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The Marvel Cinematic Multiverse has well and truly arrived. After an incredibly sneaky false start in WandaVision (courtesy of Evan Peters' fake Quicksilver) it ended up being the Loki season finale that set the stage for more multiversal shenanigans throughout Phase 4 of the MCU.
A quick recap, because there's a lot to take stock of. Episode six of Loki saw the Norse God of Mischief and his Variant/super creepy love interest Sylvie come face to face with a character who promises to be a huge part of the MCU going forward or at least, they met a version of him.
Take a look at what's coming up from Marvel below:
As I'm sure most of the hardcore fans have already worked out, He Who Remains is a Variant of classic time-travelling Marvel villain Kang The Conquerer. The version Loki and Sylvie meet appears to have decent-ish intentions: He insists he created the TVA to maintain one timeline and avoid deviations that could lead to the creation of multiple realities. Multiple realities, he warns, leads to war between those realities. And nobody wants that. Well, except for the versions of Kang that absolutely do want that. He Who Remains knows this, because he's pretty much the sole survivor of the last multiverse war.
But you can't blame Sylvie for having trust issues after everything she's been put through, can you? Deciding he's full of it, she murders He Who Remains in an attempt to give the people back their free will. What she succeeds in doing is creating a new multiverse of infinite realities. Swings and roundabouts.
If you've been paying attention, it's been clear for a while now that this was where the MCU was headed. There are the rumours that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield are in Spider-Man: No Way Home, for starters. The excellent Jonathan Majors is playing another version of Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Oh, and the Doctor Strange sequel is literally called In The Multiverse Of Madness. Marvel hasn't exactly been subtle about the fact that Phase 4 won't be afraid to get weird, and Loki re-establishing the multiverse is just the beginning.
Clearly season two of Loki will be addressing this to an extent, given that Tom Hiddelston appears to be trapped in a new reality where one of the less-pleasant Kang's he was warned about is in charge of the TVA - but the return of the multiverse is the start of something much, much bigger. In fact, I'm reasonably confident that we're barreling towards an MCU adaptation of Secret Wars.
To explain everything that led up and goes down in Secret Wars would take up an entire article or three on its own, so I'll attempt to be as concise as possible. Secret Wars was a massive 2015 "event" comic book series from writer Jonathan Hickman that was the culmination of nearly a decade of work spanning runs on both The Fantastic Four and The Avengers. There were, as I'm sure you can imagine, a lot of moving parts involved, but the basic premise involved a multiverse-ending battle. Sound familiar? That's pretty much what He Who Remains described during Loki, and a lot of fans noticed.
In the lead-up to Secret Wars, the heroes of the "main" Marvel universe discover that various realities are crashing into each other and being destroyed for good. In an effort to prevent any further chaos, Doctor Doom (of all people) finds a way to essentially stitch the few remaining realities together into one "Battleworld", a patchwork planet of various regions that represent different universes. One part of the planet was ruled by Marvel Zombies, for instance, while another was inhabited by the 1992 X-Men of the old animated series. Comic books are effin' wild, man. Doctor Doom reinvents himself as a "God Emperor" and rules over the whole planet, as he is wont to do.
To cut a (very) long story short, Secret Wars ultimately sees a number of heroes from different universes all fighting it out in an attempt to overthrow Doom and restore the multiverse in such a way that prevents further war or disaster. It's big, it's epic, and it draws on every corner of Marvel's long, impressive history. A big screen adaptation of this giant-sized adventure would be the perfect way to end the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it - and also looks to me to be one of the only possible outcomes of everything that's currently being seeded.
Clearly the MCU's take on Secret Wars will never be a straight adaptation of the comic book version. But Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War took the basic outline of the source material and made it work with the characters and established backstory they had. Secret Wars will undoubtedly take a similar route.
Marvel has years to build up the rise and fall of the multiverse in exactly the same way it spent the better part of a decade teasing out Thanos and the Infinity Stones. No doubt Kang will play a role in sewing the seeds of a multiversal war across series two of Loki as well as the Ant Man and Doctor Strange sequels, but it should be - and most likely will be - the MCU's Doctor Doom who emerges as the real threat to all realities. We know the Fantastic Four is joining the MCU, we know Kang and Loki are messing with time, and we know the multiverse looms large over Phase 4. It all adds up, doesn't it?
Just imagine The Avengers: Secret Wars on the big-screen. Multiple Spider-Men teaming up with the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Avengers, and more to battle Doctor Doom with all of reality at stake. Fan service? You bet. But fan service that brings nearly two decades of MCU action to a close while cleaning the board for further adventures. The comic book ended with the creation of a new "prime" reality that took the best aspects of the multiverse. This could very well be the MCU's opportunity to clean up and maybe even recast/reboot a couple of iconic characters. Iron Man can't stay dead forever, after all, whether you want him to or not.
It might sound utterly ridiculous right now, but if you described the plot of Avengers: Endgame to anyone ten years ago they would have told you you'd lost your tiny mind. When you walked out of Iron Man in 2008, did you ever expect that just over a decade later you'd see him fighting Thanos alongside Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians Of The Galaxy? Of course you didn't.
Endgame went as big as it could possibly go, and the next Avengers movie - whenever it comes - is surely only aiming to go bigger. How? Secret Wars. I truly believe it's coming, so you'd better strap in.
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