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Ranking Marvel's Phase 4 announcements from best to worst

Let's be clear — we don't think we heard any bad Marvel Phase 4 announcements. The reveals we were treated to from San Diego Comic-Con's Hall H panel were all good. From sequels to prequels, from vampire hunters to thunder gods, Marvel Studios let us all know what we can look forward to in 2020 and 2021, both on the big screen and the upcoming Disney+ streaming service. 

News isn't as easy to rank from best to worst when it's all good news. Well, at least it sounds like good news. There's no way to really know until all these films and TV shows come out whether or not they're going to be disasters. But Marvel Studios has built up a lot of trust with its fans over the past decade, and we're willing to bet that what's ahead of us has the potential to be just as entertaining as what's behind. 

Keeping in mind that no matter where you might disagree with our ranking, a lot of us can at least agree we're looking forward to it all. Here's our ranking Marvel's Phase 4 announcements from best to worst

Jane will take up the hammer in Thor: Love & Thunder

Considering Natalie Portman's well-known gripes with Marvel, her absence in Ragnarok, and the fact that old footage was used to place her in Avengers: Endgame, it was an understandable assumption that the Jane Foster Thor would never appear in the MCU. So perhaps the most surprising reveal of 2019's San Diego Comic-Con is how wrong that assumption was.  

Appearing on stage with director Taika Waititi, Portman — who portrays Foster in the first two Thor films — happily accepted the prop Mjolnir from Waititi, quipping, "I've always had a little hammer envy."

Portman appeared as part of the announcement for the fourth Thor film, Thor: Love and Thunder, set for release on November 5, 2021, and it was confirmed that Portman's hammer-holding was more than just a tease. She will definitely appear as a female Thor. 

The question of future Thor installments was up in air in the wake of Endgame, so the very fact that there will be a fourth Thor is wonderful news. Things appear that much better knowing that Waititi — who helped to make Ragnarok such a redeeming success — is returning to the director's chair. Plus, Tessa Thompson, who plays Valkyrie in both Ragnarok and Endgame, is back as well. 

There is one big question up in the air — whether or not Darryl (Daley Pearson) of Team Thor fame will return, and who his roommate might be if he does.

Mahershala Ali will be the new Blade

A decade before we all saw what Tony Stark could do with a second chance and a car battery, vampire-hunter Blade — originally played by Wesley Snipes — showed audiences what a Marvel hero could do on the big screen with silver stakes and a samurai sword. The half-vampire vigilante enjoyed two sequels to 1998's Blade, but the final installment, 2004's Blade: Trinity, was a disaster on all fronts. 

Two years later, hardcore rapper Sticky Fingaz starred as the titular vampire hunter in the short-lived Blade: The Series. Marvel reacquired the TV and film rights for Blade from New Line in 2013, and ever since then, there have been rumors about Blade in the MCU. As recently as 2018, reports surfaced that Wesley Snipes was in talks to reprise the role. At Comic-Con we learned Blade was coming back, but with a new and exciting casting choice.

We don't yet know the release date, but we know that Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali is set to play Blade in an upcoming film. The actor was already a memorable part of the MCU with his portrayal of the villain Cottonmouth in the first season of Netflix's Luke Cage. His achievements in shows like House of Cards and movies like Moonlight and Green Book speak for themselves. Snipes gave his stamp of approval on the casting in a statement, welcoming Ali to "the Daywalker Klique."  

The Eternals will finally arrive in Phase 4

We've been catching bits and pieces here and there about Eternals for a while now, but SDCC 2019 finally gave us a full cast list and a release date, as well as some intriguing concept art. 

The cosmic Eternals will arrive in theaters November 6, 2020, with an impressive, diverse cast including Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden (a.k.a. Game of Thrones' doomed King Robb), and comedian Kumail Nanjiani. Salma Hayek will appear as a gender-swapped Ajak, and the young Lia McHugh will likewise play a female version of the Eternal Sprite. Dong-seok Ma plays the strongman Gilgamesh while Brian Tyree Henry, who appears as Detective Mike Norris in 2019's Child's Play, will star as the master technologist Phastos. Chloé Zhao, director of 2015's Songs My Brothers Taught Me and 2017's The Rider, will take the director's chair. 

