20 MCU loose plot threads Marvel needs to answer in Phase 4

Falcon and the Winter Soldier is over, but Marvel Studios still has a lot of questions to address in Loki and beyond.

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The end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier means that the 25th Marvel Studios project has been completed.

And that’s not counting the other Marvel Cinematic Universe shows from ABC, Netflix, and other outlets.

With that many stories having been created in the last 13 years, it’s no surprise that some narrative balls were dropped along the way. As everyone eagerly awaits May’s debut of Loki, here are 20 questions that we hope Marvel will get around to answering sooner or later.

Maybe the God of Mischief can clean up a few of these loose threads over the course of his time travel adventures.

20. Where is Samuel Sterns?


Towards the climax of 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, cellular biologist Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) gets exposed to Bruce Banner’s blood, and visibly starts to mutate as a result. This wasn’t too much of a surprise to comic book fans, who recognized Sterns as the secret identity of hyper-intelligent supervillain The Leader — long-time arch-nemesis of the Hulk — but anyone expecting a showdown between the two would have been disappointed as Sterns disappeared from the movie, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, immediately afterward.

Has Sterns been quietly planning a super-smart return to the MCU for these past few years, or did the cinematic version of the character just plain die from the gamma radiation? Barring a cameo in the Disney+ She-Hulk show, we may never know, but MCU fans deserve more from Tim Blake Nelson — especially after his killer superhero performance in Watchmen.

19. What happened to Advanced Idea Mechanics?


We all know that Alrich Killian died at the end of Iron Man 3, having failed in his attempt to assassinate the U.S. President and humiliate Tony Stark in the progress. That’s what you get when you rely on Trevor Slattery, let’s face it.

But just because Killian is out of the picture, that shouldn’t mean that Advanced Idea Mechanics, the think tank of scientists he founded, disappeared completely. In a world filled with all kinds of weird tech, much of it extra-terrestrial in origin, shouldn’t A.I.M. have its villainous science fingers in all kinds of pies by now?

18. What was Peggy Carter’s involvement with SHIELD?


If fans thought that the Agent Carter series on ABC would elaborate on the revelation — as seen in the 2013 short of the same name — that Peggy Carter was one of the two original heads of SHIELD, then they would’ve been disappointed that the show entirely ducked the topic altogether, being before Peggy got the fateful call from Howard Stark. (Thankfully, it had a lot of other things to offer, not least of which was James D’Arcy’s wonderful Edwin Jarvis.)

This leaves basically all of Peggy’s career with the spy agency shrouded in darkness — a state of affairs only made more enticing by the Avengers: Endgame retcon that Steve Rogers went back in time to be with Peggy around that same period. What did Peggy get up to after she helped set up SHIELD — and just how involved was Steve Rogers, anyway?

17. Whatever happened to the arc reactor/clean energy?


There’s an arc — no pun intended — to Tony Stark’s journey from the first Iron Man movie through, at least, the first Avengers… and that’s his journey from weapons manufacturer to a man who could, in theory, save the world through clean energy provided by his arc reactor technology. He even makes a point in The Avengers to point out that Stark Tower has become “a beacon of self-sustaining clean energy.”

So… what happened? Why isn’t this more of a thing in later movies? This is an invention that would significantly change the world in big ways and small, and yet it never gets mentioned again — and the arc reactor technology as a whole is something that nobody seems interested in replicating outside of the first couple of Iron Man movies. Shouldn’t this be a much, much bigger deal?

16. What happened to all the released SHIELD data?

Talking of things that should have been world-changing, but instead just… disappeared, a big moment at the end of 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier is when the Black Widow reveals the existence of Hydra to the world via leaking classified SHIELD documents online. She even makes a point of saying that the leak is “trending” at one point — because 2014.

In every MCU project since then, however, you could be forgiven for thinking that no classified secrets had ever been leaked. Surely even a targeted leak that the nation’s highest levels of government had been infiltrated by a terrorist organization would have produced a massive shift in… almost everything in the United States, from the people’s faith in the authorities to the way those authorities themselves are operated?

