(Warning - potential SPOILERS for the MCU, if admittedly ones based on guesswork, lie below. If you're extremely SPOILER-averse, proceed with all possible care...)
A few days back, Marvel released an image that could change the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever.
Strangely, though, that image doesn't feature Robert Downey Jr fighting Chris Evans, or one of the Guardians of the Galaxy meeting an Avenger. In fact, it doesn't actually show anything from the MCU at all.
Instead, it teases the upcoming All New, All Different Marvel Universe - the new, gently reconfigured and ret-conned, comic-book world of Marvel.
And as it happens...
Those Changes to Marvel's Comic-Book Universe Could Change the MCU Forever
Yup, that's right - a creative sea change could soon be coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and though it's unlikely to arrive in the immediate short term, it may well prove to be a fundamental - and irreversible - alteration.
Y'see, The Marvel Universe Just Embraced the New
And as it turns out, that could have a major bearing on the MCU as well.
The image above - while far from a comprehensive account of what we'll be seeing in the next year or so's worth of comics - is very much intended to give us our first look at the new Marvel status quo...and it's an intriguing new reality.
After the current epic Secret Wars crossover, then, it seems we're set to see a whole lot of plot placed on the shoulders of (clockwise from the top left) Spider-Gwen, Peter Parker, Iron Man, The Vision, Miles Morales, Red Wolf, Ms Marvel, the new female Thor, Ant-Man, old Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson's Captain America, the Black Panther, Spider-Woman and, of course, Agent Phil Coulson...
And that line-up could well shake the MCU to its very core, for five very particular reasons:
1. The MCU is Heavily Influencing the Comics
With the newly or soon to be MCU-introduced Vision, Black Panther and Ant-Man seemingly set to take an increasingly central role, it's clear that the MCU's plans for the characters are set to bleed over into the comic-book world.
As a result of that greater alignment, though, there's a good chance that, should their comic-book adventures prove popular, their on-page adventures will be reflected on the big screen. In other words - do well in your own solo comic, and you've got a way better shot at being in the Avengers line-up at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Pt 2...
2. Sam Wilson Might Just Overtake Bucky Barnes in THAT Race
Specifically, the race to become the next on-screen Captain America...
The logic there? The majority of fans had long assumed that Sam Wilson - aka The Falcon - taking on the mantle of Captain America would be a pretty short-term deal, and that he'd soon hand the role back over to Steve Rogers.
The fact that even the events of Secret Wars doesn't look set to take the shield away from Sam, though, suggests that we could well see him stay in the (well-deserved) role for years to come. If so, then there's every chance the MCU could come to reflect that - and if Chris Evans does, as suspected, leave, hand the role not to Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes, but to Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson...
Which, since he's freaking awesome, seems like a pretty good idea to me...
Another notable potential change, though?
3. The (Bad-Ass) New Female Thor is Here to Stay
Yup, that's right. Another all-new hero widely expected to disappear after the events of Secret Wars, the female Thor's widespread popularity (and excellent comic-book sales) have ensured that she keeps her place in the comic-books.
Which, in the short term, means very little for the MCU - but when it comes time for Chris Hemsworth to step down as the Thunder God, if the female Thor is still kicking ass and taking names in the comics, don't be too surprised if we see a very different direction on the big screen, too...
Speaking of which:
4. We Could Soon Have Two Spider-Men
And not just any Spider-Men - the Spider-Men. Marvel seems set to bring the Ultimate Universe's Miles Morales to the Mainstream Marvel Universe - and if that works out on the page, we could well soon see both him and Peter Parker in the MCU.
After all, the last few years have created a pretty well established story-line - involving multiple dimensions, and a whole lot of Spider-Men - that's ready and waiting for Marvel to adapt for the big screen. A Spider-Verse movie, featuring the new Spidey, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire, a young Miles Morales...and Spider-Gwen, anyone?
5. It's Only a Matter of Time Before Some of the Other Leading Heroes Hit the Screen
And by 'other leading heroes', I very much mean Ms Marvel, alongside longer-standing fan-favorites like Spider-Woman.
After all, with Marvel comics gradually developing a ridiculously diverse and distinctly bad-ass array of female superheroes, and the MCU under increasing pressure to increase its number of female leads, there's a good chance that we could see a whole lot of beloved heroes hitting the big screen in the near future.
Could we even, perhaps, see Kamala Khan's already-iconic Ms Marvel hit the big screen alongside Captain Marvel in 2018...? Or, at the very least, get her own Netflix series?
What do you reckon, though?