Now entering Phase 4 with the release of Disney+ series like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and films like Black Widow, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also looking well past its current huge slate of movies and television series. Longtime Marvel readers are seeing a number of pieces moving into place suggesting Marvel is setting up for the “next generation” of heroes, and some familiar names and personalities have already cropped up. Here’s a look at who’s who and what might be coming.
The Next Generation
When we talk about the “next generation” heroes, we’re basically talking about the teenagers (and maybe twentysomethings?) who are members of the Young Avengers, the Champions, and maybe the Runaways. The latter were already the subject of a television series, but it remains unclear if that series is MCU canon (probably not) or if anything from it will be incorporated into the MCU. Given what we know about the Young Avengers and Champions characters, what signs of their appearance have we seen?
The definite next-generation hero we know to expect is Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani-American teen from New Jersey who is a shape-shifting Inhuman and a big fan of Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel). Kamala gets her own Disney+ series and is supposed to appear in The Marvels (Captain Marvel 2).
Cassie Lang, Ant-Man’s daughter, uses some stolen Pym particle tech to adopt the size-changing identity of Stature in Young Avengers. Cassie has already appeared in the Ant-Man films and, thanks to the Blip, is now a teenager. Her set-up might be in the forthcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Interesting intersection: The time-traveling Kang the Conqueror is the announced antagonist for Quantumania, and Stature and a teenaged variant of Kang dated in Young Avengers!
Wiccan & Speed
Two of the Young Avengers, Billy Kaplan (Wiccan) and Tommy Shepherd (Speed) are long-lost twin brothers with the powers of probability-altering magic and super-speed. They later discover they are the time-lost twins of Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. Viewers of WandaVision already know about Billy and Tommy, their potential powers, and that they may still exist somewhere out in the multiverse. The ending of WandaVision makes it likely Billy and Tommy’s future may come up in the forthcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Of big interest to fans is that, in the comics, Billy is gay and Tommy is bisexual and both of them are currently in relationships with men: Wiccan is married to fellow Young Avenger Hulkling (Teddy Altman) and Speed is dating mutant and X-Factor member Prodigy, who was briefly a Young Avenger, although Tommy and Kate Bishop (see Hawkeye) were also an item for like a hot minute. Given how Marvel Studios and Disney have shied away from LGBTQ representation in their media, it will be interesting to see how they handle a generation of out-and-proud new heroes.
Speaking of The Multiverse of Madness, we know from casting that America Chavez, another Young Avenger, appears in the film. America is the daughter of two prominent heroes from another timeline in the multiverse, and her mothers send her to the mainline Marvel Universe to save America from the destruction of her home timeline. Miss America is a super-strong Latina lesbian who can literally kick holes in reality, another big addition to the diversity of the next-generation heroes.
Young inventor Riri Williams develops an Iron Man-style suit of armor to become Ironheart, later a member of the Champions. Marvel Studios has already announced an Ironheart series for Disney+. Riri joins the ranks of young black women of genius in the MCU along with Princess Shuri of Wakanda. Chances are good she might also be involved in the forthcoming Armor Wars series on Disney+ involving the legacy of Tony Stark’s technology.
Kate Bishop is cast to appear as Clint Barton’s protege in the upcoming Hawkeye series on Disney+ and will likely take over the Hawkeye mantle from him. Kate is a founding member of the Young Avengers and notable for being one of its only members without any super-powers, along with…
Eli Bradley, the grandson of super-soldier Isaiah Bradley, joins the Young Avengers as Patriot. Eli and Isaiah have already appeared in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and his grandfather’s legacy and Sam Wilson becoming Captain America may well inspire Eli to adopt his own heroic identity. In the comics, Eli doesn’t have any powers, and takes to using strength-enhancing drugs for a time to fake being a super-soldier (which causes him some problems). We don’t yet know the future of the MCU version of Eli.
Waiting in the Wings?
So who haven’t we seen from the next generation of Marvel heroes to be on the lookout for?
The big missing hero is Teddy Altman, Hulkling, Wiccan’s future boyfriend and husband. Despite his name, Hulkling isn’t related to the Hulk, apart from being green and muscled. Instead, he is a Kree-Skrull hybrid. In the comics, he is the son of Mar-Vell (the original Captain Marvel) and the Skrull Princess Anelle. In the MCU, Mar-Vell is a woman, Carol Danvers’ Kree mentor. Captain Marvel established the Skrulls have had contact with Earth long enough for a half-Skrull foundling to have been raised here for the last 16-20 years. The forthcoming Secret Invasion series on Disney+ is likely to focus on the Skrulls, and it and The Marvels (Captain Marvel 2) might set up Teddy’s backstory.
Related to the Kree is Noh-Varr, Marvel Boy, a “Utopian Kree” from another timeline. Marvel Boy has access to advanced Kree technology and is gene-spliced with insectoid DNA, giving him certain enhanced powers. There’s no indication of plans for him to show up as yet, but he is a member of the Young Avengers for a time, before going on to join the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Speaking of alternate timelines, there was a young alternate timeline Kid Loki who belonged to the Young Avengers for a time. With the new Loki series on Disney+ exploring alternate timelines, it’s possible Loki might meet up with a younger variant of himself who could end up in the mainline MCU.
We could speculate further about other Champions characters like Viv Vision, the Vision’s synthezoid daughter (created along with other “family” members to try and recapture idyllic suburban life), Nova, Snowguard, or Brawn. Of all of them, the only hints we have are that Xandar (the home of the Nova Corps) appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Dr. Helen Cho (sister of Amadeus Cho, alias Brawn) appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Whichever phase brings us the next generation of Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes, it’s clear we have a lot to look forward to!