The separate phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been well documented. The first phase saw the introduction of each of the Avengers, culminating in a massive team-up movie that shattered box office records left and right. Phase Two gave us further development of old characters, as well as the surprisingly amazing Guardians of the Galaxy. Finally, it closed out with Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, leading us to Phase Three.
The third set of Marvel movies will feature a new cast of heroes in their own standalone movies for the first time. These will release alongside sequels for Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Thor, as well as the two-part Infinity Gauntlet storyline.
But who are the new heroes that we’re soon to be introduced to? They haven’t yet found their way into the Avengers movies and largely exist as secondary characters in the comics. But don’t let that underscore their importance to the Marvel Universe: These heroes are the real deal.
1. Doctor Strange (November 4, 2016)
Known as the “Sorcerer Supreme,” Doctor Strange is a character with a comic history dating all the way back to 1963. Benedict Cumberbatch is set to portray the world’s most powerful practitioner of magic, introducing a whole new side to a Marvel Cinematic Universe that up until now has largely been rooted in science more than the supernatural. In the Avengers mythos, he largely sat out the Civil War storyline that saw most Marvel heroes take sides, but was still critical of the Superhuman Registration Act spearheaded by Tony Stark.
Only a few rumors have escaped as to what the Doctor Strange movie will be about, but if you were listening closely in Captain America: Winter Soldier, you may have noticed his alter alias, Stephen Strange, name-dropped by one of Hydra’s covert SHIELD agents, Jasper Sitwell. Strange’s powers include a mastery of sorcery and all things magic, and a genius-level intellect, which could potentially make for a thinking man’s Marvel movie (or at least we hope). Rumors are floating around that we might see Doctor Strange make his first appearance in Netflix’s Iron Fist series later this year, but they’re mostly unconfirmed (at least for now).
2. Black Panther (July 6, 2018)
Yet another hero rooted in more supernatural elements, Black Panther will take us to another part of the globe entirely: to the fictional nation of Wakanda. The titular hero, known familiarly as T’Challa, is Wakanda’s chieftain, drawing his superhuman physical abilities from an unnamed panther god (although early iterations had it derive from the consumption of a special plant). In the comics, Black Panther’s home country is made out to be one of the wealthiest and most advanced in the world, with massive vibranium reserves (the fictional metal that composes Captain America’s shield).
For his part, we’re almost assuredly getting a chance to delve deep into Wakanda and the complex story of its chieftain. T’Challa has a long history of darting in and out of the Avengers, often finding himself torn between his home nation and the responsibilities of saving the world. We’ll get our first look at him in Captain America: Civil War, setting him up for his full feature-length the following year.
3. Captain Marvel (November 2, 2018)
There’s a long, confusing comic history following the seven separate characters that have taken up the mantle of “Captain Marvel.” The movie releasing in November 2018, though, will focus solely on Carol Danvers, also known popularly as Ms. Marvel. It’ll mark the first MCU movie featuring a woman in the title role (sorry Black Widow, no movie for you), something long overdo in the world of superheroes.
Danvers is known in the comics to be a human/Kree hybrid after having her genes fused, something that’s been set up nicely by the appearance of the powerful alien race in both Guardians of the Galaxy and Agents of SHIELD. The Captain Marvel movie will air a year after DC’s Wonder Woman, making for the beginnings of a much-needed focus on the pantheon of female superheroes over 2017-2018.
4. Inhumans (July 12, 2019)
Despite having the release date pushed back a year by Sony and Marvel’s Spider-Man deal, there’s been no shortage on Inhumans in the MCU (spoilers ahead). ABC’s Agents of SHIELD has them integrated heavily into the story now, with a small group existing together in the remote mountains of an undisclosed location. As the descendants of a race of early humans experimented on by the Kree, the Inhumans feature a vast array of powers, acting as a sort of alternative to the X-Men (currently owned by 20th Century Fox).
The Royal Family of the Inhumans that acts as the main group of characters in the comics likely won’t find its way onto Agents of SHIELD anytime soon, but audiences are already getting primed for a whole new group of heroes set to debut in 2019. We’ll have to settle for the tertiary members in the meantime on TV.