Avengers: Age of Ultron may be almost upon us, Ant-Man may be mere months away, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may indeed have the rest of an Easter-egg filled season to finish, and Daredevil may be but a few days away - but for many of us Marvel fans, not even our over-excitement surrounding those projects can overwhelm or undermine the knowledge of what's coming next year.
Because, after all, Captain America: Civil War is almost here - and it's about to bring one of the most obviously cinematic comic-book story-lines of all time to the big screen.
Or, at least, that's what we've always assumed.
What, though if we're all wrong?
What if Captain America: Civil War is Only the Beginning?
We've all seemingly collectively assumed that Avengers: Age of Ultron will sow the seeds of Civil War, and that Captain America: Civil War will then tie the entire story-line up within its two hour-or-so-long running time.
What, though, if Age of Ultron's ending is nothing more than a teaser of what's to come, and Captain America: Civil War is itself merely the beginning of a much larger story-line.
Will the Civil War Continue On Past Its Own Movie?
Well, y'know what? It just might...
Now, the thing is, Captain America: Civil War actually has a pretty huge problem lying at its core. It needs to simultaneously act as the third Captain America movie - tying up the HYDRA, Falcon and Winter Soldier-related plot threads from the previous solo Cap movie - and as an adaptation of a sprawling, character-dense comic-book story-line that has relatively little to do with any of that.
Which, within a movie that, realistically, Marvel won't want to go much above two-and-a-half hours in length, could be an impossible task.
If, however, the movie was principally focused on Cap's search for The Winter Soldier, and a parallel battle with HYDRA - while, in the background, the civil war slowly began - the film would be both free to explore its own necessary themes, all the while getting us ready for something even bigger.
Rather than desperately cram two movie's worth of plot into one, Civil War could, potentially, set up:
A Multiple Movie-Spanning Crossover Event
One that is, in essence, an extension of the way that Marvel's comic-books have being operating for decades.
Captain America: Civil War would become the traditional 'must read' introductory issue, and then the movies that came after would all fill in parts of the story-line - not quite requiring their audience to have seen the previous movie in order to enjoy them, but subtly suggesting (as the comic-book crossovers do) that their enjoyment would be even greater if they'd seen every other movie linked to it.
And, so, every other Marvel property from May 2016 could link together - even more so than the previous films' building up to the Avengers. For instance:
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Would Become Must-See TV
After all - the cast would become foot-soldiers in a potentially global conflict - allowing a deeper exploration of themes than the movies, but remaining an optional - but likely popular - accompaniment to the movies. Seeing as the show's ratings have been weak for a while now, being able to ABC that sort of cross-platform harmonization could be the best way to keep it on the air for a few more years.
Daredevil (and the Rest of Netflix's Marvel Shows) Would Offer a Very Different View
After all, Civil War would most likely arrive at a similar time to the Iron Fist and Defenders series' scheduled for next year - allowing them to, perhaps, show Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist as a far more Secret Avengers-like team than previously expected. Throw in a Captain America cameo, and you've got yourself one hell of a selling point from Netflix's perspective, too.
Doctor Strange Would Have a Built in Connection to the Wider MCU
After all, if he arrived on the scene during, rather than in the aftermath of, the Civil War, he'd offer an intriguing counter-balance, rather than appear to be being wedged into the established set of characters.
Plus, all those rumors about the Scarlet Witch and Baron Zemo appearing in the movie would suddenly make a whole lot more sense...
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor: Ragnarok Would Offer an Alternative Option
The presence of the two in 2017 would ensure audience's wouldn't burn out on a constant infusion of Civil War-themed movies - while also keeping the Thanos-related Infinity War set-up present and accounted for.
And Then, Marvel Can Pick From Several Endings...
I've spoken elsewhere about the suspicious, Iron Man 4-shaped hole in Marvel's 2016 planning - and though I still suspect there's a chance of us seeing Iron Man: Civil War finish off the Civil War story-line, there's actually now an alternative option.
See, after Marvel and Sony announced their deal to bring Spider-Man to the MCU, Marvel shifted a few of their movies back by a couple of months - with Spider-Man now taking Thor: Ragnarok's July 2017 slot, and that film bumping Black Panther's November 2017 opening to July 2018.
Now, with Spider-Man's arrival having reportedly shrunk Black Panther's role in Civil War (though I'm still guessing Hawkeye'll actually take Spidey's traditional Civil War plot role) it's also entirely possible that Black Panther's move to 2018 will give Spider-Man his movie's central plot - that of a hero torn between two sides in the Civil War.
With cameos from key figures from Marvel Studios, it'd more-or-less guarantee a titanic Box Office haul for the Spider-Reboot, and then open up the possibility of the movie providing an ending to Civil War.
Or, alternatively, the first part of Avengers: Infinity War, the following May, could dedicate the first half hour or so of its running time to the aftermath of - for instance - a traumatic, Captain America-themed event at the end of that Spider-Man movie, providing a epilogue to the conflict as well as leading into the ultimate, Thanos-centric battle.
Or, y'know, Marvel might just make Iron Man: Civil War in 2016 and be done with it. Either way, it's going to be awesome.