Theorizing MARVEL STUDIOS’ Interconnected Storylines
It’s been a little over three months since Marvel Studios properly kicked off its Phase 4. Both WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are now behind us, two shows that gave us but a glimpse of what is in store in the coming years in terms of the interconnectivity between the different IPs that make up the MCU. This is something Kevin Feige himself made extremely clear this past December, during the Disney Investor Day 2020:
The Cinematic Universe weaves storylines of heroes and villains across twenty-three feature films to date, and with Disney+ we’re able to extend this way of storytelling to a new format, creating series that are connected to our theatrical releases making the MCU more immersive than ever.
As for WandaVision, it managed to bring together characters from properties that seemed somewhat foreign to its titular characters (bringing them in from Thor, Captain Marvel, and Ant-Man). The Falcon and The Winter Soldier did almost the exact opposite. It grabbed most of its main characters from the same feature (Captain America: Civil War) and continued their arcs in a way that seems to hint at them diverging into several other (new) IPs. The common ground between both approaches seems quite simple: when the story asks for it, characters will come and go from whatever property that needs them to. With this in mind, and with the number of projects Marvel Studios has already announced, it’s hard to not try and envision some of the paths the stories these characters might take us on.
The existing connective tissue between properties is stronger with some than with others, even though Marvel Studios will always end up surprising us one way or another. But most of the more realistic theorizing (if there even is such a thing), taking into account the information that has already come out regarding casts, plots, and so on, seems to hint at a clear/not clear separation between what are the military-powered, skill-driven heroes and the more mystic and cosmic side of the MCU. So being, we’ll now focus on the first of these two groups.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier seems to be at the heart of the stories we might end up exploring on this side of the spectrum. With Karli Morgenthau being one of the few main characters to have (apparently) died, all the others are now ready to move on, each doing their own thing. With Sam Wilson as Captain America, he seems like a given to star in the upcoming fourth installment of the Captain America series. As for Bucky Barnes, with a Nomad series apparently in development, Barnes seems like a perfect fit. As for James “War Machine” Rhodes, he might now become the direct link to Iron Man’s legacy Riri Williams comes into contact with in Ironheart, before both move into Armor Wars, where they could be met by Sharon Carter in her newfound MCU role. Black Widow will introduce us to Yelena Belova who can seamlessly move on to Hawkeye (even if just to attend a memorial service), where Echo will be show up before staring in her own show.
Shifting our attention to the other side of the diagram, we find several connections between shows that have already been confirmed. Monica Rambeau will be back in the franchise where she was first introduced, where she will be met by Kamala Khan who will have already been introduced in the Ms. Marvel series. Both might be met in The Marvels by Talos, who will also have a role to play in the upcoming Secret Invasion alongside Nick Fury. As to Wanda Maximoff, now the Scarlet Witch, she is certain to continue her story in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness which may become the epicenter of every upcoming property dealing with the Multiverse. Loki and Spider-Man: Far From Home seem like projects that are likely to have strong connections to the second Doctor Strange feature for obvious plot reasons, at the same time as they connect through other storylines to yet another set of properties. With the information coming out of Loki that Gugu Mbatha-Raw will be playing Judge Renslayer (meaning that almost certainly that makes her Ravonna Renslayer) it becomes highly likely that Kang will make an appearance, ahead of his already highlighted presence in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, played by the brilliant Jonathan Majors.
These stories alone are certain to keep Marvel gaining momentum for years to come, but what seems to be the endgame here? Establishing new properties where characters from all over manage to meet for the first time, bringing together story threads from all sides of the MCU, certainly seems like a possibility. Projects that haven’t been announced as that might somewhat spoil the plots leading up to them. It should be no coincidence that a number of upcoming projects will seamlessly allow for the introduction of Young Avengers members, much like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier managed to do with Tommy and Billy Maximoff, and Eli Bradley, respectively. Kate Bishop is already confirmed to be debuting in Hawkeye, and the rest of the team will probably soon follow, with Teddy perhaps being introduced in Secret Invasion, America Chavez in Doctor Strange 2, and Cassie Lang returning, as Stature, in Quantumania. Therefore, a Young Avengers series/movie should definitively be in the works bringing together their individual storylines. Another team being put together, even though a much different one, should be the focus of the Thunderbolts. With Baron Zemo and Abomination brought back, Taskmaster (the mantle) surviving Black Widow, and with Ghost still alive after Ant-Man and the Wasp, there is no reason for it not to be in the cards. Another feature that could serve as a continuation to John Walker’s story, maybe even bringing Yelena into the mix, and perhaps managing to dig up an Osborn to lead them, is The Dark Avengers. Marvel Studios knows that they can’t top the Avengers team they built up until Avengers: Endgame, so this focus on alternate teams, some of dubious character, would certainly be welcomed as a great change of pace.
There are a few projects that have already been announced that played no part in this theory. For all I know they might end up becoming the most crucial chapters of the MCU going forward. The Fantastic Four, due to their relevance, or the Eternals, due to their scope, certainly have that ability. But for now, this is it. Maybe in a couple of months, the script will be flipped and a new article will be in the works.