"Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet." Nick Fury spoke those words to Tony Stark in the after-credits scene of the very first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since "Iron Man" hit the big screen in 2008, the MCU has taken over the world. The Avengers have assembled and broken. The Infinity Stones have been found. And the end of that story is near.
Marvel's Phase Four will mark the beginning of a new era for the MCU. The quest for the Infinity Stones, which began in Phase 1, will culminate in "Avengers: Infinity War" and its untitled sequel, in an epic battle with Thanos. With a new set of phases, we can very well expect things to move in a different direction, both in terms of characters and storytelling. Here are the top 15 things we want to see next.
It has now been officially announced that "Avengers: Infinity War" will have the Guardians of the Galaxy meeting The Avengers, but what does this mean for the future? Getting to see all the members of both teams fighting alongside each other on-screen will be an amazing experience, but there won't be a lot of time to develop relationships between them, so one movie isn't really enough. It does open the door to future crossovers though.
In "Guardians of the Galaxy" vol. three, written by Brian Michael Bendis and penciled by Steve McNiven, Iron Man became a full-fledged Guardian of the Galaxy alongside Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Gamora and Drax. We could see Avengers heading into space for future movies, or Guardians coming to Earth to help stop an alien threat. Yes, they'll get their first real meeting in "Infinity War," but the real significance of that meeting is what possibilities it opens up for Phase 4 and beyond.
Speaking of crossovers, fans have been wondering if our Netflix heroes will ever meet up with The Avengers since "Daredevil" premiered in early 2015. There has been no indication that they plan to bring any Defenders to the big screen or vice-versa anytime soon, but not to do so would be kind of a slap in the face to the source material where members of each team have crossed over and formed various friendships and relationships with each other.
In the comics, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and even Patsy Walker: Hellcat have all been on the Avengers roster. Luke Cage even led the team in "New Avengers" created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and illustrator David Finch. On the flip-side, Doctor Strange and the Hulk were founding members of The Defenders. It doesn't necessarily have to be the whole team crossing over, but we need to see Daredevil meet up with Spider-Man at least once, right?
13 HAWKEYE SOLO
Other than Black Widow, Hawkeye is the only original member of the Avengers that has never gotten a solo outing, and we know even less about his past. We learned that he has a family in "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," and we know he worked with Black Widow in the good old days, but that's about all we've gotten from the MCU's Hawkeye. Jeremy Renner has explicitly stated that he'd like a chance to develop the character more and explore his backstory.
Writer Matt Fraction and Illustrator David Aja generated even more interest in Clint Barton after their critically-acclaimed run on "Hawkeye," which many fans suggest should be a template for Hawkeye's future in the MCU. Of course, 616-Hawkeye is single and spends a lot of time with a much younger woman, Kate Bishop, so there may be some questions if they took this route, but elements of it are certainly adaptable to the big screen.
12 BRING COULSON BACK
Agent Phil Coulson has been a part of the MCU and a fan-favorite since the very beginning, back when S.H.I.E.L.D. was still just referred to as the "Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division." When he met his apparent end at the hands of Loki, the world wept alongside the Avengers, but the next year, Coulson came back to life on ABC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and since then the question on everyone's mind has been, "When are the Avengers going to find out Coulson's alive?"
It would be nice to see him meet up with all the Avengers, but Tony Stark has had the closest and longest relationship with Phil "His First Name Is Agent" Coulson, and after he dies in "The Avengers," it clearly hits Tony the hardest. So, a reunion between those two would be the bare minimum they could do if they brought Coulson back to the big screen.
11 A DEATH THAT STICKS
The "Everyone dies, but not really" theme in the MCU (and Marvel comics, for that matter)has become a running joke among fans. Agent Coulson fake died in "The Avengers." Bucky fake died in "Captain America: The First Avenger." Pepper fake died in "Iron Man 3." Loki fake died twice, once in "Thor" and again in "Thor: The Dark World." At this point, when a person dies in a Marvel movie, fans just kind of shrug it off.
If they really want to add weight to the stories (and future fake deaths), they're going to have to kill someone for real. Even in the Comics universe, characters get killed off for years at a time before someone brings them back through cloning or some other means. The only "real" death we've gotten so far has been Quicksilver in the MCU, but he was introduced and killed off in one movie, so his death didn't really have much of an impact on the universe as a whole.
