Marvel's Phase Four: 9 Questions We Have About What's to Come in the MCU

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Marvel's barnburner of a Comic-Con panel provided plenty of answers about what's to come in the MCU: The Doctor Strange sequel will finally explore the multiverse, Shangi-Chi will tie up loose threads from Iron Man 3, and yes, Chris Hemsworth is returning for a fourth Thor movie. (And not, as far as we know, Asgardians of the Galaxy.) But as is always the case with Marvel, I was left with just as many questions. Like...

Natalie Portman???????

This is only a question in so much as it ends with one thousand question marks. I am truly gagged that Natalie "as far as I know, I'm done" Portman is not only returning to the MCU, but she is back in a truly substantial role: Female Thor. (That is, Jane Foster will be the one wielding the hammer in Thor: Love and Thunder.) Sure, she recorded a bit of new dialogue for Avengers: Endgame, but I never expected this and I am absolutely giddy that it is happening.

Will Tessa Thompson be the MCU's first LGBT superhero?

Valkyrie is officially queer. Thompson revealed as much when she teased that in Love and Thunder, the newly crowned King of Asgard will be looking for her queen. You'd love to see it. (Especially after she got short shrift in the romance department in Ragnarok.) But with four films and as many Disney+ series opening before Thor 4's November 2021 release date, could another hero best Valkyrie to the punch? (Looking at you, Eternals ensemble.)

Seriously, when does Black Widow take place in the MCU timeline?

When a solo Black Widow movie was first reported, it was widely assumed that it would be a prequel set before the events of Iron Man 2, tracking Natasha's journey from Red Room to S.H.I.E.L.D. But when Black Widow was officially announced in Hall H, director Cate Shortland was rather vague on when the film takes place and the footage shown didn't appear to be digitally de-aging Scarlett Johansson and various members of the cast have said it takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War. I assume it will still deal with Natasha's backstory, but I remain curious about the where, when and why of Black Widow, especially since it's kicking off Phase 4.

Will Anthony Mackie officially adopt the Captain America moniker?

Avengers: Endgame saw Steve Rogers pass the mantle of Cap on to Mackie's Sam Wilson, which made me wonder if the previously announced The Falcon and the Winter Soldier would actually be Captain America and the Winter Soldier. (Which, admittedly, would be confusing since there is already a Captain America: The Winter Soldier.) Alas, it remains the former. The show's title treatment, however, showcases Captain America's star-spangled shield and Mackie confirmed to MTV News that he will be donning the Captain America suit. But will he ever drop the Falcon codename and go by Cap?

Are the Black Panther and Captain Marvel sequels part of Phase 5, then? What about X-Men, Fantastic Four and Blade?

The five films and five series presented make up the two-year rollout of Phase 4. But at the very end of the panel, Kevin Feige also name-dropped Black Panther 2, Captain America 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, the Fantastic Four and X-Men, before unveiling one of the biggest surprises of the night: Mahershala Ali will play the vampire-hunting half-vampire Blade in the MCU. Could any of those titles still sneak into Phase 4, or will they make up a Phase 5 starting in 2022? (How dare Marvel introduce a grown-up Monica Rambeau and not give us an official release date for Captain Marvel 2!) Noticeably absent from the slate was any mention of Ant-Man...

Speaking of Blade, how is the MCU going to handle vampires?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is set to be Marvel's first foray into horror. Perhaps that film will lay the groundwork for Blade to introduce literal bloodsuckers into a cinematic universe that has largely eschewed that which cannot be explained scientifically. Alas, that seems to be a question for Phase 5.

Where does the Spider-Man threequel fit into all of this?

It's important to note this is Marvel Studios' slate, which may explain why a third installment in the Spider-Man franchise wasn't mentioned. (That property officially belongs to Sony Pictures, who struck a deal with Marvel to sort of share him.) Sony seems eager to keep the momentum going on Tom Holland's Spidey, so I expect the big wigs over there will want to get the ball rolling on a Far From Home follow-up ASAP. Will Spider-Man 3 be added to the tail end of this Phase? And what will that Marvel-Sony partnership even look like in 2022, with the latter going all-in on Spider-Man-adjacent properties like Venom and the upcoming Morbius?

So...what about the Skrulls?

The post-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home dropped a massive bombshell, revealing that [Spoiler warning!] Nick Fury was actually a Skrull in disguise throughout the film. Meanwhile, Fury was "vacationing" on a Skrull ship out in space. But, as of now, nothing in this Phase 4 slate seems directly connected to that storyline. The Captain Marvel sequel will surely pick that thread up in Phase 5 -- leading into a Secret Invasions film in Phase 6? -- but that end-credits scene seems too important for the Skrulls to not pop up somewhere else in Phase 4.

Is this all gearing up to another assembling of Avengers?

While Phase 4 features some exciting inter-universe crossovers -- Scarlet Witch joining Doctor Strange 2, Monica Rambeau will be in WandaVision -- the slate is noticeably missing a big team-up movie. There is no Avengers coming in the next few years. That said, I have to assume the Avengers will assemble again. But when? And who will make up that team? I assume Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange will be on the roster, along with Shang-Chi and Spider-Man? What about Kate Bishop? Scarlet Witch? Female Thor? The new Captain America? I will say, Phase 4 does not leave us lacking in possibilities.