Comics on Film: How Phase 3 Sets Up the MCU for 'Avengers: Infinity War'

Comics on Film: How Phase 3 Sets Up the MCU for 'Avengers: Infinity War'

Oct 06, 2017

It seems a little hard to believe that we're less than a year away from Marvel Studios' biggest, most ambitious film, but it's true. Five years ago, Marvel fans the world over were stunned after walking out of the theater for the first Avengers film. It was one of the most consequential releases in the history of the superhero film genre, proving definitively to tepid studios and skeptical fans everywhere that moviegoers are no different from hardcore comic book fans in at least one respect: they all like to see their superheroes teamed up.

Fast forward to 2017. Not only have we had another fully-fledged Avengers film hit theaters, but we've also seen the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself expand in directions that were hard to predict back in 2012, most notably in the direction of the purely cosmic and spacefaring (as we saw in Guardians of the Galaxy), as well as into the mindbending state of our own reality (as we saw in Doctor Strange).

Now, though, as we gear up for the massive undertaking that is Avengers: Infinity War, we thought it would be interesting to re-examine the current "phase" of MCU films to see — and/or speculate — how they'll be funneling into next year's MCU opus. So, let's take a look!

 

Captain America: Civil War

The most consequential element that was brought to us by Civil War, beyond the fact that it fractured the Avengers themselves, was in the strain it brought between the two biggest personalities on the team: Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. A fundamental disagreement and a damaging secret proved to be more than their friendship and alliance could take, and the strain brought them to blows in, arguably, one of the most emotional clashes in the entirety of the MCU.

While images of Steve have been few and far between concerning his upcoming appearance in Infinity War, we do know that he left his iconic shield in the hands of Tony Stark after Cap managed to best him in their confrontation. Even though the friendship was placed under strain, Steve still made clear in Civil War's closing moments that if ever a situation required the assistance of Captain America, all Tony had to do was call on him.

Beyond that, we also learned that Cap's allies weren't imprisoned on the fortress-like prison known as "the Raft" for very long, and we also know that the Winter Soldier is back in a frozen slumber — this time voluntarily — within the impenetrable borders of Wakanda.

 

Doctor Strange

As we've alluded to in this column before, the release of Doctor Strange helps to emphasize that the Avengers now have in their arsenal a new, powerful weapon against the forces of Thanos in the upcoming war. Expanding the known realms of the MCU by establishing an entirely mystic arm will only serve to increase the kinds of stories the MCU can tell, while making the all-encompassing Infinity War all the more varied within its own runtime once it's released next summer.

Obviously, the most immediately consequential element that we saw in Doctor Strange on the MCU at-large revolved around the arrival of Thor and Loki on Earth, with the God of Thunder wanting to take up Stephen Strange's services in trying to find the All-Father of Asgard, Odin, who has not been seen in the MCU since the events of 2013's Thor: The Dark World from the MCU's second phase. Setting up crossover potential with Doctor Strange will likely have more of a short-term impact on next month's Thor: Ragnarok, but either way, a relationship we'll likely see service given to in Infinity War started first in Doctor Strange.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

While the second Guardians film is most definitely a part of the MCU's third phase, this is arguably the most standalone entry in the entire wider MCU series ever released. Taking place a mere three months after the first Guardians film, the chronological events of Vol. 2 actually take place even before the events of phase 2's Avengers: Age of Ultron, to say nothing of lining up with the events of contemporary phase 3 MCU films.

It also didn't even do quite as much in serving the larger MCU narrative, considering that any mentions of Thanos, the Infinity Stones, or even Earth itself were mostly incidental, related to the events of the first Guardians film, or had to do with characters relevant to this movie only. Be that as it may, Guardians Vol. 2 helped to fill out the more cosmic side of the MCU as a whole, which will likely end up serving the interests of showing us a fully-fledged conflict with Thanos when the time for it eventually comes in next year's Infinity War.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Very much a reaction and quasi-sequel to the more focused narrative elements of Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming also served as a pivotal expansion of the MCU in an entirely different way: by showing us a neighborhood. Where the Avengers are largely concerned with the big picture of global affairs, and with the Guardians and Doctor Strange gallivanting around the cosmic and mystical sides of the MCU, Peter Parker is just trying to make a difference in his own community in New York as a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.

Still, a couple of key moments played out concerning the wider universe. We know that at least in one segment of the MCU, the public views Captain America as a kind of war criminal. We know that if a criminal is resourceful enough, they can repurpose Chitauri technology left over from the Avengers' original Battle of New York to make serious trouble for our heroes, and we know that Tony Stark sees an enormous amount of heroic potential in a kid from Queens who has the proportionate strength of a spider.

We also now know that Tony feels Peter is ready to step up to the big leagues of the Avengers, even if Peter himself doesn't quite think he's ready. However, that more advanced Spidey suit likely wasn't destroyed, so we'll be keeping our eyes peeled for it just in case it might help the ol' Webhead take on the forces of Thanos alongside the Avengers next year.

 

The Future: Thor and Black Panther

We now have two major MCU releases hitting theaters before Infinity War, with Thor: Ragnarok arriving on November 3 and Black Panther coming to theaters this coming Februrary. Between the two, we're going to guess that Thor will be more largely consequential for the upcoming events of Infinity War, for two primary reasons: one, it looks like it may start to mash up the cosmic side of the MCU established in the Guardians movies with the more "mainline" superhero elements, and two, it includes the first appearance of a core Avenger since Age of Ultron: Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk.

Don't count out T'Challa, though. We know that his nation is harboring Bucky Barnes, and his formidability we just caught the slightest glimpse of in Civil War will likely help to make him a key ally of importance by the time Infinity War rolls into theaters. It's a little hard to speculate how T'Challa's solo outing may tie into the wider MCU narrative, presuming it doesn't take a more separated approach like Guardians Vol. 2 before it. Either way would make us happy, but we'll just have to wait and see on that front.

Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters on May 4, 2018. Be sure to keep it locked on Movies.com as we get closer to each new MCU release beginning next month with Thor: Ragnarok, and we'll see you next week for an all-new Comics on Film!


Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango and others. He also hosts the podcasts Discovery Debrief: A Star Trek PodcastGeekPulse Radio and Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at Movies.com, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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