Marvel Phase 4: Five Big Questions the New Movies Will Likely Answer

The Eternals, Shang-Chi, and sequels to other movies pose a lot of questions. We need answers.

The end of Avengers: Endgame only left more questions than answers for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With a completely new landscape caused by the dissolution of the original Avengers, it remains to be seen what shape the MCU will take, as new movies and sequels are released in one of the biggest pop culture sandboxes ever.

At San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige will take the stage at the fabled Hall H to possibly, maybe reveal to fans the future of the MCU. While nothing is confirmed, we can intelligently guess a handful of the reveals that will be made this Saturday, July 20.

We know movies like Shang-Chi and The Eternals are in the works, and Black Widow is currently shooting in Europe. We know Marvel has sequels for Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, and as recently as yesterday, a fourth Thor movie. We don’t know anything else.

Here are some of the biggest questions we have that the MCU over its Phase 4 movies will likely answer for fans.

5. What Will Become of Spider-Man?

Spider-Man/Peter Parker was exposed to the world — no thanks to J. Jonah Jameson — in the post-credits of Spider-Man: Far From Home. As a youngin’ who can barely slip on his own costume, navigating public life can be a nightmare for a teenage vigilante.

A third Spider-Man movie is likely in the works between Marvel and Sony, but what will that movie look like? How will the rest of the MCU react to Spidey’s identity being exposed?

Wakanda is open to the rest of the world. Now what?

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4. What is Wakanda now that its borders are open?

An unresolved question from Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame was the once-hidden nation of Wakanda opening its borders and knowledge to the rest of the world.

Vibranium cars and weapons still aren’t commonplace in the everyday MCU, but now that the world knows exactly what Wakanda is capable of, how will that effect Wakanda’s people and T’Challa’s own ability to rule? Is Wakanda still a fabled technological fantasia even though its Vibranium is no longer exclusive?

The current state of Wakanda should be an important thing going into Phase 4.

3. What Will Become of the Inhumans After the Eternals?

It’s difficult even for hardcore comic book readers to parse Jack Kirby’s epic imagination concerning alien gods and lineages. But the imminent arrival of the Eternals poses a lot of questions for the cosmic side of the MCU. Meanwhile, the Inhumans, once poised to be the most important characters in the films, are now just a canceled television series.

There are some important direct connections to the Eternals and the Inhumans, not to mention that the highly-anticipated character Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan gains her powers from her Inhuman DNA.

So what will happen to the MCU when the Eternals arrive? Could the Eternals be the key to “rebooting” the Inhumans, or will the Inhumans be permanently forgotten? Will the Eternals function how the Inhumans were meant to, which is to say, replacements for the X-Men until Fox surrendered those characters (which they now have)? It’s going to be awhile before we know more about the Eternals. Thankfully, it won’t be an eternity.

Shang-Chi in 'Avengers World' #3, illustrated by Stefano Caselli.

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2. Who Will Shang-Chi’s Nemesis Be?

Shang-Chi’s origins in the comics is an interesting one. Originally meant to be a licensed character from the David Carradine series Kung Fu, Shang-Chi was imagined by Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart after Marvel failed to get the comic book rights to Kung Fu.

At the same time, Marvel had the rights to Fu Manchu, the pulp Chinese villain who — let’s not mince words here — was a blatantly racist caricature of Asian people. When you think of “yellow peril,” you think of Fu Manchu.

In the original Master of Kung Fu comics by Marvel, Shang-Chi was Fu Manchu’s son who turned against his father to become a righteous hero. And Marvel kept Shang-Chi even when it lost the rights to Fu Manchu back to the family of original author, Sax Rohmer. (Subsequent stories revealed that “Fu Manchu” was an alias for his real name, Zheng Zu.)

Whether or not the MCU keeps Fu Manchu or calls him by a different name, the important thing to know is how Marvel will handle the “yellow peril” elements of the character, which was racist then as it is racist now. One key lesson the studio has picked up on is to give storytellers of Asian descent creative reign to reinterpret what was “exotic” to white comic book writers.

(Or, alternatively, Marvel could repeat what it did to the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, which I maintain was/is a brilliant and hilarious reinterpretation.)

That’s what’s happened to Shang-Chi: The film has a Chinese-American screenwriter, David Callahan, and a mixed-race Japanese-American director in Destin Daniel Cretton. But how much will Marvel embrace the character’s original kung fu grindhouse roots versus avoiding a film that can be described in the “O” word, “orientalist”? Perhaps a trailer could show us.

These aren't the Avengers anymore. From 'The Avengers' (2012).

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1. Who Are the Avengers Now?

Here’s the million-dollar question about Phase 4: Who are the Avengers? Tony Stark is dead (RIP), Steve Rogers is retired and now an old man, Natasha is also dead (RIP), Thor is with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Clint is again retired to be with his family. That leaves Bruce/the Hulk and… who else?

We know that Steve bequeathed the shield of Captain America to his good pal, Sam Wilson/the Falcon. We saw that emotional moment. But Hulk and Sam can’t be the only Avengers. That’s a tag team, not a squadron.

In the comics, characters like Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and yes, Shang-Chi, have all been Avengers — albeit at different times. The big thing the MCU has yet to reveal is who or what the Avengers are, if they’re even an active force. Because it’s just not the Marvel Universe without the Avengers, but who will be around to assemble? We’ll find out soon enough.