10 A VILLAIN MOVIE
Marvel gets a lot of praise for making consistently excellent films, but one of the major criticisms that has followed them from the beginning is their tendency for under-developed villains, so it might be the right time for a villain-focused movie. The popular choice for this concept has been Tom Hiddleston's Loki, due to the fact that his character already has the most depth, and audiences are familiar with him.
However, it might be a good time to bring in a new face. Marvel now has the rights to use Venom from the Spider-Man universe, who's one of Spidey's most popular villains and has carried his own comic series in the past. If Marvel ever gets the rights to Doctor Doom back from Fox, he could be introduced in his own film. he could then be built up to be the villain of an entire Phase, rather than just sprinkled throughout as they've done with Thanos.
Marvel has already dipped into this with "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" which had the makeup of a legitimate spy thriller, and a "Black Widow" solo film will almost have to be a straight spy thriller. Scott Derrickson, director of "Doctor Strange," promised that elements of it would feel like a horror movie, but the final result didn't really get that across. Even "Ant-Man" might be considered to be leaning more to a straight comedy than a traditional superhero film.
Marvel would do well to double-down on this strategy and make certain hero films transcend being "just a superhero movie" and being labeled as formulaic, which has been another constant criticism of Marvel films since Phase One. Scott Derrickson recently said that he wants Nightmare to be the main antagonist of "Doctor Strange 2," which gives him the opportunity to deliver the elements of a horror film that his resumé showcases.
8 SMALLER TEAM-UPS
"Thor: Ragnarok" is going to have Thor and Hulk team-up (with a little bit of Doctor Strange as well). The trailer for "Spider-Man: Homecoming" showed Spidey teaming up with Iron Man for some kind of action sequence, which is a brilliant marketing tactic, especially for characters who don't always kill it at the box office like Thor. Having a two- or three-person team-up gives them a chance to really develop interpersonal relationships between characters and tell smaller stories with more than one hero.
In the comics, many characters have close friendships or even romantic relationships, which can't be properly developed and explored in the massive team-up films. Black Widow and Hawkeye have been ripe for a team-up film since they discussed their black ops history in "The Avengers," and Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have had little moments where they get to be science bros in the "Avengers" movies. Beyond these little glimpses, though, it's hard to tell if there are any real friendships among the Avengers.
7 SECRET WARS
How could Kevin Feige top "Infinity War?" With "Secret Wars," that's how. In the modern Marvel Universe, we have one event after another always promising to have drastic consequences that will change the universe forever, but then things go back a few months later. The original "Secret Wars," written by Jim Layton and penciled by Mike Zeck and Bob Layton, really did change the Marvel Universe forever.
"Secret Wars" transported all of Earth's greatest heroes and villains to a place called Battleworld, where they were forced to fight against each other in the insane contest of a mad god. It gave us the villains Titania and Volcana, as well as the black suit symbiote that would eventually go on to attach to Eddie Brock and become Venom. "Secret Wars" also introduced the Beyonder, a nearly omnipotent cosmic being and one of the most powerful entities in the Marvel Universe, who would easily make a worthy follow-up to Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.
6 BLACK SUIT SPIDEY
Giving Spider-Man his black symbiote suit would be a natural extension of a Secret Wars story, and after the heavily criticized use of it in "Spider-Man 3," it deserves to be done right. The symbiote that would later go on to create Venom was originally picked up on Battleworld by Peter Parker. After "Secret Wars" Spider-Man brought the black suit back to Earth with him and fought crime with it. It gave him the ability to produce limitless organic webbing and mimic any clothing he wanted, so he never had to remove it.
The sentient symbiote began to care deeply for Peter Parker and though he tried to discard the suit several times, it kept attempting to reattach to Parker and form a permanent bond; that is, until he went up to a bell tower and used the sonic waves to drive the symbiote away. After being rejected by Spider-Man, it attached itself to Eddie Brock, who was also wronged by Parker, and they united with the common goal of killing Spider-Man.
