Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Best New MCU Characters Of 2021

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a constantly expanding collection of stories, spanning feature-length movies, streaming series, and even short films. As these stories grow, so too does the roster of MCU characters within them, giving us a constant stream of heroes, villains, and people who lie in between to enjoy.

2021 was a particularly exciting year for MCU fans. A whopping five new streaming series were released on Disney+, along with four new feature films. This plethora of productions gave MCU filmmakers many opportunities to introduce new players in the ongoing saga.

But which of these new characters will stick in our minds, long after 2021 is over? Which personalities are the most compelling, the most promising, and the most likely to make a long-term impact on the MCU's landscape? That's what we're here to find out. From magic users to crime lords and everyone in between, these are the best new MCU characters of 2021.

Agatha Harkness

"WandaVision," the first-ever Disney+ MCU series, has a lot going for it even before Kathryn Hahn joins the party, but boy, does she take it from backyard bash to elaborate extravaganza. Hahn plays Agnes, a woman who initially seems to be Wanda and Vision's wacky neighbor. Hahn's extraordinary versatility means that she can embody that particular sitcom stereotype through several different homages to the genre's past. Then, her shocking heel turn arrives, and Hahn's performance proves to be even more spectacular.

When Agnes revealed herself to be the Marvel Comics witch known as Agatha Harkness, fandom melted down — not just because it's a great twist that comes with a killer theme song, but because it show once again just how skilled Hahn is. In one scene, she goes from delightful supporting character in someone else's story to key Marvel magic user with a promising narrative all her own. The fact that Hahn pulls both personas off so well is a crowning achievement, and an exciting indicator of Agatha's future in the MCU. No wonder she's getting her very own Disney+ series, "Agatha: House of Harkness."


Though he's got some competition these days, there was a time when Tom Hiddleston's Loki was easily the MCU's most beloved villain. He makes being bad look so good, it's nearly impossible to resist his charm. That goodwill carries over into "Loki," the character's Disney+ series. Going into that delightful show, the idea of any other major player stealing the spotlight from him seems absurd.

Then Sophia Di Martino arrives, playing Sylvie, the Loki variant who refuses to be called Loki. She's packed with just as much cleverness, cunning, and wit as the original character, plus some seriously impressive enchantment skills. From the moment she's introduced, Sylvie proves to be every bit Loki's match. The two journey through the Sacred Timeline together, building an unlikely and ultimately quite moving love story in the process. Thankfully for all of us, "Loki" has already been renewed for Season 2, so we'll be seeing more of Sylvie's particular brand of mischief in the future.

He Who Remains

Back in 2020, Marvel revealed that "Lovecraft Country" star Jonathan Majors would be joining the MCU as Kang the Conqueror in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania." What fans didn't know at the time was that Majors would actually be making his MCU debut in "Loki."

Kang is a timeline-spanning Marvel villain, which means that fans encounter a number of different versions of him throughout the multiverse. The version of Majors' Kang we meet in "Loki" is dubbed He Who Remains. A mysterious man who acts as the timeline protector at the end of all things, he is waiting for the moment someone comes along to take his place. Beyond the unique circumstances of his first appearance, what makes He Who Remains so compelling is the way Majors plays against the gravity of the moment. He's a bit of a trickster god himself as he toys with Loki and Sylvie, and laments his boredom regarding the universe around him. It will be fascinating to see how future incarnations of the character work in conjunction with this one.

Yelena Belova

This particular phase of the MCU is very fixated on the idea of legacy. Pre-existing characters from the first three phases are now passing the torch to a new set of heroes and villains, who come from all walks of life. We see it in "Spider-Man: Far From Home," "Hawkeye," and, with particular prominence, "Black Widow."

Though "Black Widow" is billed as a long-awaited solo adventure starring Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff, the film is actually a bit of a two-hander. Natasha reconnects with her adoptive sister Yelena (Florence Pugh), who she hasn't seen in years. The two of them end up working together to bring down the Red Room, where they were trained and brainwashed into the Black Widow program. In Pugh's hands, Yelena becomes just as deadly and conflicted as Natasha, but with an added layer of youthful exuberance and self-awareness we don't often get to see from her big sister. She outright steals huge chunks of the movie with her charm, pathos, and killer action sequences. Seeing her stick around for more stories is sure to be one of the great joys of the MCU going forward.

Red Guardian

Yelena isn't the only scene-stealer present in "Black Widow." We also get to enjoy Natasha and Yelena's adoptive father, Alexei, aka the Soviet super-soldier known as Red Guardian. When we first meet him, he's hanging out in a Siberian prison, showing off his super-strength. He's lost some of his old swagger, but none of the bluster. By the time his daughters bust him out, Alexei's doing his best to relieve his glory days, with often comic results. But in David Harbour's hands, Red Guardian becomes more than a punchline.

Yes, he spends his time trying to squeeze back into his suit and reminiscing about fights with Captain America that probably never happened. But there's an element of tragedy persisting through the character's story that Harbour portrays with real depth. This is a guy who thought he was working for people who had his back, and that he was fighting for something that mattered — only to find himself discarded, locked away, and stripped of honor. When he's able to get all that back through his now-chosen family, it feels like a triumph, and the summation of a great emotional arc.

The Watcher

The Watcher is a tricky character: He has to project a certain amount of power and intrigue without revealing all that much about himself, or developing many emotional attachments. Getting Jeffrey Wright to voice him on "What If...?" was an important first step in nailing the character, as his sonorous voice adds instant gravitas to every role.

