Have you seen Wakanda Forever? What a feat of acting and gritty, raw storytelling. The release of this film signals the end of the fourth phase of the Marvel journey (with a small “Guardians of the Galaxy” appearance as an epilogue), a phase that began with the heavily delayed “Black Widow” in July 2021. The pandemic has died down Scheduling for some of Marvel’s Phase 4 TV shows and movies has been devastated, and there has been some critical “unrest” among a fanbase still mourning the dual ending of Infinity War and End Game.
The ‘Infinity Saga’ was a masterpiece of storytelling and franchise building that was 11 years in the making, so there was always a reaction and backlash to what followed, but some of the criticism Marvel has received for their fourth phase The content was a little misjudged and misguided by a fanbase spoiled by films like Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok. We thought it would be a good idea and a timely reminder to detail some of the highlights of the early days of The Multiverse Saga.
The expansion of the universe
Kang and the TVA lost control of their branches and the universe shattered into multiple dimensions during the fourth phase. This forms the basis of the story told in stages five and six. Expressions like “incursion” are becoming common parlance, and we’ve also gotten a glimpse of alternate realities like Earth 838 in Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. We also had celestials in Eternals and the wonderful undersea city-state Talokan in Wakanda Forever, which means the MCU keeps expanding into bigger and bolder territories.
What a great idea that turned out to be! The TV shows were as good, if not better, than the phase four movies. From “Wandavision” to “She Hulk,” we were treated to an array of styles and tones that could break your heart or make you laugh from the bottom of your heart. New characters like Kate Bishop and Kamala Khan were resounding successes, while established characters like Scarlett Witch and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon saw their storylines push into new and exciting realms. We’ve seen the reintroduction of Daredevil and broken the fourth wall with She Hulk, giving us a look at the true power behind the MCU’s throne/algorithm in KEVIN
Secret Invasion is the next show. It promises to usher in phase five in style with a more traditional Bell-and-Whistles-style Marvel escapade!
The sheer variety of heroes and villains that compete in stages five and six is overwhelming. There are rumors that Kevin Feige wants some sort of ultimate gathering of all heroes from all parts of the MCU in the Secret Wars movie and if that’s the case then we wish him the best of luck because there are so many now. All ages, nationalities and shapes come through the MCU while moving away from all-white heroes. The *Spoiler Alert if you haven’t seen Wakanda Forever* reimagining Namor’s Atlantis in Black Panther 2 to the city of Talokan founded by indigenous people fleeing the Spanish invaders is further evidence of Marvel’s sensibilities towards different nationalities and their willingness to present unpleasant and possibly difficult historical events.
The children are alright
If a Young Avengers film were made tomorrow, it could well be an all-female affair as Kate Bishop, Cassie Lang, Kamala Khan and Riri Williams battle to transform the world with the help of mentors like Jennifer Walters, Shuri and Yelena Belova rescue. We had a few glimpses of Billy (Wiccan) and Tommy (Speed), Wanda and Vision’s children, and Thor: Love and Thunder even ended up with our titular Asgardian hero becoming a foster father too. Add Skaar, Bruce Banner’s newly introduced son, right at the end of She Hulk and it’s just missing Nova before we can really put together some sort of “next-gen champion”-style team. Rumors of a show with Vision in the works could well bring Tom King’s iconic Vision comic to the small screen, which would potentially complete the team by also introducing Vivian to the world.
The next generation of heroes is coming through the ranks, and there’s a post-credits scene in Wakanda Forever that might even sow the seeds for the generation to come!
To be honest, we still haven’t really recovered from “WandaVision”. Add in the continuation of this story in Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Marc Spector’s Dissociative Identity Disorder, the “Mind Erasure” ending at the climax of “No Way Home,” the themes of aging and isolation touched on in ” The Eternals and basically Wakanda Forever and you have some really heavyweight content that isn’t typically associated with blockbuster franchises.
It’s not all just cloak and magic in the MCU. It’s not in the comics, which is why the brand and franchise have been so successful over the years. Nothing is off-limits to Marvel and that’s one of the reasons we love them so much. Phase four was heavy on heartbreaking events, and let’s not even start with Aunt May.
Deep cut characters
Just like all great rock bands, when putting together their concert setlists, you need to create content that will satisfy your hardcore fans as well as the casual observer. Marvel has introduced superfans to some truly obscure characters from the comic book universe, fueling our need to stand out from the casual, ordinary Saturday night moviegoer.
The Midnight Angels! star fox! 838 Reed Richards! man thing! Dane Whitman! Leap Frog! These are the characters that only the true comic book fans would know without resorting to Google. Phase 4 did a good job of throwing some bones at hardcore fans to keep their nerdy need for deep cuts alive and bubbly.
Come on! If someone had told you five years ago that there would be a Spiderman movie starring Holland, Maguire and Garfield, it would have seemed like the most incredible and improbable suggestion in cinema history, but they just did it.
In a way, the actual reveal during Spiderman 3: No Way Home was almost anticlimactic because there had been so much speculation about the possibility that it might happen that a whole bunch of people just knew when it actually happened would,” which seemed to soften the effect a bit.
With Phase Four coming to an end, let’s reflect on the awesomeness of what Marvel (and begrudgingly Sony) accomplished in No Way Home, which for some people was one of the greatest cinematic reveals of all time.
The mutants are on their way
It’s happening folks! The seeds will be sown in phase four for the introduction of the X Men to the MCU. Ms. Marvel is a mutant. Namor is a mutant. We also saw (and laughed at) Mr. Immortal in She Hulk. We also had the announcement of Deadpool 3, in which Ryan Reynolds apparently single-handedly convinced Hugh Jackman not to sneak into the night but to reprise his role as “Wolverine” for one Cough ‘the last time!
Don’t forget that we also got to spend some time with Earth 838’s Charles Xavier, but how Marvel integrates the mutants into the 616 universe remains to be seen. A burglary maybe? Will we get the lion’s share of Fox’s X-Men coming into the MCU already fully trained and bringing those movies into the MCU cannon, or will we see a whole new cast of characters learning their powers through some sort of hard reset ? Given that Wolverine appears to be fully developed I would suggest it would be the former, but you just never know what KEVIN and the algorithm have in store for us and that my friends is the beauty of the MCU.
So let’s think about the end of Marvel’s “difficult” phase. There have always been problems with the sequel to The Infinity Saga, the most successful and popular cinema franchise of all time. With Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff dead, Steve Rogers living a “normal” life, and Peggy and the Avengers gone, Marvel would always find the next part of their saga difficult. The need to expand the universe and introduce new characters to fall in love with has always been more of a marathon than a sprint, and phase four has proven to be just that.
I think with all the excitement of Phases 5 and 6, including events like two more Avengers movies, the introduction of the Fantastic Four, and the multiversal shenanigans of Kang, Phase 4 will ultimately be seen as a seeding phase, but it’s also a phase that is greater than the sum of its individual parts.