Marvel is painting itself into a corner. The strength of the franchise’s heroes has gone from “rich guy who makes a mechanical suit” to “superhumans who have been around since the dawn of civilization.” Now, in Phase Four, Marvel is introducing a plethora of gods, be they literal like Zeus in Thor: Love and Thunder and Taweret in Moon Knight, or metaphorical like the Celestials in Eternals and Kang the Conqueror in Loki. But why the fascination with the divine?
The MCU is deep, but it’s also riddled with inconsistencies. As it get more developed, more issues come to light. The introduction of Odin, Thor, and Loki, all Norse gods, raised the question of whether other gods are real too. Then Egyptian and Greek gods were introduced, answering that question but producing many more. How do all these gods interact? Are there conflicts? How much do they even know about each other?
Marvel Comics have the same dilemma, but they also have an extensive multiverse to explain how different worlds have different rules, and whenever storylines get too confusing they can just blow it all up and start over. The MCU is just starting to establish its own multiverse, and even the most in-depth exploration of that concept, What If...? has its own version of a god, Uatu the Watcher.
So why gods? The further we get into the MCU, the more we see the destruction wrought by villains who are more and more powerful. Conquering the Earth just doesn’t cut it anymore; controlling the universe is where it’s at. Because of that, there’s a greater need for almighty authority figures to stand up to these scoundrels, and thus we have a whole pantheon of gods.
Sometimes the gods are villains. Sometimes, like in Thor, they’re the heroes themselves, and in instances like Moon Knight they’re allies. There isn’t one right way to be a god, and even the definition of the term can be blurry. The MCU isn’t making a religious statement; it’s just inventing powerful beings. That’s all well and good, but how do you up the ante further once the divine is introduced?
Who knows what the next big phase of the MCU will be once gods and alternate universes become old hat. But, for the foreseeable future, expect more gods to enter Marvel’s realm as the franchise struggles to find beings to counteract their increasingly powerful villains.