15. Where is Mitchell Carson?


I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Who is Mitchell Carson”? He is admittedly far from the most memorable character in a Marvel movie, but he is that rare thing: a villain who ended his movie in a better place than he started it.

A Hydra operative who was bidding for Darren Cross’ Yellowjacket technology, Carson (played by Martin Donovan in 2015’s Ant-Man) took advantage of the final showdown between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket to steal a bunch of Pym Particles… and was never seen again. Here’s hoping that he shows up at some point, and it’s revealed that he was present for all the important stuff in Infinity War and Endgame, but he was just too small for the audience to see him.

14. Who or what was Crossbones working for?


The explosive inciting incident in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War was former SHIELD agent Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo), in his new guise as Crossbones, attempting to steal a biological weapon in Nigeria — a heist that goes so wrong, it literally blows up in everyone’s faces. Before Rumlow’s death, however, Captain America demands to know who he’s working for… which is an entirely reasonable question left completely unanswered. Was it Zemo? Was it Hydra? The Ten Rings? None of the above? It’s five years later, and we’re still no closer to an answer.

Given that it’s at the heart of the break-up of the original Avengers, which re-set the MCU’s status quo in a way that remained unresolved until Endgame, it’s strange that no one seems to wonder what was going on behind the scenes here.

13. What happened to the Sokovia Accords?

The fallout of the foiled Nigerian heist was the creation of the Sokovia Accords, an internationally recognized legal document that regulated the activity of superhumans across the world — and one that set up governmental oversight over superhero activity. Failure to actively sign-up for said oversight was what made Captain America and those that supported him into fugitives, but… how does that figure into the MCU moving forward?

There’s a mention of the Accords still being in effect during WandaVision, but no one’s trying to arrest Falcon, Bucky et al during The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and it’s not as if anyone seemed to be going after the other members of Cap’s team during the Blip period, either. Did the rules change, or did the rebels sign onto the dotted line at some point offscreen?

12. Whatever happened to The Raft?


It’s already been established that the supermax prison for super-threats introduced in Captain America: Civil War didn’t go away because it turned out to be not so successful at keeping its prisoners imprisoned; it shows up again in Falcon and the Winter Soldier as the new home of Zemo.

In Marvel continuity, however, that mention comes more than five years after we last saw the Raft — what’s happened there in the meantime? What other superpowered inmates are hanging out there, and how many of them are going to end up as members of the Thunderbolts? (Let’s be real, we all know it’s coming.)

11. Where are the Inhumans?


This one is very straightforward. At the end of the 2017 ABC miniseries, the Inhumans — an entire race of superpowered beings — found themselves relocated to Earth. Let me repeat that: there’s an entire race of superpowered beings living on Earth.

Even assuming that half of them disappeared when Thanos clicked his fingers, how is it possible that some of the Inhumans haven’t attempted to interact with the Avengers, or any other superhero, by now? Were none of them active at all during the Blip? Really?

10. Is Luke Cage still the “sheriff” of Harlem?


The finale of the Netflix Luke Cage series set its titular character up in a new role that would seem to have made it likely he’d run into other superheroes sooner rather than later: he became the crime boss of Harlem, with the intent of changing the system from within and protecting Harlem from the worst criminal elements by controlling just what was allowed to happen in the neighborhood.

Given that we’ve seen other MCU stories set in New York since then — most notably the Spider-Man movies — wouldn’t it make sense that Luke might show up at some point? (Assuming that he is still in charge of crime in Harlem, after the Blip, of course.)

9. Is Colleen Wing still Iron Fist?


Similarly to the above, the end of the Netflix Iron Fist series saw Danny Rand replaced as the owner of the eponymous martial art power by Colleen Wing after defeating the villainous Davos; she was last seen using the power — as well as her family’s katana sword — as a vigilante in New York City, keeping the people safe from relatively low-level crime.

Putting aside the likelihood that this might have brought her into conflict with Luke, we run into the “shouldn’t she have met Spider-Man by now?” issue once again… and also have to wonder, wouldn’t Doctor Stephen Strange have found himself curious about the Iron Fist being active so close to his home on a regular basis…?

