Anyone who has been a fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, with the second film just released, has probably already heard that the Guardians weren’t always made up of Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Raccoon, and Groot. In fact, not only was there an entirely different team when the Guardians debuted in 1969, but the current team (introduced in 2008) has also had various iterations as characters came and went. Like many Marvel narratives, delving deeply into the story of the Guardians of the Galaxy would take longer than a few paragraphs we have here. However, the big question on the minds of fans of the films is how will our galactic heroes affect the future of the MCU. We know the Guardians are essential in ushering in the next decade of Marvel films. Kevin Feige told The Hollywood Reporter just as much, and James Gunn confirmed the decade timeline to the Toronto Sun.
“I will be helping to plant the seeds that will lead to the next decade. I’m helping to decide what projects we’ll be pursuing outside of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3… and what the next cosmic characters we will focus on.”
However, how exactly this will play out is anyone’s guess (anyone except perhaps Gunn and Feige). We certainly won’t know until the news is let into the public sphere. Gunn has already said that the name for the second half of Infinity War is a huge spoiler, so likely once that is out we will have a better understanding of the overall direction Marvel wishes to take with their cinematic universe. However, since the Guardians are playing such a large part in the transition, it makes sense to look at some of the larger Marvel events the Guardians played a major role in and see if they make a good fit within the current MCU, or at least give us some hints at what could be considered a reasonably plausible direction for future films, including the second half of Infinity War.
Warning: Possible Spoilers Ahead for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2!!!
We already know the MCU doesn’t follow any particular timeline in the comics to a close enough extent that one can make play-by-play predictions from the comics alone. The Guardians themselves are a great example of Marvel not only condensing an origin story, but in some ways creating a new one that worked better for the MCU. Marvel LOVES crossovers and many of the characters have extensive and highly interwoven histories. Thanos, for instance, who we know will be the main focus of Infinity War, has a heavy history with the Guardians of the Galaxy, along with other characters that have yet to be introduced within the film universe. So, we have to instead look at larger themes and speculate on which of those makes sense within the current MCU context.
Just like Marvel took heavily from the Planet Hulk storyline for the upcoming film Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War will likely borrow from more than the original Infinity Gauntlet storyline. With the heavy emphasis on the Guardians, it is quite possible the MCU will introduce parts of major crossover storylines featuring the Guardians such as War of Kings, Thanos Imperative, and perhaps eventually Secret Wars. Especially given the universe-altering potential of opening something like the Fault and introducing the Cancerverse, with the potential to use this to introduce multiple timelines or at least one specific alternate timeline.
For those unfamiliar with the above, within the War of Kings storyline Black Bolt, in an attempt to end a massive war by turning everyone into Inhumans, sets off a bomb full of Terrigen crystals. The crystals are deactivated before the bomb explodes, but the result is a tear in space and time called the Fault. On the other side of the Fault is an alternate universe in which death has been destroyed, leaving life to ravage everything like a cancer (thus the name Cancerverse). Out of this event you have the Thanos Imperative storyline where the Guardians eventually close the Fault and trap Thanos inside.
Obviously, since we know the Inhumans will not be a part of Infinity War, and since the MCU has remained separate from Marvel’s television franchises, it seems highly unlikely Black Bolt or the Inhumans will play a part in bringing about the Fault in the films. But, given Marvel’s penchant for taking parts of stories and making them fit the cinematic storyline, opening up the Fault and the Cancerverse is a great way for the current MCU’s trajectory to end, and for it to move into something else entirely. This is especially true given that the general plotline can lead into pretty exciting changes for the franchise if the writers choose to merge it with the concept of multiple dimensions already introduced into the MCU, particularly through Doctor Strange.