5 NICK FURY SOLO
Nick Fury has been a part of the MCU since "Iron Man," but we still know very little about him. His only action sequence in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" showed us he has the potential to carry his own spy-action-thriller. He faked his death toward the end of the film and other than a brief appearance to once again rally the Avengers in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," he hasn't really been heard from since. Samuel L. Jackson is set to return as Nick Fury for "The Avengers: Infinity War," but in what capacity is unknown.
In the MCU, Nick Fury has always served as the assembler and sometimes leader of The Avengers, but we've only sparingly gotten to see his combat skills and tactical expertise. Since the character is currently on the lam and presumed dead by most of the world, they could explore Fury's mysterious past while showing what operations he's currently up to. Given his knowledge and skillset, there's no limit to what they could do with the character from here.
Marvel seems to be laying the groundwork for its cosmic universe with both Thanos and the Guardians of the Galaxy, so a good expansion of that would be introducing Nova. He is one of Marvel's most popular characters, and "Guardians of the Galaxy" already set up his introduction with the Nova Corps. Nova has super strength, invulnerability, flight and the power to absorb energy directed against him and release it as energy beams or pulses.
Though Nova has worked with the Guardians of the Galaxy on occasion, he's never actually been a member of the team, so although they could introduce him in a "Guardians" film, he would eventually have to get his own solo outing. Though nothing has officially been announced by Marvel to introduce Nova, they're playing their cards pretty close to the chest with Phase Four, and the introduction of the Nova Corps in "Guardians of the Galaxy" would seem to be a pretty big clue to the character's future involvement in the MCU.
3 VENOM AND CARNAGE
These characters are another natural progression from a "Secret Wars" plot, as the symbiote that became Spider-Man's black suit eventually went to Eddie Brock to create Venom. It would also be another chance to take the mistakes of "Spider-Man 3" and do them justice. With all respect to Topher Grace, most fans agree he was a baffling casting choice for Venom. Even if he'd been great, he was sandwiched between two other villain subplots which were both stronger than Eddie Brock's.
Carnage is one of Spider-Man's most brutal and terrifying villains, and he still has yet to make it to the big screen. It could be difficult to adapt the character properly in a PG-13 setting as the symbiote's host is Cletus Kasady, a psychopathic serial killer and homicidal sadist. At the same time, the character's brutal nature could serve as an interesting counterbalance to Tom Holland's innocent and naive Spidey. If anyone could do it right, it would be Marvel.
2 THE SKRULLS
The Skrulls are one of Marvel's most menacing alien races, and more intelligent and dangerous than the Chitauri (which were used as Skrull stand-ins in "The Avengers"). Although they were originally introduced in "Fantastic Four" #2, James Gunn recently confirmed that Marvel still has the rights to them, so they can appear in the MCU. Skrulls have the ability to shaeshift, camouflaging themselves from their enemies, and in the critically-acclaimed "Secret Invasion" storyline written by Brian Michael Bendis and penciled by Leinil Francis Yu, they kidnapped and replaced many of Earth's heroes.
This would be a good way to pack some potent twists into Phase 4, as well as set up Super-Skrull, a mutated Skrull with all the abilities of the Fantastic Four; or, if they wanted to alter him for the MCU, the powers of whatever Avengers he assimilates. They have already introduced the Kree in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Guardians of the Galaxy," so they could close the Skrull storyline with the infamous "Kree-Skull War."
1 BLACK WIDOW SOLO
At long last, a "Black Widow" solo movie is virtually guaranteed at this point, the only question is when. Kevin Feige said in the past that they're very deeply committed to a Black Widow movie in the future, and just this week, Scarlett Johansson said that she and Feige agree that the character is right for a standalone film. It's just a case of timing.
After what will be at least eight years in the MCU since her debut in "Iron Man 2," Black Widow will finally get to carry her own film. One of the interesting things about this is that she's one of Marvel's only non-powered characters, so the movie will have to rely on Natasha Romanov's combat skills and spy training for the action. There's been a lot of talk about the character exploring her origins with the "Red Room," where she was raised and trained to be a killer. As an international woman of mystery, the potential story paths they could take are endless.
What do you want to see rise to the surface in Marvel's Phase 4? Let us know in the comments!