We know quite a bit about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe now, but one element we can only speculate about at this point is the inevitable event that will bring the MCU together for another franchise-spanning superhero team-up.
Marvel Comics’ Civil War, Age of Ultron, and Infinity War are just a few of the comic-book sagas to serve as source material for MCU films, but there are still plenty of story arcs from Marvel’s comics canon that have yet to find their way to the screen. Here are a few of the big stories that could inspire the MCU’s next crossover event or franchise-spanning saga.
When a massive armada of warships emerges from a neighboring dimension known as the Negative Zone, Marvel’s cosmic heroes — and even a few villains — must unite to stop the invasion force known as the Annihilation Wave from conquering every world in its path.
This 2006 crossover event penned by Keith Giffen spanned multiple series, bringing in nearly every possible character from the outer-space regions of Marvel’s comic-book universe and pitting them against the evil, insect-like villain Annihilus, a recurring foe of the Fantastic Four, and his ruthless, all-consuming swarm.
Along with pushing Marvel’s cosmic characters back into the spotlight, Annihilation was also instrumental in establishing the version of the Guardians of the Galaxy team (with Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, and Drax) that eventually made its way to the screen. Many of the story’s main characters (including Thanos and Ronan, to name a few) currently exist in the MCU, so if the studio wants to go that route, the initial groundwork for a big-screen version of Annihilation has already been established.
The Kree-Skrull War
Thanks to 2019’s Captain Marvel, MCU fans are well-acquainted with the ongoing, interstellar conflict between the militaristic Kree and the shape-changing Skrulls. Back in the early 1970s, Marvel Comics writer Roy Thomas used that war — and specifically, how it affected Earth’s heroes — as the backdrop for a wide-ranging story that unfolded in the pages of the Avengers series and featured a massive (by that era’s standards) lineup of characters.
Past and present Avengers all featured prominently in the saga of the Kree-Skrull War, as well as various incarnations of the Captain Marvel character, and a host of Kree, Skrull, and other cosmic heroes and villains.
It’s worth noting that the MCU has seemingly flipped the script when it comes to the Kree and Skrull, with the latter traditionally filling the villain role in Marvel’s comics but now seemingly positioned as an ally to the Avengers in the studio’s live-action universe. This change has already provided some unexpected moments (like the post-credits scene in Spider-Man: Far From Home involving Nick Fury), but it seems clear that there are still more stories to tell when it comes to the alien shape-shifters — so this could be a big one for them, no matter how the roles play out.
One of the biggest crossover events of all time, Marvel’s Secret Wars debuted in May 1984 and offered one of the first story arcs that brought together major characters from across the publisher’s entire line of solo and team series. The premise had a powerful, enigmatic alien entity known as The Beyonder transport various heroes and villains to Battleworld, a distant planet where they’re forced to fight each other to win their freedom.
The series threw together various members of the Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four, as well as Spider-Man, Hulk, and other solo heroes, and pitted them against some of their greatest enemies, including Doctor Doom, Magneto, Ultron, and even Galactus. It was particularly notable for mixing up the usual assignments of heroes and villains, with X-Men villains fighting the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man villains fighting the X-Men, and so on.
If Marvel Studios is looking for a way to take all of their live-action toys and smash them together in an epic Battle Royale-style brawl, they could look to Secret Wars for inspiration.
House of M
The X-Men haven’t been formally introduced to the MCU yet, but this story arc — which kicked off in 2005 and drastically altered the entire Marvel Comics line for years — offers an intriguing opportunity to retroactively bring Marvel’s mutants into the mix.
The events of House of M spill out of a frustrated, emotionally disturbed Scarlet Witch using her powers to change the very fabric of reality to make mutants the dominant species on Earth. The story explores what life would be like for many of Marvel’s most popular heroes, villains, and their supporting cast in this new world, and both established a wide range of new characters and changed the status quo for quite a few veteran characters.
Although the X-Men are a big part of the story, House of M changed much about the worlds of the Avengers, Spider-Man, and countless other key figures in Marvel’s comics. Characters who previously had powers lost them in the aftermath of House of M, while other characters gained powers or had them altered in significant ways.
Given that Scarlet Witch has already been established as an MCU heavyweight (with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige even suggesting she could have beaten Thanos), it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the studio had her powers play a role in bringing the X-Men into the fold — and in doing so, setting the stage for another massive crossover event.
In yet another crossover event that shaped Marvel’s comics for years to come, this 2008 series revealed that the shape-changing Skrulls had infiltrated Earth years ago, with many prominent characters discovered to be Skrull agents in disguise.
The series had heroes and villains alike questioning who to trust as one figure after another was outed as a secret Skrull, and the extent of their infiltration called into question everything fans knew about Marvel’s history up to that point. It also prompted readers to look back through Marvel’s recent history and popular story arcs for potential clues about who might be a Skrull.
Marvel Studios’ decision to have the Skrulls ally themselves with the Avengers in the MCU makes a Secret Invasion-inspired film a bit more complicated, but not impossible — after all, there’s no official word on how many Skrulls are on Earth in the MCU and how long they’ve been there.
There’s a lot that remains unknown about the Skrulls at this point, so much like in Marvel’s comics, their existence in the MCU offers some interesting narrative possibilities when it comes to reversing or otherwise changing certain characters’ fates (i.e., “He was a Skrull all along!”). And as we saw in Spider-Man: Far From Home, anything can happen.
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