With the upcoming Avengers 4, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to reach the first of hopefully many satisfying conclusions to multi-year stories. This is the ending for the first iteration of the Avengers as they face off against impossible an impossible enemy and even more impossible odds. As this massive arc comes to an end, it’s inevitable that things will change. Doing the same thing over and over is an easy way for something to become stale. So change, while painful, is necessary if the universe is to continue. To be fair to Marvel, they seem to be ready and willing to do this following 2019’s Avengers 4.
Most of the necessary change has to come at a character level. Some characters need to step up. For example, Black Panther has a very deep lore that provides so many story opportunities. Captain Marvel is set to be one of the most powerful players in the MCU and Doctor Strange’s knowledge is guaranteed to be important. Other characters need to go away, like Iron Man whose shadow will loom as long as he’s around and the MCU needs to introduce some new characters as well. Nova, Norman Osborn, and Namor are three characters that would provide so much to the MCU. The future of the MCU is looking bright, especially if they can give us some new characters that live up to and even surpass the OG characters. So let’s look at the some MCU characters that need to step up their game, some that need to go away and some we really want to see on the big screen.
15 STEP UP: BLACK PANTHER
If T’Challa’s first movie was any indication of his future in the MCU, we have nothing to worry about. Black Panther is easily one of the best movies in the MCU with a fantastic story, weighty theme, memorable characters, gorgeous visuals, and a deep focus on Wakandan tradition. As well as Black Panther did, it’s most likely going to be positioned as a tentpole franchise from Phase Four onward.
On top of this, it’s been hinted that Black Panther will be one of the new leaders of the Avengers, which makes perfect sense. He’s mature and thoughtful, already a king, and has all the riches Vibranium has to offer to back him up. Therefore, T’Challa will be required to step up more very soon.
14 GO AWAY: IRON MAN
This is one character that we may not necessarily want to go away, but he needs to if the MCU is to grow beyond what it used to be. We all love Tony Stark -- the MCU wouldn’t exist if the audiences didn’t fall in love with him in Iron Man. However, as long as he’s in the MCU, the torch will never truly be passed to a new crop of heroes.
As long as he’s around, he’ll draw too much attention and will always feel like the leader, preventing others from stepping up. We’re not saying he has to die or even go away forever, but he needs to stay away long enough to let the other heroes grow into their own.
13 DEBUT: NORMAN OSBORN
This would be such a perfect addition and signal the beginning of one of the most trying times in Marvel history. People may know Osborn as primarily a Spider-Man villain. However, his ambition led him to consolidating incredible power in the country. This led to "Dark Reign", a period where Osborn essentially did whatever he saw fit, including assembling the Dark Avengers.
The period climaxed in the event "Siege" which Norman, with the aid of his Dark Avengers and the Armed Forces, invades the now Earthbound Asgard. With Asgard destroyed in the MCU, there’s a good chance the remaining Asgardians will relocate to Earth, setting the stage for this climactic battle. Osborn’s introduction would open up many opportunities in the MCU.
12 STEP UP: VALKYRIE
One of the many standouts in Thor: Ragnarok, Valkyrie has gained a great deal of fans and with good reason. Valkyrie was powerful, possessed a great deal of agency, and evolved over time. On top of that, Tessa Thompson is a leading lady with a broad and devoted fanbase. So Marvel would be smart to position her in a more prominent role.
Jane Foster recently proved herself worthy of Mjolnir and became the new Thor for a time. There’s no reason that Valkyrie couldn’t have the same arc. However, she’s a fun and complete enough character to warrant her own story as well without assuming the mantle of Thor. Either way, Valkyrie should be one of the new main characters in the MCU.
11 GO AWAY: HAWKEYE
This isn’t a list that tolerates Hawkeye slander. His gimmick may be slightly silly, but he’s reliable, clever, and he gets the job done time and time again. However, his story is almost certainly over after Avengers 4 and stretching it out even more would simply be superfluous.
Once Joss Whedon revealed in Age of Ultron that Hawkeye was a loving father and husband, he was marked for either his end or his retirement. His family’s possible dusting during the “Snappening” will most likely get him out of the house for Avengers 4. But once (if) his family is revived, there’s no reason for him to be risking his life anymore. It wouldn’t make sense for him to leave them behind again after so recently losing them to the snap.
10 DEBUT: NAMOR
Namor is right up there with the Fantastic Four as one of the most important characters in Marvel’s history that have yet to appear in the MCU. Namor was literally one of the very first superheroes and was also involved in Marvel’s first crossover where he fought the original android Human Torch.
Including Namor in the MCU is a guaranteed draw for fans and would give us a much more complicated character in the same vein as Loki, except more powerful. He’s a heavy hitter, he has complicated relationships with numerous Marvel characters -- he could either help out the Avengers or give them a very difficult foe. Plus, imagine him and Black Panther going to war.
9 STEP UP: ZEMO
Zemo was a different kind of villain -- patient and cunning, every move he made was calculated. In the end of Captain America: Civil War, he accomplished his goal and what no one else could do: he tore the Avengers apart. Zemo should develop into an important new villain in Phase Four and beyond.
