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The MCU heroes most and least likely to appear in Phase 4

Avengers: Endgame was a huge turning point for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only was Thanos finally defeated, but many of the characters who built the foundation of Marvel Studios' shared narrative saw their stories concluding. Captain America got old, the Hulk was crippled, and both Iron Man and Black Widow gave their lives to save the universe. 

However, when it comes to superheroes, death doesn't always mean the story ends. In a narrative where sorcerers team up with cybernetic geniuses to battle madmen on far off planets, there isn't much that isn't possible. Marvel's Phase 4 is a perfect example. There are heroes we know will be coming back who are supposed to have kicked the bucket, and heroes who survived who we probably won't be seeing again (or at least not in the next couple of years). From gods of thunder to green giants, here are the heroes we expect will and won't appear in Phase 4. 

We totally expect to see Thor in Phase 4

In spite of the trauma Thor endures during the Avengers' conflict with Thanos, the thunder god isn't done with the MCU just yet. At the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con we learned Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi is returning to helm Thor: Love & Thunder, currently scheduled for release in November 2021. Ironically, while Thor's first two solo films were some of the least successful Marvel flicks, Love & Thunder means that Odinson will be the first MCU hero to have four individual movies. 

Perhaps the biggest wow moment of the announcement was that Natalie Portman — who was nowhere to be found in Ragnarok — would not only reprise the role of Thor's love interest, Jane Foster, in the sequel but would actually take on the power of Thor herself. Her comic book counterpart replaced the god of thunder for four years, though we don't know yet exactly how she'll achieve the same thing on the big screen.

Doctor Strange is definitely going to work his magic

While everyone in the real world was blaming Peter Quill for Thanos' win in Infinity War, for the first hour and a half of Endgame, Avengers like Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were blaming Doctor Strange. But apparently the good doctor didn't take it personally because he's set to return for Phase 4. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is currently scheduled to be released in May 2021 as the third of the MCU's Phase 4 films.

We don't know a lot of specific plot details yet about the film, though some rumors indicate Strange will finally meet Clea, a woman who in the comics begins as his apprentice and eventually becomes his wife. Plus, the villain Nightmare has been mentioned as a possible antagonist for Strange. In the comics, Nightmare is the ruler of, fittingly, the Nightmare Dimension where we all ago when our dreams take darker turns. 

Sadly, we don't expect Black Panther in Phase 4

Black Panther 2 is coming but surprisingly — considering its success — it won't be around in time for Phase 4. At Disney's D23 Expo in August 2019, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige gave Black Panther 2 a release date of May 6, 2022. The good news is that even though we'll have to wait for Phase 5 to return to Wakanda, it looks like most of the people who made Black Panther so memorable will be back. 

Chadwick Boseman will return to the throne as T'Challa, Danai Gurira will be back as Okoye, and Letitia Wright will reprise the role of genius scientist and inventor Shuri. There are even rumors Michael B. Jordan will return as Killmonger, though perhaps as a figure on the spiritual plane rather than a physical villain. The aquatic mutant antihero Namor has been rumored as a possible bad guy for the sequel, though there's been no confirmation.

Believe it or not, Vision is coming back

The android hero Vision dies in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War. In fact, he dies twice — first when Scarlet Witch destroys the Mind Stone that gives him sentience, and again when Thanos uses the Time Stone to put the Mind Stone and Vision back together, only to kill him a second time by ripping the yellow gem from the android's head. Since Vision isn't one of the heroes killed by Thanos' snap, the events of Endgame don't bring him back to life.

Regardless, Vision is on his way back. He'll rejoin Wanda in the Disney+ miniseries WandaVision, although we're not sure how he's going to come back to the land of the living. Still, the Disney+ ad that aired during the 2020 Super Bowl shows Vision and Wanda together again. However, they appear to somehow be in the roles of multigenerational American sitcom stars, which means WandaVision is definitely going to be one unique series.

Scarlet Witch is showing up in a big way

Not only are we sure to see Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, in Marvel's Phase 4, we expect she'll be a much higher profile character in the MCU post-Endgame. Elizabeth Olsen will reprise her role as the powerful Avenger alongside Paul Bettany's Vision in WandaVision, one of Disney+'s original Marvel miniseries, where she's bound to get involved in all sorts of witchy weirdness. 

That won't be her only appearance before Phase 5, though. Scarlet Witch will also be helping out the Sorcerer Supreme in 2021's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It's an intriguing development considering the differences between the comic book Wanda and the big-screen version. So far, we haven't seen Olsen's Wanda have the same connection to the mystical world as her comic book counterpart, which would make such an alliance a natural fit. It could be that the events of Phase 4 will bring the movie Scarlet Witch closer to the source material. 

Don't expect Captain America to return the MCU

Avengers: Endgame concludes Captain America's story beautifully. And while it's not impossible Chris Evans could return to the role, he doesn't seem particularly thrilled at the prospect. Asked by co-star Scarlett Johansson in Variety's 2019 "Actors on Actors" issue, Evans said, "It's not a hard no, but it's not an eager yes either." He added that if he were to return, it couldn't just be a "cash grab," implying he would want some compelling narrative reason to continue Cap's story.

