It's only a few days until Avengers: Infinity War releases, and with it comes speculation about the future. Not just the future of various characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and who will be in the "In Memoriam" videos on YouTube, but the future of the MCU itself. Infinity War's release marks the decade anniversary of the entire enterprise, and after the Earth's Mightiest Heroes tangle with the Mad Titan Thanos, there'll be new horizons for our various characters, present and future.
Marvel Studios has never been shy about pulling from comics storylines; Captain America's two sequel films are hard proof of that. For the future of the MCU, the studio has a major source of inspiration to pull from in writer Jonathan Hickman's tenure with the publisher.
Though he started out writing Secret Warriors and Fantastic Four books during the late 00s and early 2010s, Hickman's most important Marvel work came in 2013, when he became in charge of writing both the Avengers and New Avengers books.
Both books had their won specific style; Avengers was traditional superhero team fare with a sprawling cast, while New Avengers was more cosmic skulduggery featuring the collapsing multiverse and an isolated group of individuals, companion pieces that weaved into each other. Parts of Hickman's influence can already be seen in Infinity War -- the introduction of Thanos' Black Order, the Outriders, the invasion of Wakanda -- and it would behoove Marvel to continue that trend.
There's plenty to choose from in terms of what to bring from Hickman's writing into the MCU, but there are some particularly big beats that would keep the movies going for a long time. The Russo brothers have said that there's some interest in seeing his final Marvel project, Secret Wars translated to the big screen someday, but there's some steps they have to take before Marvel Studios can get there, first and foremost being the formation of the Illuminati.
It's a fairly simple concept; a clandestine organization filled with some of the smartest minds in the Marvel Universe come together to form a secret superhero government. Though the idea of that may sound somewhat boring, it allows for team-ups beyond the superficial action film level and offers more cohesiveness across the MCU.
In the comics, the members of the Illuminati don't really cooperate like one might expect. Namor and Black Panther in particular have a longstanding beef that escalates further and further until they just beat each other up and essentially pit their kingdoms at war with each other. But despite that friction, the Illuminati provides an essential role in defending the Earth, and should be in the MCU to prove that the heroes have learned from Thanos' assault and will be smarter about preparing for future threats, both the ones they know about and ones they'd be paranoid about happening. That the X-Men and Fantastic Four may soon become integrated into the MCU thanks to the Disney/Fox merger makes this all the more intriguing, as Tony Stark , Bruce Banner, Shuri and T'Challa may be able to be joined by Beast, Professor X and Reed Richards.
Second would be the Avengers Machine, an initiative created by both Captain America and Iron Man in Hickman's inaugural Avengers book. With the initiative, the two went about recruiting characters from various corners of the Marvel Universe -- not only were iconic characters such as Wolverine or Spider-Man re-recruited, but B and C-listers like Spider-Woman, Smasher and the strongest X-Man in the universe, Sunspot. It functioned not just to propel some more obscure characters to the forefront, it gave the superhero team an organic sense of globalism and diversity. The MCU's slate of heroes has largely been American-centric over the years, and though the Avengers have gone globetrotting in previous movies, T'Challa, Shuri and Okoye are the only heroes that aren't American. By bringing in characters from other corners of the world -- a Manifold here, a Shang-Chi there -- they really can become Earth's Mightiest Heroes as opposed to America's.