Now that Avengers: Endgame is on its way to becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time, and closed out the ‘Infinity Saga” as well as Phase Three of the MCU, fans are asking something they’ve not had to ask in years: “What now?”
[Ed. note: This piece will contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.]
Since The Avengers in 2012, we knew that Thanos was coming for our heroes. Infinity War and Endgame both brought him out to play and offered a pretty conclusive end to his story, not once but twice (time travel, y’all). Now, with the dust settled (if you’ll pardon the pun) and the status quo of the MCU radically altered in Endgame’s wake, fans have reason to actively speculate as to what the heck is going to happen.
And while the Marvel comics universe isn’t a one-to-one parallel with MCU history, there’s still enough raw material there for Marvel Studios to shape however it sees fit. So here are a few likely possibilities.
We’ve put this list together based on what’s most plausible given the status of the MCU’s heroes after post-Endgame. Also, when reading speculation like this, keep in mind that the MCU has historically taken names and basic ideas from the comics but little else. Captain America: Civil War wasn’t an overwrought, Patriot Act metaphor, but a more of a personal fight between Iron Man & Cap.
Contest of Champions
What it’s about: The first miniseries ever published by Marvel in 1982, it’s a MacGuffin hunt, with the Grandmaster facing off against Death — as in the sexy lady version of the concept of Death who comics Thanos is in love with — by having superheroes go around the world to collect the “Golden Globe of Life” in a bid to possibly resurrect the Grandmaster’s sibling, the Collector.
Likelihood of happening: Marvel has kept the trademark “Contest of Champions” in play by publishing a sequel miniseries and another Contest of Champions mini in 2015 as well as a mobile fighter of the same name. And the company has also adapted it into story arcs for the 2000s Ultimate Spider-Man and (the little-known, not widely-seen-and-pretty-bad) Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes cartoons. The “Contest of Champions” was even the name of the gladiatorial games Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster threw in Thor: Ragnarok. Plus, the title is simple and broad enough that it could stretch to any story the MCU wants to tell.
How it might play in the MCU: You could get an even number of heroes on each team just by using the Earth-bound heroes, but for variety’s sake, it’d be fun to rope Thor and the Guardians back in, too. This would probably be as broad and far-reaching as an Avengers movie in tone, and that’s not a bad thing.
What it’s about: Put together literally as a toyline-launching excuse (with the title coming from Mattel executives learning in marketing sessions that “secret’ and “wars” were words that generated excitement in kids), the 12-issue 1980s miniseries saw cosmic being the Beyonder transport several heroes and villains to the distant “Battleworld” where he forced them to fight each other to make their dreams come true. Outcomes of this event included the Thing leaving the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man getting his symbiote costume, and Colossus breaking up with Kitty Pryde because he hooked up with a hot alien babe in space. Really.
Likelihood of happening: It’s possible, and lord knows Marvel doesn’t need another excuse to hawk toys, but there’s a lot of groundwork that’d need to be covered. Most notably, all the X-Men and Fantastic Four-related stuff, but also the fact that Spider-Man wouldn’t be so out of his element on an alien planet. To quote Nick Fury, “Bitch, please. You’ve been to space!” On the other hand, this was a really influential storyline that loads of comics-loving kids in the ‘80s ate up with a spoon, and Spidey getting the black costume would be just as interesting as it was in Spider-Man 3.
How it might play in the MCU: A lot of groundwork would have to be laid and new characters specifically introduced to make this happen but it’s still possible if you do what Marvel Comics did with its 2010 all-ages miniseries retelling Spider-Man and the Secret Wars and just center it around ol’ Webhead. He’s the street-level, regular dude hero so he’d be a fun point of center to all the cosmic nonsense.
What it’s about: Doctor Doom — the greatest supervillain ever to combine being a mad scientist and a wizard — and his kingdom of Latveria invade Wakanda and square off against Black Panther to acquire all the Vibranium. As in all of it. As in, the giant mountain.
Likelihood of happening: We still don’t know if there’ll even be a Doctor Doom in the post-Fox merger MCU, but if there is, this is something that needs to happen. Black Panther is easily the most compelling reinterpretation of his comics counterpart in the MCU and placing that nuanced reimagining against a dictator/mad scientist/warlock would just be awesome.
How it might play in the MCU: It’s very simple to imagine this playing out similar to Captain America: Civil War, with Doom or his operatives moving behind the scenes, then launching a full-scale assault in a massive Act 3 blowout. And establishing Latveria isn’t all that important — no one had heard of Sokovia in the MCU until the last act of Age of Ultron after all. Tell me you don’t wanna see Shuri and her badass wrist cannons blow up some Doombots.
What it’s about: Norman Osborn — the Green Goblin, but he was the US Secretary of State at the time — launches an invasion of Asgard, which after the Ragnarok of the comics had been rebuilt just outside of Broxton, Oklahoma.
Likelihood of happening: Again, we’ve no clue if there’ll even be a Norman Osborn in the MCU, with Willem Dafoe’s iconically unhinged Green Goblin still casting a long shadow (no one still talks about the way Chris Cooper played Norman in The Amazing Spider-Man 2) but his role in the story could easily be filled by, say, WIlliam Hurt’s General Thunderbolt Ross, who’s no stranger to megalomania. But it would be a bit dicey and require a lot of setup to have MCU America invade the Norway-based New Asgard. But who wouldn’t want to see the fight that the new King Valkyrie would put up?
How it might play in the MCU: Things would probably be more covert, with the more government-aligned heroes like War Machine brought around to Ross’ side. But again, a lot of groundwork would have to be laid to justify it.
What it’s about: A short crossover at just three issues, this 2000-2001 miniseries saw the various cosmic races of the Marvel Universe, fed up with Earth and all her superhero shenanigans, imprison the planet in a forcefield and turn it into a jail for the galaxy’s worst convicts, with Ronan the Accuser acting as warden.
Likelihood of happening: Like a lot of 2000s Marvel stories, this has been quietly swept away (most likely due to being so short). Still, it’s an inherently fun, understandable concept and, as Endgame proved, it’s fun when the cosmic and earth sides of the MCU collide.
How it might play in the MCU: Seeing as Ronan the Accuser is dead, this would be a good opportunity to bring back the Nova Corps, who haven’t shown up since Guardians of the Galaxy. And, as a fun b-plot, John C. Reilly’s Rhonann Day could discover that a child of a long-dead Corps member is alive and well in Arizona, which is how you introduce Earth’s current Nova, Sam Alexander, into the MCU.
Like I said, Marvel Studios tends to take broad ideas from its publishing house and little else. Which is a good thing: Films and comics are inherently different mediums, capable of inherently different things. But it would still be fun to see them dip into the lesser-known side of their events history once a while, as opposed to keeping the same TPBs circulating.
However it turns out, the post-Endgame MCU is most likely going to be just as thrilling as ever.
Tom Speelman is a freelance writer, proofreader & editor based in Lansing, IL for a variety of websites and publishers like Seven Seas Entertainment, for whom he adapts Magical-Girl Spec-Ops Asuka by Makoto Fukami and Seigo Tokiya. He’s on Twitter @tomtificate and loves yelling about superheroes.