New Marvel Sneak Peeks Confirm Worrying Trend

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Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Captain America

Credit: Marvel Studios

Is Marvel going to change their approach?

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) dying looking at Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in 'Avengers: Endgame'
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Marvel Finally Confirms Iron Man’s Return to the MCU

With the inception of Marvel Phase Four, there has been a noticeable decrease in the favorable reception of Marvel Studios’ endeavors. This phase also marked the studio’s entry into the realm of television, introducing series like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki on The Walt Disney Company’s streaming platform, Disney+ (Disney Plus), in 2021.

Now, new updates to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) future confirm a rather worrying trend, following Marvel’s latest promotional material.

The Avengers (Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor, Black Widow)
Credit: Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios has also attempted to venture into the realm of animation, like with the upcoming X-Men ’97 and the ongoing What If…? series, having just debuted its second season last December to overwhelmingly positive fan and critical reviews.

Despite the positive feedback of Marvel’s latest Disney+ efforts, include follow-up seasons of Loki and What If…? as well as positive reception of the mature-rated Echo (2024) starring Alaqua Cox’s Maya Lopez and Daredevil‘s (2015) big bad Wilson Fisk/Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) reigniting interest in the MCU (and its TV offerings), the new What If…? Season 3 teaser is acquiring some mixed responses.

Kevin Feige with the Avengers: Endgame Poster
Credit: Inside the Magic

Related: Marvel Names the Replacements for Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor Amid MCU Overhaul, Report Claims

Fans Spot Troubling Pattern in What If…? Season 3 First Look

Marvel Studios themselves have released a few teasers for the upcoming third season of What If…? on Disney+, thanking fans for watching Season 2.

These early-look images have garnered an interesting fan response — as despite the overwhelming excitement, there is a noticeable tinge of concern with regard to how little these seemingly central characters are being used, especially in “canon” MCU stories:

Marvel Studios: From all of us at Marvel Studios, THANK YOU for watching season 2 of #WhatIf and joining us on this journey across time…space…reality. We’re excited to share this early look at some of the endless possibilities we’ll explore together in season 3 of What If…?

KeeweArt: So you’re gonna use Sam Wilson’s 2nd appearance as Captain America and it’s not canon

Meanwhile, other fans were simply shocked that Marvel Studios even remembers that “Sam Wilson exists”:

YOU REMEMBERD SAM WILSON EXISTS 😱

Fans like @zacronomicon are “stoked” to even see a “single instance” of the character:

Finally we get a single instance of Sam Wilson Captain America doing anything. Stoked for season 3!

While users like Box Office Forecast were well aware of the rather ridiculous four-year gap between appearances:

Ah do we still have a Captain America ? It s like 4 years I don’t see him 😅

Basically, a lot of fans are super excited that they’re finally getting to see Sam Wilson as Captain America. It seems that Marvel fans on the other hand, are also well aware of the fact that Marvel are making audiences wait until the next (third) season of a show that more or less just wrapped Season 2.

This more or less confirms the trend of Marvel introducing new characters only to never reference them in subsequent material, unlike the comparatively contained Avengers and Infinity Saga-era MCU. On top of that, the fact that Marvel is only teasing these characters in projects like What If, a story not even explicitly canon to the mainline Marvel universe, feels even worse for many fans.

This effect can certainly be seen in the notable absence of major Marvel heroes introduced in recent years, like with the fact that Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been entirely absent from the MCU since 2021, without even a single reference or mention from any other character.

Simu Liu as Marvel's Shang Chi
Credit: Marvel Studios

It appears that Marvel fans seem a whole lot more excited for these hypothetical stories over the mainline MCU movies, at the moment. Perhaps it is a message to Marvel Studios and President Kevin Feige that storytelling consistency (and frankly, repetition) pays off in the long run.

With the MCU now playing home to such a myriad of heroes, villains, and everything in between — with more on the way! — it’s natural that some stories and characters may fall by the wayside. However, a continued trend of introducing characters and subsequently not including them in any “interconnected universe” media is actively harmful to keeping your audience engaged and caring.

What do you think about Marvel continuing to “bench” major superheroes? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

More on What If…?

The inaugural season of the series, produced by Victoria Alonso under the watch of Kevin Feige, boasted an impressive voice cast featuring a mix of returning MCU actors and new voices for alternate character variants. The second season brought new episodes and scenarios to the Multiverse.

So far in What If…?, Jeffrey Wright took on the role of The Watcher and narrator, while talents like Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter/Captain Carter), Chris Hemsworth (Thor Odinson), Tom Hiddleston (Loki Laufeyson/Loki Odinson), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Josh Brolin (Thanos), Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger), Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff), and Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) lent their voices.

The stars who did not return to star in What If…? are Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Brie Larsen as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Chris Pratt as Star-Lord/Peter Quill and Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Roles like Howard Stark were played by John Michaelson.

Benedict Cumberbatch joined the cast as Doctor Strange/Stephen Strange and portrayed a formidable Variant, Strange Supreme. Notably, the late Chadwick Boseman voiced T’Challa/Black Panther (in a Variant who became Star-Lord for the Guardians of the Galaxy) in episodes recorded prior to his passing, contributing to the diverse exploration of Marvel characters and alternate realities in the animated series.

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