It may seem a tad early to be talking about “What’s next” with the MCU while there are still a few years and four films remaining in the pipeline for this current decade-long ice cream sundae of an arc ending with a Thanos on top, but this is Disney we’re talking about, and, let’s face it, for all the talk of superhero fatigue, box office performance—as well as breadth and depth of source material remaining—suggests this particular genre has a ways to go before audience attention wanders. With that in mind, let’s look at a few things (and characters) we’d like to see during the studio’s next decade.
This is one of those areas that can cause trepidation among comic book fans—a case of wanting something that, if done badly, would be better off left in the imagination. Nonetheless, now that we’ve seen a few instances of well-choreographed, interesting hero teams working together, it’s time to try and pull off that staple of comic book confrontations: the supervillain team battle. Now, if you suspect this is just a transparent attempt to talk about more characters I’d love to see on the big screen, you’re partly right, but nice, multiple-battle donnybrooks between gaudily outfitted superpowered folks is an established part of comicdom, so let’s get to it! (And besides, there are only so many individual archvillains who can believably battle a group of heroes to a standstill … ration those big guns out.) Beyond the obvious Heroes versus Heroes angles, there are a few no-brainer choices for antagonists by the bushel.
The Imperial Guard: Assuming the Disney acquisition of Fox properties goes through smoothly, the elite warriors of the X-men-centric Shi’ar Empire present an obvious group of superpowered problems to overcome. Given their most memorable early appearance (and second overall) came toward the end of the Dark Phoenix saga, it’s possible we’ll get a glimpse during the next X-Men film. That would be a little rushed, but in comics in general when it comes longer storylines, “rushed”—or at least “highly condensed”—is what studios do. (See X-Men: Apocalypse.) The Guard is the closest Marvel comes to DC Comic’s Legion of Superheroes, which I’d give two kidneys to see done well on screen. (I mean, not my kidneys.) But even the staunchest DC defender would have to admit there are better chances of the Imperial Guard making a splash before the Legion. (Cover by Dave Cockrum)
The Squadron Supreme: Speaking of DC, the Squadron Supreme was Marvel’s early answer to “Wouldn’t it be cool for the Avengers to battle the Justice League?!” That answer, specifically, was just to blatantly ripoff the latter with a team made up of Hyperion (Superman), Power Princess (Wonder Woman), Nighthawk (Batman), Amphibian (Aquaman), Whizzer (Flash) and Doctor Spectrum (Green Lantern). Later versions added Golden Archer (Green Archer, natch) and Lady Lark (Black Canary). Needless to say, it’s a potent lineup, no matter the storyline they choose to draw from. (Pencils by George Perez)
The Masters of Evil: This group represents a pretty standard formula for a multi-membered nemesis of superhero teams—a villain recognizes the need for more firepower and brings together others through will, intimidation or other motivating factors to try and defeat the good guys. Given that Baron Zemo founded the group in the comics and the MCU Zemo is one of those rare villains who survived his turn in the cinematic limelight, it would be pretty easy to make this one happen. (“Given my very convoluted plan to psychologically destroy the Avengers failed—or did it?!—I might as well try beating them at their own game.”) Do it, Zemo. Do it. (Art by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone)
The Legion of the Unliving: I’ve bemoaned elsewhere the wrong-headed tendency of superhero films in general to kill off villains as if they are not as valuable a resource as the heroes themselves. Well, the Legion of the Unliving provides a tidy means by which to resurrect not only villains who have left us too soon, but heroes, as well. (The usual route involves Kang the Conqueror, one of the remaining big Marvel villains we haven’t yet seen in the MCU.) Imagine a lineup of Red Skull, Ronan, Killmonger, Quicksilver and Doctor Octopus appearing out of the ether to threaten (and seriously confuse) our heroes? (Art by Sal Buscema)