Many of the MCU’s heroes have crucial roles in the future of the franchise, but some future stories are unfortunately much darker than others.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Loki season 2 and The Marvels.
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- The future of the MCU will explore darker and more mature storylines, with heroes like Doctor Strange, Moon Knight, Loki, and Spider-Man facing unprecedented challenges.
- Characters like Rhodey, Monica Rambeau, and Vision will experience trauma and emotional turmoil as they learn about the deaths and losses of loved ones, and deal with their own precarious situations.
- Mutants and the X-Men will soon be introduced to the MCU, and will face constant discrimination and prejudice, mirroring their Marvel Comics counterparts’ struggles.
Many of the most notable heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have dark futures ahead of them, with their upcoming storylines exploring some heavy subject matters. Since the MCU kicked off with 2008’s Iron Man, Marvel Studios has introduced dozens of Marvel Comics’ superheroes into live-action, and most of the MCU’s stories have managed to stay within the boundaries of the franchise’s more family-friendly tones. This lightheartedness has become a trademark of the MCU, yet the future of the franchise seems to be taking a more mature turn, with more MCU projects being given TV-MA or R-ratings, and darker and grittier narratives set to be investigated in the coming years.
Arguably, 2019’s Avengers: Endgame delivered the most harrowing MCU story yet, as the project dealt with the aftermath of half the universe’s population being killed by the Mad Titan Thanos. However, several recent storylines have also set up some dark narratives for the MCU’s future, with many of the franchise’s most iconic superheroes expected to embark on unprecedented, twisted, and much more mature storylines. Including pre-established heroes such as Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and the Hulk, as well as newcomers Moon Knight, Xu Xialing, and the MCU’s X-Men, there will be no shortage of dark plots and heartbreaking stories in the MCU’s upcoming projects.
So far, Deadpool 3 and Blade have been confirmed to be R-rated, while Echo will be the MCU’s first TV-MA rated series. However, these aren’t the only projects set to explore more mature storylines in the MCU’s future.
10 Doctor Strange Is Set To Be Burdened With More MCU Knowledge
Doctor Strange Learned About The Multiverse In The MCU’s Phase 4
Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange has been set up as one of the most crucial heroes in the MCU’s Multiverse Saga, having already been a part of two massive multiverse stories in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Currently, he’s the only character in the MCU’s main continuity who is aware of incursions, and his own actions have inadvertently caused one of these destructive events. Although the MCU’s Doctor Strange 3 hasn’t been officially announced by Marvel Studios, the project is expected to reveal even more dangers to Doctor Strange and Clea, which will surely be a burden to the Master of the Mystic Arts.
As Earth-838’s Reed Richards described in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, “An Incursion occurs when the boundary between two universes erodes and they collide, destroying one or both entirely.”
9 Rhodey Will Learn About Tony Stark’s Avengers: Endgame Death
Rhodey Has Possibly Been A Skrull Since Captain America: Civil War
Despite becoming one of the MCU’s lowest-rated projects, Phase 5’s Secret Invasion delivered some huge twists in James “Rhodey” Rhodes’ MCU journey. Rhodey was revealed to be a shapeshifting Skrull in disguise, and since the real Rhodey woke up in a hospital gown at the end of the 2023 series, it was assumed that he was replaced following his injury in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Don Cheadle is set to make his next appearance as Rhodey’s War Machine in Marvel Studios’ upcoming Armor Wars, which will see the armored hero learn about the events of Infinity War and Endgame, and the tragic death of his best friend, Tony Stark.
8 Monica Rambeau Is Teased To Team Up With A Variant Of Her Dead Mother
Monica Rambeau Is Trapped In Fox’s X-Men Universe After The Marvels
2023’s The Marvels featured the highly-anticipated team-up of Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau’s Photon, and Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel. Kree warrior Dar-Benn’s actions in The Marvels opened a hole in reality, and in an effort to patch the hole, Monica Rambeau found herself trapped on the other side. The Marvels’ post-credits scene revealed that Rambeau had traveled to Fox’s X-Men Universe, where she was met by Kelsey Grammer’s Beast and a variant of her mother, Maria Rambeau, operating as the superhero Binary. To get back home, Monica will need to work with her dead mother’s variant, which will surely be traumatizing, yet cathartic, for the new MCU hero.
7 Vision Doesn’t Know Who He Is
Vision Was Rebuild In WandaVision After Dying During Avengers: Infinity War
One of the most emotional moments in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War was the death of Paul Bettany’s Vision, killed once by the Scarlet Witch in an effort to destroy the Mind Stone, and a second time by Thanos after the Mad Titan turned back time. A fabricated version of Vision was created by Wanda Maximoff in Phase 4’s WandaVision, but unbeknownst to them both, SWORD had also rebuilt the original Vision, who returned with corrupted memories and an ambition to destroy Vision and the Scarlet Witch. WandaVision saw White Vision’s memories restored, however, so the MCU’s upcoming Vision Quest series will explore his changing mental state and certain confusion.