Then, everyone involved in bringing the Watcher to life stepped up their game to craft a portrait of a dedicated observer who's sworn to never interfere. He guides viewers through all manner of wild adventures ... right until the moment he decides to break his cardinal rule. Establishing the Watcher's mode of operation so clearly, then disrupting it for the "What If...?" season 1 finale, is a master stroke that establishes him as an actual character, rather than just an interesting narrator. This adds irresistible intrigue that future installments of the series will doubtlessly explore.


"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" presents a solid opportunity for Marvel Studios to flesh out its universe in a variety of ways. It centers around an almost entirely new group of characters, breaks new ground in terms of representation, and introduces a whole new world of mystery, power, and magic. On top of this, it gives us an extremely promising new hero: Simu Liu's Shang-Chi.

Shang-Chi is an incredible fighter, trained from birth in martial arts. He's so skilled, snapping into warrior mode is as easy as breathing. But he's also an extremely relatable hero, thanks to his massive issues with his father, the secrets he's keeping from his friends (for their own protection), and his quest to redeem his family in the film's final act. There's a lot to love about his story, and about Liu's thrilling performance. Thankfully, the film's finale sets the stage for plenty more Shang-Chi adventures, which means a big Marvel team-up is surely somewhere in his future.


Shang-Chi is easily one Marvel's highest-profile new characters, but his supporting cast is just as compelling. Take his sister, Xialing (Meng'er Zhang), who's every bit as capable as he is, but interested in far different things. For much of the film, Xialing and Shang-Chi share the goal of stopping their father's dangerous quest to free his departed wife from the afterlife. It's clear they have a bond that is, in no small part, driven by their mutual sense of overcoming the adversity of their youth. But while Shang-Chi spends much of the movie searching for his true place in the world, Xialing seems fairly confident she already knows hers.

From the beginning, when we see her running an underground fight operation, it's clear that Xialing is interested in following in her father's footsteps as an empire-builder. By the end of the film, she's pulled it off, molding his Ten Rings organization into something of her own. It's not clear how far she'll take this path, or when we might see her next, but her drive and intelligence make her a compelling addition to the MCU.


The villain known as the Mandarin has been, in one way or another, part of the MCU from the very beginning: It is his Ten Rings organization that abducts Tony Stark in "Iron Man." Many thought that by "Iron Man III," there'd be an actual glimpse of the character. But in fact, the Mandarin of that movie is just an actor playing the villain.

In "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," we finally get the real thing. Thanks to an immensely charismatic performance from Tony Leung, he almost steals the whole movie. Wenwu (who acknowledges that people have called him the Mandarin in the past) is elegant, ruthless, and brilliant. These traits make him both immensely fun to watch and a figure to be feared. Sadly, he doesn't survive the film, but he does make one thing clear: The massive wait for his character turned out to be worth it.


Marvel's "Eternals" introduced an entirely new team of superheroes to the MCU in the fall of 2021: The near-immortal Eternals, who came to Earth to fight a race of monsters known as Deviants, then never got orders to leave. Their millennia-old status and nifty power sets make each of them interesting in their own way. But of all the Eternals who seem primed to have more adventures in the MCU going forward, the best might be the speedster known as Makkari.

Played by Lauren Ridloff, Makkari is the first-ever deaf superhero in the MCU. She's also uniquely set apart from her fellow Eternals: While they went out into the world, existing among humans in one way or another, Makkari stayed behind, holing up on their ship and keeping herself busy while she waited for the day she'd get to go home. You'd think that might make the character boring, but Ridloff's portrayal is anything but. Through her, Makkari becomes a searcher for truth, a compassionate voice, and a character primed for bigger things.

Kate Bishop

The Disney+ "Hawkeye" series was set for greatness for a number of reasons, and not just because Jeremy Renner was finally getting an MCU adventure to call his own. The series draws on the 2012 "Hawkeye" comic series by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Annie Wu, which many fans believe to be one the best Marvel runs in recent memory. This also means that the series introduces a second Hawkeye in the form of Kate Bishop, played by Hailee Steinfeld.

When they meet, Kate and Clint have almost nothing in common other than a mutual love of archery. But spunky Kate is determined to make her way into Clint's good graces. She begins the show as a long-time fan of his, becomes a collaborator, and finally grows into a genuine friend, who inspires him to push himself further. Plus, she adds an extra layer of humor to the show as a character so plucky and undeterred by setbacks, she can fight or stumble her way through just about anything. That's a good skill to have in a place like the MCU, and Kate seems set to use it in other stories beyond "Hawkeye."

Maya Lopez

Early trailers for "Hawkeye" focus rather heavily on the group of goons known as the Tracksuit Mafia. This suggests they might be the biggest threat the two Hawkeyes face over the course of the show. But then Maya Lopez, aka Echo, appears in Episode 2, "Hide and Seek." Alaqua Cox's tremendous screen presence makes it immediately clear that she's the one they should be worried about.

Maya is deaf, deadly, and fearsomely determined. Her powers of observation and control of her own body are so honed, she's able to mirror the fighting style of anyone she faces. This gives her an enormous advantage in hand-to-hand combat that is absolutely incredible to watch in action. But Maya's not just a particular set of skills — she's also a person wounded by a tragic past. Maya searches for validation and vengeance amid the New York underworld, though she often seems conflicted over how far she must go. One thing is clear: Maya is primed for big things, many of which are sure to go down in "Echo," her upcoming Disney+ series.