Along with dates and names, Marvel released concept art featuring the titanic Celestials marching across a barren landscape. The Celestials have lurked in the background of the MCU for a while. They were mentioned in both Guardians of the Galaxy films and Ego (Kurt Russell), the villain of the second Guardians film, claims to be a Celestial, though he'd never met another of his kind. In the comics, the Celestials are part of the mythology's backbone and it's particularly exciting to know we'll finally get a better idea of where they fit into the architecture of the MCU. 

Simu Liu takes on the Ten Rings as Shang-Chi

We already knew Destin Daniel Cretton was tapped to direct whatever film would finally bring Marvel kung fu master Shang-Chi to the big screen, but from San Diego Comic-Con's Hall H we learned much more, including some of the cast, the title, the release date, and the villain. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, starring Simu Liu as Shang-Chi and Tony Leung as the Mandarin (the real one this time), is set to release February 12, 2021. We don't know a lot about the cast yet, though the hilarious Awkwafina (Crazy Rich AsiansOcean's Eight) will appear in an undisclosed role. 

Shang-Chi promises to be a first of Marvel's on a number of fronts. Not only will it feature a largely Asian cast, but it will also expand Marvel Studios' genre range as its first foray into a martial arts film. One thing we're left wondering is whether or not we'll see the return of Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley). Slattery was the drug-addled actor who played the false Mandarin in Iron Man 3. Kingsley reprised the role in Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King, a short appearing on the Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray. The short film ends with Slattery being kidnapped by a man (Scoot McNairy) claiming to be a follower of the true Mandarin … who isn't happy with Slattery using his name. 

Daniel Bruhl will don the mask in Falcon/Winter Soldier

It's a statement sure to invite argument, but you could make the case that — as the vengeful and tragic Zemo in 2016's Captain America: Civil War — Daniel Brühl played the MCU's most effective villain. Why? Well, he's the only one who arguably did exactly what he set out to do. He splinters the Avengers in a way that isn't healed until 2019's Avengers: Endgame. Considering the disadvantage this puts the team in when it comes to facing Thanos in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, it seems likely the Mad Titan never would've made it to his fateful snap if Zemo hadn't split the heroes apart. 

And apparently, he's not done. We learned earlier this year that Brühl was set to return for the upcoming Disney+ mini-series Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and now we know he's going to be a bit more comic-book-correct when it happens. From San Diego, Brühl posted the first images of himself as Zemo in the upcoming series on his Instagram, including a somewhat distorted image of himself masked. In the comics, Zemo is Baron Zemo (one rule of comics is that if you have a baron title, you're evil, and you don't even have a choice about it), and he's always seen in his trademark purple mask. 

The more comic book loyal look makes us wonder what's behind Zemo's motivations this time around, and we're pretty excited to find out.  

Hawkeye will welcome a new generation in Marvel's Phase 4

We know less about Jeremy Renner's upcoming Hawkeye mini-series on the Disney+ streaming service than most of the other confirmed Disney+Marvel offerings. However, fans got to see something for Hawkeye that hasn't been shown for any of the other series: the intro. 

Renner showed fans the intro at a panel about the upcoming show, and it received an enthusiastic response. Appearing to borrow the aesthetic of Matt Fraction and David Aja's 2012 Hawkeye comic — including a logo pulled directly from that series — the animated intro got the loudest response when the female Hawkeye shows up, outlined in purple. There's no word yet on who will play the young Kate Bishop, but judging by the Con audience's response, she'll be a welcome addition to the MCU. 

There was some speculation that Clint Barton's daughter, Lila, would be the female Hawkeye, as Clint is shown teaching her archery in the opening of Avengers: Endgame. But in the comics, Bishop is already an expert marksman by the time she meets the original Hawkeye. In fact, Barton is dead when Bishop first appears in 2005's Young Avengers #1 (he got better).

Black Widow won't pull any punches

On May 1, 2020, fans will finally get to see the solo Black Widow film they've been clamoring for. And according to star Scarlett Johansson, it may be more brutal than any other Marvel film.

Speaking to ScreenRant, Johansson said there will be more fighting in Black Widow than any MCU movie. "It's just brutal," Johansson confirmed. "I think because it's based in reality, all the action is based in reality, and it's a lot of hand-to-hand combat. It's painful."

