The Marvel Cinematic Universe is stepping into a new era following its lengthy and wildly successful Infinity Saga. With Thanos and the Infinity Stones now in the franchise’s rear view mirror, Marvel is in the beginning stages of Phase Four of their comic book universe brought to life.
Phase One introduced the founding members of the Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. That phase culminated with Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012. Phase Two expanded the MCU by introducing Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Ant-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Winter Soldier.
In Phase Three, Thanos stepped into the spotlight and Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel were added to the fold. While the battle with Thanos ended in Avengers: Endgame, Phase Three was technically brought to a close one movie later with Spider-Man: Far From Home.
What has made Phase Four particularly unique so far is the inclusion of television shows on Disney Plus to further the narrative in a way previous spin-off shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter never did.
With the first movie of the next phase set to hit theaters this summer, here’s everything we know so far about Phase Four:
WandaVision (Disney Plus, January-March 2021)
Initially, Wanda Maximoff’s attempt to cope with loss by turning her life into a sitcom was set to be released after both Black Widow and Falcon and Winter Solider. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shuffle and the show instead served as a strong start of a new Marvel era.
For those who haven’t seen the show (which you certainly should) but don’t mind spoilers, the important things to know moving forward are that Wanda fully realized her powers as the Scarlet Witch and ended the series studying the Darkhold, an ancient book of powerful, dark spells. It will likely play a major role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The other key takeaway is that an all white version of Vision now exists and seemed to be on the path toward recovering the character’s memories.
The Falcon and the Winter Solider (Disney Plus, March-April 2021)
This show was set to be the first Disney Plus series, but instead it came up second in Phase Four. The series is heavily influenced by the retirement of Steve Rogers as Captain America, and deals with the global unrest that came with half the world’s population disappearing for five years before reappearing.
The show eventually determined who will carry the title of Captain America moving forward: Sam Wilson.
Loki (Disney Plus, June-July 2021)
It was a roller coaster road for Loki through the Infinity Saga. He appeared to kill himself in Thor only to appear in a post-credits scene. He tried to destroy Earth in The Avengers, but wound up imprisoned in Asgard. In Thor: The Dark World, he appeared to die again when he saved Thor in a fight with the Dark Elves. Most recently, Loki was killed in Avengers: Endgame by Thanos.
But here he is again, in a series that tasks Loki with fixing the timelines that he pushed into chaos when he disappeared with the Tesseract during the time-traveling exploits of Avengers characters in Endgame. Whether or not this series will return Loki to the current MCU timeline remains to be seen, but Disney Plus is reportedly already at work on a second season of Loki.
Black Widow (July 9, 2021)
Finally, the movie that was supposed to kickoff Phase Four will hit theaters with Scarlett Johansson playing Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff for the final time. Make no mistake, Romanoff died in Endgame and as Hawkeye told the rest of the Avengers, “it can’t be undone.” But this movie is a prequel of sorts, set after the events of Captain America: Civil War that left Black Widow and several other heroes as fugitives on the run.
The film will give backstory on how Romanoff came to be the Black Widow and “hand the baton” for the character to Florence Pugh who will play Yelena Belova, the character who takes over as Black Widow.
What If…? (Disney Plus, Summer 2021)
There’s no release date yet for this show, but it’s a stretch to even call it part of Phase Four, regardless. The animated show will be full of hypothetical scenarios that reimagine the MCU. For example, the first episode will investigate how the Marvel world would be different had Peggy Carter been the one to receive the Super Soldier Serum instead of Steve Rogers.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Sept. 3, 2021)
Shang-Chi is a character who hasn’t yet appeared in the MCU, but has had a long comic book arc. He’s a master of martial arts and didn’t originally have superpowers, although there were a few instances when he gained temporary powers.
Details about the plot of the film are few and far between, but the title makes it clear it will delve into the Ten Rings, an organization that was briefly mentioned in the Iron Man trilogy. The movie will also re-introduce the Mandarin, a villain who was seemingly revealed in Iron Man 3, but turned out to be an actor named Trevor Slattery. In a short video called All Hail the King that’s included on the Thor: The Dark World DVD, Slattery was broken out of jail by a member of the Ten Rings to take him to meet the real Mandarin.
