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Edited by Robert Beach
We’re now less than a week out from San Diego Comic Con, the biggest week of the professional nerdist’s calendar as we all get to see the latest projects we get to meticulously obsesses over for the next year. Ever since geek culture took over the mainstream the gem of SDCC has become the Marvel announcement. Even though Marvel has taken to announcing a bit more at the Disney Expo recently everyone is still waiting with baited breath to see what news will emerge from them this year.
I’ve already used this set-up to publish a bunch of spec pieces and this another one, addressing the big elephant in the room left over from May’s Captain America: Civil War. At the end of that movie, spoilers, the Sokovia Accords mandating superheroes register with the government are still in effect, they aren’t overturned or anything. That’s a pretty major change-up for the Marvel universe and is sure to have a major impact on future films, so I ask the question: how will Civil War shape Marvel’s Phase 3?
The upcoming Netflix show Luke Cage, premiering in late September, is Marvel’s next big project of the year. It’s the third original Netflix show they’ve produced and the next step towards their big, Netflix crossover series Defenders. What’s more, it’s the first major Marvel production to star a person of color, so it’s a pretty major deal for the studio, especially after the high bar set by Jessica Jones and Daredevil.
Details about Luke Cage are still sketchy but I feel like his story will have to address Civil War’s registration act in some manner thanks to his origin. In the comics, and in the show too apparently, Luke got his powers after he was framed for murder and participated in a prison experiment in the hopes of reducing his sentence. The experiment gave him unbreakable skin and super strength, which Luke used to escape prison in the chaos of the experiment. His real name isn’t even Luke Cage, it’s an assumed identity to hide the fact he’s still technically on the run from the law.
It’s unclear how much of that outside of the prison experiment will make it into the show but it’s a fertile ground for divide between Luke and the authorities, which could be a truly impactful in today’s climate. What’s more, Luke was a major part of the anti-registration side in the Civil War comics. In fact, Luke’s role in Civil War is what catapulted him from an off-beat curiosity to a Marvel big name as he proved one of Cap’s big guns in the fight against Iron Man and even led his own illegal Avengers team after Cap’s death in the comics.
We’ve already seen Daredevil Season 2 and Jessica Jones address growing anger towards the superhero community so it’s clear Marvel’s willing to bring those elements of Civil War into its Netflix shows, I’d be surprised if Luke didn’t end up facing down full on registration when he gets his shot at the big time.
One of the big debuts of Captain America: Civil War was Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, who swung into the hearts of fans everywhere with his lovably obnoxious performance and amazing choreography and effects. However, we also learned a lot about Peter as a character in this film and how much his identity is now shaped by the Marvel Universe as a whole.
Iron Man built his costume and he’s wielding a ton of Stark gadgets in addition to his own web shooters. Additionally, Peter is now an Avenger and a legal one at that, fighting alongside the biggest superheroes on the planet and sanctioned to do so by the UN. That all adds a major element of legitimacy that Spider-Man has never enjoyed before.
So, the question that rises out of this is how much of Spider-Man’s default situation will still be present in his upcoming film. I mean, he can’t really be too strapped for cash given that he’s now best friends with a billionaire but, on the other hand, balancing heroics and his own life will only get harder given he’s a high school student and Avenger. That seems like a thoroughly interesting element of the story to explore but the big, clever idea at hand is how well the Sokovia Accords give Marvel an out in this film.
Previously, the question that loomed over a lot of Phase 2 movies like Winter Soldier or Iron Man 3 was “where are the other Avengers?” It was a legitimate question as Marvel had worked hard to establish a whole world of heroes but suddenly they all disappeared in the solo films. Civil War answers this question by just having all the heroes in the movie but that’s an expensive fix that requires a lot of balancing.
Now, however, the answer can be that the Avengers couldn’t get clearance to step in. So, if Spider-Man: Homecoming wants to focus on Peter having to face down the Sinister Six all by himself, all they need to say is that the UN wouldn’t authorize the entire Avengers to go in and help him and that Cap’s team didn’t have the resources to show up.
This is the other side of the Luke Cage coin. While it’s still unclear when Defenders will premiere (possibly happening as late as 2018 given how much Marvel is dragging their feet with Iron Fist,) there’s no real indication that Civil War’s registration mandate will be reversed prior to Defenders’ premiere. Given that all of the characters assembled have super powers the issue of whether or not they register with the UN seems like it would have to come up in some way, either to inform the overall plot or to allow them to hand wave the size of the threat.