Multiple characters that have already been introduced, some who we know will eventually show up (Adam Warlock), and some fans are hoping will show up (Nova), play important roles within the storyline around the Cancerverse. The original Guardians, which show up (more or less) during one of the mid-credit scenes at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 warn Star-Lord and his team of the coming rift in space-time from the future (specifically, the 31st century). This storyline also brings in Adam Warlock, who binds the Fault to an unused timeline in order to stop its expansion. Of course, this has the negative effect of turning him into the Magus. The Magus is Adam’s future evil self, whom he had previously gotten rid of by breaking off the timeline where he becomes The Magus, which he undid by bringing in the unused timeline to stop the Fault. Nova also plays a major role within this storyline. Exactly how he would be brought in is of course impossible to guess now, but we know the Nova Corps is not where it needs to be (or will be) when Nova is around. If Marvel takes some liberties with the Cancerverse storyline and uses it to introduce alternate timelines or realities, then this could possibly lead to changes in the Nova Corps sometime in future films. It might also give the original Guardians a chance to play a role in either the past or present (possibly even the ability to bring back Yondu, who dies in Vol. 2). We cannot guess now exactly what role the originals Guardians will play, but we do know they will come back eventually, according to James Gunn.
Of course, we have reason to believe Adam Warlock will not show up until the third Guardian’s movie. He was teased at the end of Vol. 2. But, in an interview with SlashFilm, Gunn revealed, “He’s not in Infinity War. But he will be a part of the future Marvel cosmic universe and a pretty important part of that.” Gunn also said he is not certain when Nova will make an appearance. When asked by fans on his Facebook page whether Nova would be in Vol. 2, Gunn responded, “I have nothing against Nova in future movies,” he wrote, “but it doesn’t serve the movie right this moment.”
So, exactly how might all this play out during Infinity War and beyond? Well, bringing in parts of Thanos Imperative would not only make for a better ending than Infinity Gauntlet’s original ending with Thanos working on a farm (no, that is really what he does after losing the Infinity Gauntlet and committing fake suicide), it also opens possibilities for Thanos to return, along with reopening the Cancerverse and the evils it contains after the end of the Infinity War films. More importantly, it opens up the previously mentioned possibility of exploring an alternate timeline, assuming the MCU events, like always, diverge from the source material. At the very least, it opens up the possibility of introducing characters such as the Revengers (an alternate version of The Avengers), the Many-Angled Ones (primordial beings that live between universes and have overtaken the Cancerverse), and even an evil version of Captain Marvel called (for real) Lord Mar-Vell.
I think we will see some aspects of the Fault come into play either toward the end of Infinity War, or during the second, still unnamed film. If not, it might play into the next phase. Instead of Black Bolt and the Inhumans, the tear in space and time could easily be due to either Thanos’s activity with the Gauntlet, or some attempt to stop it. We know the Gauntlet certainly has the power to do so. With Doctor Strange playing a role in the film, the possibility of alternate universes showing up as a part of the storyline makes even more sense. Will Thanos end up in the Fault, along with some of the other characters? Will this open up an alternate storyline, perhaps introducing some of Marvel’s alternate Earth storylines? It is possible. We know whatever change is coming will be huge. At least, it is likely some version of these events will eventually take place if Marvel wants to pull from existing content in which the Guardians and Thanos play heavily in preparation for Phase 4.
Assuming Marvel will take some creative license with the existing comics, this could either lead to a catastrophic event altering the timeline for the foreseeable future, or make the Cancerverse and its inhabitants the new, central threat within the MCU like the Infinity Stones were before. If they stay with the theme of multiple timelines or alternate dimensions affecting the MCU, this could eventually culminate in Secret Wars some time down the road, a storyline that more or less introduced various alternate versions of Marvel characters within the same timeline. Of course, I think Marvel will keep it simple for the MCU following their history of streamlining various narratives in order to make it all click within the films, so we won’t expect anything too crazy.
Of course, this is largely conjecture at this time based on the little information we have, and the material Marvel has to borrow from. There’s no way to know for certain until we get a bit closer, but once we know more about the film after Infinity War (or, perhaps by the end of Infinity War) we should have a good idea of what the new direction will entail. For certain, though, the creation of the Fault and the introduction of the Cancerverse have already played a major role in the comics for both Thanos and particularly for our friends The Guardians of the Galaxy. It would make a good fit for the upcoming films as well as give a strong new direction for the MCU’s next phase.
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