Eternals (Nov. 5, 2021)
In January 2020, Marvel released a brief synopsis about the Eternals, a group of “ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years” and are forced to reunite to defeat “mankind’s most ancient enemy, the Deviants.”
“The outstanding ensemble cast include Richard Madden as the all-powerful Ikaris,” Marvel wrote on its website. “Gemma Chan as humankind-loving Sersi, Kumail Nanjiani as the cosmic-powered Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as the super-fast Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as the intelligent inventor Phastos, Salma Hayek as the wise and spiritual leader Ajak, Lia McHugh as the eternally young, old-soul Sprite, Don Lee as the powerful Gilgamesh, Barry Keoghan as the aloof loner Druig, Angelina Jolie as the fierce warrior Thena, and Kit Harrington was cast as Dane Whitman.”
The movie was originally set to premiere in November 2020, but was pushed back a year due to the pandemic.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (Dec. 17, 2021)
In a post-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker’s identity was revealed to the world in a video recorded by a dying Mysterio.
How that’ll affect Spider-Man’s world remains to be seen, but what we do know is that Jamie Foxx will reprise his role as Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) and Alfred Molina will return as Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man 2 (2004). There are even rumors that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will reprise their previous portrayals of Spider-Man.
Ms. Marvel (Disney Plus, Late 2021)
Carol Danvers was the first comic book character to bear the title Ms. Marvel back in 1968 and she actually didn’t take over the mantle as Captain Marvel until 2012. In February 2014, Kamala Khan took over as Ms. Marvel and became the first Muslim character to headline a Marvel comic book.
Khan is a 16-year-old Pakistani-American from New Jersey who writes Captain Marvel fan fiction and gains shape-shifting powers.
Hawkeye (Disney Plus, Late 2021)
Clint Barton was one of the first Avengers on the big screen, despite being one of the few without superpowers. The series will reportedly explore his time as Ronin, the vigilante who went on a killing spree of criminals between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. It’ll also pass on the title of “Hawkeye” from Barton to Kate Bishop, who will be played by Hailee Steinfeld.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (March 25, 2022)
The Doctor Strange sequel will see the return of Wanda Maximoff, who has now fully realized her powers as the Scarlet Witch and has spent time studying the Darkhold. The movie is also expected to tie into the time traveling show, Loki, and the multiverse aspects of Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Thor: Love and Thunder (May 6, 2022)
Taika Waititi is writing and directing the fourth standalone Thor film after earning rave reviews for his work as director of Thor: Ragnarok. The film will reportedly see Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster become the female version of Thor, a storyline that happened in the comic books in 2014. It will also feature several members of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (July 8, 2022)
The tragic death of Chadwick Boseman from colon cancer leaves this franchise without the star who became an iconic centerpiece of the MCU. His character, T’Challa, will not be recast and will not be recreated with CGI.
The Marvels (Nov. 11, 2022)
Monica Rambeau developed the superpowers that make her the hero Photon during her time on WandaVision and Kamala Khan will be introduced in Ms. Marvel at the end of 2021. Those two characters will presumably have an impact on the Captain Marvel sequel that comes at the end of 2022.
Moon Knight (Disney Plus, 2022)
Oscar Isaac will portray Marc Spector, a martial arts-based character who draws his power from the moon.
She-Hulk (Disney Plus, 2022)
Tatiana Maslany will play Jennifer Walters, the cousin of Bruce Banner who receives similar superpowers after getting a blood transfusion from him.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (Disney Plus, Late 2022)
The special (which is presumably a spoof on the famously terrible Star Wars Holiday Special) could help set up the third Guardians of the Galaxy film, which will follow soon after.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Feb. 17, 2023)
Kathryn Newton has been cast to play Scott Lang’s daughter, Cassie Lang, in the film. In the comics, Cassie Lang eventually joins the Young Avengers as the hero, Stature.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 (May 5, 2023)
Secret Invasion (Disney Plus, ?)
Nick Fury developed a relationship with the Skrulls in Captain Marvel and was revealed to be in space with them at the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home. In this series, Fury is expected to take center stage when a sect of Skrulls infiltrate Earth.
Ironheart (Disney Plus, ?)
Armor Wars (Disney Plus, ?)
Fantastic Four (?)
Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali has been cast as the lead in a reboot of the Blade franchise.