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Who Will Lead The Avengers Next?

Avengers: Endgame marked the end of a decade-long era for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with deaths, shifted allegiances, and a wider universe for its characters to deal with. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is dead, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a senior citizen, and even the average person has to cope with the weird social structure caused by "The Blip." 

Post-Endgame, the greater galaxy has come home to Earth in a way that the planet had only gotten a sneak preview of before. The Avengers do — on paper, at least — still exist, and the planet still needs them, but there's a lot of emotional cleanup and organizational restructuring to do.

If the Avengers are to continue, they will need a new hand at the helm, and the fresher the face, the better. It will be awhile before we get to see the full spread of the new dangers within the MCU, but we can certainly anticipate they will be bigger, bolder, and more complicated. Using both the movie-canonical past as well as the comics as a guide, let's look at who might be best qualified to lead the next generation of Avengers.

Sam Wilson has Cap's vote of confidence

Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), the newly-minted Captain America 2.0, is the most obvious choice for ascension to the leadership position. Cap led the first crew, so why not the second? That would be perfectly logical, but given the few plot details swirling around the internet, nobody's quite sure what Sam's new title will mean to him in his upcoming odd-couple action-adventure show The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. The title itself prioritizes Sam's previously-established identity, and rumors abound that he will (at least initially) reject taking on the Captain America mantle as part of the first season's plot.

No doubt that would be an expression of his extreme humility — as he puts it, he does everything Steve does, just slower — because Sam has plenty of leadership qualifications based on his military experience alone. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) was in the military, too (and has also served as Captain America in the comics), but given the rest of his life experiences, it's fair to say he probably has a negative 5 disadvantage to serving as a leader. Steve gave Sam the shield because he respects that humility, and also sees his ability to rise to new challenges. Just because he's not infused with super soldier serum doesn't mean he can't delegate, negotiate, and encourage; if anything, the Avengers could use that kind of grounding presence in their leader. Tony had the ego, Steve had the existential angst. Sam has neither.

Carol Danvers has a cosmic perspective

On the other side of the rhetorical coin from Sam Wilson lies Carol Danvers (Brie Larson). She is, by contrast, superpowered with a capital S, and also possesses lot of similar military qualifications that Sam has, since they are both former Air Force. Discipline is an important factor for them both, but far more so for Carol, what with that whole ability to wrangle pure cosmic energy like she's a miniature sun. Power talks, and Carol can certainly walk the accompanying walk. Her journeys across the universe, too, have given her a sense of perspective far greater than most of the others on this list, and frankly, the Avengers are well past of the point of being solely focused on the Earth. Carol is uniquely positioned to understand all of these issues and then some.

But therein also lies the rub; as of Endgame, Carol's priorities seem to lie in acting independently, doing what she can with the freedom to move point to point. This freedom also relieves her of having to worry about anyone else's safety, and it's worth noting that she was totally willing to take orders from Steve and Natasha during the five-year gap between Infinity War and Endgame. Given all the crowding of characters and prioritized arcs in Endgame, we don't really know where Carol's head is at as far as making Earth her home base, much less reorganizing the Avengers; we imagine that something would have to change significantly for her to want to assume a leadership role. Time will tell.

Janet van Dyne and Hank Pym have some relevant experience

You don't get much more OG than Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). They are comic-canonical co-founders of the original Avengers, and have run the organization themselves. As far as the MCU goes, now that Janet's back from the Quantum Realm post-Ant-Man and the Wasp, putting one or both of them in the captain's chair isn't totally unrealistic. As threats will likely continue from extra-dimensional sources, they are uniquely qualified to assess those threats and combat them with assistance from Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) — who, while we adore him, isn't really leadership material. 

Janet and/or Hank would also be excellent replacements for Tony Stark (and, to a lesser extent, Bruce Banner) in the technological genius department. As heartwarming as it is that Tony turned over control of his AI to Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in Spider-Man: Far From Home, it'd be a tall order to have the wall-crawler fill a leadership role all by himself at the tender age of 16. The West Coast Avengers could be the wave of the future, since Hank, Janet, Scott, and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are still all centered there; also, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) showed interest in developing Wakandan outreach programs there at the conclusion of Black Panther. All of these latter-day additions to the MCU are doing just fine in the wake of Endgame, too. It's a convenient coincidence, that's all we're saying.

Doctor Strange has plenty of qualifications

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch): he's fabulous, he's mystical, and he's got an ego to match Tony Stark's. Like Carol, he gets big points for that whole ability-to-bend-time-and-space thing. When his current job description is "defender of Earth from extra-dimensional magical threats", it's basically just half a step up to being the Avengers' boss. Leadership qualifications? He's got them, though with some asterisks. Being a trauma surgeon means he can delegate with the best of them and assess all kinds of situations on the fly — but he needs the occasional bit of public humbling, just like Tony and Steve did.

Strange hasn't led the Avengers in the comics, but he has got his own posse in the form of the Illuminati, which also claims comic-Stark (along with several other powerful characters such as Professor X) as an erstwhile member. As Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness prepares to enter production, speculation is at a fever pitch as to whether or not the Illuminati will coalesce in some way within the MCU, so perhaps Strange will have his own special task force to lead in the coming years.