As a child, I was consumed with learning the origins & backgrounds of as many comic characters as possible. I still believe they are two of the most important aspects of storytelling. Marvel Comics has evolved into Marvel Entertainment, and so I naturally find myself needing to consume more of the Cinematic Universe as well now. It’s all part of being a super fan, I guess.
Now that you have a little idea of my background, let’s delve further into how Marvel Studios is balancing the overall themes and interwoven stories in Phase 4 to keep the know-it-alls on their toes, and the rest of us on the edge of our seats.
Beginning with J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck, Bob McLeod and their editor Jim Salicrup (Kraven’s Last Hunt; Marvel, 1987), the idea of continuity across multiple comic book publications became the crux of canon storytelling. Using that same method for the MCU was a stroke of genius, as it had never been done on a cinematic scale before.
Themes matter much more now because they allow the creator to tell their story without losing ground on a character’s development. The preemptive recap docu-series, Marvel Studios Legends “serves as an exciting refresher for various heroes and villains making their way to the highly anticipated streaming shows premiering on Disney+.”
Its thematic intro flashes: “EXPLORE THE STORIES OF THOSE DESTINED TO BECOME LEGENDS”. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. If the comic book canon is prophecy, the movies & shows are the prodigies striving to live up them. Themes have helped to keep all MCU fans from different walks of life synced into the same frequencies.
However, what is not clear is how Marvel will live in our minds rent free, for the foreseeable futures. I am referring to the creative liberties taken by the studio to change parts of the legends and comic book canon that many of us know and love; aka deviations.
Phase 4’s Destiny vs Deviation
My newly coined theme for Phase 4, Destiny vs. Deviation (DvD), draws from the idea that the Marvel legacy is predestined to tell certain stories. Those legends must be challenged by the science fiction dogma (auspiciously attributed in a clue I found while reviewing the trailer for the Disney+ Loki series): the phrase “Multiversal Deviation”.
Meaning a divergence or variation of a known and fixed value (i.e., our reality and/or time itself), there are different types of deviations besides the creative ones taken in productions. The probability is high that these deviations will be used to keep the known and fixed value of the Marvel lore fresh, intriguing and fun. Story wise, all threads will arrive at the Multiverse for Phase 4. However in different ways, thereby altering certain expected destinies, cementing others and possibly creating new hit characters & stories that originate from the movies and translate to the comics, instead of the usual chain of events.
Genetic, Temporal, and Universal Deviations in Phase 4 and Beyond
There are 3 major scientific deviations I believe to be underlying themes throughout Phase 4 and beyond: Genetic, Temporal, & Universal.
Genetic Deviation (Deviants, Eternals, Mutants, Inhumans & Superhuman potential in Humans)
These are surely destined to be explained in the upcoming movie, Eternals. The genetic potential and origin story for all species throughout the MCU, aside from Galactus, begins with the story of the first cosmic beings of the universe known as the Celestials.
The tenets of this “book of Genesis” in the MCU will be seeded throughout the history of the main 616 universe, and will continue to flower beyond the first 23 Marvel Studios movies. From the Kree Empire to the Inhumans to the Feige teased X-Men, we have a multitude of genetic deviations to explore in all timelines established. Projects like WandaVision, Black Widow, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Secret Invasion, Blade & Fantastic 4, are certainly designed to address this theme on a geo-political level, as well as the cosmic.
Temporal Deviation (The Quantum Realm, Magical Dimensions, Pocket Dimensions, The Time Variance Authority’s Null Time Zone)
This notion speaks to the science Tony Stark established in Avengers: Endgame. Temporal Deviation is the observance of ‘pushing people & things through time, and pushing time through them’. The tenets of science fiction lend themselves to the possibility that time can also be pushed around people and things, causing them to be affected or unaffected in various ways (see, Immortus, Limbo). WandaVision, Loki, Spider-Man 3, Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness, and Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania are carrying the DNA from Endgame.
“Endgame Loki” (Loki’s character from his solo Disney+ series) is literally spawned from the multitude of temporal deviations created by the Avengers, making it destined for the time traveler, Kang The Conqueror to appear.
Universal/Multiversal Deviation (The Multiverse)
This is the widely popular & highly marketed “big picture theme” for Phase 4. It is created by changing reality through temporal deviations (i.e, time travel), as well as fracturing realities by eliminating universally fixed entities (see: Incursions). The Multiverse has been alluded to in Spider-Man: Far From Home and plotted as the major theme for WandaVision, Spider-Man 3, What If…?, the aptly titled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Quantumania. All projects could possibly be affected by the multiversal fallout caused by all three deviations.