Marvel Studios has billed Avengers: Infinity War as the end of an era for the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and it is widely assumed that next year’s Avengers 4 will be the end of the Avengers as we know it.
Actors like Captain America star Chris Evans are planning on retiring, while contracts are running out for other MCU mainstays.
If the conclusion to the story set in motion with Infinity War also wraps up the story of the Avengers (for now, at least), fans can rest assured that Marvel already knows what it’s doing for an encore. On Monday, Disney CEO Bob Iger teased a “new franchise beyond Avengers” in years to come.
But what could take the place of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? Here are some possibilities from the company’s comic book back catalog.
The Champions was originally created in 1975 for characters who were fan favorites but not successful enough to support their own series — among them, Black Widow and Ghost Rider, along with two former members of the X-Men. But the Champions brand was abandoned by Marvel not long after the original series was canceled in 1978, with an independent company called Heroic Publishing swiping the title in 1987. Marvel reclaimed it in 2016 with a second Champions series spinning out of its Avengers series that centered around younger superheroes. If the Avengers are about to hang up their costumes, it’s going to be time for a new generation to step up to replace them. Could The Champions be the future of the MCU?
Although the name “Alpha Flight” was originated for a team of Canadian superheroes in 1979’s Uncanny X-Men No. 120, more recently, it’s been used for something that is primed for a cinematic appearance: a space program intended to be Earth’s primary defense against alien attacks, headed up by none other than Captain Marvel. The character that is less than a year away from her cinematic debut, in which she will be played by Brie Larson. With Avengers: Infinity War underscoring the threat posed to humanity from outer space, it’s almost as if audiences are being prepared for humanity to create some kind of intergalactic SHIELD in response. Perhaps Alpha Flight has been in the works for some time.…
It’s possible that Marvel Studios doesn’t want to replace the Avengers with another traditional super-team — after all, Iger explicitly talked about a “new franchise,” not a new group — which might make The Illuminati, a loose collection of superheroes who meet in secret to foresee potential problems and head them off, a potential choice for the studio. That the comic book version of the group includes both Black Panther and Doctor Strange, two of Marvel Studios’ post-Infinity War leading lights, just makes it that bit more possible. (Iron Man is also part of the collective, which would let Robert Downey Jr. make the occasional return, should he want to.) Professor Charles Xavier — who could come to the MCU if Disney’s acquisition of Fox goes through — is another member, as is Namor and the Inhumans leader Black Bolt.
The Ultimates were, for the first decade-plus of the concept’s existence, the Avengers of an alternate universe, literally; it was the name of the team formed by Captain America, Iron Man and Thor in Marvel’s Ultimate imprint. Since 2012, however, the name has belonged to a group of heroes — including Black Panther and Captain Marvel — that deals with more cosmic, existential problems in a manner that is less about fighting and more about… well, thinking their way out of trouble and protecting the very nature of reality itself. It’s one way to grow the scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Infinity War, but would the psychedelic adventures be the stuff of good movies?
Rumored to be in development as a Marvel Studios franchise, the Eternals is arguably Jack Kirby’s last great creation for Marvel, and possibly his most ambitious. At its core, it’s a story about evolution and the origins of the species, suggesting that humanity is actually one of three species created through genetic tampering by aliens, being the middle ground between the Eternals — a superpowered superior race that inspired much of humanity’s mythology throughout history — and the Deviants, a monstrous- looking race that, in turn, inspired belief in the devil, hell and more. All three races are the result of manipulation by aliens known as the Celestials, who have returned after centuries to judge whether or not life on Earth is worthy of survival, with their judgment being swayed as to the outcome of the eternal struggle between the Eternals and Deviants, and on which side humanity ultimately falls. Heady stuff, but is it enough to serve as the future of the MCU?
The New Avengers
If all else fails, Marvel Studios could always follow in the footsteps of Marvel’s comic book output of the early 21st century and replace Avengers with The New Avengers, featuring a different lineup of characters with the same old superheroing mission. It sounds cynical, but doing it in comic books was amazingly successful for Marvel — and even put Wolverine on the team. Could lightning strike twice?