Despite losing out to Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) in the Academy Award’s controversial #OscarsCheerMoment category, Avengers: Endgame (2019) was a sure-fire hit with fans when it was released. From “on your left” to “Avengers, assemble”, audiences all over the world celebrated when the battle of the decade finally got underway in the Russo Brothers’ sequel to Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
During the fight in the ruins of the Avengers compound, one all-female scene drew polarizing views from fans, and now, it seems that Marvel intends to rewrite that part of its legacy by introducing the “next wave of power players”.
In a movie franchise as large as Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s not hard to find a superhero or two. The 14-year-old MCU has brought Marvel Comics icons like Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man to the big screen, introducing a multitude of other characters along the way across 27 films.
Staggeringly, the catalog of Marvel films only features two female-led solo movies — Captain Marvel (2019) and Black Widow (2021) — with other prominent comic book heroes like Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Hope van Dyne/Wasp, and Okoye appearing in the ensemble and male-led films Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Ant-Man (2015), and Black Panther (2018), respectively.
The industry appeared blindsided when Warner Bros. beat Marvel to the post in terms of female-led features with the DC Extended Universe movie, Wonder Woman (2017), especially when Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow had been a longstanding MCU member, and official Avenger, since 2010’s Iron Man 2.
As giant and epic as the Infinity Saga conclusion duo was, Infinity War and Endgame lacked little in the way of proper, detailed female representation (aside from Natasha, of course, and maybe Nebula), instead opting to tell the decade long, overarching story of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans).
Fans did get one scene, though. Accused of being pandering after spending hardly any time with the characters in the epic six-hour conclusion, the Russo Brothers had the headlining female superheroes take the focus for one short sequence in the Marvel movie. After Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man hands the Infinity Stone gauntlet to Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, the major female stars of the MCU joined her in the moment.
The scene featured Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Gamora (Zoe Saldaña), Captain Marvel (Larson), Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Scarlet Witch (Olsen), Shuri (Letitia Wright), and Nebula (Karen Gillan) and it seems now that Marvel wants to invest deeper into female-led stories ahead of the next wave of the MCU.
The Next Avengers?
In an announcement on Marvel.com, the comic book franchise stated they would be giving fans something rather exciting:
From now through April 25, dive into four FREE comic runs courtesy of digital comics subscription service Marvel Unlimited. Starring America Chavez, Jane Foster, Ms. Marvel, and She-Hulk, each of these character-defining turns are ideal for new readers and those looking to get acquainted with the next wave of Marvel’s power players.
The initiative includes “AMERICA CHAVEZ: MADE IN THE USA (2021) #1-5”, “THOR (2014) #1-5” (COLLECTS THOR VOL. 1: THE GODDESS OF THUNDER), “MS. MARVEL (2014) #1-5” (COLLECTS MS. MARVEL VOL. 1: NO NORMAL), and “SHE-HULK (2014) #1-6” (COLLECTS SHE-HULK VOL. 1: LAW AND DISORDER).
What is interesting is that the free Marvel Universe comics are directly linked to upcoming projects in the MCU. Could Marvel be teasing these “power players” as becoming integral parts of the franchise? Part of Avengers 5, perhaps?
America Chavez AKA Miss America (Xochitl Gomez) will appear in the next blockbuster feature, one that could be as good as Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) according to one star, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022). The huge sequel sees Benedict Cumberbatch return as Doctor Strange in a Multiversal adventure dealing with the repercussions of Peter Parker’s wish.
Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is returning this Summer in director Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) with Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) where she will become the new Mjolnir-wielding Mighty Thor. The fourth outing for the God of Asgard will also feature Guardians of the Galaxy franchise actors such as Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord).
As for Ms. Marvel, the young, Pakistani-American superhero, otherwise known as Kamala Khan, will be entering the MCU this June. Iman Vellani will debut the character for the MCU before going on to star in next year’s Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels (2023), from director Nia DaCosta. The Marvels also sees the return of Larson’s Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and Teyonah Parris’ Monica Rambeau.
Similarly, Jennifer Walters AKA She-Hulk has also landed her own Disney+ series with Emmy Award-winner Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) bringing the green-skinned hero to the small screen. Mark Ruffalo reprises his role as Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk in the show, which is reportedly still in post-production.
So, it seems that this time around, the MCU is really intending to build a solid foundation for its female heroes. Not only will the characters star, at some point, in Phase Four either on the big or small screen, but Marvel Comics is investing in getting the stories of these iconic women into the hands of readers worldwide. For free.
Will you be reading these comics? Let us know in the comments down below!
You can stream Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and the six series in Marvel’s Phase Four so far — Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany’s WandaVision, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Marvel’s What If…?, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, and Oscar Isaac’s Moon Knight — on Disney+ anytime.