6 Xu Xialing Has Taken Over A Global Terrorist Organization
Xu Xialing Inherited The Ten Rings From Her Father, The Mandarin
2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings introduced Simu Liu’s titular Shang-Chi and his sister, Meng’er Zhang’s Xialing, to the MCU, and revealed that their father, Wenwu, was the MCU’s real Mandarin, the leader of the Ten Rings. After Wenwu’s demise, the Ten Rings was assumed to be dismantled, but the organization was actually taken over by his daughter, Xialing. Though it’s possible that Xialing could have positive intentions with the Ten Rings, it’s more likely that her quest for power and equality will transform her into a corrupted villain in the MCU’s future, yet this will be a great way for the Ten Rings’ story to continue.
The Ten Rings first appeared in 2008’s Iron Man, taking Tony Stark captive in Afghanistan, and were used as a front for Aldrich Killian’s actions in 2013’s Iron Man 3, but Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings revealed the truth behind the ancient terrorist organization.
5 Moon Knight Will Learn About His Third Alter
Jake Lockley Appeared At The Very End Of Moon Knight On Disney+
2022’s Moon Knight was one of the most popular projects in the MCU’s Phase 4, introducing Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector, a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder who was also the avatar of the Egyptian god Khonshu. Throughout the series, Spector learned to work with his alter, Steven Grant, to operate as Moon Knight, before renouncing Khonshu in the series finale. However, Spector’s third alter, the murderous Jake Lockley, only appeared in Moon Knight’s post-credits scene, in which he kills villain Arthur Harrow, and reveals that he is still connected to Khonshu, setting up some dramatic revelations for Moon Knight in the MCU’s future.
4 Spider-Man Has Lost Everyone He Loved Most
Doctor Strange Made Everyone Forget Peter Parker In Spider-Man: No Way Home
Phase 4’s Spider-Man: No Way Home marked the end of Peter Parker’s origin story in the MCU, and set up an incredibly dark future for Tom Holland’s wall-crawler. Realizing the only way to protect the stability of the multiverse would be for Doctor Strange to complete his original spell, Parker convinced the Master of the Mystic Arts to wipe everyone’s memory of him. This culminated in emotional final scenes where Parker greets MJ, Ned Leeds, and Happy Hogan, with none of them having any memory of him. No Way Home left Spider-Man completely alone in the MCU, which will make Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man 4 and his future stories much darker.
3 Skaar’s Debut Teases A Dark Future For Bruce Banner’s Hulk
Skaar Debuted In Marvel Comics’ World War Hulk Storyline
While there’s been confusion regarding the owner of the Hulk’s film rights, there is speculation that they may have reverted to Marvel Studios, which would allow a solo Hulk-related project to be developed. Coincidentally, the finale of Phase 4’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law perfectly set up a dark storyline for Bruce Banner, as Wil Deusner debuted as Skaar, the Hulk’s son from Sakaar, teasing a potential World War Hulk storyline in the MCU. Skaar debuted in Marvel Comics’ World War Hulk event, so adapting this plot for the MCU could see Bruce Banner pushed to the breaking point, and may lead to the deaths of several notable MCU heroes.
Marvel Comics’ World War Hulk storyline saw the Hulk return from his exile on Sakaar and wreak havoc on Earth, attacking and killing a huge number of the Marvel Universe’s heroes, particularly focusing on the Illuminati members who had initially exiled him.
2 God Loki’s Future Involves His Continued Sacrifice
Loki Season 2’s Ending Gave Loki A New Glorious Purpose
Tom Hiddleston’s Asgardian God of Mischief Loki has seen more character development in the MCU than most others, culminating in him achieving his ultimate destiny in the final episode of Loki season 2. After failing to adjust the TVA’s Temporal Loom, Loki realized the only way to protect the infinite branches of the multiverse was to hold them himself, so he stepped out and became a real god in the MCU. Loki’s fate means that he now sits guard over the multiverse’s branching timelines, ensuring their survival, but leaving himself alone for all eternity, sacrificing everything he had ever wanted, but knowing that his friends and the multiverse are safe.
1 X-Men Will Face Constant Discrimination
The X-Men Will Soon Be Introduced To The MCU
While Loki’s continued fate is certainly heartbreaking, mutants and the X-Men will surely have a harder time when they are introduced en masse in the MCU’s future. One of the pillars of Marvel Comics’ mutant-centric storylines is the constant prejudice and discrimination they face from average humans, which will be truly harrowing to watch play out in the live-action MCU. Marvel Studios has begun to hear writing pitches for the MCU’s upcoming X-Men reboot, and several characters from Fox’s X-Men Universe have, or will soon appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it won’t be long before viewers watch this dark future play out on screen.
Key Release Dates
- Deadpool 3 Release Date: 2024-07-26
- Captain America: Brave New World Release Date: 2025-02-14
- Marvel’s Fantastic Four Release Date: 2025-05-02
- Marvel’s Thunderbolts Release Date: 2025-07-25
- Blade (2025) Release Date: 2025-11-07
- Avengers: The Kang Dynasty Release Date: 2026-05-01
- Avengers: Secret Wars Release Date: 2027-05-07