Marvel Studios is ready to take the world by storm once again with Phase 5, a slate that brings a solo Daredevil series and a fourth Captain America movie, sandwiched between the Ant-Man threequel and the newly confirmed Thunderbolts movie.
San Diego Comic-Con 2022 saw the first look at Spider-Man: Freshman Year, which will feature at least half a dozen classic web-slinger villains while bringing Charlie Cox's Daredevil into the animated world. Also coming along is the X-Men '97 series picking up from its classic '90s counterpart, and Marvel Zombies waits in the wings as the MCU's first-ever TV-MA series.
Even with these exciting new animated additions, there's still the question of how exactly they fit into the larger MCU, or if they actually fit in at all. That status grows even more confusing when looking at the way Marvel presented its brand-new slate at Comic-Con.
Phase 5 Abandoning Animated MCU Series
Marvel Studios officially announced its plans for Phases 5 and 6 of the MCU at San Diego Comic-Con during its Hall H presentation on July 23. However, when looking at the studio's graphics detailing everything on the way, nothing from the animated side of Marvel Studios was included.
The Phase 5 slate included 12 different live-action entries coming to both theaters and Disney+, starting with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in February 2023 and ending with Thunderbolts in July 2024. However, what's missing from the lineup are Spider-Man: Freshman Year, X-Men '97, Marvel Zombies, or What If...? Season 2, most of which are set to debut in the same window as Marvel Studios' Phase 5 projects.
The graphic also left off The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, and nothing was announced about the upcoming Halloween Special, either.
The full schedule graphic can be seen below:
This was the same for Phase 6, although the only specific projects included were Fantastic Four, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, and Avengers: Secret Wars. There are also eight other open spots between Fall 2024 and Summer 2025.
For perspective, Marvel Studios announced most of its Phase 4 slate at San Diego Comic-Con 2019 after the Infinity Saga came to a close. While this slate was pushed back numerous times due to the pandemic, What If...? Season 1 was included as part of the confirmed new entries, even though it was an animated series.
Why Is Marvel Leaving Animated Shows Behind?
Looking at the bigger picture, the absence of animated projects from the MCU's Phase 5 slate could be Marvel Studios' way of more clearly indicating that the live-action MCU and the animated projects are two separate entities.
When Marvel first announced What If...? as part of its Phase 4 slate, it seemed to be a step in a new direction as the MCU got its first animated project. However, there are still questions about that show's place alongside the greater MCU, especially with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness using a different Captain Carter Variant than the one in this series.
There is also massive confusion about Spider-Man: Freshman Year, especially because it was originally thought to fill in Peter Parker's origin story as it happened in the MCU. Now, the show is confirmed to include an interaction with Norman Osborn instead of the similar one with Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War, and it's unclear whether this is meant to be the same MCU hero.
It's also possible that Marvel Studios could be now sectioning off its Multiverse stories that don't directly contribute to the MCU's main narrative. As Marvel Zombies, X-Men '97, and others are unlikely to impact what is occurring in Marvel's live-action projects, the MCU's filmmakers may want to cordon off these Elseworlds stories.
With Marvel's animation slate not restarting until early next year, there are still plenty of mysteries to solve regarding how the animated and live-action stories will coincide. Whether they intersect with one another in a more concrete fashion is still unknown, but there will be no shortage of opportunities to learn more as the MCU continues.
Marvel Studios' animated slate continues with What If...? Season 2 in early 2023.