The site's description of the Black Widow footage featured at SDCC jives with what Johansson said. ScreenRant's Molly Freeman writes that the SDCC-exclusive scene preview shows Black Widow fighting Yelena (Florence Pugh) and calls it "absolutely brutal, with both Natasha and Yelena using every weapon at their disposal including dish rags and kitchen knives." The scene apparently takes place in Budapest, which means we might finally get a glimpse at the classic Budapest mission that Nat and Clint have been alluding to since 2012's Avengers

Black Widow also promises to answer a question that's been bothering some fans. David Harbour, who stars in the film as Red Guardian, told ComicBook.com that one of the things he likes about Black Widow being a prequel is that it sheds light on things we've already seen. In particular, Harbour points out Nat's sacrifice in Endgame. "You get to explore how she got there," Harbor said, "and how she got there to make that choice."

Strange and Scarlet Witch will travel into scary territory

It's probably not a surprise to anyone that Doctor Strange is getting a sequel, but a few things about the sequel may be unexpected. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness premieres May 7, 2021, and the Sorcerer Supreme won't be the only Marvel hero starring in the film. He'll be joined by Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Scott Derrickson, who directed and co-wrote Doctor Strange, is also returning for the sequel, which he says will be "the first scary MCU film." It's not surprising Strange will be going in a scarier direction, as almost all of Derrickson's directorial film credits before 2016 (e.g. Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose) were horror films. However, Kevin Feige was quick to follow Derrickson's comments with an assurance that "scary" didn't mean "rated R." The Marvel Studios president told the San Diego crowd, "It's gonna be PG-13, and you're going to like it!"

Scarlet Witch's appearance is one of the most curious things about the film. On one hand, having her partner with Strange could hint towards her powers becoming more mystically connected, as they are in the comics. On the other hand, it would be surprising if Multiverse of Madness wasn't somehow connected to the WandaVision Disney+ mini-series. At SDCC 2019, WandaVision was said to be coming out in spring 2021, which means it would premiere right before the Doctor Strange sequel. Considering the timing, how could they not be related?

Wanda and Vision will be reunited in Phase 4

Speaking of WandaVision, we learned a little bit more about the upcoming Disney+ mini-series, including the addition of an unexpected hero from 2019's Captain Marvel

Akira Akbar plays the young Monica Rambeau in Captain Marvel — daughter to Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), Marvel's best friend and fellow pilot. She was also a bit of an Easter egg, in that Monica Rambeau is the name of a comic book character who took the title of Captain Marvel long before Carol Danvers. In SDCC 2019, it was announced Teyonah Parris would be joining Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen in WandaVision as a grown-up Monica, though we don't know whether or not she'll have abilities like her comic book counterpart.

It's an intriguing development in what promises to be a very interesting series. Beyond Parris' casting, there wasn't a lot of new info shared about WandaVision, though there seems to be a common thread in comments about the series. Olsen said about the show, "It's gonna get weird, it's gonna go deep." Co-star Bettany agreed that the show is "going to be surprising and weird," and Kevin Feige teased, "Wait until you see this show. It's unlike anything we've done before. I can't tell you how exciting and different and strange that show is going to be." 

So apparently it's going to be weird. Unless we're reading too much into the repeated use of, you know, that word.

Marvel's going to ask "What If...?"

Back in March 2019, Slashfilm reported on the development of an animated series based on Marvel's classic What If…? comics, which revealed how Marvel stories would've turned out if events had been different. For example, the very first issue of What If…? explores what would've happened if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four. 

The series was confirmed at SDCC 2019, and we learned a lot more. Speaking to ScreenRant, Kevin Feige said the first season of What If…? will be about the Infinity Saga. Feige said that they will focus on "everything you know about the 23 movies in the Infinity Saga and adding one twist to them and seeing how everything turns out different." So let the speculation begin on what the "one twist" will be. What if Cap was able to save the day without plunging himself into the ocean? What if Stan Lee actually managed to get Mjolnir loose with his truck? 

We also learned that a lot of MCU's stars will lend their voices to the animated versions of the characters they played in the live-action films, including Mark Ruffalo, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Josh Brolin, Michael B. Jordan, Chris Hemsworth, Taika Waititi, Chadwick Boseman, Karen Gillan, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Samuel L. Jackson, Dominic Cooper, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, and more. Jeffrey Wright of Westworld fame will voice the enigmatic cosmic character "the Watcher" who will narrate the series.