WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR AND AVENGERS: ENDGAME!
Marvel Studios blew the roof off of Comic-Con’s Hall H this weekend past as they unveiled their jaw-dropping Phase 4 lineup. There was something missing though: An Avengers movie.
Traditionally, each Phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has led to a big team-up blockbuster featuring all the various heroes from the respective solo films. As we learned earlier this week from Marvel boss Kevin Feige though, despite no announcement yet, Phase 4 would indeed be building up to a crossover that will give us a “very different” Avengers team. At first glance, that statement makes complete sense given the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame: Iron Man, Black Widow, and Vision have died, Captain America decided to travel back in time to be with his sweetheart, and Thor joined the Guardians of the Galaxy in space.
Naturally, as has been mentioned by Marvel themselves, heavyweight franchise newcomers like Captain Marvel and Black Panther will take the reins of the universe and team going forward. I don’t think that team will be an Avengers one though. Not in name or mission. No, I think we’re getting an Ultimates movie.
Now, a little bit of comic book history: Back in the early 2000s, Marvel Comics decided to create an alternate universe in which they could reboot all their biggest characters in a modern, contemporary manner free of the baggage of continuity. It was called the Ultimate Universe. The premiere superhero team of that universe was, for all intents and purposes, the Avengers, however they were now known as the Ultimates to differentiate them from their main-universe counterparts. Created by writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch, The Ultimates was not only a best-selling smash hit but would eventually become the template for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Many of the themes, plot beats, and visuals of the movies would eventually be pulled straight from those comic book pages. Hell, the very reason why Samuel L. Jackson plays Nick Fury in the MCU is because Hitch drew his Nick Fury to look exactly like Jackson!
I’m not talking about those Ultimates though.
Back in 2015, the massive Secret Wars comic book crossover event saw all of Marvel’s universes either wiped out or merged together to form a new singular timeline. Very little of the Ultimate Universe made that cut, but the team name of the Ultimates was too good to end up in the trash and it was subsequently revived.
Written by Al Ewing with art by Kenneth Rocafort, this new Ultimates team wouldn’t just be a modern Avengers knockoff like the previous incarnation. Instead, the team was comprised of seriously big hitters who had a whole new gameplan: They wouldn’t avenge anybody. That approach was reactive, and they would be proactive. Using their formidable skills and resources, the Ultimates would look for the very biggest problems that potentially threatened the Earth on a cosmic, multiversal scale and then went and did something about them before they became problems. For their first mission, the Ultimates tackled the problem of how to “fix” Galactus, a world-devouring celestial force of nature older than the universe itself. Another story saw them trying to unravel the mystery of how Eternity, the anthropomorphic embodiment of the entire multiverse, got chained up. That’s the level these guys were playing at. And that’s the level the movies will need to move to if they hope to top the threat of Thanos and the Infinity Stones.
The roster of the Ultimates comic book team was comprised of Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Spectrum, Blue Marvel, and Miss America. With the adult version of Monica Rambeau (aka Spectrum in the comics) confirmed to be debuting in the upcoming WandaVision series on Disney+, this means that three of the five team members are already or will soon be present in the MCU. Both Blue Marvel and Miss America could also easily be introduced either in a Ultimates film or the ones preceding it without much hassle.
In the comics, Adam Brashear aka Blue Marvel was dormant for a very long time after essentially being forced into retirement due to racism towards him being a black superhero in the 1960s. It was only in 2013 that he stepped on the scene again with a huge list of superpowers on top of genius intellect. Similarly, America Chavez aka Miss America was a relatively obscure character before making it big in 2013’s Young Avengers. Her big deal is that she is actually from an alternate universe and besides for the usual superpowers (strength, durability, flight), she has the ability to literally punch holes in reality and use them to hop through the multiverse. You know, like the multiverse that has been hinted at several times before in the MCU?
There’s one very interesting fact about the Ultimates team lineup that you may have noticed though: There’s not a single white male hero among them. This incredibly diverse team boasted not just a predominantly female or person of colour lineup, but Miss America was the first Latin-American LGBTQ character to star in an ongoing Marvel Comics series. After being criticised for how homogenous the early Phases of the MCU was, Marvel Studios is really driving the diversity on upcoming film projects with the vast majority of both stars and filmmakers for the newly announced slate being either female and/or persons of colour. The Ultimates fits perfectly in that mould.
When the Ultimates comic relaunched post-Secret Wars in 2015, it was part of Marvel’s “All-new, all-different” strategy. (“Different”… where have we heard that adjective before?) This is the very same line-wide initiative that saw Sam Wilson aka Falcon take up the shield of Captain America… just like he’s now done in the movies. It’s also where Jane Foster took up the mantle of Thor… Just like she’ll do in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. There are more connections, like these. Heck, there was even an issue of The Ultimates titled “Endgame” in which they fought Thanos! There are just too many pieces lining up here between the Marvel Comics universe of a few years ago and the Marvel Cinematic Universe now for this to be a coincidence.
Marvel needs a brand new superteam, and based on fans’ highly emotional reactions to both Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, it may be a good thing for the “Avengers” name to take a break. They need to give that chapter at least the veneer of finality, even though we know it will more than likely eventually be back. In that time though, give us The Ultimates!
Last Updated: July 26, 2019