Ever since Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally started with WandaVision on Disney+, it began feeling like nerd life was finally returning to normal. This year alone audiences will be watching four Marvel movies (Black Widow and upcoming Shangi Chi, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home) and a plethora of shows. Each movie and show serves as a microsystem within the larger macrosystem which is the MCU. Or after the events of Loki, the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse (MCM). These single entries serve as a glimpse at a specific story, which can be enjoyed without viewing previous entries. However, with each passing entry, more of the grand picture on the tapestry that Marvel Studios is weaving comes to light.
With so much material coming out in such a short amount of time, my co-author Nathan Miller became inquisitive about the connective tissue that has been growing since the beginning of this current phase. How does every individual microsystem interact with each other, building new and different mesosystems? And how do those ever-changing mesosystems come together forming the new macrosystem of the MCM? Over the course of five articles, we want to take a look at five areas within this new structure. Like Avengers Tower, we’ll construct our theories from the ground floor and work our way up. Hopefully, by the end, we will have firm blueprints on which to map the rest of phase four and beyond.
Defending the streets
The street-level superheroes are something we haven’t necessarily explored before in the MCM. With the exception of our favorite neighborhood web-slinger. Though what constitutes a street-level superhero? These characters stay closer to the ground and are deeply connected to their neighborhoods.
Their stories can feel more personal, such as a teenager trying to balance precalculus with saving the world. The stories also feel more intimate. With looks at the grungy streets, with glimpses of families, those still alive and those lost. The threats aren’t big enough to warrant the attention of the first-string heroes. However, their threat must be stopped, and our street heroes are up to bat.
The World is Embiggening- Ms. Marvel
I’m just a few short months, Kamala Khan played by Iman Vellani will be headed to the MCM in her very own show Ms. Marvel. In the comics, Kamala is a Muslim American high school student, who has a big secret. She has a huge crush on a boy in homeroom. Oh yeah, and she’s also an Inhuman.
Gaining her powers from a terrigen cloud, Kamala finds herself following in the shoes of her biggest idol, Carol Danvers. Her powers consist of stretching and enlarging her body (appropriately named Embiggening), similar in many ways to the powers of Mr. Fantastic. Though with one distinct difference. Kamala Khan’s powers borrow energy from her multiverse counterparts, a bit of information not many are aware of.
Ms. Marvel is our first step into the Disney+ side of our street-level heroes. So it has many jobs that it must complete. First, to introduce us to a new hero with new powers. It’ll serve as a deep dive into Kamala’s life and her place in the hero structure. It also needs to be its own self-contained show that can be enjoyed by itself. As well, it will lay that ever-important groundwork for the overarching story that will connect all street-level heroes.
All Arrows Pointing Home- Hawkeye
By the end of 2021, Jeremy Renner will be back on our screens as Clint Barton. However, instead of playing a supporting character in another’s story, he’ll be finally getting one of his own. Hawkeye is believed to be inspired by Matt Fraction’s Comic series of the same name. Which, if you haven’t read it, is about as street level as you can get. The run consists of Clint living in a rundown apartment building, defending its inhabitants from the tracksuit mafia and other similar villains.
During the 22 issue run, we also see Clint take on a protege (Kate Bishop played by the talented Hailee Steinfeld), adopt Pizza Dog, fight with his brother, and lose his hearing. Seems like a lot to stuff into a six-episode series. However, the essence of the comic run can and should be felt in the Disney+ series. This Clint Barton isn’t living safely on a farm but instead protecting himself and others through the streets of New York. Something reminiscent of the gritty feel of Netflix’s Daredevil, but family-friendly.
The Devil’s in the Details- Spiderman: No Way Home
The last installment of Sony’s Spider-Man franchise ended on a significant cliffhanger. How will Tom Holland’s Peter Parker get himself out of the trap Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) set for him? Now it’s widely known that this film will tie directly into the next Doctor Strange installment, meaning that it leans more towards the multiverse aspect of the Marvel Macrosystem.
However, like the two movies prior, it seems highly unlikely that there won’t be some aspect of the friendly neighborhood part of our favorite arachnid friend. Plus, rumor has it another favorite street-level defender will make his first appearance in the MCU during this film. And the spider’s web continues to build.
By the Light of the Moon- Moon Knight
Very little is known about the story of the Disney+ series starring Oscar Issac as Marc Spector. However, using the comics as a jumping-off point, we can assume that Moon Knight is going to be one of the most gritty entries to the MCM to date and is often. Marc Spector is often compared to a Marvel equivalent of Batman. Roaming the underbelly of the city at night. In the same energy as Daredevil, except that he may be smuggling an Egyptian God in his body. No big deal, right?
