In many ways, it feels like we’re back to square one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With a number of films and TV shows lined up for the fourth phase of the franchise, it might not seem like it, but MCU fans are currently experiencing the closest thing to that post-Iron Man moment when possibilities seemed endless and the future was a mystery. Nobody knows when the Avengers will return and when they do, we have no idea what that team will look like (though it hasn’t stopped us from speculating as to which characters may be crossing paths in the near future). There are a few familiar faces in the Phase Four lineup, but it also features an influx of new characters with undefined roles in the broader cinematic universe.
We also don’t know who the next big bad is — but a crafty Reddit user may have figured it out.
Avengers: Endgame largely hinges on time travel’s proper introduction to the MCU (outside of its brief appearance in Doctor Strange) and established the rules of its function in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Crucially, one rule Tony Stark points out in the film is that when, “You mess with time, it tends to mess back.”
That rule is the crux of Reddit user Secsmachine’s theory as to where Phase Five might be heading (not to get ahead of ourselves, that is). They note that the phase’s big bad could be legendary Marvel supervillain Kang the Conqueror, a complex character whose history in the comics has largely involved time travel and alternate universes springing from it.
The theory is more or less that because the timeline was so drastically messed with and altered in Endgame, a natural reaction to it is going to occur. That natural reaction? Kang, a time-displaced warlord from the distant future. The timing is right, too, as Kang is technically a Fantastic Four villain. However, after the Disney/Fox merger, his rights are back with the former. It makes him fair game as an Avengers 5 villain and, in terms of scale, he’s very much a worthy successor to Loki, Ultron, and Thanos.
It’s crucial to also note that in the comics, Kang is a descendant of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Normally we’d say that this means he can’t be introduced until after the FF have made their debut in the MCU, but if history has taught us anything it’s that origins are malleable (Ultron is a Hank Pym invention in the comics and a Tony Stark creation in the films).
There’s no telling whether or not this theory will come to fruition, or if the rewriting of the timeline will ultimately have long-term consequences. Still, it’s an interesting theory with a good bit of weight. We’ll have to wait and see if it pays off.