(Warning: Large, lumbering SPOILERS for the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron lie below. If you haven't yet seen it, then what's to come will most certainly SPOIL the ending...)
There are a whole lot of things to love about Avengers: Age of Ultron, but chief among them - for this particular obsessive fan, at least - is the way in which the movie dealt with the changing nature of The Avengers line-up at the movie's close. In terms of generating that spine-shiver-inducing, childhood-fandom-recalling moment of sheer geek joy, Joss Whedon came through for us, once again.
The big question now, though?
What Does the New Avengers Lineup Mean for the Rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
And, in particular, for the soon-to-begin Phase 3...
...(and this is where the MASSIVE SPOILERS kick in, if you still haven't seen the movie)...
...where else to start, but with just who that line-up includes?
Our New Avengers Are...
...The Falcon, The Scarlet Witch, The Vision and War Machine - with Captain America and Black Widow taking over as team leaders and trainers.
Which is...a pretty unconventional line-up - but one that may well prove to be a crucial one for when it comes to the future of the MCU.
These 'New Avengers' Seem Destined to Break Apart
After all, when Civil War comes - and it isn't too far away now - there's a pretty obvious (Tony Stark-shaped) divide running down the middle of that Avengers line-up.
One the one side, you have Captain America, his close friends Black Widow and Falcon, and Scarlet Witch - who hates Tony Stark, seeing as he indirectly caused the deaths of her parents.
On the other, you have War Machine and The Vision, who are old friends of Tony Stark (or based on the brain patterns of old friends, in the case of The Vision).
Wondering which side everyone'll be on during Captain America: Civil War? From the looks of it, it's already all but set...
This Pretty Much Guarantees That The Falcon Is Going to Be a Big Part of Captain America: Civil War
After all, not only has he just made it to the Majors, but he's now one of the only two people alive who Captain-freaking-America trusts...
Add in his earlier reference within Age of Ultron to he and Cap's 'missing persons case,' and his central role in the forthcoming movie is all but confirmed.
Scarlet Witch, Meanwhile, Looks Set to Be a Big Part of the MCU as a Whole
Wanda being given a leading role in the Avengers - and therefore likely also featuring heavily in both Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War - suggests she'll be a pretty major part of the MCU from here on out.
A leading role in Inhumans surely beckons, but could she also take on Marvel's increasingly traditional 'Already-Well-Known-Superhero-Sidekick' role in Doctor Strange? Black Widow's role in The Winter Soldier was, after all, one of the most well-received elements of a pretty widely acclaimed movie...
While those heroes are making their way to the top, though, others are necessarily moving aside.
Is This The Last We'll See of Iron Man?
Or, rather, of Tony Stark in the Iron Man armor...
After all, with War Machine taking Tony's slot as the Avengers' Iron-clad hero, there's every possibility that we'll see Robert Downey Jr. replace Samuel L. Jackson as the MCU's go-to guy for brief, cinematic universe-unifying appearances - especially in the near future.
Could it, though, also mean we've got a chance of seeing a Don Cheadle-starring Iron Man 4?
The Future's Bright and Full of Avengers
So full, in fact, that we could well see two whole teams of Avengers in the near future. Could that, then, also translate to us seeing a series of New Avengers movies in the 2020's, as part of Marvel's Phase 4?
It's certainly fit with both the Marvel comic-book universe - in which that's very much been the direction things have recently been heading in - as well as the more practical concerns surrounding potentially diminishing Avengers returns in the near future.
In other words, how do you top Avengers: Infinity War? By starting again...
And, finally, and perhaps most importantly:
Marvel Finally Seems to Get What Diversity Is
After all, in an Avengers line-up of six superheroes, there's only one white male - and that's Captain America.
Accompanying him in the world's most prominent superhero team, then, are two women - a bad-ass killing Russian killing machine and an Eastern European ex-terrorist, two African-American men - one donning the same awesome armor as Marvel's biggest hero, and the other taking on the Hawkeye role of indefatigable guy without powers - and, of course, a synthezoid who's not actually human.
With Black Panther and Captain Marvel still set to arrive, with a whole lot of other heroes most likely alongside them, there's real evidence that Marvel is genuinely invested in making their movies truly diverse.
And the awesome bonus? It feels like a natural evolution of the MCU, rather than the filling of some sort of arbitrary quota.
Which should hopefully mean that absolutely everyone can be happy about it...