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[This story contains spoilers for Captain Marvel]
Marvel Studios has big plans in store for Captain Marvel. Kevin Feige has teased that not only will Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) emerge as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most powerful hero, but that she’ll be the center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel establishes Carol Danvers’ place in the MCU, and while set in the ’90s, her decisions in the film and the characters she comes across go a long way in setting up post Avengers: Endgame conflicts. We’ve already highlighted what we’d like to see in Captain Marvel’s solo sequels, so now it’s time to focus on her cosmic role and how she could lead the charge for the next generation of Avengers and the MCU’s next multi-part event.
The Captain Marvel mid-credits scene reveals that she received the page Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sent her at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. She arrives at Avengers headquarters what looks like weeks after Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) snap, and remarks to the assembled team, “Where’s Fury?”
Avengers: Endgame will undoubtedly feature its share of resurrections, but it wouldn’t be a grand finale without a sizeable death toll as well. With Iron Man and Captain America most likely to be removed from the board by some means, and Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye remaining question marks, I wouldn’t be surprised if Endgame sets the stage for the New Avengers. The team, established by Brian Michael Bendis, rocked Marvel Comics when they debuted in 2005. Breaking away from the lineup of familiar faces, New Avengers inducted Spider-Man and Wolverine into the team officially for the first time. I don’t expect the lineup to match Bendis’ comic entirely, especially considering its shifting roster, but a team consisting of Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, War Machine, Ant-Man and the Wasp, led by Captain Marvel, seems like a strong place to start. A team that stacked needs a worthy conflict, one that highlights the vacuum created by Thanos. Lucky for Marvel fans, Captain Marvel sets the stage for a whole new series of struggles.
As much as Captain Marvel remains focused on Carol Danvers’ personal journey to come to terms with her identity, it’s also a film steeped in politics. And not just the politics of our contemporary society, though that allegory certainly exists, but the politics of Marvel’s cosmos. We’re dropped into a world already embroiled in conflict that has not yet erupted into a full-scale war. Hala, the Kree homeworld, is caught in an age-old conflict with the Skrulls, a nomadic army of shape-shifting aliens. This set-up borrows from one of Marvel’s earliest events, Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, John Buscema, and Neal Adams’ The Kree-Skrull War (1971). The storyline, similar to the plot of Captain Marvel, saw the Kree and Skrull fighting to get their hands on a device, the Omni-Wave Projector, a communicator built by Mar-Vell that could be turned into a deadly weapon in Skrull hands. Captain Marvel flips the script by making Mar-Vell’s (Annette Bening) device capable of creating lightspeed travel. More notably, the film turns the Kree into the weapon-hungry antagonists and the Skrulls into a noble race who want to use the device as intended and travel across the cosmos to reunite their people. Captain Marvel siding with the Skrulls following the revelation that Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) isn’t the villain of the story, enables Marvel Studios to adapt several galactic wars.
The Kree have never entirely been on the side of the angels. A race that emphasizes military prowess, the Kree are known for their expansion, overtaking worlds by treaty or force and adding them to their empire. Their methods have become increasingly villainous in the comics over the years, especially when backed by their leader the Supreme Intelligence. The fascism of the Kree was best highlighted in Marvel Comics’ 19-part event series Operation: Galactic Storm (1992). The storyline saw the Kree engage in a war with the Shi’Ar Empire, avian-like humanoids who were first introduced in the pages of the Uncanny X-Men. Pitched as a thematic sequel to the Kree-Skrull War, Operation: Galactic Storm found the Kree and Shi’Ar Empires using Earth’s sun to fuel their war transports, destabilizing it and wreaking havoc on Earth. The Avengers split into three teams, one to protect Earth on the homefront and the other two to negotiate with the Kree and Shi’Ar leaders respectively.
Operation: Galactic Storm notably saw the Avengers questioning their methods in times of war, and grappling with their roles as superheroes and soldiers in a war that wasn’t theirs and wasn’t clearly defined by good or evil. Operation: Galactic Storm created further tension between Captain America and Iron Man, and the threads of their disagreement and leadership styles were picked up years later in Civil War (2006). Even with Captain America and Stark out of the picture, Operation: Galactic Storm feels tailor-made for a film adaptation that further explores Carol Danvers’ role as a former soldier for the Kree empire, as well as T’Challa’s role as dictator and diplomat in comparison to the Kree and Shi’Ar. An adaptation of the arc could give Carol a rematch against Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), as well as pit her against her nemesis, the exiled Shi’Ar warrior, Deathbird. At their strongest, the Avengers movies have forced their heroes to ask hard questions about themselves and the consequences of their actions and world-views. It seems inevitable that as the Avengers, and Earth by default, start taking their place on the cosmic stage, the MCU starts shifting away from earthbound stories that are easily defined as superhero narratives. New Avengers: Galactic Storm would be the perfect means to further open up the MCU.
While the Kree-Shi’Ar War feels like the perfect opening salvo for the New Avengers, there’s too much potential for the Skrulls to leave them out of the picture for long. While they’ve long served the role of villains in the Marvel Universe, going all the way back to Fantastic Four No. 2 (1962), Captain Marvel paints them in a mostly sympathetic light as soldiers trying to hold their culture together as best they can. Talos reveals the Skrulls are spread across the universe in search of a new homeworld. The idea of displaced Skrulls stems from the Marvel’s crossover Annihilation (2006), that saw the Skrulls’ planets destroyed by Annihilus. The result saw the Skrulls infiltrating Earth and attempting to conquer it under the leadership of Queen Veranke, disguised as Spider-Woman, in Secret Invasion (2008). There’s a 24-year gap between Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame, and over the years it’s easy to imagine the struggling Skrulls becoming increasingly desperate. In Operation: Galactic Storm, the Skrulls secretly aided the Shi’Ar in destroying the Kree in order to even the playing field and set the stage of their own dominance. This seed could be planted should Marvel Studios adapt the Kree-Shi’Ar War first, and showcase the Skrulls play at revenge before setting their sights on Earth.
Secret Invasion is the highpoint of Bendis’ New Avengers run, in part because of the revelation that Skrulls had disguised themselves as prominent superheroes for years and infiltrated the highest levels of Earth’s society. While there was some expectation that the end of Captain Marvel would reveal a Skrull taking the place of recognizable SHIELD agent, Marvel Studios appears to be playing the long game with the Skrulls, which could ultimately pave the way for a more intriguing and politically-complex conflict. Given Marvel Studios’ penchant for utilizing the titles of Marvel Comics’ most notable 21st-century event series, New Avengers: Secret Invasion seems like a safe bet to happen sooner rather than later.
Captain Marvel does more than provide the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a great new leading character. It also builds up the world around Carol Danvers in a way that makes the film not just a prequel to Iron Man (2008) but an integral chapter in establishing what the MCU can potentially become. While there’s still plenty we don’t know about Marvel Studios’ plans post-Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel gives us our biggest clues yet and plants the seeds for a galactic conflict that could rival Star Wars.
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