In the midst of a wandering Phase 4, Marvel Studios has finally given us a roadmap for the newly christened Multiverse Saga. Like the Infinity Saga before it, it’ll be three phases that tell an overarching story culminating in a pair of Avengers movies. But given the unprecedented, monumental success of the Infinity Saga that puts a lot of pressure on the Multiverse Saga to deliver. And while it does have a strong villain presence, its lack of a core group of heroes and thematic focus so far makes it feel like it’s already behind the curve–which begs the question, can the Multiverse Saga live up to the Infinity Saga?
Who In the Multiverse Are We Rooting For?
With seven films and eight TV shows (plus two holiday specials) making up Phase 4 of the MCU, it’s the most story we’ve ever gotten in one phase, but perhaps we have too much of a good thing. The main problem with Phase 4 is that it lacks a coherent overarching story. In Eternals a Celestial half-emerged from the Earth and in Moon Knight an Egyptian deity was vanquished, but aside from the shocking revelation that Earth is quite literally jam-packed with giant monsters waiting to destroy us, there’s no sense of where these and other story threads are going. Yes, thanks to Kevin Feige’s Comic-Con presentation we do know the Multiverse Saga will come to a head in Phase 6 with Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars, but there’s precious little in the actual stories pointing us in that direction.
That’s not to say everything in Phase 1 was teeing up the Infinity Saga plot from the get-go. The first MCU movies were largely standalone affairs, and it took several post-credits scenes and a bit of retconning to eventually set the stage for Thanos’ quest for the Infinity Stones.
But what Phase 1 did give us was a group of heroes to root for. The story of the Infinity Saga was just as much about watching the ongoing adventures of Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow as it was those glowing rainbow rocks. And by teeing everything up the way they did, Marvel made it feel like a natural progression from the solo movies to a team-up movie to teasing Thanos to introducing the Infinity Stones and so on, so even though Marvel didn’t necessarily know how they were going to get there, it was clear from early on that everything was going to culminate in a battle against Thanos wielding the Infinity Gauntlet.
That’s why Phase 4 feels so disparate in comparison. So far in Phase 4 we’ve seen projects featuring (deep breath) Wanda and Vision, Black Widow, Captain America and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Moon Knight, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the Eternals, Shang Chi, Thor, and Ms. Marvel. But aside from a handful of crossover appearances (such as Doctor Strange in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Scarlet Witch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), these heroes are just as isolated now as they were when Phase 4 began. The Phase 4 stingers have typically added on more stuff (like how Eternals set up Black Knight AND Blade, and to what end remains unclear) instead of bringing characters closer together (like how The Incredible Hulk saw Tony Stark show up to offer his help with the Hulk). Phase 1 capped things off with a rousing team-up movie and formed relationships that would be the backbone of the MCU’s best stories (namely the friendship and rivalry of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers), whereas Phase 4 will end with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which, while highly anticipated, presumably isn’t going to unite the heroes of Phase 4 and give the audience a sense of where all this is going.
If the Multiverse Saga is going to live up to the Infinity Saga, it needs to show us how all of these various heroes fit together and give us a new team to root for.
Villains on Parade
While the Multiverse Saga may not have a heroic team for us to champion just yet, it does get marks for its antagonists. Both Kang the Conqueror and the Thunderbolts have been given ample build up and have plenty to offer fans looking for characters to get invested in.
We first met Jonathan Majors as a variant of Kang known as He Who Remains in the Season 1 finale of Loki on Disney Plus, and that character’s death set the stage for the debut of one of Marvel’s greatest villains and the Avengers’ most dangerous nemesis, Kang the Conqueror. Much like how the MCU debut of Thanos in the Avengers post-credits scene told us loud and clear that an adaptation of the Infinity Gauntlet comic was on the way, that looming statue of Kang in the season finale of Loki heralds a time-traveling superhero epic. And with Marvel Studios’ partial reveal of Phase 6, we now know that Avengers 5 will indeed be The Kang Dynasty–which shares a title with one of his most infamous tales from the comics–and Avengers 6 will follow up with Secret Wars. Plus, we know Kang the Conqueror will make his proper debut in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
While both Thanos and Kang are all-time-great Avengers villains, Kang may give the Multiverse Saga the advantage simply because he’s a bigger threat than Thanos, from a certain point of view. Thanos spent his entire life trying to achieve a single moment of godhood in order to enact his master plan, but as we saw, he is ultimately mortal and was dealt with (twice). Kang, on the other hand, is a time-traveling warlord who considers the past, present, and future his personal domain, and he utilizes the deadliest weapons ever created from the dawn of time to the distant future. He’s essentially the God of Time. Plus, Kang has countless variants, so, as He Who Remains forewarned, defeat one and the next will take his place. It took everything the Avengers had to orchestrate a “time heist” and defeat Thanos and his forces, but such an effort would be a mere momentary setback for Kang.
