Finally, Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is in full swing! It kicked off in January with WandaVision, followed by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in March, Loki in June, and Black Widow earlier this month. While each of these stories was about different characters, they all began to pave the way for a post-Avengers: Endgame MCU. Furthermore, they continued to answer a question that was implied two years ago in Spider-Man: Far From Home: what is the Avengers’ legacy? As a warning, this post contains spoilers for Marvel’s Disney+ original series, as well as Black Widow.
Far From Home seemed to set up Peter Parker as the successor to Tony Stark, at least from the perspective of the scientific brain of the next class of superheroes. This plot thread began in Captain America: Civil War, and continued in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, and Endgame. Far From Home completed that arc, with Stark’s legacy being protected by Spider-Man, as well as War Machine, whose story will continue in Marvel’s Armor Wars.
WandaVision gave greater context to the origins of Wanda Maximoff and her romance with the late Vision. It also explored their potential legacy in their alternate reality children, Tommy and Billy. Both children are gifted with abilities of their own, Billy with magical powers like his mother and Tommy with superspeed like his uncle Pietro. By raising these children, we were given a glimpse into whether the two Avengers would pass on their knowledge and experience to another generation or just raise a superpowered family. It, unfortunately, ends in tragedy, and Wanda loses the family she constructed to replace the real ones she lost. Her story will continue in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sets up Sam Wilson as Steve Rogers’ successor while calling into question the Super Soldier program as a whole and its impact on Black Americans in particular. Bucky Barnes–the Winter Soldier and Rogers’ best childhood friend–acts as a guardian of Captain America’s legacy. He guides Sam through the process of accepting the role, along with input from Isaiah Bradley, the threat of the Flag Smashers, and the unhinged John Walker. At first, Sam seems reluctant to take on the mantle of being the next Captain America, but after seeing what could happen if the shield fell into the wrong hands, he ultimately decides that the best way to honor Steve was to embrace the role of Cap and carry it on himself. To be the hero that Bradley should have been allowed to be, that Walker could have been, and with whom the Flag Smashers might have been able to negotiate.
Loki toyed with this same theme by giving the titular a second chance at life and having him interact with alternate versions of himself. After the character’s escape in Endgame, he experiences his character development after discovering how his fate played out in Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, and Infinity War. Variant Loki’s journey allows him a chance to redefine his legacy for the better, asking him if he wants to be more than a narcissistic crusader for “glorious purpose.” His attachment to Sylvie, an alternate Loki, started him on the path to self-love and self-discovery. Whether he truly succeeded or not is still unclear, but the first season seems to suggest that he may at least be willing to try.
Black Widow, while a prequel, set up Yelena Belova as the successor to Natasha Romanoff. In Endgame, Romanoff sacrificed herself to allow Hawkeye to return from Vormir with the Soul Stone, which eventually allowed the Avengers and their allies to defeat Thanos and undo the Decimation (The Snap). As Widow’s adoptive little sister, and another alumna of the Red Room, Belova is a part of Romanoff’s legacy similar to Sam Wilson’s relationship with Rogers. When we last see Belova, she sets out on her own path to free the remaining Black Widows around the world from Dreykov’s mind control (and get revenge on Hawkeye for “killing” Natasha). Like her sister, we know Belova has the same avenging spirit within her to carry on the mantle.
So far, all of these projects have explored the lasting impact of now-departed characters and provided character studies for those that remain. But how does it all tie into the Avengers as a whole? It’s simple, really: the absence of the MCU’s premier superhero team will lead to the formation of new ones. Groups like the Eternals, Fantastic Four, and X-Men will rise to fill the void, while the Guardians of the Galaxy still operate across the universe.
Eventually, there will be a need for a roster of New Avengers, who will probably train a group of Young Avengers. With “Earth’s mightiest heroes” fallen, the world will be protected with strength in numbers. While the pioneers may be gone, their actions have inspired others to fill their roles. This is their legacy: a world of superheroes. A world of Marvel.