(Warning: The following contains potential - albeit largely theoretical - spoilers for the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War, as well the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. Proceed with whatever level of caution your super-intelligent AI butler suggests to you is wise...)
Now, Marvel's upcoming Avengers: Infinity War may still be a few years away from hitting the big screen - it's not actually set to arrive until April 2018 - but that's hardly a reason to ignore the fact that what may be superhero cinema's most eagerly anticipated project in a decade is on its way, and is bringing a whole host of Marvel heroes along with it.
The thing is, though...
Avengers: Infinity War Could Feature A Very Different Team Of Avengers
Y'see, while we're sure to see all of our old favorites turn up in Avengers: Infinity War (with only Thor's appearance really in doubt, what with Thor: Ragnarok theoretically being about the death of all Asgard and all), there's an increasing weight of evidence to suggest that the vast majority of them won't actually be Avengers as they do so.
Captain America: Civil War Left Most Of The Team Living Outside The Law
Those who sided with Cap during that whole Sokovia Accords kerfuffle are, of course, currently fugitives from justice - putting The Falcon, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye firmly out of the running for any official Avengers involvement at the start of Infinity War. Similarly, the not-technically-yet-an-Avenger Ant-Man and Bucky would seem to be entirely out of the running, while Cap himself is now seemingly public enemy number one.
Most Of The Rest Of The Team Seem Unlikely To Be In Active Service, Too
War Machine, after all, just lost the use of his legs, The Vision seems entirely disinterested in serving the government's interests, and the last we saw of Black Widow she looked distinctly inclined to wash her hands of the whole Avengers program.
Heck, even Iron Man - Tony Stark himself - ended Civil War on pretty poor terms with the US government (and in particular a certain 'Thunderbolt' Ross'. Hulk and Thor, meanwhile, are looking set to spend much of the time between now and Infinity War having a space-hopping adventure of buddy cop movie-like proportions, and so seem unlikely to be tapped to rejoin an Avengers team that neither was ever especially keen on being a part of in the first place.
All of which seems to suggest that...
The Avengers As We Know Them May Not Exist As Infinity War Begins
After all, with virtually all of the original line-up either on the run or seemingly unable (or disinclined) to take on active service, it would seem that the Avengers we've known and loved for the past four years may be gone, possibly for ever.
For more on what those heroes are up to, though, check out:
- A Major 'Civil War' Question Has Now Been Answered: Steve Rogers Is No Longer Captain America
- Will 'Thor: Ragnarok' Be Affected By Marvel's Latest 'Doctor Strange' Reveal?
- Why An Iron Man Cameo In Doctor Strange Makes Even More Sense Than You Think
What, then, does that leave us with? Well, it would seem that there are three key possibilities:
1. We Could See An Unofficial Avengers Team Take The Lead
Cap, after all, may no longer technically be Captain America, but that doesn't mean that he won't be leading his fellow newly-criminalized heroes into battle as some sort of 'Secret Avengers'. That, after all, has happened before in the comic-books, with a 'New Avengers' line-up emerging from the original comic-book Civil War (pictured above).
That team, then, could well prove to be our focus as Infinity War begins, with a new threat forcing them to rejoin the mainstream - and reincorporate founding members like Iron Man, Black Widow and Hulk - at some point in the movie.
Alternatively, of course...
2. We Could See An All-New, Government-Sanctioned Avengers Line-Ups
One perhaps founded not by Tony Stark, but by Thunderbolt Ross - as has sort-of happened in the comic-books (pictured above). There have long been rumblings that we could see a Thunderbolts-like team of government stooges take over from the Avengers at some point - and with the likes of Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther and (just maybe) Captain Marvel around, there are certainly some big name candidates for inclusion. Throw in a past villain or two (classic Hulk foe Abomination, perhaps?) and you could well have yourselves the making of one heck of a conflict when the original Avengers return to take their name back.
Especially if Black Panther, say, was a Cap-aligned double agent all along.
And, finally, of course...
3. We Could See More Than One Group Of Avengers As Infinity War Begins
Y'see, both the idea of a shadowy underground team of Avengers and a government authorized 'super-group' may prove too tempting for Marvel to ignore. In which case, we might just get to see two - or perhaps even three, if Tony Stark opts to bring his own gang to the table - teams of Avengers being forced to put aside their differences in order to tackle a certain mad, purple Titan.
Avengers punching one another for mildly contrived reasons is, after all, a long-standing tradition both in the MCU and the original comic-books. A perfect ending for Infinity War's first act, perhaps, before the real cosmic threat arrives (along with the Guardians of the Galaxy)?
At which point, presumably, the official Avengers dance-off begins...
What do you reckon, though? How do you think Avengers: Infinity War will handle the currently fragmented Avengers line-up? Let us know below!