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Marvel Studios’ tease of future projects Monday morning didn’t just confirm release dates for the next couple of years’ worth of movies — it also revealed new titles for two upcoming sequels, with Black Panther II becoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Captain Marvel 2 becoming The Marvels. That latter title, however, is one that comes with no small amount of weight.
On the face of it, The Marvels is a straightforward title for a movie that has already been confirmed to feature both Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel, a teenage hero who takes her name from Captain Marvel and who will star in her own Disney+ series. What else would you call something teaming two heroes with the word “Marvel” in their name, after all?
Things are slightly more complicated by the fact that, in Marvel comic canon, there already is a concept called the Marvels — and it’s an ongoing project that was announced last year and debuted just last month. The Marvels isn’t the name of a superteam, but instead a blanket term to describe superpowered characters inside the Marvel Universe, with the series intended to span the past, present and future of the comic book continuity that got its start back in the late 1930s.
The Marvels comic is a spinoff of an earlier comic book series titled, simply, Marvels. Originally released in 1994, Marvels was created by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross as a way of revisiting, and humanizing, the earliest days of the Marvel Universe. Told from the point of view of a photojournalist called Phil Sheldon, Marvels retold major events, such as the introduction of the original Human Torch and the death of Gwen Stacy, the girlfriend of Peter Parker who was killed by the Green Goblin. These events were seen from a distance that, ironically, restores a sense of wonder and awe to events that fans had become all too familiar with.
Marvels was enough of a sales and critical success to warrant a number of sequels and spinoff projects, including a 2019 audio adaptation. Beyond The Marvels, comic book spinoffs included a direct sequel called Marvels: Eye of the Camera, an anthology series titled simply Marvel, and a series of one-off special issues under the umbrella title Marvels Snapshots, with the latter two having been launched in the last couple of years.
In other words, Marvel is already using Marvels as a title in an entirely different setting … a lot. Does the use of the name for the second Captain Marvel feature suggest that there could be a more expansive approach to the MCU than audiences expect, or is the name just a happy coincidence?
To take things a step further, it should be noted that, for older comic book fans, “The Marvels” might have an entirely different meaning, one that doesn’t even include Marvel as a company. Instead, “the Marvels” was a collective term for the original Captain Marvel — now known as DC’s Shazam — and his family of fellow superheroes, including Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and Uncle Marvel. (There was also Hoppy, the Marvel Bunny, but perhaps it’s best to move past that.) Obviously, the ship has sailed with regards to those characters using the “Marvels” branding at this point, but is there something to be considered in the idea of The Marvels movie title referring not to a team, per se, but a family?
Obviously, Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel aren’t literally related, beyond the former choosing her monicker in honor of the latter — but that doesn’t mean that Captain Marvel doesn’t have a superpowered family of sorts in the MCU. Disney+’s WandaVision brought Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) back into mainstream continuity after her appearances as a child in Captain Marvel; while Monica isn’t a blood relative of Carol Danvers, she did used to call her Aunt Carol, and even went so far as to describe herself as Danvers’ “real family” as a child.
Beyond that, there’s also the potential of a return for Yon-Rogg, Jude Law’s villain from the first Captain Marvel, who could be considered a relative of sorts, given that Carol’s powers come from an infusion of his DNA. (Does this make him an evil stepbrother of sorts? The soap-operatic potential alone!)
Suffice to say that, if The Marvels title suggests something of a familial theme to the second Captain Marvel, there are more characters to choose from than simply the two heroes with the word “Marvel” in their names.
All of this falls squarely into the realm of speculation at this point, of course; the movie is roughly a year-and-a-half away from release, and all manner of things currently being planned could fall away between now and then. If only one thing can concretely be taken away from the selection of The Marvels as the official title of the second Captain Marvel film, then it’s this: Audiences should feel confident in expecting something more ambitious in scope than the first outing — although just what that means in execution will remain under wraps for some time to come.
The Marvels, from filmmaker Nia DaCosta, is due out Nov. 11, 2022.