On the one hand, the central threat and plot of Defenders could center entirely around their unregistered status, focusing on the team coming together to stand against UN/SHIELD forces tasked with hunting down unregistered superheroes. That was a major part of the post-Civil War status quo in the comics and it still stands as a pretty rock solid idea.
It allows for a lot of really cool hero vs. authority scenes that are always popular and easily lets the creators write-off the villain’s motivation and identity as more or less handled from the word go. The only issue with taking this route is that it would be a difficult subject to resolve.
Alternatively, they could use the Sokovia Accords in a manner similar to Spider-Man: Homecoming- as a way to excuse the Avengers’ absence despite the size of the threat at hand. Whatever threat calls together the Defenders it’ll have to be a major and a real risk to New York as a whole, so for something that big the question of “where are the Avengers” can’t help but be implicit. Framing the situation as being too local for the UN to authorize intervention would be a great way to double down on the idea that the Defenders are the street level heroes working for the people while the Avengers are only concerned with the big, end of the world stuff.
Black Panther was the other big, breakout star of Civil War- a kick-ass black superhero with incredible powers, amazing intelligence, and the honor of being king of a whole nation. Marvel is the best there is at character introductions like this and they absolutely knocked it out of the park with Black Panther, elevating him to audience favorite through his incredible subplot and Chadwick Boseman’s stellar performance. Aside from giving him a full origin story in this movie, Civil War also seems to set-up a possible plot for Black Panther’s own movie by having him take custody of Buck Barnes in the film’s first post-credits scene.
Given all that, the question now very much becomes “what will Black Panther actually be about?” Most folks had assumed Black Panther would revolve around T’Challa looking for revenge over his murdered father but that story’s now already been told. It seems now the more likely plot will center about American or even UN forces looking to take Bucky by force. Black Panther’s arch-nemesis Klaw has already been introduced in the Marvel universe in Avengers: Age of Ultron as a smuggler with history in Wakanda so I wouldn’t be surprised if he was approached by the resurrected General Ross as an asset for taking out Wakanda security.
Black Panther is set to premiere just before Avengers: Infinity War 1, which means whatever happens in it will probably serve to set-up that film in some way. Given that the idea of Infinity War featuring a full on invasion is seeming less and less likely, I could believe Black Panther serving as the premiere point for the Thunderbolts, a team of villains dressed up as heroes.
The Thunderbolts have been rumored to be in the wings at Marvel for awhile now, ever since General Ross got resurrected and Baron Zemo was confirmed as the bad guy for Civil War as both men are pretty major parts of the team. If that is the case and the Thunderbolts act as a more obedient and destructive alternative to the Avengers I could easily see them popping up or even forming in Black Panther as part of a plan take Wakanda down a peg. Most of all, a lot of the best Black Panther stories have revolved around him defending Wakanda from invasion so it’d certainly fit that theme.
ANT-MAN & THE WASP
Set to premiere in the wake of Infinity War part 1, this movie is the big reason why I don’t entirely buy the idea that Infinity War will start out with an invasion of Earth by Thanos. It just doesn't make a lot of sense for the sequel to a small scale, low key shrinking comedy to get followed up by a big, lynchpin Marvel flick revolving around the aftermath of invasion or taking place in space. In fact, the title and timing of this film might suggest a much different kind of shake up emerging out of Infinity War part 1.
At the end of Civil War, we see Steve Rogers show up at the Raft to rescue his fellow illegal superheroes Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, and Ant-Man. He breaks them out but that also means they’ve all now become fugitives from the law, making it pretty difficult for Scott Lang to resume his place with his family or even go hang out with Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne. Unless Ant-Man & The Wasp really wants to retread Scott’s convict story arc Infinity War would have to find a way to return him to legitimacy.
This says to me that Infinity War part 1 will probably feature the end of the Sokovia Accords, or at least some of Cap’s followers going over to the side of legitimacy in the name of the greater good or the like. Ending the Sokovia Accords makes the most sense to me as the status quo of heroes needing to register or fight the government is difficult to maintain, especially for the amount of new characters that’d need to be introduced going into phase 4. If that is the case, that would really confirm the Thunderbolts as the villains for Avengers 3 with their violent actions leading to an end to registration just in time for Thanos and the Guardians of the Galaxy to become a real threat.