SDCC 2022

Marvel’s Phase 6 movie lineup just fixed the MCU's most frustrating problem

We finally know where things are headed, and it can’t come soon enough.

For all its strengths on a movie-by-movie and show-by-show basis, Marvel Phase 4 has lacked... something. And now that we know how it ends, that something is extremely clear. Thankfully, Marvel’s plans for Phase 5 of its cinematic universe, and even more crucially, Phase 6, prove the MCU is set to fix this issue within the next few years. Here’s why.

The problem with Marvel Phase 4

Let’s back up by about a decade. In 2012, Phase 1 of the MCU ended with The Avengers, an epic team-up that solidified Marvel’s movie dominance, changed Hollywood forever, and set up 10 years of future films. By comparison, we now know that the final entry in Phase 4 is Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

To be clear, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther sequel looks tremendous. The trailer for Wakanda Forever released at Comic-Con on Saturday literally gives me chills. But can any one superhero solo outing really compare to an Avengers-level team-up? I’m willing to wager the answer is no — though I’ll be extremely happy to be proven wrong.

Either way, the positioning of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever only proves that while Phase 4 might be building towards something ambitious, Marvel Studios is nowhere near close to that thing even after three years, six movies, and six Disney+ shows.

Enter, Marvel Phase 5

The cast and director of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.Marvel Studios

In Phase 5, which Marvel just unveiled in its entirety, we start to see something a bit closer to the classic MCU we used to know. There’s still no Avengers movie in sight, but in its place, we’re getting Thunderbolts, which is all-but guaranteed to be a villain-focused team-up movie that should match the Avengers in terms of pure crossover potential.

The fact that Thunderbolts is coming shortly after Captain America 4 also suggests that Sam Wilson’s version of Cap could play a major role in both movies. After establishing himself as a hero in New World Order, he’ll have to rally an entire team to take on this incoming threat. In other words, Thunderbolts could be an unofficial Avengers movie in the same vein as Captain America 3 by assembling a critical mass of characters without officially deploying the “Avengers” title.

But perhaps even more important is how Phase 5 begins. It turns out that the already announced Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is actually not part of Phase 4 at all. Instead, it’s kicking off the next phase of the MCU while also introducing our next Thanos-level supervillain in the form of Kang the Conqueror.

Which brings us to Phase 6...

Marvel Phase 6: Avengers, assemble

Kevin Feige reveals two new Avengers movies.Marvel

The details around the MCU’s Phase 6 are still scant, but we know three key titles and their release dates:

  1. Fantastic Four — November 8, 2024
  2. Avengers: The Kang Dynasty — May 2, 2025
  3. Avengers: Secret Wars — November 7, 2025

According to Marvel, Fantastic Four marks the beginning of Phase 6, while Secret Wars marks its end. Packing an entire MCU phase into a single year seems particularly ambitious, and I have to wonder if one or both Avengers movies will end up getting delayed. But either way, the fact that we finally know what the next Avengers movies will be is a huge deal.

After wandering in the wilderness for years, the MCU just revealed a path forward. And whether it turns out that everything in Phase 4 was part of a master plan, or we ultimately find out that a lot of it turned out to be a huge waste of time, the simple fact that Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars now exist is enough to put our biggest complaints to rest.

At least until Phase 6 is finished and the entire cycle starts over again.