Thunderbolts is being set up as Phase 5’s Avengers replacement thanks to recent hints. The MCU had been subtly teasing the team’s arrival throughout the first part of Phase 4 with the introduction of Valentina Allegra de Fontaine and her interest in both Yelena Belova and U.S. Agent. Yet, many were surprised when it was announced that the team is getting its own film, and even more so when the main cast was revealed at SDCC. Yelena and U.S. Agent will be joined by Bucky Barnes, Red Guardian, Taskmaster, and Ghost. That’s an interesting group to consider, especially since it doesn’t contain any of the classic members from the comics.
Rumors and theories about the film continuously develop as more of Phase 4 progressed, and they will continue to do so until Thunderbolts’ release on July 26th, 2024. There’s a chance the team comic readers are familiar with – consisting of the likes of Baron Zemo, Moonstone, Songbird, Atlas, Fixer, Beetle, Jolt, and more – will still come into play, perhaps as the antagonists opposing the government-sanctioned team led by Valentina. Alternatively, theories suggest that Sentry, one of Marvel’s strongest characters, could end up as the villain. Whatever the case, Thunderbolts can be an exciting new kind of team-up film and be highly consequential to the larger MCU.
Thunderbolts Can Introduce MCU’s Savage Land (& Pay Off Phase 4’s Setup)
A theory suggests that Thunderbolts could finally take the MCU to the Savage Land, a hidden prehistoric realm also known as “The Land Where Time Stands Still.” Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness includes a reference to the Savage Land as one of the many universes Doctor Strange and America Chavez saw as they fell through the Multiverse. Alternatively, this could’ve just been Dinosaur World, home to Moon Girl’s Devil Dinosaur. Yet, the Savage Land is more prolific and important, so this could mean that it is an alternate universe in the MCU as opposed to its existence in the comics as a special reserve hidden within the frozen wastelands of Antarctica.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever set up the possibility of the Savage Land’s introduction by revealing that Valentina is now the head of the CIA, and she has a hunger for Vibranium and the power it can provide. That story element and its global politics angle will certainly develop more in both Captain America: New World Order and Thunderbolts. Such a take could mean that Valentina discovered a new place to get her greedy hands on Vibranium, now that Wakanda and the world’s oceans are officially off-limits. She can task the Thunderbolts with acquiring the special metal from the Savage Land, opening up the MCU to the unique possibilities it conceals.
How Thunderbolts Can Set Up The Rest Of MCU’s Multiverse Saga
Should Thunderbolts or any future project venture to the Savage Land, such sets up some big things for the MCU. Most predominantly, the Savage Land is home to all sorts of extraordinary creatures and beings from prehistoric to fantastical, including the hero Ka-Zar and his trusty Smilodon companion, Zabu. Kevin Plunder, also known as Ka-Zar, was an English nobleman who was raised in the Savage Land after his parents died there. He and Zabu became the champions of the Savage Land. The Thunderbolt’s quest would likely bring them into conflict with Ka-Zar as he defends his home and its unique type of Vibranium, which might not share the same weakness as Wakanda’s.
Ka-Zar could feature in Thunderbolts as an early antagonist. However, given the team being comprised of more heroic figures like Bucky, Yelena, and Red Guardian, it could logically mean Ka-Zar joins up with them to fight back against the true villain. Such would help set up Ka-Zar for future projects in the Multiverse Saga and beyond. He’d actually be a good candidate for his own Disney+ series or Special Presentation that could then help expand the Savage Land even more and introduce characters like Shanna the She-Devil and Sauron.
Furthermore, the Savage Land first debuted in 1965’s The X-Men #10, and its ongoing history since then indicates it can feature as part of the team’s future in the MCU. Particularly, Magneto has interests in the Savage Land. If Magneto can control Vibranium, the Savage Land would be very valuable to his various plans. Logically, Vibranium can then be key to elements in Armor Wars, and even possibly to Kang’s plans in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. Just by including the Savage Land and focusing more on Vibranium, Thunderbolts can help set up plenty for the MCU.
Why Thunderbolts Had To Be MCU Phase 5’s Team-up Movie
All of these prospects evidently paint Thunderbolts as a far more important and consequential film than many had assumed it could be. Just when looking at the slate for Phase 5, the film serves a significant purpose as the big team-up film. This goes beyond Thunderbolts simply being about a team, but because of how it greatly expands the MCU for the Multiverse Saga and beyond, just as the Avengers films had done previously. Essentially, Thunderbolts will act like an Avengers replacement. It will tie together key storylines and elements from Phases 4 and 5, including the role of anti-heroes, the vast potential of Vibranium, and the global political landscape.
Especially with the introduction of the Savage Land and Ka-Zar, Thunderbolts can carve out a special new corner of the MCU. Anything it establishes, from new characters and relationships to foundational updates to the world, will significantly impact the MCU’s future. In some form, it will all figure into Avengers: Secret Wars. Yet after, as the MCU moves beyond the Multiverse to what will likely be a mutant-centric saga, the Thunderbolts can continue to play a uniquely integral role by filling in whatever void there is between the Avengers, Fantastic Four, and/or X-Men. Thunderbolts can pave the way for an exciting new MCU. They just have to seize the opportunity.
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