That's What's Up: 9 possible outcomes of Avengers 4

Each week, comic book writer Chris Sims answers the burning questions you have about the world of comics and pop culture: what's up with that? If you'd like to ask Chris a question, please send it to @theisb on Twitter with the hashtag #WhatsUpChris, or email it to staff@looper.com with the subject line "That's What's Up."

Q: With Avengers: Infinity War ending the way it did, what do you think the outcomes are going to be when the sequel hits next year?via email

Okay, a couple of standard disclaimers apply here. First of all, there are going to be spoilers for Infinity War, because I can't really talk about what I think's going to happen next without talking about the end of of this one. If you haven't seen it, I'd suggest doing that right now. The only thing I'll say about it before we get into it is that I thought it was great, and it's probably the most superhero comic book movie ever made in almost every sense of those words.

Second, the usual clarification that while I occasionally get to write comics at Marvel, I have no particular information or insight into the movie side of things other than being a fan. Believe me, if I was in charge of, or even remotely influential on the MCU, Captain America would've turned into a werewolf by at least the second movie, if not halfway through the first. That, by the way, is my first prediction: we're absolutely gonna get Capwolf in a movie that makes a billion dollars, y'all.

Avengers Forever

Capwolf aside, my first prediction/gentle suggestion has to do with the title. So far, we've been calling it Avengers 4, Infinity War Part 2, and my personal choice, Untitled 21st Iron Man Sequel, but when you get right down to it, there's really only one acceptable title. It has to be Avengers Forever, right?

I'm a sucker for titles that include the number, and while I admit that nothing will ever come close to the genius of calling the eighth Fast & Furious movie Fate of the Furious, calling it Avengers Forever would also give moviegoers a nice hopeful note to start off on. I feel like people who aren't familiar with how often superheroes die and come back even without a plot that already features a bunch of magic marbles that can warp reality might need that. They did, after all, just watch a pained, tearful Spider-Man dissolve into dust while apologizing for not preventing galactic genocide. Man. Things got pretty grim for a minute there there, huh?

Anyway, while Avengers Forever would make for a solid title, I doubt they'd actually lift anything from the comic of the same name. If you've never read it, it's… well, it's complicated, and mostly involves a group of Avengers pulled from different eras in the team's history traveling through the timestream to fix problems with Marvel continuity. I don't think the movies have quite gotten to the point where that's necessary, but it would be pretty great to see some hunky Chrises Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-ing their way through 19 superhero movies. The only problem is that "Wakanda Forever" is already a wildly popular catchphrase based on the success of Black Panther, so maybe they should steal one from the nWo and go with Avengers 4 Life.

The New Black Panther

Speaking of Black Panther and people dissolving into dust, one of the most shocking bits of the end was absolutely when T'Challa was among the half of the population that got snapped to death. For the record, that was also the moment where I became pretty sure that most of these deaths were going to be undone by the time we get to the end of the next one, since there are about 1.3 billion reasons (and counting) to keep him around. For now though, he's gone, and that leads to what's maybe the most obvious idea for the next one: Shuri becoming the new Black Panther.

She's next in line for the throne, and with the heart-shaped herbs gone at the end of Black Panther, she'd be able to use her expertise with creating beyond Iron Man-level technology to step into the role. We've even seen her in action, fighting with literal panther-shaped energy gauntlets. All she needs is the costume.

The other strong possibility would be that Nakia takes over instead, but Shuri's the one who becomes Black Panther in the comics. The Marvel movies are really good at using stories like Winter Soldier and Infinity Gauntlet as road maps that they can deviate from while still keeping the core points, and that seems like one they'd want to stick with. Either way, if we do get a new Black Panther, it'll set up a pretty interesting dynamic when we get to the next Black Panther film.

King of the Dead

That leaves us with the question of what's going to happen with T'Challa, and as long as we're heading down the rabbit hole, we might as well stick with looking at what happens in the comics. If that's the case, I feel like there's a strong possibility that dude is going to become King of the Dead.