On top of what he’s done already, the future for Zemo is exciting too. He’s best known for assembling the Masters of Evil, an evil counterpart to the Avengers. This is an easy idea for a very entertaining Avengers movie and with Captain America most likely going, you can make him a rival to Black Panther instead, who is set to be a leader within the Avengers and even captured him in Civil War.
8 GO AWAY: SHARON CARTER
In the comics, Sharon Carter is a pivotal part of the Captain America mythos. A skilled spy and fierce combatant, Carter has helped Captain America on many of his missions over the years and has grown to be a vital supporting figure in Cap’s life.
In the MCU, Sharon just never really had as much to do as her comic book counterpart did. She was supposedly a S.H.I.E.L.D and CIA agent, but we didn’t get to see her do much in her two appearances. And while Emily vanCamp is a talented actor, her portrayal of Sharon has not been memorable enough to warrant her return. It’s probably best if Sharon Carter just fades along with Cap.
7 DEBUT: NOVA
Nova is the logical next step in cosmic characters the MCU should introduce. With Thanos and the Children of Thanos wiping out the Xandar and the Nova Corps, it’d be all too easy to have someone stumble on the power source for the Nova Corps. Whether it’s Richard Rider or Sam Alexander, Nova would make for a great member of the Guardians or even as a free agent roaming the cosmos a la Captain Marvel.
If Annihilus is actually introduced in the MCU, then Nova will have an even more important role. He’s a huge part of the “Annihilation” storyline (which could be the A4 title). The Richard Rider version of Nova absorbed the power of all of the fallen Nova Corps members and used that power to end Annihilus.
6 STEP UP: MORDO
The post credits scene of Doctor Strange teed up Mordo as a future antagonist for him and any other magic users. It would be so amazing if he was used as a complex rival to Strange in a similar vein to the Winter Soldier.
When you get an actor the caliber of Chiwetel Ejiofor, you don’t just use him in one movie as an antagonist who isn’t even fully formed. Ejiofor is an incredible actor with a powerful presence and potentially sinister voice. Pairing him with another fantastic actor in Benedict Cumberbatch is sure to make for some awesome scenes and if Doctor Strange will be a big deal in the future, then his comic book arch rival Mordo should be as well.
5 GO AWAY: LOKI
For a variety of reasons, Loki has become a fan favorite character in his several MCU appearances. However, just because the audience loves him, it doesn’t mean that he needs to be revived. People already say that the end means nothing in the MCU, and this is not a message that fans should get from the MCU.
The end needs to mean something or it’ll become a cheap trick rather than a way to invoke real emotion in the characters and audiences. Loki has already come back from “the grave” twice and that’s more than enough times. Plus, Loki was a fantastic antagonist/antihero in the first three phases of the MCU. It’s time for new antagonistic forces to come in and make their mark.
4 DEBUT: ANNIHILUS
Another contender for the next Phase’s big bad, Annihilus is a powerful foe and his Annihilation Wave would be a fantastic antagonistic force for the cosmic MCU to deal with. The "Annihilation" storyline was even the event that resulted in the formation of the movie version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Plus, with the Quantum Realm becoming more important in the upcoming movies, it would be easy to merge with the Negative Zone.
The threat from his Annihilation Wave would loom over all of the cosmic movies, leading to a different tone and culminating in one epic space battle. Annihilus is another interesting, powerful villain with a different power set than we’re used to seeing, so he’d make a good addition to the MCU.
3 STEP UP: SHURI
It’s easy to see how people fell in love with Shuri in Black Panther. From her first scene, Letitia Wright’s infectious energy endeared Shuri to audiences, as many could relate to the has so much agency and can easily drive her own narrative forward.
As far as her future, there’s a chance for Shuri to become the MCU’s version of Ironheart which would allow her to be involved in the action even more. However, even if that isn’t the road Marvel pursues with her character, she’s still the most intelligent character in the MCU and the princess of Wakanda. She’s guaranteed to be a major player in the future.
2 GO AWAY: EVERETT ROSS
There were very few complaints about the juggernaut known as Black Panther. However, one of the nearly-universal complaints about how Everett Ross feels completely inconsequential to the rest of the plot. He was really only there to give them exposition on Killmonger. Other than that, the action really just happened around him.
We know that Ross is important in the Black Panther comics, but this is one thing that they should change in the MCU. Martin Freeman does good enough as the character, but he doesn’t add much and there really isn’t a reason to keep him around. Removing or reducing him to a cameo role would make room for them to introduce more interesting characters from Black Panther’s mythos.
1 DEBUT: GALACTUS
Does this even need to be explained? Having Galactus show up in the MCU would be a dream come true for so many fans of the comic books. On top of that, Galactus would be a logical next step for the villain that follows Thanos. Galactus is a force of the universe and, in the correct light, he can be portrayed as a sympathetic figure.
Galactus would be an excellent foe to prove how invaluable Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four will be in the MCU’s future. Galactus and the Silver Surfer are very much tied into the Fantastic Four, so their inclusion in a battle against him would be as necessary as it would be fan-pleasing. The Four need this after their last movies.