Moon Knight is a character that explores many supernatural and occult-like occurrences. As well as battling those who stand in his way. His tactics aren’t always clean, something Steve Rogers would dislike if he was still around. And not ancient. Where Kamala and Peter show up on the bright side of the neighborhood, Marc will get down and dirty.
Big Green Lawyering Machine- She-Hulk
This show is a big wild card to me in many ways. Pitched as a half-hour legal comedy, it took me some time to wrap around someone so out of the known wheelhouse of Marvel’s usual projects. Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) fights street-level crime both in and out of the courtroom.
This show has the potential to expand the street-level aspect more than any other show. Being that part of the show will be set in the courtroom we will see plenty of villains in chains as well as out in the world. Threads of a larger picture for this microsystem can be hinted at. Whom are they working for? Will they ever stop breaking out of jail? Who’s gonna tell them that spandex is so last season?!?! It gives viewers a chance to explore some of those threads or lead to other projects.
Did you say something or is there an- Echo
I don’t know about you, but I am very excited to finally see Echo. She will first be appearing in the Disney+ series Hawkeye, prior to getting her own show. Echo brings representation to Marvel Studios, as the first Native American hero in one of their projects and only the second deaf character as well. Alaqua Cox’s performance must have been something special because Marvel Studios fast-tracked her series!
For those complaining about Taskmaster and her lack of fighting in Black Widow, do I have a surprise for you. Echo’s powers are similar to those of Taskmaster. She possesses photogenic reflexes and can copy people exactly. In the comics, Echo is the adoptive daughter of Kingpin, though she ultimately turns on him. So it’s possible we will see her in a mercenary style role at first, working for the guy we believe is pulling all the strings within the New York microsystem.
Overall plot- He’s feeling Fisk-y
Who could be in the center of street-level crimes in the MCM? Who could be funding the street-level goons and powered-up mercenaries? Could it be the Kingpin of Crime himself? Wilson Fisk makes the most sense to be pulling those strings. With every show and movie set in this microcosm of the MCM, Marvel could construct story threads to introduce and bring together a whole host of new heroes to defend the streets. During the pandemic, many of the Defenders‘ characters resorted from Netflix back to Marvel Studios. The likes of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Punisher, and others are bound to make their way back on screen. As I’m writing this, rumors started to spread of an appearance of the Kingpin in Hawkeye. Though Nathan and I do not think he’ll be the specific villain of any one series quite yet, more so popping up here and there as a driving force for the other villains. Perhaps he’s bankrolling some of the villains in She-hulk? It’s certainly possible. In any case, We think fans should expect him to interact with Echo at some point. As we mentioned earlier Kingpin has worked closely with Echo in the comics and is a pretty significant figure in her comics origin as Lizzie Hill pointed out in her article about Echo’s working title. Like most of Fisk’s stories, he will be after power. Over people, over the city, and if possible over our villains and heroes.
Moving on and Forward
The above-mentioned shows and movies lay a lot of groundwork for a vision of the MCM we have not explored much up to this point. What we could call a “Defenders Phase 1” will begin a world where many more stories from new and old characters alike can come to life. Expect some series, similar to Loki, likely to have second seasons, such as Ms. Marvel and Echo. However, characters like Kate Bishop may move onto her own series, or join a team-up project like Young Avengers (which has had so much groundwork laid it is more a matter of when that if we’ll see our young but powerful heroes form a team).
Characters like Misty Knight and Colleen Wing would fit nicely into the world that is being established. Cloak and Dagger and the Runaways would even be amazing to see in a more connected world than the shows we got. The Hood, Squirrel Girl, Elsa Bloodstone, all would bring gravitas and grittiness to the street-level Marvel. A Midnight Son’s series or movie seems like a strong possibility with the introductions of Moon Knight and Blade to the cinematic universe. All this to say that what is coming is just the beginning, the neighborhoods have appeared too small for the Avengers who are attempting to stop global threats, but there are others just as important that are more attuned to local threats and saving people just the same.
Look out for the next in the series as we scale our way up the power levels of the MCM and look at international threats in Part 2.
Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye will be stream on Disney+ in 2021. Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and Echo will stream sometime in 2022 or 2023. Look for Spider-man No Way Home in theaters on December 17, 2021.