State of the Post-Endgame MCU: Variants, Multiverses and a Not-So-Secret War

By now, everyone has heard of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or any of its projects at some point. With over 29 films, eight Disney+ series, and more than 10 projects in development, the MCU has raked in over a staggering $27 billion in the Box Office as of writing. It goes without saying that the MCU is one of the most successful movie franchises in all of film history.

But what made the MCU so successful? What made its cinematic universe survive in spite of competition that tried to create their own versions of a shared universe?

“I’ve always believed in expanding the definition of what a Marvel Studios movie could be. We try to keep audiences coming back in greater numbers by doing the unexpected and not simply following a pattern or a mold or a formula,” said Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios president.

Feige said the secret lies in finding the right equilibrium between innovation and retaining the interest of fans, by cohesively weaving the stories together as one narrative. This may sound easy, but it takes time to develop a story with a strong foothold.

The dilemma

It’s evident that the MCU has become more than a film franchise and has long since evolved into a cultural movement, one that has not only taken superheroes from being the laughingstock in popular media but has propelled the genre into becoming the most financially successful ones in Hollywood.

From the very first film, “Iron Man” (2008), to the penultimate conclusion of the Infinity Saga (Phase 1-3), “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), the fans have been introduced to a cohesive, singular, and linear timeline packed with adventures, Easter eggs and a lot of end credit scenes that are a must-wait-to-see for fans.

But entering Phase 4, starting with “Black Widow” (2021), it seems the MCU is heading down an inconsistent path.

Phase 4 now has films that officially deal with their own versions of the Multiverse, each one indicating that their Multiverse was caused by a specific root exclusively from within their movie. For example, “Loki” introduced the idea of Kang’s supposed “Multiverse War” with multiple separate timelines warring against each other. But these timelines were not separate universes. They were of the same universe just with different branching alternate timelines.

In “Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness” (2022), which functioned as a direct resolution to the events of “WandaVision,” we were introduced to another version of the Multiverse, this time an actual separate universe with its own separate rules and variants.

And the question now is which one is the actual Multiverse? What timeline are audiences supposed to follow?

Phase 4 has truly covered a lot of ground in a brief period of time: Assassins in Russia, giant gods wrestling it all out in Egypt, space gods hovering outside Earth and frenzied witches travelling to alternate universes. However, what Phase 4 lacks is a cohesive element to patch everything together. Where is the piece of frame that makes fans go, “what’s next?”

Well, we may have an idea.

The not-so-secret war

Entering Phase 4, it seems that the MCU is going down the familiar path that Marvel Comics once went through: A state of inconsistent, disjointed story writing and pacing. The latter was remedied through a soft reboot via The Secret Wars Storyline, a solution brought upon by Marvel writer Jim Shooter.

The story saw a mischievous cosmic entity called The Beyonder transporting entire rosters of Marvel heroes and villains to the so-called “Battleworld,” where they all had to fight each other to death.

With the recent confirmation of “Secret Wars” during San Diego Comic-Con 2022, we can only hope that they can deliver.

“Avengers: Secret Wars,” the newly announced sixth Avengers movie, will bring Marvel Phase 6—and the Multiverse Saga—to a close. The MCU has been known for taking multiple stories from Marvel Comics and mixing it up to create their own original narrative. An example of this is the recent “Thor: Love and Thunder” (2022) wherein we see Thor battle it out against Gorr, The God Butcher, while introducing a new superhero in the form of The Mighty Thor (Jane Foster). So, it is not a stretch to say that this would also be the case for their own interpretation of “Secret Wars.”

During the “Avengers: The Children’s Crusade Comics” run, readers get to see the aftermath of the legendary House of M storyline. Wanda goes missing and was later found by the Young Avengers at the clutches of Dr. Doom. This sparked another fight between The Avengers and X-Men against Dr. Doom who manages to steal Wanda’s reality-altering abilities to become once again, God Emperor Doom.

Reminiscent to the current MCU timeline where Wanda is presumed missing after the events of “Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness,” this could tie into MCU’s very own version of “Secret Wars.” After all, The Young Avengers lineup has been a clear direction for the MCU so far, with its members prepped and ready at go time in multiple Phase 4 projects. That, and with the rumored appearance of Dr. Doom in the upcoming “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” set to be released Nov. 9 (PH release date), one can only hopeMCU does justice to the “Secret Wars” storyline and ultimately, the Multiverse Saga.