The newest phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels a little different than the phases that came before. After Avengers: Endgame, we are in a period where the franchise is transitioning, rebuilding itself by setting up a brand new overarching storyline. At this point, so early into the new phase, it’s far too early to tell what the future of the franchise will look like, although projects like Loki and Spider-Man: No Way Home heavily suggest that the MCU is all-in on exploring the multiverse.
In typical Marvel Studios fashion, details about future projects and the stories within those projects are kept under the strictest of watch. As we are all well aware, Marvel is very detail-oriented and knows that any single leak could give away the entire long-term plan (I seriously can’t stress enough — don’t underestimate the brain power of the Marvel fandom. A crumb is truly all they need to put the pieces together in its entirety).
While the multiverse is clearly the main storyline, there are still other narratives that are being told more subtly (that will more likely than not tie into the overarching plotline of the multiverse). That includes the upcoming Secret Invasion streaming series, not to mention the presumed upcoming introduction of Dark Avengers as assembled by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and the Young Avengers.
Why Phase Four is dark af
In Phase Four, we see a lot of morally gray characters who find themselves in the mind-deteriorating Trolley Problem — which is essentially a series of thought experiments in ethics and psychology that hypothesize ethical dilemmas of whether to sacrifice one person to save a larger number.
Right out of the gates, we are introduced to John Walker, who temporarily took up the mantle of Captain America, only to dishonorably lose the title and become the U.S. Agent, an anti-hero, under the direction of Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. In the same vein, Yelena Belova, a former Black Widow from the Red Room, also comes from a troubled past and finds her road to redemption through contracted work with de Fontaine.
Now that we are semi-acquainted with the new faces, what about the familiar faces? After the events of Avengers: Endgame, our attention was brought immediately to the post-Endgame stories of Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch), Sam Wilson (Falcon), Bucky Barnes (Winter Solider), and Loki Laufeyson in their own respective Disney+ series. Each of these characters had their own Avengers mentor that served as somewhat of a moral compass and emotional grounding for them. Wanda had Vision, Sam and Bucky had Steve Rogers/Captain America, and Loki had his older brother Thor Odinson.
The effects of Endgame left Wanda, Sam, and Bucky without their moral compasses and Loki is stuck in a cosmic time and space bureau with no one. Without their grounding person, these morally gray characters are left to their own devices, to grieve their loss on their own without any support. “With great power, comes great responsibility” and each of these characters possess extremely great power and have been seen to struggle immensely with handling the responsibility that comes along with it.
Yes, we are seeing a lot of coping and dealing with consequences in Phase Four, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the previous phases, Marvel heroes were presented as something shiny, new, and nearly-perfect. Granted, they had their own personal struggles and there was even an instance where they clashed with one another — but seldom did we see their personal pain transform them into something more grand and potentially more dangerous.
In other Marvel news, Eternals might have just set up a larger than life villain and Marvel changed Mr. Marvel’s power, angering fans.
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