Black Widow was meant to kick off the MCU’s Phase Four. However, the Covid-19 pandemic shut down theaters and productions worldwide, prompting Disney and Marvel Studios to push back the movie’s release date to 2021. Eternals and the slate of Marvel’s Disney+ shows soon followed suit. That means we can't expect the Avenger to regroup anytime soon, but it's inevitable that the films and TV shows in Phase Four will build towards another epic team-up after the success of Infinity War and Endgame. This time, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes may go to war with another one of Marvel’s greatest (and strangest) superhero teams in Avengers 5.
While Marvel was building out its cinematic universe, Netflix was doing the same on the small screen with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. In 2017, the four heroes banded together to fight the Hand, a group of mystical ninjas involved in organized crime.
However, their team-up didn’t last past The Defenders miniseries and all of their respective shows were cancelled by Netflix shortly thereafter. A Netflix clause dictated that none of the characters could appear elsewhere for two years after cancellation. By the time Avengers 5 rolls around, the characters will presumably be back in the hands of Marvel and ready for their formal film introduction.
First introduced in 1971’s Marvel Feature #1, the Defenders were originally comprised of Doctor Strange, Hulk, Namor, and the Silver Surfer. Following their debut, the team saw a rotation of other popular characters — Luke Cage, Valkyrie, Hellcat, Beast, She-Hulk, and Iron Fist among others. Like the Avengers, the Defenders have, well, defended Earth from a plethora of threats. The characters were an interesting mix and they largely dealt with deep space alien threats.
While they’ve fought alongside the Avengers on occasion, they’ve also battled the heroes. In the Avengers-Defenders crossover event, Loki and Dormammu tricked the Defenders into finding remnants of the Evil Eye. The powerful entity wanted the Evil Eye to fuse his dark dimension with Earth and rule over both domains.
Loki relays the Defenders’ actions to the Avengers and they fight to stop the Defenders from obtaining the artifact. They ultimately realize that they’ve been duped by both Loki and Dormammu into battling each other, but the damage had been done. It's Scarlet Witch's involvement that ultimately bests Dormammu and ends the Avengers-Defenders war.
Another key Defenders story occurs during the “Age of Ultron” arc. A new timeline is created to prevent Ultron from wreaking havoc and the Defenders, now a resistance team that includes Captain America, Captain Marvel, and Wolverine, battle Morgan le Fay, the sorceress from Arthurian legend.
Avengers 5 could go the route of having the heroes battle yet another major villain. However, it would be an enthralling change if they actually fought another team of heroes while the villain worked in the peripheral. There’s a chance this could turn into another version of Captain America: Civil War, but the stakes and the people will be different (and hopefully better). It would also be a clever way to bring back Dormammu and Loki in one fell swoop.
The Defenders are a cool group of people and, if the MCU truly wants to keep up the interconnectivity, Avengers 5 could be a stepping stone for the small screen heroes to get their time in the spotlight.