When Professor X wiped Magneto’s mind he inadvertently created Onslaught, an omnipotent monster that, at some point in 1996, got smashed out of his physical form by Hulk, turning into a gaseous rift in reality that could only be closed by Captain America, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four dashing through it and sacrificing their lives.
Or so they thought. The non-mutant heroes instead arrived in a different universe with narrative amnesia, and more or less lived out their superhero lives again. Then later returned to the old universe and their old memories.
This is the road the MCU is on, and it's about to expand even more with an avalanche of upcoming Marvel shows and movies, including Spider-Man No Way Home, Hawkeye, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel and more. And that's a good thing.
Comic universes cannot withstand their own expansion. Never could. They continually collapse and reset and break and rejoin and split and fix and die and rebirth. This is what history tells us and what the future holds.
To amuse myself I sometimes imagine a secret room at Warner Bros where execs are furiously trying to connect the parts of their universe that work. “Gal stays.” “Pattison is testing well though so we need to figure out how we’re losing Affleck” “Okay, cool, but what about Keaton?” “What?” “We’re bringing him back” “Oh God” “It’s okay we’re going to make it fine in the Flash movie” “We’re still doing that?” “Yes and there are two Flashes in it” “The CW one as well?!” “No, no, that’s weird. But Supergirl is” “The CW one?” “No, we can’t because of the Superman problem” “Is that still Henry” “Dunno. Maybe the guy who played his torso in Shazam”
Kevin Feige’s control of the MCU is remarkable. I bet his house is really clean and his army of Roombas are continuously charged, poised to leap into action on a fallen crumb like Chitauri Leviathans.
His directors are all decent. The actors are beautiful and charming and, most importantly, signed up to multi-picture deals. The films are sort of, kind of fine, delivered through a pristine template (that I assume Feige designed after slipping and bumping his baseball cap-less head while standing on his toilet to hang a clock). And they all serve a greater good. The acronym above all others: the MCU.
And it’s been a ride so far. The road to Endgame was gorgeous. Kevin drove us all along Route 199999 with the roof down and sun shining, his hands on the steering wheel in the ten to two position, us in the back tweeting how good we have it.
“What was that bump, Kevin? Did we hit a pothole?” “No, that’s just me opening up the multiverse. Should be fine” “Okay. Why is the car now making that noise?” “I think that’s time travel. It’s okay” “Wait. Why is Tobey Maguire suddenly next to you?” “I don’t see Tobey” “He’s right there!” “Nope” “Up ahead! It’s a celestial!” “Hey guys, will you calm down, I got this!” “Kevin – watch out!”
I’m sorry, Kevin. But you don’t got this. It was out of your control before Downey suited up. This a comic universe and no amount of clever scheduling, Sony negotiations, and post-credit sequences can stop it from becoming a big, sprawling, autocannabilistic mess that chucks up Harry Styles inventing a Starfoxian accent.
And unlike the wonderful Marshall Honorof who says it's time to kill the MCU, I’m here for it.
I love comics. I love the chaos. The anxiety-inducing doubt about just how badly things will resolve while simultaneously knowing that they never can. In comics, the only thing worse than a bad sequel is a good ending.
The Eternals was our first proper taste of the universe not really making sense anymore. For me, it was the best thing about that film. The promise that things are about to get proper stupid. Suddenly, I can see clone sagas and ages of Apocalypse, Ultimatums, and heroes reborn. This universe will split, schism and skew and be stitched back together with cheating one-liners. Audiences will be mad, #mcugh will trend, and parents will be misty-eyed at the thought of simpler times when the rabbit and thunder god were friends.
It will be confusing, and disappointing, but it will be spectacular, and there is no surer bet on this planet right now than my Disney Plus sub renewing.
It is inevitable.