Disclaimer: this is pure speculation on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). My track record of correct predictions is pretty bad. Like the protagonist in Foucault’s Pendulum, I often find myself “clinging stubbornly to an elegant but false hypothesis.” But this is how I have fun.
Fans of the MCU already know that Phase Four was the beginning of a story arc that’s being called “The Multiverse Saga.” We know Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will officially introduce Kang the Conqueror, the multiversal villain hinted at in Loki season 1. But what if Kang isn’t the ultimate multiversal threat?
We know that the final movie in The Multiverse Saga will be Avengers: Secret Wars in 2026. This seems to be a callback to the Jonathan Hickman crossover event of the same name, and the post-credits scene about “incursions” in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness strengthen the notion that the MCU’s Secret Wars will be a merging of parallel universes.
OK, fine, but are they really going to ignore the original, iconic Secret War comic event? That time when the Beyonder–that omnipotent being from beyond the universe–whisked away the major heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe to a custom-made Battleworld, to have them fight it out to determine what was stronger, heroism or villainy?
A rumor today surfaced that the adversary in 2024’s Thunderbolts movie would be the nigh-omnipotent Superman-type character, the Sentry. It feels like an odd choice. There is no comics lore that connects the Sentry to any of the known characters in Thunderbolts. Their powers are on completely different orders of magnitude. The Sentry is so powerful, in fact, that he works best as a metafictional character.
The Sentry’s whole deal is that he’s an Ordinary Guy, Robert Reynolds. Through an unreliable origin story, he not only acquires insanely powerful abilities, but he’s split into two beings: the heroic Sentry, and the villainous Void. The two are forever in balance. One of them acts, the other opposes those actions. The only way Reynolds was able to stop the Void was to engineer it such that nobody in the Marvel Universe remembered the Sentry or the Void. So according to Robert Reynolds, the Marvel heroes have a long history with the Sentry that they’ve collectively forgotten.
There are clues throughout the Sentry’s appearances that he may actually be a being from outside the Marvel Universe, either a man in “our” reality who dreamed the entire Marvel history (essentially making him a self-inserting God), or an immensely powerful being who entered the Marvel Universe and rewrote it to include himself as the archetype of the hero/villain binary. He is a comment on the superhero genre: there is always a hero, there is always a villain, and they are locked in an eternal struggle neither can conclusively win.
Conflate the Beyonder with Robert Reynolds and you get an immensely powerful being, obsessed with hero/villain dualism, who enters the MCU through the weakened walls between realities. Here could be a character in the background of Phase Four, Five, and Six, learning about the heroes and villains of the MCU, attempting to understand them as a governing principle of this superhuman universe. This could very well culminate in a Secret War of the original variety. Perhaps heroes versus villains, but also universe versus universe in some fashion.
This wouldn’t be to negate the importance of Kang. Kang will be there, attempting to reorder the Multiverse to ensure he reigns supreme now that Loki‘s Sylvie killed off the last ruling Kang variant. But his story will likely reach its climax in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, slated for 2025. It’s likely to be a conclusion of a war among the Kang variants like Kang the Conquerer, Immortus, and Iron Lad, from the comics. The Kangs’ weapon for ensuring a “golden timeline” is the Time Variance Authority, which ruthlessly prunes variants and entire timelines. But the multiverse may be too far gone by the time the dust settles. Universal incursions may be letting in too many crossovers, from Loki variants, to Spider-Man variants, to Doctor Strange variants, to Deadpool and Wolverine. And through this porous membrane might enter the Beyonder, a force even a Kang cannot handle alone.
On reading the rumor that the Thunderbolts are going up against the Sentry, many had questions. How could a team of the least super of the superhumans last a minute against a god? Let’s get really looney in the theorizing. We’ve been seeing Contessa Val de Fontaine recruiting a team of questionable agents. Now she might be just another self-serving government agent. Or the leader of a new iteration of Hydra. Or maybe her involvement with morally gray superhumans has a different, more personal agenda. Could she be a proxy identity for the Void? We’ve recently learned that Val has an ex-husband, none other than Everett Ross, who has been working with Wakanda. Could he be exploring the heroic side, as a proxy for the Sentry? Will the Thunderbolts give us our first look at a Sentry vs. Void cycle, with the Thunderbolts trapped in between?
The Sentry rumor was based on a Daniel Richtman leak about an “evil Superman” character, who could easily be Hyperion. Hyperion is also a refugee from another universe, but carries none of the metafictional trappings of the Sentry. Thunderbolts could easily be a “multiversal border patrol” story with a mega-powerful refugee, handled badly. What gives me pause is that in an interview, David Harbour (Red Guardian) mentions that Thunderbolts will “drop a bomb” on the MCU that will have major effects on the shared universe. Setting up a Beyonder-type figure who engineers a Secret War would qualify.