8. Is Frank Castle still active in New York City?


Another unresolved Netflix question: where, exactly, is the Punisher these days? Is he still going around, murdering criminals without anyone managing to stop him, or has something happened to change his ways? (It’d be difficult to believe that the Blip didn’t at least give him a minute’s pause.) What if he’d been captured and sent to the Raft…? That might be an unexpected chance for him to get more involved with the rest of the MCU...

7. Whatever happened to the Wakandan embassies?

The end of 2018’s Black Panther sees T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) declare that, breaking with long-standing tradition, Wakanda would share its resources with the wider world, including technologies so advanced as to almost seem like magic. Either something happened to derail those plans, or else Wakanda’s technology wasn’t as impressive as it seemed, because there’s been nothing in any subsequent MCU project to suggest that anything in the world has really changed as a result of Wakanda opening its borders.

6. Where did Captain Marvel actually go for 20 years?


We know that Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) left Earth to help the Skrulls find a new homeworld after the Kree/Skrull war — and we also know that she didn’t return to Earth until the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame brought her back. So what happened in those intervening two decades, and does it explain why Carol doesn’t appear to have aged during that time?

This feels like perfect fodder for a second Captain Marvel movie, but now that Carol has returned to Earth, it’s possible that the movie will focus on her present-day activities… which means this hidden era might end up staying hidden for some time to come.

5. Whatever happened to the Nova Corps?


The Nova Corps was an intergalactic police force that had existed for at least a millennia before the start of the MCU as we know it, judging by backstory provided in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. They were, unsurprisingly, far from being laid back about the way the galaxy was run, but they served a purpose — not least of which preventing the Kree from conquering other worlds. If Avengers: Infinity War is to be believed, they also were eradicated by Thanos in his quest to secure all the Infinity Stones.

But… that’s unlikely to be the end of their story. Who, if anyone, stepped in to replace the void they left behind? Whatever became of all their technology, their headquarters, and the various prisoners they possessed? Is Outer Space just complete chaos now, or has a replacement Nova Corps risen up to keep everything together?

4. What actually happened during the Blip?

There was a five-year time jump in Avengers: Endgame, which meant that audiences got to see how the world had changed in the time of what’s become known as the Blip — kind of. We got glimpses, and we saw how it changed the main characters of the movie, but there’s all manner of things left unclear about what actually happened… and those questions feel increasingly important when projects like Falcon and the Winter Soldier spend so much time based around the aftermath of the event.

3. Where is Steve Rogers now?


Okay, so Steve Rogers went back in time and spent his life with Peggy after the events of Avengers: Endgame — but where did he go after showing up as an old man to give the shield to Sam Wilson at the end of the movie? Everyone in Falcon and Winter Soldier spent the show talking as if he was dead, so… what gives? Did Steve die between Infinity War and Falcon? Did he disappear to an alternate reality where he spent his life? Where is Steve?

2. How long has Nick Fury not been Nick Fury?

Nick Fury

Yes, it was a surprise that the Nick Fury audiences saw in Spider-Man: Far From Home was, in fact, not the real deal, but a shapeshifted Talos the entire time. But… what if that wasn’t the only time that Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) had been disguised as Fury?

Given that we know that Talos first arrived on Earth in the mid-90s as seen in Captain Marvel, that opens up the possibility that almost every single appearance of Fury in the MCU to date might actually have been Talos or another Skrull in disguise. This is a possibility that will likely be explored in the upcoming Disney+ Secret Invasion series, but it’s one that could have mind-blowing consequences if followed through to its natural conclusions.

1. Where is the Vision?


Audiences know exactly where they’ll see Wanda Maximoff next — she’ll show up in the second Doctor Strange movie — but where, exactly, is the second Vision going to return to, after flying into the sky as the Hex started to fall apart? There are a few scattered Avengers out there who might be open to helping him out, but we all remember what happened the last time an Avenger disappeared by flying off into the sky… he vanished for two years before re-appearing on an alien planet and beating up Thor. Will the Vision be absent from our screens until Thor: Love and Thunder?

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