Avengers 5 theory: The 1 way Iron Man might return
A fan-favorite comic storyline could totally change the status quo of the MCU.
Avengers: Endgame brought all of the MCU heroes together to defeat the villainous Thanos. But when Marvel laid out its plans for the next batch of films, another massive team-up was nowhere to be found on the schedule. We know that Phase Four will introduce the multiverse in a potentially game-changing way. That, in turn, could pave the way for Avengers 5 tackling the Secret Wars storyline, arguably the biggest undertaking in Marvel’s comic book history. That ambitious crossover could pave the way for some beloved characters to return, even after their stories seem to have ended.
Secret Wars, explained — There are actually two versions of the famous comic book storyline. The first, written by Jim Shooter, was released as a 12-issue series in 1984. The concept was created in coordination with Mattel. It was primarily a marketing tactic to sell superhero toys to kids by bringing together all of Marvel’s heroes in one big comic book event.
The 1980s story included heroes and villains alike — members of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and X-Men, as well as villains like Doctor Doom, Ultron, and Doctor Octopus. All of them were transported to the planet of Battleworld by the cosmic villain Beyonder. They’re forced to fight to the death using alien technology and weapons for Beyonder's entertainment.
The 2015 version of Secret Wars, written by Jonathan Hickman, followed a similar overall plot. However, a multitude of small differences made the revamped storyline more impactful overall. Instead of simply being transported to another galaxy, the nine-issue series brought together Marvel’s multiple universes and alternate timelines.
Marvel’s main universe (Earth-616), the alternate Earth-1610 (Ultimate Marvel) universe, as well as the timelines where the House of M and Age of Apocalypse storylines occurred, were all destroyed and merged together to form Battleworld. Duplicate characters from the various universes and timelines were all running amok on this new planet.
The multiverse was ultimately restored, but the damage was done. Out of the old universe, a new one was born, with endless possibilities. Secret Wars allowed Marvel’s continuity to reset itself, launching new characters and backstories, introducing new alliances and team-ups (like Miles Morales joining the Avengers).
What this means for Avengers 5 — In short, there are no rules. Secret Wars is such a massive event (yes, bigger than Endgame) that literally anything could happen. We know that Phase Four is introducing new characters like the Eternals and Mighty Thor, who notably played a pivotal role in Secret Wars. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seems to be paving the way for other universes and timelines to emerge.
There’s no telling what Avengers 5 will be about, but it’s possible that Marvel will use the Secret Wars storyline to bring the X-Men and Fantastic Four into the MCU. After all, Marvel has the rights back to those characters following Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox and fans have been waiting with bated breath to see if they’ll ever be included. Secret Wars provides the blueprint for how they might be introduced.
Retired or dead MCU characters like Captain America, Tony Stark, and Black Widow could even make appearances. Alternate timelines mean alternate versions of these characters, so nothing is off the table. What’s more, directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who last directed Endgame, indicated that they’d only be interested in returning to the franchise if they got to direct a Secret Wars movie.
Marvel may not be looking to do another massive team-up anytime soon, but Secret Wars would be the perfect opportunity to make Avengers 5 all the more epic.