It was announced today that while Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark won’t return for the inevitable sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spidey won’t be lonely as he’ll be joined by a different Marvel hero in his adventure.
While there were no clues as to who it is, the inclusion of an established hero such as Chris Evans’ Captain America, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange or Chris Hemsworth’s Thor would be, frankly, a boring way for the Spidey sequel to go. A better option would be for Sony and Marvel to use the opportunity as a launching pad any number of the many great teen heroes in the Marvel Comics roster, thus beginning to build a new generation of heroes as the Marvel films head into a new decade.
The Mentor Becomes The Mentee
Everything we know about Spider-Man: Homecoming suggests that Iron Man will serve in a mentor style role for the young Peter Parker, learning the ropes (or webs, as it were) as a freshman superhero in the big city. While that’s a great hook for the film, bringing in any other Avengers for the sequel would tread the same ground and not open up the shared Marvel/Sony side of the MCU in any meaningful or interesting ways. Bringing in a new hero, on the other hand, provides Peter with someone to mentor himself and flips the script of the first film, giving Spider-Man a perspective on what it was like to look up to Iron Man and the rest of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Historically, Spidey hasn’t been one for sidekicks but he is known to have more than few Amazing Friends. A great jumping off point would be Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, which at one point was essentially a team book as Aunt May’s house became a home for wayward teen superheroes. While no Sony/Marvel feature can use Kitty Pryde, Iceman or The Human Torch, it could certainly capture the spirit of Bendis’ Team Spidey with any number of Marvel heroes.
It’s something the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon has leaned into as well, with a whole roster of teen superheroes all under S.H.I.E.L.D. command. While no-one expects the Marvel Cinematic Universe to get multiversal anytime soon, the cartoon proved it was possible to even have multiple Spider-Men on the same team at the same time, learning from each other and contributing in different ways.
Right away, the most obvious candidate is Miles Morales. Fans have been clamoring for a Miles movie since before Miles even existed. Brian Michael Bendis was inspired to create MIles in-part by the support for the #Donald4Spiderman fan campaign to cast Donald Glover in The Amazing Spider-Man films that ultimately saw Andrew Garfield cast as the wall-crawler. Miles is getting his own movie soon, though it’s animated, which isn’t quite what fans were hoping for. Marvel and Sony could take a page from The CW’s book and transition Miles from animation to live-action with the Spider-Man sequel, uniting that corner of its cinematic universe and finally giving fans an afro-latinx Spider-Man in live-action.
Aside from Miles, Marvel has a wealth of teen heroes they could pull from to cast alongside Peter, but perhaps none of them are as popular as Kamala Khan AKA Ms. Marvel. There’s a feeling of “not if but when” when it comes to Kamala’s live-action debut, and casting her in Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 (Spider-Man: Prom?) would be the first step to a live-action Ms. Marvel film of her own. In the same way Captain America: Civil War served as a platform to launch the new reboot of the Spider-Man films, the Spider-Man franchise could be used to bring popular new characters and creations to the attention of mainstream audiences ahead of their own solo release.
Of course, Marvel may want to connect its cosmic and ground-level universes, and what better way to do that than to introduce Sam Alexander, AKA Nova into the mix. He’s a big part of the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, where he always proves to be a great foil to Peter. Bringing in Nova would shake things up by giving him an antagonistic ally rather than a supportive one, and they could share some of the Peter Parker/Johnny Storm "best friends who constantly rag on each other" dynamic that we might never see on the silver screen otherwise.
The interesting thing to note is that the information regarding the lack f Iron Man in the sequel came from a profile of new Sony CEO Tom Rothman, so the Marvel hero that appears may well be one that Sony has the rights to rather than Marvel. It could possibly be Firestar, but she’s likely a tricky legal proposition as a mutant who served as an Avenger, though she did debut in a Spider-Man cartoon. If Sony wanted a character to spin-off into their own film, it's got a perfect candidate in Silk, who would shake up the romantic nature of the Spider-Verse before heading off into her own adventures. Perhaps Sony is eyeing up someone way more obscure, like Bombshell, Alpha or even Rocket Racer. Sony’s going to want to prove that it’s still in control of the Spider-Man family of characters, and if Marvel got to promote its cinematic universe with Spider-Man: Homecoming, Sony may want its turn with the sequel.
The Future of The Marvel Cinematic Universe
There has to be someone at Marvel Studios cognizant of the fact that contracts are running out and actors are getting older. At some point, a new generation of heroes and villains needs to be introduced, and plans are likely already underway to make that happen. Spider-Man can serve as the natural bridge to that new generation as a character that fought alongside the Avengers but isn’t one himself. Whichever hero guest stars in the sequel should be someone that Marvel can build another franchise with, and the studio has more than its fair share of characters that could fulfill that role.
Ultimately, the Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel is several years away and a million things can happen between now and then. Moon Girl could break out in such a big way that we see live-action Devil Dinosaur sharing a screen with Spidey, or Marvel and Sony could stick with the boring option and bring in Chris Pratt as Star-Lord (even though it makes no sense). But here's hoping the studios realize what a golden opportunity they have for the future of their franchises, and already have plans for the next generation of heroes well into the 2020s.