So while it's not impossible we'll see Steve Rogers fighting evil again one day, don't expect it for Phase 4. Besides Evans' words on the subject, there's no real natural fit for him in any of Phase 4's releases. The only obvious option would be The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but since that series seems to be partly based on his absence, having him show up to save the day would be a little weird. 

The Falcon will definitely be flying into action

Steve Rogers gives his legendary shield to Sam Wilson at the conclusion of Endgame, and Wilson isn't leaving the mantle of Captain America hanging. The Disney+ Marvel teaser shows Sam practicing with the iconic shield in what's supposed to be the first of the streaming service's original MCU miniseries, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

So, we know Falcon will be back. But the big question is whether or not we'll still be calling him Falcon by the end of the miniseries, or if he'll graduate to become Captain America. And it looks like he has competition for the mantle. Reports indicate one of the series' plot points will be that the U.S. government doesn't agree with Rogers' choice to tap Wilson as his replacement and instead chooses John Walker, aka U.S. Agent, to be the new star-spangled Avenger. We'll have to wait for the series' release to see which codename Wilson ends up with. 

The Winter Soldier is set to make a comeback

As the title suggests, Sebastian Stan will reprise his role as Bucky Barnes in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. On top of that, the former U.S. serviceman who was brainwashed by Hydra will be reunited with the Sokovian villain who manipulated him in Captain America: Civil War — the vengeful Zemo, once again played by Daniel Brühl. 

We're intrigued to see how the dynamic between Bucky and Sam works out in the series. The last time we saw them exchange more than a couple words was in Civil War,and they didn't like each other very much. Wilson wouldn't even move his car seat up a little for Barnes, and the Falcon ended their team-up against Spider-Man with a simple, "I hate you." Of course, Infinity War and Endgame gave them chances to fight alongside one another so they may have learned to trust each other. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will be our first chance to see if these two can play nice.

Captain Marvel probably won't be saving the world anytime soon

Considering Captain Marvel was a massive hit, it's a pretty safe bet there will be a Captain Marvel 2. But we're equally sure it won't be during the MCU's Phase 4. Marvel Studios has a pretty packed film slate up all the way through 2021, meaning the absolute earliest the sequel could show up would be 2022, which puts it squarely in Phase 5.

What's potentially more interesting than learning when Captain Marvel 2 will be released is when it will take place. Since the first film was set in the '90s, the option is open to explore the chunk of time between the first film and Avengers: Endgame. Not to mention that Brie Larson's hero is away from Earth for most of Endgame, meaning the second film could also look into what she was doing between leaving our world and returning for the final battle against Thanos.

We expect the Guardians of the Galaxy to have a fun Phase 4 appearance

While Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 won't hit theaters until 2022 or 2023 at the earliest, that doesn't mean we'll have to wait that long to see the titular spacefaring heroes. In March 2020, Groot actor Vin Diesel let it slip that some of the Guardians would be appearing in 2021's Thor: Love & Thunder. It makes sense considering how the thunder god hitches a ride with the Guardians at the conclusion of Endgame, though we don't expect that the Guardians will be playing a central role in the film. 

Diesel wasn't forthright about which Guardians will be in Love & Thunder, though we're going to make an educated guess that Gamora won't appear. While Star-Lord will almost certainly be hell-bent on finding his lost love, we expect that's a story writer-director James Gunn is going to want to tell in Guardians Vol. 3

Hawkeye is taking aim in Marvel's next big era

While he seems to be a broken man in the beginning of Endgame, Clint Barton will be back for at least one more adventure. Currently set for release in fall 2021, Disney+'s Hawkeye will be the last of the streaming service's Phase 4 original series, though more shows are sure to come in future phases. 

There haven't been a lot of plot details released so far, but it's believed the miniseries will be heavily influenced by Matt Fraction and David Aja's amazing 2012-15 Hawkeye comic, which focused on what the titular marksman does when he's not busy saving the world with the Avengers. Kate Bishop — a younger female Hawkeye introduced in the comics as one of the Young Avengers — is said to be appearing, possibly as Clint's protege who he'll train to replace him. Hailee Steinfeld (True GritBumblebee) has reportedly been offered the role of the younger archer.

We don't expect to see Ant-Man anywhere

We know Ant-Man 3 is in the works, but we also know that the earliest we could see the film in theaters is 2022, putting it in Phase 5. And while we're short on specifics, most of the main cast from the previous two films is expected back. One thing we're hoping to learn from the upcoming film is the answer to one of the MCU's biggest unanswered questions: Who was Sonny Burch working for in Ant-Man & the Wasp? The crook never reveals his employer who's desperate to get their hands on Pym's quantum realm tech. 

One intriguing fan theory about Ant-Man 3 is that the film will introduce the Fantastic Four to the MCU. According to the theory, the team of explorers is stuck in the quantum realm. If this proves to be more than empty speculation, then it could mean Burch was working for none other than Doctor Doom. We'll have to wait a few years before we know for sure. 

