Throughout the first 11 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which included the 23 movies known as the Infinity Saga, no villain had a bigger presence than Josh Brolin's Thanos. Making appearances in five of those movies, the Mad Titan became the antagonist of all antagonists as he unleashed hell upon Earth and every other world in the universe.
Brolin's most prominent showing as Thanos came during 2018's Avengers: Infinity War and 2019's Avengers: Endgame, where he gathered the six Infinity Stones and eliminated half the universe's population before eventually trying to eliminate all of it. Even after Iron Man and the Avengers defeated him and his army, his presence looms over the MCU and its future as Phase 4 continues to expand.
The big question now is who will take over that top spot as the MCU's big villain after Thanos bit the dust at the end of Phase 3. Looking ahead to what may be that next huge threat, one of the MCU's top screenwriters has shared his thoughts on what fans should expect to see facing the MCU's heroes in the coming years.
Marvel Writer on Post-Thanos MCU Big Bad
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness writer Michael Waldron spoke with Murphy's Multiverse about what threats are on the horizon in Phase 4 of the MCU.
Waldron looked back to how Thanos was that threat when "the MCU first went cosmic" about a decade ago. Now, "there's a Multiversal threat" in the form of "Kang" and "Incursions" that will challenge the MCU's new wave of heroes. As Waldron puts it:
"And there’s the threat. And it’s out there and now it’s out there. There’s a Multiversal threat. In the same way that when the MCU first went cosmic many years ago, there was the teed up threat of Thanos. Now it’s probably a matter of, you’re setting up some Multiversal threats on the board. Whether it’s Kang, Incursions, whatever. It’ll be interesting to see how all those things come together."
Who Is the MCU’s Next Huge Threat?
Warning - The rest of this article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
In the same way that The Avengers opened up the MCU to more cosmic characters and stories, Doctor Strange 2 certainly does the same for Multiversal threats from other universes in Phase 4 and beyond. Now that Doctor Strange is learning about what the Darkhold did to him while Clea brings him back to the Dark Dimension, it does beg the question of who will be next in line to truly threaten the Avengers and the people of Earth-616 after Thanos.
In the most immediate future is Jonathan Majors' Kang the Conqueror, who was first introduced in Loki before truly unleashing his reign of terror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. His prowess with time travel and the Multiverse certainly makes him a candidate for that top villain role, especially considering how Ant-Man 3 will likely be far from the last time fans see him in action.
On top of that, Doctor Strange 2 opens avenues to some undisclosed Incursion-based mayhem along with a potential comeback for Dormammu, who last made his mark bargaining with Strange in his first solo movie. With Clea now playing a key role in the MCU's future, likely including the unconfirmed Doctor Strange 3, the Avengers and other heroes could be in for much more than even the Infinity Gauntlet and a massive alien in the next battle.
Whether it be Dormammu, Kang, or somebody else when Avengers 5 eventually comes to theaters, Thanos may be just the start of some major storylines the Avengers will face as the post-Infinity Saga MCU grows bigger.