[WARNING: This post contains POSSIBLE SPOILERS for The Avengers: Age of Ultron]
Comic book movie fans are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Avengers: Age of Ultron this summer, but Marvel Studios - as always - is looking five steps ahead and trying to get the future of their cinematic universe lined up. Last year, they unveiled the slate of films that will comprise Phase 3, and very recently struck a deal with Sony Pictures that would allow Spider-Man to take part in this universe. Whether or not the strategy of teasing endless possibilities of things to come is best for the franchise is up for debate, but it's certainly been effective in exciting moviegoers.
Age of Ultron is shaping up to be a vital cog in Marvel's master plan, with its events leading into the core narrative of next year's Captain America: Civil War and introducing elements that can connect to the Black Panther solo movie. It's also been believed for quite some time that in this film, the Avengers roster will undergo some turnover, with rumors pointing to Captain America assembling a new team of heroes. Now, we may have found out who is new recruits will be.
Even though the following information can be classified as a rumor, those looking to avoid anything possibly pertaining to the plot of Age of Ultron are encouraged to stop reading beyond this point.
FINAL SPOILER WARNING!
Superhero News is reporting that the Avengers 2.0 roster will be Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and War Machine. Captain America and Black Widow will serve as team leaders. It is unknown if all of these characters will appear in Civil War, but we do know that at least a few of them are making appearances in that film.
The main catalyst for this development - allegedly - is the original team essentially breaks up at the end of Age of Ultron. According to Badass Digest, once Joss Whedon's film reaches its conclusion, Thor has returned to Asgard to deal with the events in the forthcoming Thor: Ragnarok, Iron Man is "done," and Hulk has gone missing. Their sources also say that these three will sit out 2018's Infinity War - Part 1 before they regroup for its followup in 2019.
First, let's take a look at the old guard. The most interesting bit here is the fate of Hulk. While Avengers actors like Jeremy Renner have been confirmed to take part in future films, there has been no word on what will become of Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner. A new solo Hulk movie is obviously not in the cards, but Ruffalo's version of the green giant became a quick fan-favorite after the first Avengers film. With the character never being more popular with moviegoers, it would seem odd for Banner to just disappear off the face of the Earth for an extended period of time.
Months ago, there was speculation that at the end of Age of Ultron, Banner ends up on a Quinjet leaving Earth's orbit, with no way to stop or turn it around, an event that theoretically could lead him to meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy and set the stage for an epic showdown with Thanos. We don't know for sure if this is the case, but if Hulk is indeed missing, it's a definite possibility. Ruffalo still has four films left on his Marvel contract, so the safe money is that he'll pop up at some point in Phase 3.
In regards to the new lineup for the Avengers team, the biggest takeaway fans will have is that it is composed entirely of characters we will have already met at this point in the films. None of the new faces we'll see in the coming years (Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel) are part of Earth's Mightiest just yet, which some may construe as odd given that there will be entire films dedicated to them. But in the big picture, it does make sense.
If Captain America is putting together a new team in the aftermath of Age of Ultron, logic dictates that he would go with people he actually knows to fight alongside him. Last year's The Winter Soldier illustrated he has strong allies in Black Widow and Falcon; War Machine will be in Age of Ultron (even if it's just a cameo), as will Vision. The latest Avengers 2 trailers also feature Scarlet Witch going into battle with the heroes, so her inclusion is practical as well. Right now, nobody's met Black Panther, so why would Steve Rogers make him an Avenger? The same goes for the new Peter Parker, who is reportedly just a high schooler when we first see him in the MCU.
Now, this doesn't mean that any of these new characters won't be included in Infinity War in some capacity. We know that Black Panther will make his debut in Civil War, and it's expected Spider-Man will do the same. Couple that with the rumor that the first Marvel/Sony solo Spider-Man film will in part feature Tony Stark "testing" Spidey to see if he's Avengers material, we have reason to believe that at least a couple of these people will join the roster by the time Phase 3 reaches its ultimate culmination. They just need to prove their worth first.
Finally, you may have noticed that in all this, there is one name that's absent: Quicksilver. Marvel's famous speedster has a notable role in Age of Ultron, as of now it's unknown if he will appear in other MCU films. Those hoping he's in it for the long haul are bound to be disappointed by the latest rumor (from Bleeding Cool), which indicates that the character will die during the events of Age of Ultron.
There are conflicting reports about this aspect of the film, with Badass Digest saying that in one version of the script, Quicksilver meets his ultimate demise, but in a later revision he lives to fight another day. Regardless, the marketing for Age of Ultron has played up the idea that someone will perish in the proceedings (though, this is Marvel Studios, so that doesn't mean much). If Whedon is planning on killing someone off, Quicksilver is arguably the most expendable, given what we know Marvel has in store. The character is also conspicuously missing from the "hero circle" toward the end of the most recent Ultron trailer, so there could be some truth here.
As always, we'll have to wait and see how things go down in the films to see what actually happens in the MCU, but these new reports definitely line up with what we've heard before. However you look at it, there are some big changes on the horizon, and it will be fun to see how it all plays out.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters May 1, 2015.
Header image by charlyrivers @ DeviantArt