Black Widow is finally getting her MCU solo film

Though she sacrificed herself to defeat Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, it's not the last stop for the Red Room alumnus who became an Avenger. The first of the MCU's Phase 4 films will be Black Widow, set primarily between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Infinity WarBlack Widow was originally slated to hit theaters in May 2020, but the film has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Black Widow will be the first solo film released for a Marvel hero who's already dead ... unless she isn't. There are a couple of intriguing theories about Natasha still being alive. For example, one proposes Hulk's snap in Endgame succeeded in resurrecting the spy, but that it resurrected her on the distant planet Vormir, where she died after falling from that cliff. And who knows? Crazier things have happened in the comics. However, based on the Hulk's claim that he "really tried to bring her back," chances are that she's gone for good. If so, Black Widow's solo film will be our final farewell to Scarlett Johansson's iconic character.

We expect Valkyrie to rule over Asgard in Phase 4

The no-nonsense warrior Tessa Thompson played to perfection in Thor: Ragnarok is nowhere to be found in Infinity War. However, she returns in Endgame to not only join the battle against Thanos but to be named the King of New Asgard before Thor returns to the stars. And that won't be the last we see of her. Thompson is confirmed to reprise the role in 2021's Thor: Love & Thunder

We'll also be seeing a new side of Valkyrie. Thompson has made it clear the upcoming film will more openly address Valkyrie's bisexuality, and that part of her character's journey in the film will include finding "her queen." Jaimie Alexander — who plays Sif in the first two Thor films but hasn't been seen in any of the movies since The Dark World — volunteered to be Valkyrie's queen, though we don't know yet if Marvel is taking her up on the offer. 

What will the MCU be like without Iron Man?

Considering the events of Endgame, this may seem like a no-brainer. Tony Stark dies in the final battle against Thanos, using the Infinity Stones against the villain and killing himself in the process. But for a while now, there have been rumors that Robert Downey Jr. will very briefly reprise the role in a cameo for Phase 4's Black Widow

On one hand, as we've learned many times, rumors aren't really worth much until the movie is in theaters and you know for sure. On the other, even the rumors claiming Downey will return make it clear he won't really return. Instead, archival footage from a previous film (most likely Civil War) will be used. 

As late as January 2020, Downey has said he has no plans or interest in returning to the role of Tony Stark. So while anything is possible in the MCU, don't hold your breath for a Phase 4 Iron Man return. 

Wong is going to cast a spell over Marvel audiences

We didn't get to see a lot of his spellcasting abilities in Doctor Strange, but Wong shows he's got the chops to fight alongside the Avengers in both Infinity War and Endgame. And in October 2019, Benedict Wong confirmed he would reprise the role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

What will be interesting to see is exactly what role Wong will play in the life of Stephen Strange and the overall make-up of Kamar-Taj. Doctor Strange made it clear that the MCU Wong is more than the "manservant" he was initially meant to be in the comics. The Wong of the films is the guardian of Kamar-Taj's library and a sorcerer like Strange. Now, with both the Ancient One dead and Kamar-Taj's numbers reduced both by the conflict with Kaecilius and the battle against Thanos, Wong seems too important to merely act as the Doctor Strange's sidekick.

Spider-Man will likely swing into action during Phase 4

Back in 2019, the split between Sony and Marvel over Spider-Man 's appearance in Marvel Studios films had us all worrying we wouldn't see Peter Parker in the MCU again. Thankfully, by the following month, fences were mended so that Tom Holland would be free to rejoin his surviving Avengers in future Marvel films as early as Phase 4.

While it wasn't a part of Marvel's initial Phase 4 lineup announcement, Spider-Man 3 is currently slated for release in July 2021. There's little more than speculation about the next film, though what promises to be a major plot point is Peter Parker's "outing" by J. Jonah Jameson. J.K. Simmons reprised the role he made famous in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy in a Spider-Man: Far From Home mid-credits scene to make the false claim that Spider-Man murdered Mysterio and to reveal Spidey's secret identity. No matter what else happens in the film, Parker will definitely have more to worry about than wooing MJ. 

Hulk will return to the world of Marvel ... eventually

Things got kind of rough for the Hulk at the end of Avengers: Endgame, as the big guy's arm was horribly scarred by using the Infinity Stones. Shortly after the film's release, the Russo brothers confirmed that the damage the Hulk suffers is permanent, and he won't be in a great condition to be fighting aliens or supervillains any time soon. 

However, that doesn't mean that's the end of the green Goliath in the MCU. In particular, there have been back-and-forth reports that Mark Ruffalo could be reprising the role of Bruce Banner in the upcoming Disney+ She-Hulk series. Honestly, it would be a little weird if he doesn't show up, considering that in the comics he's integral to Jennifer Walter becoming She-Hulk (plus, you know, half of her name is his). 

But considering Marvel's Phase 4 announcement doesn't include She-Hulk, it's likely even if Banner does show up for his cousin's show, it won't be until Phase 5 at the earliest.