The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a very different place after the events of Avengers: Endgame.
[Ed. note: Major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame follow.]
The latest trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home, complete with Endgame spoilers, makes it clear that the ranks of the Avengers will be going through some changes. Spider-Man is discussed as the “new” or “next” Iron Man multiple times. Even just as a line of dialogue, that has huge implications.
Iron Man might not have been the leader of the Avengers — that has always been Captain America — but he was certainly the brains and maybe the soul of the team. Is Peter Parker up for taking on the same role within the organization? Is he ready to be the person Nick Fury calls when serious shit goes down, instead of being a second-stringer who only comes into play when things are desperate?
No one in the trailer meant that Spider-Man would be replacing Iron Man as literally as Falcon becoming the new Captain America, but the truth remains that Peter Parker has to get used to operating in a world where his own hero and mentor, Tony Stark, is dead.
That’s a lot to ask anyone, much less a teenager who has to help save the world from time to time. Who is going to tell him when he messes up? Who is going to update his suit in each movie? He’s not a student in the superhero arts anymore, as Nick Fury points out; he’s already been through a heck of of a lot as a superhero. Regardless of Iron Man’s death, this is a step Spider-Man would have taken anyway as he grew up and into the great responsibility that comes with all that great power.
And these sorts of situations will likely be brought up across a few of the upcoming movies, as everyone has to get used to the new leaders of the Avengers and their own new places within it. Falcon has always been a fun superhero, but it will likely take a little time for him to get used to the idea that he’s in charge of the whole thing now, both for the character himself and the audience.
We’re used to seeing Falcon swoop in when needed in large combat scenes, but we have yet to see him take a strong leadership role at all, much less as the actual head of the Avengers. The first few movies of the next phase, as hinted at by Far From Home, will likely deal with many of these characters struggling with their feelings of inadequacy as they either leave the bench to go play or find themselves controlling the team itself.
Heroes without borders
What’s striking about this new version of the Avengers, at least as we understand it right now, is that so many of these heroes are shaped, and in some ways defined, by where they operate.
Iron Man was an international hero based in New York, but Spider-Man’s job is more or less to keep Queens safe. He may take a class trip to Europe every so often, and it seems like Nick Fury will be counting on him to do more hero-ing in general, but Spider-Man has a place where he belongs. That’s a big shift from Iron Man’s assumed mandate to operate basically everywhere, the Sokovia Accords notwithstanding.
And it doesn’t stop there; Black Panther will help save the world when the chips are down, but he’s the ruler of Wakanda. That’s his home, and that’s his primary concern. The borders may be open, and he may sometimes go on his own international missions, but the expectation is that he’s both the king and the protector of his own people in a very specific place. Being torn between serving his homeland and serving humanity has been a frequent theme of T’Challa’s comics for decades.
The same thing applies to Captain Marvel, who seems to prioritize all of space above the needs of Earth. She may also show up when needed, it just has to be a large need before she flies back to our planet to make a difference at the very end.
Dr. Strange is a little ... weirder case, because his mandate is to oversee magic out of his Tribeca brownstone. His worries are likely a bit larger than the monster of the week that make up most stand-alone Marvel films, and even during the events of Infinity War his primary worry was in keeping the Time Stone safe.
So it could be tricky to bump some junior members of the Avengers up to leading roles and create a flexible, international team out of the remaining heroes — heroes who may not take to being protectors of humanity as naturally as the original team. There’s going to be tension and insecurities, and Spider-Man has already begun to address that shift. This is the tension we’re likely to see in the next few movies.
And this was an expected part of the shift into phase four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“Some supporting characters will assume leading roles, while some new characters will be introduced,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently told Variety. “The reward for all of these films working is that we get to try to do it again and do it differently and learn from our mistakes and try something we haven’t tried before.”
The act of stepping up and growing into leadership roles will likely prove challenging for more heroes than just Spider-Man, with all this change happening across the lives of so many superheroes after Endgame. But the youngest Avenger gets to lead the way on that journey for now, even if it’s not quite how he expected his Avengers promotion to happen.