Avengers 4 is currently without a subtitle, but there's evidence to suggest that it may be based on Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars storyline. The fourth Avengers movie was initially announced as Avengers: Infinity War - Part 2, but it wasn't long before the name reverted to an untitled placeholder, with Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige stating that it wouldn't be a strict continuation of Avengers 3. Fans are still somewhat reticent to believe this explanation given both movies were shot back-to-back and will arrive within a year of each other.
Feige has insisted that the two movies will not only be separate beasts, but that the title of Avengers 4 would spoil next year's film if it were revealed. Given that a massive plot point is unlikely to appear in the subtitle of the 2019 movie, the probable scenario is that the film will use a well-known comic story for its name. While general audiences wouldn't be spoiled by a title borrowed from the comics, it could certainly be enough for fans and the press to draw certain story conclusions. Marvel has played fast and loose when it comes to adapting stories like Civil War, Age of Ultron, and Ragnarok to the big screen, but the general conceit and plot of those stories were indeed adapted.
Indeed, Avengers: Infinity War looks to be a good bit different. Despite taking its name from Jim Starlin's 1992 sequel to The Infinity Gauntlet, the film looks to be borrowing very little from both stories. Instead, it looks as if Avengers 3 will be based on Jonathan Hickman's Infinity, increasing the likelihood that Avengers 4 will adapt Hickman's Secret Wars storyline.
What Is Secret Wars?
The idea that Avengers 4 will use a comic event as its subtitle, thus revealing information about its plot and Avengers: Infinity War's conclusion, leaves a few strong possibilities alongside Secret Wars. Both Annihilation and Secret Invasion are leading candidates, and those reveals would certainly hint at the fallout from next year's film. It's hard to say that either would be a spoiler, however, as they alone wouldn't disclose just how Avengers 3 will end. But if Hickman's work on Infinity is serving as inspiration for Infinity War, then Avengers 4 taking on Secret Wars could implode the MCU as we know it.
Loosely based on the controversial event from the mid-80s, 2015's Secret Wars effectively served as Crisis on Infinite Earths for the Marvel Universe. Hickman spent years telling stories in the pages of multiple comics that set up a new Illuminati, reintroduced the Infinity Stones, and began the collapsing of the multiverse. These events led to a number of new Avengers stories and put Earth on the intergalactic radar in a whole new way. New cosmic forces and stories were introduced and a massive war pitted the forces of Earth against the powerful Builders.
It was against this backdrop that Infinity kicked off, as Thanos came to Earth seeking the Stones and his long-lost son. Infinity would segue into Inhumanity when Black Bolt defeated Thanos by detonating a Terrigen Bomb and kicking off a new future for both Inhumans and mutants in the Marvel Universe. But the collapse of the multiverse would continue in Avengers and New Avengers as the main Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe headed towards a final collision.
Related: How X-Men Could Appear in Avengers 4
All of these events helped set up Secret Wars, where Doctor Doom, Molecule Man, Doctor Strange, and a whole lot of cosmic power and quantum chaos led to the restructuring of reality. The result was Battleworld, which combined years of Marvel storytelling into a dystopian world where House of M, Marvel Zombies, Marvel 1602, and more all existed at once. Out of the ashes of the crossover, however, emerged a new Marvel Universe with a new status quo. Ultimate characters joined the main universe, new teams formed, and mantles were passed. A number of stories were also reworked, allowing Marvel to start fresh while still teasing the cosmic fallout of Hickman's years of work.
How Avengers: Secret Wars Would Work in The MCU
Of course, a number of these elements couldn't be worked into Avengers 4 due to rights issues (even now Marvel has got the X-Men and Fantastic Four rights back from Fox) and how the cinematic universe is set up. But like with other loose adaptations in the past, the idea could remain; Marvel tackling Secret Wars for their final film in Phase 3 would set a brand-new stage for the future of the MCU.
We've heard many times that Avengers 3 and 4 will be the culmination of the MCU as we know it, and that Phase 4 will have a whole new feel, with both more grounded stories and more cosmic adventures. An adaptation of Secret Wars could establish both sides of that future, exploding the fantastical potential of the MCU while also allowing smaller stories to flourish in a new environment.
Crucially, it builds in a reboot; while some characters were aware of what happened during Secret Wars, most weren't, giving the new Marvel the freedom to tell intimate stories divorced from decades of baggage. This allows for a reset of sorts, and also provides Marvel with the opportunity to recast major roles and pass mantles to new generations of heroes, all while maintaining the same narrative through-line they've established so far. Sure, the studio hasn't shied away from recasting or retconning in the past, but Secret Wars would allow the process to happen more naturally.
Bigger, it could also help explain away why the many Marvel TV shows seem to exist in their own little pockets; once Phase 4 arrives, a new status quo could emerge where the shows are free to pursue their own narrative and only the films are interconnected. And with the Fox staple of mutants and cosmic characters set to come under the Disney umbrella, Marvel Studios would have the perfect opening to introduce new takes on the X-Men and Fantastic Four.
For now, it looks as if the title of Avengers 4 won't be revealed until shortly after Infinity War debuts at the least. When it does, we'll be able to properly judge Feige's many statements about the film and its intentionally vague title. Whether 2019's film is Secret Wars or something else entirely, it seems safe to assume Avengers 4 will change the MCU as we know it.
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019