If you're not familiar with how that goes down in the comics, the basic idea is that after Shuri takes over as both Wakanda's leader and the Black Panther, T'Challa finds himself conflicted. He wants to be Black Panther again, but he doesn't want to usurp Shuri or interfere with her reign. To solve that problem, he heads to the secret necropolis under the Golden City so that he can talk to Bast — you know, the cat goddess? — and she gives him a new role. He becomes Black Panther, King of the Dead, with all the strength and wisdom of every Black Panther before him. It's pretty great.

The key idea here is that when Thanos snaps his fingers, T'Challa and the other heroes aren't erased from existence. They're killed. We know that there's an afterlife in the MCU — we've seen it in Black Panther and Infinity War — so presumably, there's someplace for their souls to go once they've died. If that's the case, then who better to lead a team of superheroes back to the land of the living than the King of the Dead?

Asgard Reborn

For me, the most shocking moment of Infinity War wasn't the ending, it was right at the start of the movie, when we find out that Thanos and the Black Order killed all of the Asgardian refugees that Thor worked so hard to save in Ragnarok. To be fair, I should've seen that one coming, since the movie's called Ragnarok, and traditionally speaking, nobody really gets out of the Twilight of the Gods in good shape.

In Marvel Comics, however, that's not really the case. It might surprise you if you've read them lately and seen at least two versions of Thor running around, but in comics, the actual Ragnarok has already happened. That's why Thor's not around for the comcs version of Civil War: at the time, he was temporarily inconvenienced by being dead. See, Ragnarok isn't the end of the world, it's the end of a cycle. As gods, Thor and the other Asgardians are creatures of mythology — they're reborn, they live, and they die, eternally bound by the nature of their stories. If we're following that logic, then the next major quest after dealing with Thanos for a Thor who's more powerful than we've ever seen could be the rebuilding of Asgard by tracking down the reborn souls of the other gods.

There are two big problems with this one, though. First, in the comics, when Asgard's reborn, the big hook was that rather than being in another realm, it happened in Oklahoma. The movies already took elements from that back in 2011, and with the increasingly cosmic direction they've taken since, it's hard to imagine going back. Second, bringing back the gods in any form will really undercut the emotional impact of their deaths in Ragnarok and Infinity War. If they're not going to do that, though, they gotta do something.

Korg, Miek, and Valkyrie will return from running an errand in space

I mean, come on, they could not possibly have killed the three best new movie characters of 2017 offscreen between movies, could they? Until proven otherwise, I'm just going to assume that they weren't on the refugee ship and were off somewhere scouting, or fighting Blastarr, or getting space groceries or whatever. To do otherwise would be absolute madness.

If Happy Hogan can be in like six of these movies, then I better walk out of a theater next year having heard a rock monster with a thick Kiwi accent say "hey min."

Tony Stark, R.I.P.

One character that I am pretty sure is going to bite it, though, is Iron Man. Frankly, I'm shocked that he made it through this one — I would've bet the house that we were bidding a fond, heroic farewell to at least Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans, if not both — but I do really like the way it was set up here. 

If you'll recall, Doctor Strange traded Thanos the Time Stone in exchange for sparing Tony Stark's life. That's surprising, first because Strange swore an oath to protect the Stone with all of his considerable mystical power, and second because he did it knowing full well that if Thanos got the stones, he was going to kill half the galaxy. Even if Strange and Stark had bonded over the course of their outer space adventure to become BFFs and not just dudes who met an hour ago who didn't actually seem to like each other that much, there's no way anyone should trade Iron Man's life for uncountable trillions. Unless

Shortly before that scene is the one where Strange uses the time stone to take a peek at 14 million alternate outcomes, which I'm assuming included the ones where Wolverine fought Conan the Barbarian and the Punisher became Venom. He says that the good guys only win in one of them, which seems at first like typically dramatic superhero dialogue. Given the bargain with Thanos, though, you have to assume that the one reality where Thanos is defeated has to be one where Tony Stark lives long enough to do something in the next movie, and odds are good that the "something" he does is a heroic sacrifice that's been building for 11 years.

The All-New Iron Man

A second ago I said that I thought Iron Man was going to die, but that's not really true. I'm convinced Tony Stark's on the way out, but Iron Man's going to stick around. It's just going to be Jim Rhodes under the helmet instead.

