With the Infinity Saga complete, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to enter a bold, new and Avenger-less era. While the specifics aren’t entirely clear, it seems that Phase 4 of the MCU will only last for 2 years and as we continue to learn more about it, it certainly seems like at least part of its purpose is to prepare us for something, to use familiar Marvel terminology, All-New and All-Different.
Black Widow, The Eternals, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder will hit the big screen while The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, What If…? and Hawkeye (and possibly Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and She-Hulk) will continue the narrative over on Disney Plus. It appears as if The Eternals is going to be a deep dive into the ancient history of the MCU while also planting the seeds for future stories. As I discussed before, Doctor Strange: Into the Multiverse of Madness, in conjunction with WandaVision and Loki, seems poised to change the very nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by truly opening up and exploring the multiverse. The other projects really seem like they’ll be utilized to transition to legacy heroes (Yelena Belova, Falcon-Cap, Jane Foster/Thor and Kate Bishop) or expand the reach of the MCU into previously unexplored corners and genres (Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings). What’s interesting is that we can’t be entirely sure which of these projects takes place in the MCU’s present day of 2023 which allows the MCU to potentially go on for another 2 years without assembling new heroes to fill the void left following the disassembling of the Avengers following Avengers: Endgame.
Enter the MCU’s smallest franchise: Ant-Man. Both Ant-Man and Ant-Man and The Wasp were smaller budget films that followed major MCU event films in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War, respectively, and were never perceived as “must-see films” despite the second film’s connection to the events of Avengers: Endgame. If there is any truth to the rumors, first shared on our podcast, that Ant-Man 3 may serve as the platform on which the Young Avengers assemble, we could see the final film in Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man trilogy grow to new heights both in popularity and in its impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In following up on the original Young Avengers rumors, I haven’t come across any confirmation of their appearance, but I have consistently heard from other sources to expect something on a much larger scale for Ant-Man 3, so large that the studio has already begun early pre-production work on the film. So while I still can’t confirm Ant-Man and the Young Avengers, I also still can’t entirely rule it out and am left to think about just what that film could look like.
Given that Ant-Man 3 is happening in 2022, the film wouldn’t introduce audiences to the characters, but it could serve as the film in which the team unites. Just exactly who will be on the team isn’t entirely clear, but there are some members who should be ready to go by 2022. Cassie Lang is already in the MCU and definitely ready to rock and roll as her dad’s parter. It appears as though WandaVision will introduce two members of the team in twins Tommy and Billy Kaplan, aka Speed and Wiccan, the children of the Vision and Scarlet Witch, and Kate Bishop is set to make her debut in Hawkeye, meaning we could have 4 core members of the first iteration of the team by the end of 2021. That leaves Teddy Altman, aka Hulkling, Elijah Bradley, aka Patriot and Nathaniel Richards, aka Iron Lad, (aka Kang!) as founding members of the team that still need to be introduced. Given the introduction of the Kree-Skrull conflict in Captain Marvel, it’s not too tough to imagine a way for Hulkling to show up and given that The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will deal with the legacy of Captain America, it is possible that we find a way to get to Patriot. That leaves us with the most interesting and problematic of the Young Avengers: the young, future Kang.
In the comics, Nathaniel Richards, after discovering he is fated to become the evil warlord Kang, travels back in time to seek the help of the Avengers. Finding them disassembled, Richards hacks into the Vision and discovers that the Avengers have identified a group of teens who could step in as the next generation of heroes if anything should happen to them. Richards assembles these heroes, the Young Avengers, and begins filling the void left by the Avengers. the Young Avengers ultimately came into conflict with Captain America and Iron Man after their exploits gained the attention of the two Avengers. While the two groups butted heads, they eventually came together to intervene in a major conflict between the Kree and Skrulls that centered around the heritage of one of Hulkling.
Well it’s unlikely we see a direct adaptation of their comic book origins, it’s not too hard to see a way that they could slide into the MCU. The present day of the MCU, as seen in Spider-Man: Far From Home, is a time without Avengers. As I mentioned above, many of the characters will be introduced ahead of Ant-Man 3, so it’s just a matter of bringing them together. Given that Ant-Man is one of the few remaining Avengers and the only one with a film franchise, it certainly seems possible that we could see some universe shifting events including the Young Avengers take place in the third film.
The family friendly franchise seems like a great place to introduce the new team and provide them with opportunities to be mentored by Earth’s remaining Avengers. In a recent interview, Mark Ruffalo indicated that this sort of mentorship might indeed be something we see in the future, saying he’d like to see the Hulk interact with the new heroes that will be introduced and act as a “guru to some of the younger ones.” While I’m not sure we’ll see an actual academy with classrooms and lunch breaks, I could certainly see Scott, Hope, Clint, Rhodey, and Hulk (and maybe even Wanda and/or Vision) bringing a bit of an Avengers Academy vibe to the story. As for what that story might be, I think Avengers: Endgame may have left some a bread crumb or two.
Tony Stark invented time travel and, as he told Cap, when you mess with time, it tends to mess back. While that certainly happened within the events of Endgame when Thanos traveled forward to 2023 to lay waste to Earth, I’m not sure we’ve seen the end of time messing back. If ever there were a time to introduce Kang, it would be in the next few years. Should Marvel Studios version of the Fantastic Four hit theaters ahead of Ant-Man 3, say in February of 2022, the great 31st century conqueror could be first introduced there, making his younger self’s appearance possible in Reed’s third Ant-Man film. Of course this is nothing but pure speculation and there’s probably all kinds of timey-wimey stuff to consider, but one can always ponder the possibilities.
How would you like to see the Young Avengers brought together in the MCU? Let me hear your thoughts below!