Wearing his trademark baseball cap and blazer, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige returned to a packed Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con for the first time in three years on Saturday. The annual event had been forced to go virtual during the previous two years due to the pandemic, but it made a triumphant return in person over this past weekend—and Feige came prepared for the long-awaited occasion. The mastermind behind the MCU revealed the studio’s plans extending several years into the future, showcasing its many upcoming movies and TV shows on a classically long and detailed timeline, with some trailer debuts and guest appearances from casts and directors along the way. In fact, Feige came with two baseball caps this time, the second of which he switched into with dramatic flair about midway through his hour-plus presentation, revealing a logo that serves as the new title for Marvel’s ongoing cinematic era: the Multiverse Saga.
Starting with WandaVision in January 2021, Marvel’s Phase 4 has unleashed an almost nonstop barrage of content in the MCU’s new, two-fronted approach of releasing movies in theaters and TV series to stream on Disney+. The results have been mixed. But more uncharacteristic for Marvel than that, it hasn’t felt like there’s been much of a plan in motion to connect the studio’s rising number of superheroes and franchises in a crossover event that could come close to rivaling the culmination of the Infinity Saga in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. While this past weekend’s announcements don’t undo this phase’s inconsistencies or resolve the controversy surrounding Marvel’s VFX practices, it’s clear that the company has a plan after all, one that it hopes can help sustain its box office dominance—and increase subscribers to Disney’s streaming service—for years to come.
At Comic-Con, Feige confirmed that Phase 4 will soon conclude with the highly anticipated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in November, but he also revealed Phase 5 in its entirety, as well as how Phase 6 and the newly dubbed Multiverse Saga will end in the fall of 2025. The roadmap for this era of the MCU has finally been unveiled, so let’s break down the highlights from the outpouring of Marvel Studios–related news coming out of Comic-Con.
Marvel saved its very best for last at Comic-Con on Saturday, closing out its Hall H presentation with our first look at Wakanda Forever. And it’s about as perfect a trailer as the studio has ever released.
The hype couldn’t be much greater for the long-awaited Black Panther follow-up. Director Ryan Coogler’s 2018 film remains one of Marvel’s greatest achievements, and even more than that, it became a cultural phenomenon on a level that few movies have ever been able to achieve. It was always going to be a challenge to create a sequel in the shadow of the original’s success, and it seemingly became impossible following the loss of Chadwick Boseman, who died in 2020 after a private battle with colon cancer. Boseman was a singular talent who brought King T’Challa to life on the big screen, among many other iconic Black characters and historical figures, and he is irreplaceable as the franchise’s star. But Coogler and Co. are prepared to pick up the torch Boseman left behind and do their best to honor his legacy in Wakanda Forever.
“Chad is no longer with us physically, but his spirit, his passion, his genius, his pride, and his culture—and the impact that he made on this industry—will be felt forever,” Coogler said during Marvel’s presentation on Saturday. “We put our love for Chadwick into this film, but we also put our passion. This film has a ton of action, it has humor—it’s a roller coaster of a movie. It goes to new places in Wakanda that we haven’t seen before, but it also goes to new corners of the MCU.”
That passion, and that love for Boseman, shines through in the first Wakanda Forever trailer. The music sets the emotional tone for the preview right from the jump, opening with a beautiful rendition of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “No Woman, No Cry,” performed by Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems, before cleverly bleeding into Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” midway through. In a little more than two minutes of footage, few details of the film’s plot are revealed, but it’s clear that Wakanda Forever will be dealing directly with the death of Wakanda’s king, as evidenced by glimpses of T’Challa’s family in mourning, what appears to be a funeral service in his honor, and a mural paying tribute to him:
“I am queen of the most powerful nation in the world, and my entire family is gone,” Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) declares with force, in what are the only lines in the trailer. “Have I not given everything?”
Amid the great loss comes new life in Wakanda, as well as new faces: Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), making her MCU debut ahead of her upcoming Disney+ series Ironheart; Aneka (Michaela Coel), of the Dora Milaje; and Namor the Sub-Mariner (Tenoch Huerta), the King of Atlantis and one of Marvel Comics’ oldest characters. The trailer also incorporates much of the returning cast of Black Panther, including Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), M’Baku (Winston Duke), and Shuri (Letitia Wright).
