Avengers: Endgame has left fans frantically searching for clues of what’s to come in Phase 4. With the untimely death of some of the MCU’s biggest heroes, it’s no surprise we’ll be seeing some new faces set to take the place of our fallen heroes.
It won't be a surprise to see the likes of Falcon/Captain America or Black Panther, but what about the other ones? The the sidekicks and villains? While we put our speculation caps back on, Marvel boss Kevin Feige might just have dropped a big hint about forgotten characters making their big return.
What with upwards of 100 heroes and villains featuring over the course of 22 films, it’s no surprise a whole lot of them have had to fade into the background. However, you should never count on them being gone for good.
Feige suggested as much during an explosive Reddit AMAA last week, when he was asked by one Marvel-head about the possibility of recycling misplaced characters like Abomination, Justin Hammer and the Leader at some point down the road.
In his reply, Feige avoided the aforementioned characters and was reluctant to describe them as “forgotten”, but he did say: “I love bringing back characters people think they’ve seen the last of. For example, General Ross and Harley.”
Now, we know these two turned up at the heart-wrenching funeral of Tony Stark at the end of Avengers: Endgame in a scene that had us all sobbing into our popcorn. But could Feige’s comment hint towards what’s to come as the MCU edges towards its next phase?
When it comes to William Hurt’s General Ross, he’s already appeared and disappeared numerous times over the years, first showing his face in The Incredible Hulk before returning eight years later for Captain America: Civil War, and later Avengers: Infinity War.
However, the fan who asked the question could have been trying to get Feige to confirm rumours about a standalone Thunderbolt film in development, which pitched the aforementioned characters, not to mention Ghost and Helmut Zemo, who we know will be making an appearance in the upcoming Falcon and Winter Soldier spin-off show (more on this to come).
So yes, the MCU president remained characteristically tight-lipped, but there are certainly a fair few candidates who could join the ranks – plus, Ross’ Red Hulk is a major player in the books and would be front-runner if a Thunderbolts series were ever to happen.
Another familiar face at the funeral was Harley Keener, the quippy kid who crossed paths with Stark in Iron Man 3 when he broke his suit. Feige’s mention of the teen’s name only adds to the significance of his Endgame cameo, with many theorising that he will in fact return as the comic book character Iron Lad.
Giving this theory legs is the fact that we’ve unofficially been introduced to a group of Young Avengers over the past several MCU movies – Morgan Stark, Cassie Lang, Lila Barton, Monica Rambeau – who are led by Iron Lad in the books.
Whether Harley will be ordering the Young Avengers assemble in the films to come is yet to be seen, but what we do know is the character’s actor Ty Simpkins is totally down. When asked whether he’d be open to reprising his role as the MCU’s shiny new Iron Man, he replied: “Yes, 100%. I would love that!”
To be fair, who wouldn’t?
The ‘real’ Mandarin
Speaking of Iron Man 3, for the Marvel fans who were disappointed by the films’ Mandarin reveal, the debacle was somewhat retconned with Marvel’s One-Shot: All Hail the King when it was explained that neither of the guys claiming to be Iron Man’s long-term foe (Aldrich Killian or Trevor Slattery) were the real leader of the terrorist group Ten Rings.
Questioning whether we’ll get to see the real Mandarin in the near future, Feige replied “yes”, a frustratingly open-ended answer that has many speculating whether these forgotten villains could make their return in the upcoming Shang-Chi movie before going on to feature in Phase 4 of the MCU.
Could the Mandarin be about to replace Thanos as the biggest big bad of them all? It’s not completely out of the realms of possibility, and would satisfy the fans who were pissed about his flimsy depiction in the Iron Man threequel.
Unlike the others on this list, Baron Zemo’s return has moved past the speculation stage. This week, The Wrap reported that Daniel Brühl is in talks to reprise his role as the Civil War villain alongside Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan on the Disney+ Falcon and Winter Soldier spin-off series.
The MCU's take on the character wasn’t exactly the same as the comics, only becoming evil when his wife and son were killed in the Battle of Sokovia and therefore seeking vengeance on the Avengers. His (surprisingly successful) plan involved setting the Avengers against each other, leading to Iron Man and Captain America going their separate ways.
Depending on how pivotal his role is within the series, it might be that he breaks free from imprisonment to antagonise the newly-appointed Captain America. Either that or Sam and Bucky might use him to take down whatever branch of Hydra remains in the post-Snap-back world.
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