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[This story includes spoilers for Avengers: Endgame]
One of the most poignant scenes in Avengers: Endgame was a goodbye to a fan-favorite character. But did it also mark the beginning of a whole new team for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Avengers: Endgame featured two major casualties. That’s fewer than fans predicted, but still devastating for viewers who’ve followed the heroes over the past decade. First, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) sacrificed herself in order to retrieve the Soul Stone. Then during the sprawling battle at the end — which featured every hero ever seen in the MCU and then some — Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) took on the massive power of the newly crafted Stark Infinity Gauntlet, dusted Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his crew, and tragically died from the strain of wielding the cosmic force.
In the aftermath of the destruction and loss, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) holds a small funeral for Tony in their lakeside home. It’s an emotional sendoff for the hero before his teammates send the Infinity Stones back to their rightful places in time. All of the usual suspects are there: Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and both of the latter’s respective families. That’s where things start getting interesting as both Ant-Man and Hawkeye’s daughters could play a part in the future of Marvel movies, specifically in the creation of a possible new team.
In 2005, Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung introduced a brand new team to the Marvel Universe. The Young Avengers were an enigmatic group of new teenage heroes who each appeared to be an analog for a famed member of the iconic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creation. Iron Man was represented by Nathaniel Richards’ Iron Lad, Hulk by Teddy Altman’s Hulkling, Captain America by Eli Bradley’s Patriot, and Thor by Billy Kaplan’s Wiccan.
The twist here, though, was that the characters were not what they first seemed to be, with each actually revealed be more of a mashup of two classic characters while bringing something completely new to the table. By the end of the first issue there was an unplanned team member, Kate Bishop, who’d taken on mantle of Avengers Hawkeye. And in the second issue they were joined by the daughter of Scott Lang, Cassie Lang, who would become the hero known as Stature.
As Pepper Potts releases a bouquet of flowers into the lake with Tony’s first Arc Reactor placed on top of it, the camera graces all of the faces behind her, focusing on three young people who could easily become the future of the MCU. The opening of Avengers: Endgame showcased Clint teaching his daughter Lila (Endgame filmmaker Joe Russo’s daughter Ava Russo) how to shoot with a bow and arrow, even calling her Hawkeye before she’s dusted. At the funeral she stands in front of her father, and near them a newly aged up Cassie Lang (Emma Fuhrmann) stands in front of her father, Scott. Finally, we see the most puzzling inclusion of all, the young boy from Iron Man 3.
In Iron Man 3, Tony met Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins) when he broke into the young boys’ garage in order to hide out after a big defeat. Harley had a penchant for building, just like Tony, and the two shared a bond. Spending time with the young boy was a learning moment for Tony, an experience that would help him grow as he struggled with his role as Iron Man. But the movie also signaled a heroic future for Harley when Tony left the kid with a whole stash of high-tech equipment and Iron Man suit. With his prominent inclusion in Avengers: Endgame, this seems to be confirmed. And seeing as he already has a suit, it could be the case that Harley may become the next generation’s iteration of Iron Lad.
In the comics, the team comes together after Nathaniel fails to make it into the real Avengers, but here the inciting incident would be the deaths of Tony and Natasha, along with what seems like the dissolution of the Avengers as we know them. During Ant-Man and the Wasp, Cassie expressed her wish to become a hero just like her father, and it’s been established that Lila is learning the skills to take on the mantle of Hawkeye. Could it be that after the funeral the teens team up to fill the void left by their parents and mentors?
Though the three kids shown at the funeral are white, bringing in the Young Avengers could be a much-needed way for the MCU to diversify their lineup as some of the team’s most beloved members are characters of color. Patriot A.K.A. Eli Bradley is the grandson of the first Captain America, Isaiah Bradley, an African American man who was illegally experimented on by the government to create the super soldier serum. In the 2014 Young Avengers series, comic creators Jamie McKelvie, Kieron Gillen and Matt Wilson reimagined the team, adding America Chavez and David Alleyne’s Prodigy. There are, of course, more young characters in the MCU who could be added to a roster such as Spider-Man, Black Panther’s Shuri (Letitia Wright), and Captain Marvel’s Monica Rambeau (Akira Akbar).
The Young Avengers have long been a fan-favorite team and they have a large roster of characters to draw from that could help make the MCU a more inclusive place.
One particularly popular relationship is that between Wiccan and Hulkling, who were one of Marvel’s first gay couples and could bring some much-needed queer representation to the screen. There’s also an interesting connection to the now adrift in space and time Loki (Tom Hiddleston), as in the 2014 series the Young Avengers are joined by Kid Loki, a de-aged version of the mischievous god, which could be a brilliant way of refreshing the role while keeping the iconic villain in the movie canon.
In July, Marvel Studios will unveil Spider-Man: Far From Home, the first hint of how the MCU will look in the wake of Endgame. Who knows, maybe Peter Parker (Tom Holland) will be the one to decide that the planet needs a new team.
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Sterling K. Brown