The Marvel Cinematic Universe slows down for no one, and with Captain America: Civil War having dominated the box office last year, it’s time to reflect on what’s next. The MCU is now officially into Phase 3, kicked off in style by a showdown between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. In a movie jam-packed with heroes new and old, it sets up tons of future stories, unlocking different and intriguing parts of the Marvel universe we’ve yet to explore.
We already saw a fair deal of hints in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Civil War drew a far more direct line toward the future of Phase 3. The upcoming slate of Marvel movies introduces a bevy of new faces to the Avengers, as well as a collection of never-before-seen villains. There’ll still be a fair share of familiar faces as well, but it’s the standalone movies for heroes like Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and more that really stand out. To understand what’s on the horizon, let’s break down everything Civil War gave us.
1. A divided Avengers
Civil War wasn’t just a friendly dispute between allies: It was a knock-down, drag-out brawl that forever changes the relationship between two de facto leaders of the Avengers. It divided the whole team right down the middle, and makes it hard to see how they’ll manage to come together in time to battle Thanos in Infinity War. That also could set the stage for Thanos gathering the power he needs: A divided group of heroes is a distracted one, and with the Avengers not at full-strength, it affords a villain like the Mad Titan everything he needs to quietly seize power.
2. A new Captain America?
Steve Rogers may be the only Captain America movie fans know, but the iconic stars and stripes have been donned by multiple other heroes in the comics. We saw Steve hang up the shield at the end of Civil War, and then rescue his fellow heroes from prison wearing black fatigues, indicating that he’s no longer operating under the Captain America mantle. In the comics, both Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes take up the shield at certain points, and with the pair established as Steve’s closest friends, either one could logically do the same in the MCU moving forward. For what it’s worth, Chris Evans’s contract with Marvel expires after the first Infinity War movie, although he’s indicated a willingness to extend it should the studio come calling.
3. Setting up Thor: Ragnarok
Conspicuously absent from Civil War was the god of thunder himself, Thor. His absence was noted by Thaddeus Ross, who criticized the Avengers for not keeping tabs on both Thor and the Hulk. The predominant rumors tell us that the pair will be teaming up in Thor: Ragnarok, directed by What We Do in the Shadows mastermind Taika Waititi. Age of Ultron sent some strong hints towards the apocalyptic themes to come, with Ragnarok known in Norse mythology as the signal to the world’s end. Civil War in turn emphasized Thor and Bruce Banner’s connection, and we’ll see that partnership in action soon enough.
4. Introducing Black Panther and Wakanda
In the comics, Wakanda is a secretive African nation believed to be the most advanced in the world. Having barely been mentioned up until Civil War, it’s left the MCU plenty of leeway in terms of building the country out creatively. The Black Panther subplot was one of the stronger B-stories in the film, with T’Challa becoming the chieftain of Wakanda following the death of his father in a United Nations bombing. The cutscene at the end showed Bucky being put back into cryo-stasis in a Wakanda facility. Could that be our first clue at a Winter Soldier/Black Panther team-up once the standalone Ryan Coogler-led movie hits theaters in 2018?
5. The Secret Avengers
This could potentially take us beyond Phase 3, but it’s worth pointing out nonetheless. The ending of Civil War shows Steve Rogers rescuing Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon from General Ross’s “Raft” prison. Not-so-coincidentally, those are the same heroes who eventually form the Secret Avengers in the comic source material, led by (you guessed it) Steve Rogers. With the Sokovia Accords declaring Steve and company criminals, they have no choice but to operate in the shadows moving forward. We also have no clues as to what the Phase 4 Avengers will look like, making this the first logical choice post-Infinity War.
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