Like Shuri, this one follows from a precedent set in the comics — before he was War Machine, Rhodey was Iron Man '83 to '85 — but it's one that seems like they've been setting it up for quite a while. He's the only one besides Tony to wear armor that's functionally identical to Iron Man's, and he also suffered a spinal injury during the big airport battle in Captain America: Civil War that left him needing Stark's tech to walk. That was actually the only lasting consequence of that huge knock-down, drag-out fight scene, and it's still present in Infinity War — when we see him out of costume, he's still wearing the techno-braces to walk.

That puts him in a position that's very similar to the one Tony was in back during his original comics appearances, when he had to wear the chestplate of his armor to keep the shrapnel from moving closer to his heart. The same thing happened in the movies, but it was pretty much dealt with a while back. It is, however, casually mentioned near the start of Infinity War. If Rhodey doesn't take over as Iron Man, that feels like a whole lot of setup that's not going as far as it maybe should. And if he does, that not only provides proof-of-concept for the idea that the MCU can continue after the departure of big-name actors — already done on a small scale when Don Cheadle took over the role of Rhodey from Terrence Howard — it also gives Marvel Studios the pretty huge milestone of having a disabled African-American superhero as what is arguably the flagship character of the entire franchise.

Keep on waiting for Adam Warlock

Given that he's a huge part of the original Infinity Gauntlet story, and that his imminent arrival was set up in the post-credits scene of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I was more than a little surprised that Adam Warlock didn't make his first full appearance in Infinity War. Even if his role in that story is mainly relegated to hanging out in space frowning while the heroes battle Thanos, it felt like the sort of thing that was bound to happen. And then it didn't.

If it didn't happen in Infinity War, then I'm guessing it's not going to happen in the next one, either. When I mentioned my surprise to a friend, they pointed out that if he does show up in the next movie, it'll be as a quite literal deus ex machina, and these movies tend to be better than that. Instead, if the post-credits sequence in this movie is any indication, the role of being the person who has to explain all the outer-space stuff to the earthbound heroes is going to go to Captain Marvel, who has been summoned by a cosmic beeper.

That makes sense structurally, too. Captain Marvel and Ant-Man and the Wasp are the only MCU movies coming out between Infinity War and Iron Man XXII, and Scott Lang sure as hell ain't gonna be the one getting everyone up to speed on the Kree/Skrull War. With Carol Danvers handling that, Adam Warlock will likely show up for real in Guardians Vol. 3, one of the few movies to be announced for the post-4vengers MCU. That means there's a good chance there's going to be an entire movie about the Guardians of the Galaxy fighting the Magus, which is probably the only thing weirder than the stuff they've already done.

Also, on a personal note, that post-credits sequence was one of the best in-theater moments I've ever had, because a little kid sitting next to me saw my wife and me getting super hyped when Carol's emblem came up, and said "I don't know who that is but those people are pretty excited." You got it, kid.

Okay but seriously: Capwolf

No, really this time, bear with me for a second here. If Infinity War has proven anything, it's that the Marvel movies can do anything and make a billion dollars. They've spent ten full years and 19 movies getting to that point, but I went to a theater and saw a movie that had Proxima Midnight and the Collector in it last week, and a major plot point was that a space dwarf made a magic hammer out of a talking tree. Please note that absolutely none of this is a complaint.

Point being, there is literally nothing stopping them from doing a movie where Captain America becomes a super-powered werewolf and delivers an inspirational speech to a bunch of other werewolves that mostly amounts to growling and barking. Heck, we already know that Marvel Studios is super into Mark Gruenwald — they put Crossbones in two movies! It might even make sense from a moviemaking standpoint. If Chris Evans really does want to scale back his acting work and devote his time to remodeling his house, then why not replace him with a CGI wolfman with an indestructible shield?

Think about it. Are you really going to sit there and tell me that they've introduced a magic space rock that can warp reality itself and they're not going to use it to turn Captain America into an adorable puppy dog, at least for a minute? They already turned Mantis into a slinky and Drax into cubes! Cubes! There's no world where a wolf is weirder than cubes!

Each week, comic book writer Chris Sims answers the burning questions you have about the world of comics and pop culture: what's up with that? If you'd like to ask Chris a question, please send it to @theisb on Twitter with the hashtag #WhatsUpChris, or email it to staff@looper.com with the subject line "That's What's Up."