Marvel Studios Most Pedestrian Stinger of 2021 Might Have Been Hinting at a Much Bigger Story

After sitting out 2020 due to the pandemic, Marvel Studios returned with 4 films in 2021. Black Widow, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals and Spider-Man: No Way Home all took their turns in theaters and introduced fans to new characters who would be a part of the future of the MCU. The first three films also had both mid-credit and post-credit scenes that, upon further review, may have followed a potentially intriguing pattern that serves as the basis of this wildly speculative piece.

Eternals featured a mid-credit scene that seemed to set up an Eternals sequel and a post-credit scene that seemed to set up a spinoff project, in this case, Black Knight. The mid-credit scene following Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings felt like a set up for the sequel, which we recently learned will see the return of Destin Daniel Cretton as both writer and director, while the post-credit scene guaranteed that we’d see the return of the Ten Rings organization, now headed up by Xialing, which could be one of the Disney Plus properties Cretton chooses to develop as part of his new deal. Finally, Black Widow’s post-credit scene set up Yelena Belova’s recent appearance in the Disney Plus streaming series, Hawkeye; however, upon first, second, third, fourth and fifth viewings, the mid-credit scene for the film seemed to be little more than a cute nod Avengers: Infinity War. Upon further review, however, it’s possible that there is more to that scene than meets the eye.

Black Widow takes place in 2016, following the events of Captain America: Civil War, leaving the better part of two years between it and the save-the-day entrance of Rogers, Black Widow and The Falcon in Scotland in Avengers: Infinity War. Could Marvel Studios be setting us up for more adventures with the duo?

Last year, we discovered that Marvel trademarked “Marvel Studios Nomad.” Among the several different trademarks on the property was one specific to “Entertainment services, namely, the development, creation, production, and distribution of digital multimedia and audio and visual content, namely, motion picture films, television programs, and multimedia entertainment…“, a trademark commonly filed when the studio plans to produce a film or series. Other similar trademarks were filed last year at the same time for the slew of projects Marvel Studios announced during their Investor’s Day presentation. Since the news of the trademarking broke, however, there’s been no mention of the development of any sort of a Nomad project at Marvel Studios, though the studio did file an additional trademark for Nomad just 4 months ago.

Shortly after the discovery of the Nomad trademarks, the news broke that Chris Evans was nearing a deal to return to the role of Steve Rogers in two potential MCU projects. Strangely enough, the trade noted that neither of those projects were expected to be Captain America projects. And of note to this wild theory is that, just recently, Marvel Studios One-Above-All, Kevin Feige, revealed that Scarlett Johansson was working with Marvel Studios on a “top secret, non-Black Widow-related project.” It’s easy enough to theorize that the return of both Johansson and Evans could be connected and related to either the Nomad project or another one of Evans’ potential projects.

Bringing the two back together would allow Marvel Studios to capitalize on the chemistry between Evans and Johansson, first seen in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It is during the time period mentioned above that Rogers, who put down the shield in Civil War, took on the mantle of Nomad, according the writers and directors of Infinity War. With nearly two full years of time to explore, it’s possible that a Johansson-produced project, starring Evans, could be in the works and would reunite Johansson’s Widow with Evans’ in a way that’s otherwise pretty tough given that one is dead and the other is 100 years old.

Could the project be called Nomad? Maybe. Sure it would feature the Secret Avengers (that’s the name of the group according to Joe Russo), but featuring them in a project called Nomad wouldn’t be any different than featuring the same group in a project called Captain America: Civil War. But the idea of them being the Secret Avengers is interesting enough in and of itself because, like most of what makes the MCU great, there’s a comic book behind it.

How Captain America's Secret Avengers Stayed Hidden in the MCU

In 2010, Ed Brubaker, whose Captain America run has defined the MCU’s Cap as much as anything, began writing an espionage-heavy series called Secret Avengers. In it, Rogers led a team of heroes, including Black Widow, that found themselves up against the Shadow Council, the Roxxon corporation and even Shang-Chi’s evil father. As the title indicates, they had to operate on the down low, much like Rogers’ team in the MCU would have had to do. Walking away from the shield almost certainly didn’t stop Rogers from doing what was right. Just because we didn’t see it on screen doesn’t mean that the MCU’s Secret Avengers weren’t active, but they certainly had to be discrete. And as we found out in Black Widow, Nat has some friends, one in particular that knows how to be discrete.

Black Widow introduced O-T Fagbenle’s Rick Mason, an ex-military character whose brief appearance showed us that he has some prior relationship with Nat and that he’s very, very good at finding things, especially given some time and money, as seen in the mid-credit scene in Black Widow. Fagbenle is charismatic, handsome and a rising star and has teased the return on the character down the road, saying it would be “criminal” for him not to return and that there’s a “great space” for him in the MCU.

And while a guy like Mason could show up just about anywhere, the hints at the relationship with Nat made him that much more interesting. That relationship could come in very, very handy in a Nomad project where Rogers and the Secret Avengers want to go out into the world to do some good, but don’t have Tony Stark bankrolling their projects. And that brings us full circle. When Nat takes off to break her pals out of prison at the end of Black Widow, it’s the beginning of something that we only see the end of two years later in Avengers: Infinity War, leaving a lot of stories to be told in between, the sweet spot for a Johansson-led Nomad project.

Any stories told during this time could bring in any number of villains from Cap’s rogues gallery that could or could not carry over into the era of Sam Wilson’s Captain America. Any stories told during that time could feature a run in between David Harbour’s Red Guardian and Evans’ Rogers. Any story told during that time could set up any number of villains or story lines to be further explored in Phases 4 or 5. Any stories told during that time could even feature Florence Pugh’s Yelena. You can see the pattern: just because these potential stories are told in the MCU’s past does not mean they can’t have a big impact on the MCU’s future, just like Black Widow has done.

Of course, this is all theoretical and, as such, based on almost no evidence. However, should Marvel Studios be planning on a Secret Avengers/Nomad project set in the post-Civil War/pre-Infinity War time period, at least we have some idea of just how fun it might be.

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