The preview ends with a tease of a new Black Panther, though it remains to be seen who bears the tall task of following in T’Challa’s (and Boseman’s) footsteps as Wakanda’s next superhero. November 11 can’t come soon enough.
The Avengers Will Return: Marvel’s Big Picture
After Wakanda Forever closes out Phase 4 later this year, Marvel won’t wait long to dive into the next chapter of the Multiverse Saga. Phase 5 will begin next February with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, a follow-up to 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp. During the Hall H presentation, Feige said that there’s a particular reason that Quantumania will be kicking off Marvel’s next phase: It features Jonathan Majors’s Kang the Conqueror.
After being introduced in the Loki season finale as a Kang variant known simply as He Who Remains, Kang will return as the main villain in Quantumania. But his role will have much greater implications than that, as Feige also revealed that Phase 6 will end with two Avengers films, Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars. Given that the Infinity Saga also essentially ended with a two-part Avengers conclusion (excluding 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, which served as something of an epilogue to Endgame), Marvel appears to be attempting to replicate that tandem’s box office breakthrough by recycling the same release strategy. Kang, likewise, has just been positioned as this saga’s Thanos-level threat.
In addition to teasing the two-part Avengers conclusion, Marvel also revealed that Phase 6 will begin with the long-awaited MCU introduction of Marvel’s first family, as Fantastic Four will arrive in theaters on November 8, 2024. The film’s placement on the MCU timeline feels purposeful, considering that Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four play a crucial role within the comic book story line of Secret Wars, as does their infamous rival, Doctor Doom. (While Marvel might not want to overuse Majors’s Kang, who will likely return in Loki’s second season in addition to Quantumania and The Kang Dynasty, it’s possible that Kang could play a role in Fantastic Four based on his many appearances opposite the superteam in the comics.) No other projects were revealed for Phase 6 beyond those three, raising the question of whether the X-Men will be reintroduced at all during this era of MCU stories, or whether Marvel is just waiting to unveil its live-action plans for the beloved franchise at Disney’s upcoming D23 Expo in the fall.
There’s still a lot more to unpack here. We haven’t even gotten to the announcement of Sam Wilson’s film debut as the MCU’s new Captain America in Captain America: New World Order, which is set for a release in May 2024. Seeing as Secret Wars isn’t due in theaters until [checks notes] November 7, 2025, we’ll have plenty of time to parse Marvel’s massive release schedule. And given the nature of the film industry and the ongoing pandemic, this current slate will surely shift around before then; assuming there’ll be some production delays and schedule shuffling, it’s possible that Phase 6 could push into 2026. It hurts my brain to even think that far ahead.
One of the takeaways from Comic-Con is that while MCU TV shows will continue to land in bunches, Marvel’s movies remain supreme. That’s not to say that there aren’t any exciting TV projects coming down the pike, but the movies are still where Marvel makes the most money all at once, and so blockbusters will likely continue to bookend every phase the studio produces until that changes. (WandaVision might have opened Phase 4, but that happened only after Black Widow was pushed back due to pandemic-related production delays.)
Even though the beginnings and ends of the MCU’s upcoming phases are reserved for Marvel’s major movies, the studio has plans to keep churning out TV series at a rate that matches the pace of its theatrical releases. The next one up, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, is less than a month away, and in honor of its upcoming premiere, a new trailer was released at Comic-Con:
While we can leave the ongoing discussion about the series’ questionable CGI for another day, I’ll say this: She-Hulk looks like a lot of fun. More than the first teaser, which the new one eclipses in running time by about a minute, the second trailer reveals the series’ plot, as well as a comedic tone that’s true to the fourth-wall-breaking nature of its source material. It opens with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), still in his Professor Hulk form from Endgame, teaching his cousin Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) a lesson in the way of the Hulk. He teaches her how to use her strength, as well as the importance of balance and, crucially, spandex. Much to Bruce’s chagrin, Jennifer seems to be a pro at all of it already, and she’s more interested in returning to her normal, non-superhero life as a lawyer, setting the stage for Marvel’s first comedy series.