Already, Phase 4’s BBEG game is far stronger than where Phase 1 was at this point. Don’t get us wrong, the initial Thanos tease was perfectly done, but it was years until we eventually got to spend any meaningful time with him and understand his true motivations. Marvel isn’t letting that happen again. We’ve already been treated to one of the most unique and impactful villain performances the MCU has to offer, with He Who Remains painting a terrifying picture of the threat his most dangerous variant poses. And soon we’ll meet that variant as the main bad guy in Quantumania, where we’ll presumably learn more about his backstory, see what evil he’s capable of, and get a hint at how he’ll become an Avengers-level threat by Phase 6. Marvel is playing the long game with Kang the Conqueror, and that’s precisely how you do justice to a villain of his caliber.
Then, Kang’s master plan will presumably unfold in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty where, if it matches the comics, we’ll watch Kang conquer Earth. But even though that story alone could make for a similar one-two punch as the Infinity Saga’s Infinity War/Endgame, the Multiverse Saga appears to be upping the ante by following that film with Avengers: Secret Wars, which is an epic in its own right that, if we’re going by the comics, sees the multiverse destroyed and then rebuilt into a single “Battleworld” comprised of every alternate reality. However, in the modern Secret Wars comic, Doctor Doom is the ultimate villain of Secret Wars. And wouldn’t you know it, Fantastic Four just happens to be the first movie in Phase 6, which means by the time Avengers 5 and 6 roll around, we could be treated to not one but two all-time great Marvel villains teaming up (and probably betraying each other) in a bid to rule all of existence.
Nothing against Thanos, but a Kang/Doom combo could very well be the edge the Multiverse Saga needs to outdo the Infinity Saga.
The only downside to Kang’s introduction is that it literally took place in the middle of nowhere, outside time and space, meaning Earth’s mightiest heroes are currently unaware of his existence. As we’ve already said, Marvel’s next Avengers squad has yet to assemble, and it will be some time before Kang butts heads with Ant-Man and the Wasp, so while we are pleased with how much Kang we’re getting (one meaty appearance per phase, at least that we know of so far), this particular approach prevents him from feeling like a personal threat to our heroes from the get-go. (No offense to Loki’s character development, but he's no Avenger–even though he’s in opposition to Kang, the Trickster God is still an anti-hero at best.)
It's Good to Be Bad
Speaking of anti-heroes, Feige revealed that Phase 5 will end with a Thunderbolts movie. Whereas Nick Fury went around recruiting heroes for the Avengers Initiative in the Infinity Saga, someone who may as well be his evil doppelganger, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine aka The Contessa, is currently making appearances throughout the Multiverse Saga to assemble a team–one including US Agent and Black Widow Yelena Belova. Both are conflicted anti-heroes who’ve had the benefit of multiple hours on-screen to develop their characters, which has the potential for a richer payoff down the line.
While we won’t be getting an Avengers movie until the end of Phase 6, we will see this long-brewing team-up film cap off Phase 5–only this one will be a group of “Dark Avengers.” The modern Thunderbolts are essentially Marvel’s version of the Suicide Squad where anti-heroes and villains are recruited by the government to help save the world. It could be that Marvel is putting off forming a new team of Avengers right off the bat because they want to showcase the Thunderbolts first. That way, when the Avengers do eventually show up, the world will already be indebted to a team of baddies, and they’ll not only have to stop the villain but prove that the world still needs them. That’s a unique premise ripe with potential drama, so if Marvel does go that route, then it’s understandable, to an extent, why they’ve taken the steps they have to kick off the Multiverse Saga.
So while the Multiverse Saga does seem a bit behind at the moment, it does have the potential to find its way to something grand. But do you think it will ever be enough to top the Infinity Saga? Let us know in the comments.
Source: IGN.com Can The Multiverse Saga Live Up to The Infinity Saga?