After the events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019), directed by Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, the Marvel Cinematic Universe entered a kind of limbo. Phase 3 grouped in these two films a good part of the narratives that it had been developing in a particular way. Some stories were resized and others were closed pointing towards Phase 4.

Although, several of those stories resonate in series such as Loki (Kate Herron), Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Kari Skogland, 2021), WandaVision (Matt Shakman, 2021) and the movie about Black widow (Cate Shortland, 2021), this stage has advanced through them looking for a common enemy and tried to position and present new roles and new characters. A kind of natural reconstruction. That explains Ikaris’s joke in the trailer for Eternal (Chloé Zhao), when he says that he will lead the Avengers.

Faced with this uncertainty, the three referred series, the last film and the advances on Eternals Y What would happen if…?, there are lines that could be the rails on which Marvel’s Phase 4 will walk in the next few years. From the construction of new stories, the narrative maturity of the firm, to its positioning on some issues on the social agenda.

Some conclusions about the beginning of Phase 4 of Marvel

Marvel’s Phase 4 should have started with Black widow. However, due to delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the miniseries started earlier. The most recent of them, Loki, presented one of the most important aspects of this stage.

The multiverse

The different dimensions within Marvel appeared in one or another production without being raised directly; were also not explained beyond what the Old Woman did to the Hulk in Avengers: Endgame. For that, to a large extent, it was made Loki. The God of Deception served as a vehicle to delve into this section.

According to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the dimensions were discovered by a version of Kang the Conqueror. This variant, in turn, came into contact with others of himself, interacting with each other and sharing technology to improve both reality. The Time Variation Authority emerged as a body designed to monitor the timeline, based on Kang’s own criteria.

So far, everything in order: the realities were not touched and, when there was a risk that one of them would get out of control or that some character would alter its natural flow, it was corrected. However, what was raised in Loki it is the opposite scenario. Both the different dimensions and their characters and rulers begin to get out of the established control. This would serve to recreate possible scenarios with some characters or show them in circumstances that were not filmed before. Managing this situation will be one of the key arguments of Phase 4.

Marvel’s Phase 4 villain

Considering what has been seen, to control the Marvel Multiverse it will be necessary to face Kang the Conqueror. To one or several. If Thanos was introduced in a subtle way through the previous films, until he emerged fully in Infinity war, the route with Kang seems to be another.

The first appearance of this character was much more direct, detailing the discovery of the different universes and delving into the operation of the timeline. His presentation may, perhaps, also challenge the classic vision of good versus bad during Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Kang, or “He who remains”, made decisions with the aim of establishing a kind of peace; a state of coexistence that is sustained based on their criteria. I mean, at least until now, This version was not presented as a full-fledged villain but it cannot be concluded that he is a hero either. That duality, if developed in the other variants or with other characters, would be an achievement within Marvel. It is a factor in which it is necessary to deepen in most of his stories.

At this point, and considering that this version of Kang is only one of his, his warning must be taken into account: the others are more ruthless. This detail is not minor, if one takes into account that even this version presented himself as “the devil”. What will the others be like?

Narrative maturity, that pending

In line with the above, Black widow it is a deeper story in terms of human relationships, tensions and emotions. The spectacular giving way to the human condition. Natasha Romanoff is not only that spy capable of overthrowing governments and living naturally among beings with special abilities. She is also a woman who lives with the weight of her decisions, who faces them with the aim of seeking some peace.

That, to the casual Marvel viewer, may not be the most attractive of his films. But, for the production company, it seems like a necessary leap: they have been too many years betting on the special effects and jokes that its mythology allows. Black widow is the sign that both issues can coexist without one or the other being affected. On the contrary: as such stories are encouraged, the entire Cinematic Universe can grow.

Will it still be a gamble? Judging by the outcome of WandaVision and the one from the first season of Loki, in which none of the protagonists can be defined as a villain in its entirety, it is valid to think that this narrative will hold. Adding nuances and contradictions to Marvel’s Phase 4 seems not only convenient but also urgent.

Marvel and the world beyond the stories

Baron Zemo / Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Although Marvel productions are not obliged to be auteur cinema, to explore forms and themes outside the comic book narrative, it could build more bridges with the reality in which they find themselves. In the comics this is nothing new. Without going too far, Vote Loki, published in October 2016, is a parody of American society in the days of Donald Trump.

That link between what happens outside the movie theaters and what it represents through it could be another trend during Phase 4. In the previous stage, characters such as Black Panther and Captain Marvel emerged, who could be symbols thought to represent minorities Away from positive stories or in leading roles.

To the above is added another detail, which could perhaps be understood as a doubling of the bet. It was produced in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, when the story made explicit reference to police abuse and racism. To this wink is added that of Wanda Maximoff, in WandaVision, going through a complex emotional crisis. This is recreated in times when mental health is reaching new heights in public discussion.

That connection between universes, if it is effective, allows productions to have greater resonance. At the end of the day, much of what is related to comics is that, the approach to different social problems from a special perspective.

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