“More and more eccentric superhumans are coming out of the woodwork,” a lawyer at the law firm GLKH tells Jennifer. “We are going to launch a division for them, and I want She-Hulk to be the face of it.”
In She-Hulk, Jennifer will be forced to balance her new responsibilities as a superhero with her everyday life as a lawyer, and those lines will be forever blurred as she is placed into this messy, uncharted world of superhuman law. Her first client is none other than Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), better known as the Abomination, who fought against the Hulk so long ago in the history of the MCU that Hulk was then played by another actor. The trailer teased more MCU cameos in the series as well, including Wong (Benedict Wong), the Sorcerer Supreme, and a visit from another famous Marvel lawyer: Daredevil (Charlie Cox).
The brief sighting of Daredevil, who’s wearing a new suit, to close out the She-Hulk trailer comes on the heels of Cox’s surprise appearance as Matt Murdock in last year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, along with the similarly-timed return of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in Hawkeye. Both Cox and D’Onofrio, who starred opposite each other in Netflix’s beloved Daredevil series, are also set to reprise their roles in the show’s upcoming revival on Disney+, Daredevil: Born Again, which was announced at Hall H to uproarious applause.
Daredevil: Born Again is scheduled for a Spring 2024 release, with a first season that will consist of 18 episodes. That’s not only the longest season of any MCU series to date, but it’s longer than any of the three seasons of Netflix’s Daredevil, all of which were capped at 13. She-Hulk will probably provide more details about what to expect from Daredevil’s return to the small screen, just as Echo will likely give us some indication as to how Kingpin survived getting shot at point-blank range—no biggie—at the end of Hawkeye.
In Other MCU News …
There was simply too much revealed during Marvel’s Hall H presentation to fit into one blog post, as the studio doesn’t seem concerned about the public’s creeping signs of superhero fatigue. (Middling reviews from critics and audiences aside, until there are any drastic changes in the box office margins, why should Marvel worry?) Here’s a rundown of some of the other highlights from Saturday’s announcements:
- Thunderbolts. In one of the more unexpected announcements of the day, Feige revealed that the Thunderbolts are coming to the MCU, with the film slated for a release on July 26, 2024, to conclude Phase 5. While the team will be announced officially at a later date, it seems possible that the Thunderbolts roster could be made up of the antiheroes that Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has been assembling in projects like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow.
- Blade. Not much was revealed about the upcoming movie starring Mahershala Ali, but it now has a release date: November 3, 2023. And that’s exciting enough news for me.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Director James Gunn stopped by to promote what he teased as the end of the Guardians saga he started working on almost exactly 10 years ago. The film, which is due in theaters on May 5, 2023, will explore the tragic origins of Rocket Raccoon.
- Agatha: Coven of Chaos. Kathryn Hahn’s breakout character from WandaVision is getting her own spinoff show, which has just received a new title after initially being announced as Agatha: House of Harkness. The witch—who is still stuck in Westview—will return when the series premieres sometime in the winter of 2023.
- Quantumania. While I touched on the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp sequel earlier, I left out a couple of fun details revealed in the footage shown only to the audience at Hall H. While I was not in attendance, the trailer reportedly featured glimpses of the villainous M.O.D.O.K., who is set to make his MCU debut following his animated Hulu series, as well as Bill Murray. I have no idea what character Murray is portraying, and I’ve been fooled by one too many fake teasers circulating online to try to find out, but does the role even really matter? It’s Bill Murray!
- Secret Invasion. As with Quantumania, an exclusive trailer for the upcoming Disney+ series was shown at Hall H and reportedly included surprise appearances from James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and Everett Ross (Freeman), along with a first look at Olivia Colman’s mystery character.
Phase 4 has been one of Marvel’s shakiest, but if the company’s showcase at Comic-Con proved anything, it’s that the MCU isn’t close to running out of stories to tell. With the deluge of announcements this weekend, Marvel Studios did its best to capture the culture’s attention—and largely succeeded. With years’ worth of movies and TV shows on the way, the question is whether that attention will ever subside.