Marvel Admits Defeat, Announces New Version of the MCU

in Marvel

Marvel's Avengers including Thor, Black Widow, Captain Avenger, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and the Hulk, look up at the destruction of the city.

Credit: Marvel Studios

Amid growing complaints about superhero fatigue, Marvel has announced a new branch of the MCU.

A lot has changed about the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the past 15 years. What started with the six original Avengers has ballooned into a complex, ever-growing franchise – one that many feel is now too complex for its own good.

The Avengers gathered together on the promotional poster of 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'
Credit: Marvel Studios

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While Marvel had the (temporarily) biggest film of all time with Avengers: Endgame (2019), that was, ironically, also the beginning of the end for some fans. With the deaths of Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) – not to mention the departure of Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America (Chris Evans) – many felt like the Marvel franchise had met a natural conclusion.

Of course, Marvel being Marvel (and Disney being Disney), this was just the beginning. As the Infinity Saga wrapped up, another saga took its place. The Multiverse Saga has been ongoing since the release of Black Widow (2021) and has seen Marvel gradually introduce the concept of other universes (and other versions of beloved heroes).

Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), Alexei (David Harbour), and Yelena (Florence Pugh) hold hands
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While this provides a narrative excuse for Marvel to someday reset its entire canon (most likely in the upcoming Avengers: Secret Wars in 2027), the biggest complaint is that there’s no structure to this new saga. In the Infinity Saga, each film gradually built towards a bigger story while also remaining tight and concise enough to stand alone.

With the introduction of Marvel TV shows on Disney+, it’s started to feel like homework to keep up to date with our favorite superheroes. Each new project requires watching a dozen or so other projects in order to understand it properly. When these projects are less than successful with critics – for example, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), and Secret Invasion – it’s inevitable that some begin to lose interest in the MCU altogether.

Paul Rudd as many Ant-Men in 'Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania' Marvel
Credit: Marvel Studios

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Both Marvel and Disney are well aware of the growing concept of ‘superhero fatigue.’ Disney CEO Bob Iger addressed the issue earlier this year, confirming plans to cut back on MCU content to instead focus on quality over quantity.

Marvel has already proven how committed it is to making this change. In October, it was announced that Kevin Feige and other Marvel executives had scrapped the half-filmed Daredevil reboot, Daredevil: Born Again, after they were less than impressed with the existing footage.

She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) and Daredevil (Charlie Cox) chat in Marvel's 'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law'
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Writers and directors were subsequently replaced to give the project a major refresh. This has triggered a bigger change for their Disney+ projects, which will now allocate a showrunner to each series – much more like a traditional TV show. Marvel also reportedly wants to explore multi-season shows instead of the six-episode approach it’s mostly taken so far.

Now, Marvel has announced an even bigger change to the MCU. Fresh off releasing the first trailer for its upcoming Echo series, it’s announced that it will mark the first installment in its new series of projects, Marvel Spotlight.

The 'Echo' cast gathers together
Credit: D23

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The TV series – which is also Marvel’s first TV-MA show for Disney+ – will kick off a new version of projects for the MCU which will act as grounded, standalone series within the Marvel universe.

“Marvel Spotlight gives us a platform to bring more grounded, character-driven stories to the screen, and in the case of Echo, focusing on street-level stakes over larger MCU continuity,” said Marvel’s Head of Streaming Brad Winderbaum.

The biggest difference between Marvel Spotlight and the rest of the MCU is that fans won’t need to have seen other projects to understand the plot. Inspired by a Marvel Comics anthology series of the same name from the 1970s, it also comes with its own opening, composed by Michael Giacchino.

Maya Lopez against a purple background to promote 'Echo,' the series to kick off a new version of the MCU
Credit: Marvel Studios

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While Echo has previously been touted as a spinoff to Hawkeye, it seems like the latter won’t be required watching. Instead, the show – which focuses on Maya Lopez, AKA Echo (Alaqua Cox), as she returns to her hometown in Oklahoma to face her past and reconnect with her Native American Choctaw roots – won’t contribute to the overarching Multiverse Saga.

“Just like comics fans didn’t need to read Avengers or Fantastic Four to enjoy a Ghost Rider Spotlight comic, our audience doesn’t need to have seen other Marvel series to understand what’s happening in Maya’s story,” Winderbaum explained.

While the show isn’t set to debut until January, this announcement followed the premiere of its first two episodes of season one, screened during Choctaw Nation’s annual Powwow. The show’s director, Sydney Freeland, later participated in a Q&A with Seth Fairchild, Executive Director of Cultural Services for Choctaw Nation.

Disney+ banner featuring heroes from the MCU, including Scarlet Witch, Captain Marvel, Falcon, Loki, and Black Widow
Credit: Disney

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“It’s so exciting to be able to premiere Echo and it is extremely meaningful to myself to have this screening in Chocktaw Nation,” Freeland said. “One of the things we’re most excited about is being able to portray the Chocktaw culture hopefully in an authentic and exciting way.”

It was also confirmed that Maya Lopez will have significantly different powers to her comic book counterpart. “Her power in the comic books is that she can copy anything, any movement, any whatever,” Freeland explained. “Kind of lame. I will say that is not her power.” Instead, she’ll reportedly have various abilities bestowed upon her by her female Choctaw ancestors.

Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in 'Echo,' the series kicking off a new version of the MCU
Credit: Marvel Studios

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Echo will also see the return of Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin, the New York City crime lord first introduced in Daredevil during its Netflix days. D’Onofrio has since starred in Hawkeye and will return alongside Charlie Cox as Matt Murdoch in Daredevil: Born Again (whenever the series gets around to completion).

The launch of Marvel Spotlight is a pivotal moment for the MCU. Clarifying that not every project is required watching is the first step to combating superhero fatigue, an issue that ultimately threatened the very existence of the franchise.

Whether this is enough to salvage future projects remains to be seen. Marvel has other complications to untangle over the next few years, including what to do with Jonathan Majors as Kang in light of recent assault allegations and the upcoming release of the Captain Marvel (2019) sequel, The Marvels (2023), which some feel is destined to flop. However, it’s definitely the first step to a stronger, more cohesive Marvel universe.

What do you think about this new version of the MCU? Let us know in the comments!

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