Avengers: Infinity War is setting up a game-changing chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe saga - one that will truly take fans on a different kind of ride, starting with Avengers 4. With directors the Russo Bros. and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige all teasing a veritable reboot to the MCU we know in Phase 4, fans have already begun speculating what that new Marvel movie universe will look like.
Back in December the prospects for the MCU's future got much, much, bigger, as it was announced that Disney is acquiring 20th Century Fox in a deal that would finally bring the full roster of Marvel Comics characters together under the MCU tent. That news has forced Marvel fans to entirely re-align their perceptions and expectations for what kind of new world that Avengers 4 could introduce, and there is one recent Marvel crossover event that seems best suited to the task: the 2015 "Secret Wars" storyline.
"Secret Wars" (2015) saw the various realities of the Marvel mutliverse collide in a violent apocalyptic end of days scenario. It is only through the intervention of Doctor Strange, Doctor Doom, and the half-mad Molecule Man that preserves reality, combining fragments of each Marvel Universe dimension into that Frankenstein land mass known as Battleworld. Marvel heroes of the various universes manage to survive the universal destruction thanks to help from the Illuminati (Black Panther, Reed Richards, etc.), only to find themselves in Doom's new world. After that event, reality was restored to what it was supposed to be by Reed Richards - with the caveat that various Marvel timelines now exist in one amalgamated universe.
The appeal of a Secret Wars film event is obvious, as it would be one of the easiest and canon-friendly ways to explain how the X-Men and Fantastic Four suddenly appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - something that the Russos themsevles acknowledged in a recent interview with French website Lintern@ute that, "If Disney's takeover of Fox goes through, there's a lot more characters to work with all of a sudden, it might be interesting to do something like Secret Wars... "
At this point, the Russos know how to choose each and every word carefully in press interviews - they also know how to mercilessly troll the fandom, often dropping incomprehensible "teaser images" on social media, or posting cryptic message that can herald a major trailer drop - or simply stoke fan mania for the hell of it. That's all to say: Marvel Studios could indeed have something like Secret Wars in mind - but it also could not arrive until sometime like Phase Five, after Phase Four has jumped into possible storylines like the Skrull "Secret Invasion" and the "Dark Reign" of villains that follows. That's just the type of hook-and-bait trolling the Russos love.
Regardless of how it happens, there will need to be some kind of "event" that is drastic enough to change the entire face of reality in the MCU - and the Infinity Gauntlet could definitely be the start of it. Of course, before we start counting our chickens, the Fox/Disney deal indeed has to go through and become a fully done deal.
Marvel Studios' Black Panther is now playing in theaters. Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters on April 27, 2018. It is followed by Ant-Man and The Wasp on July 6, 2018, Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, Avengers 4 on May 3, 2019, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.