many of these big bads will make those returns is still a mystery, but with nearly a dozen projects coming in 2022 and countless more in the works after that, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Another trend that's quickly picking up is the addition of younger heroes in the MCU's advancing narrative, which may or may not culminate in some sort of Young Avengers team-up in the future.
On that front, a new rumor is teasing a potential new partnership that some fans may not have seen coming.
An MCU Villain Serving as a Hero's Mentor?
Insider KC Walsh of Geeks WorldWide teased on Twitter that an undisclosed future Marvel Studios project is set to bring a team-up between a hero and villain never seen before. Reportedly, the MCU is planning to bring back "a popular villain" from past movies who will be a "guide for a young hero."
Walsh also ruled out a few possibilities that other Twitter users threw out in his responses. This includes James Spader's Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Toby Jones' Arnim Zola from What If...?, and Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer from Iron Man 2.
Classic MCU Villain Returning in Phase 4?
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has varying trends with regards to its villains, many of whom are killed off after only one appearance. However, Phase 4 seems to be bucking that trend to some extent with antagonists that are already in line to play big roles in future projects coming in 2022 and beyond.
The big question now is who exactly this villain/hero relationship could include, particularly considering the bad guys already ruled out of contention. Though Ultron bots are rumored to come into play in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and while fans certainly would be open to Justin Hammer returning in projects like Armor Wars, there are plenty of options for Marvel Studios to use.
With nine new entries in the MCU from 2021 and more than a dozen more confirmed entries in the near future, some potential pairings come to mind fairly quickly.
Possible Villain/Hero Pairings for Future MCU Project
Most recently, MCU fans went into a frenzy over what appeared to be Vincent D'Onofrio's debut as Kingpin in Episode 3 of Hawkeye. This comes alongside Alaqua Cox's full debut as Maya Lopez/Echo in the same episode, which has the opportunity to bring a classic duo from the comics into the live-action MCU.
Of course, there's no confirmation of D'Onofrio appearing in the Hawkeye series, but the rumors and teases are pointing in that direction more so than the chances that he won't be back for more. Maya's mysterious uncle appears to have a big influence on her life already, and should that relationship flourish, it would make this claim accurate sooner rather than later.
Also on the list of potentials is Kathryn Hahn's Agatha Harkness, who was recently confirmed to get her own solo series: Agatha: House of Harkness.
The Agatha/Wanda duo was one of the highlights in 2021's WandaVision, even though the two witches went to battle against each other in Episode 9. However, Wanda made the conscious decision to keep Agatha alive in Westview, meaning a potential team-up between the two is still a possibility.
If fans have any input in this decision, Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger could be another option, which even takes into account the antagonist took his own life at the end of 2018's Black Panther.
The MCU's Multiverse will move from fantasy status to reality as soon as Spider-Man: No Way Home releases, and Killmonger remains at the top of many fans' lists of characters wanted for a comeback. It's unclear who exactly from Wakanda or elsewhere he would mentor, particularly after his second villainous turn in What If...?, but his popularity alone makes him a viable choice for this rumored villain.
No matter who it turns out to be, Marvel Studios appears ready for some new and interesting partnerships as Phase 4 progresses into deeper and bigger stories.