Theory: How The Marvel Cinematic Story Might Connect Through Phase 3

We're all curious to see just what Marvel has planned for the next couple films in its current cycle, and then for the nine-film Phase Three. And we've resisted learning too much about Avengers: Age of Ultron, so we're happily in the speculation camp with most of you. And for those who haven't been Marvel Comics fans for a long time, the films announced this week might seem like a disparate bunch of stories. How do all these movies tell one unified story thread?

My friend Jackson is a comic book writer, an editor, and screenwriter, and he's got a pretty compelling vision of what Marvel might have planned. After I read his unified theory of Marvel's Phase Three plan I showed it to Peter, and he loved it enough that we're presenting it to you now.

Nothing that you'll find below is confirmed — this is speculation, but well-informed speculation. If you already know these comics and characters, take it as a jumping-off point for your own discussions about what Marvel might be doing. If you don't consider this a second-level primer as to what Marvel might be up to. 


from the assumption-making mind of Jackson Lanzing

NOTE: The following plot speculation is based on nothing but my own insane thought process following Marvel's event, plus previously available information. I know nothing you don't. I am almost certainly wrong about all of this. But in the event that I am not... SPOILER ALERT. Avengers: Age of Ultron: Captain America, Black Widow, Bruce Banner and Thor looking defeated in the Quinjet


Tony Stark believes – as a futurist and a man who just went through the events of AVENGERS and IRON MAN 3 – that superheroes have great potential but also invite terrible consequences. This is backed by the emergence of the superpowered "inhuman" Maximoff twins, who've somehow gained power from Strucker's infinity gem experimentation. As a result, Stark creates the peacekeeping robot ULTRON as a way for the Avengers to no longer be the world's shield. This backfires, Ultron destroys massive massive amounts of the planet's population, strikes at the heart of the previously-isolationist nation of Wakanda, sets off the Hulk (maybe throws him to space), banishes Thor irrevocably to Asgard. Iron Man / Captain America find a way to shut it all down, but at the expense of their collaboration. Iron Man, disillusioned with superheroes trying to fix things, retires fully. Cap begins his own new team of heroes, but they are rag-tag, underfunded, and include the unstable Maximoffs and strange robotic Vision. The Avengers are asunder. Superheroes are hated. Definitions are changing. Grey areas abound.

 Agents of Shield Season 2

AGENTS OF SHIELD (this season)

Coulson and his team discover that the Maximoffs are not the only "inhumans" out there. A strain of alien DNA runs through our collective humanity from ancient times – some kind of Kree experimentation. It threatens to turn our world inside out if the gene is ever activated, there are so many who would become empowered (including Skye).

Coulson and his team seek to stop this from happening... and succeed. The world is safe from the chaos of inhumanity... for now. Maybe Skye gets powers. The show can go and tackle anything after that. They can move away from Coulson's weird alien visions. The seeds have been planted.

 Paul Rudd Ant Man


In the chaotic aftermath of Age of Ultron, super science is becoming a massive and dangerous black market. A scientist (Pym) and a thief (Lang) team up to steal the Pym Particle suit (which belonged to SHIELD, cause copyright, making Pym incredulous). While they don't mean to become heroes, they end up saving the world – especially since there's a genuine lack of superheroes post-Ultron. That also makes them kinda-still-criminals, since Tony Stark is working on a bill that will register all superheroes under government supervision.

Maybe by the end, Cap shows up to offer them a place in the Avengers... and they turn it down. After all, they have each other. Who needs those self-righteous assholes?

Captain America: Civil War 


Stark's new non-Iron Man governmental position sees him trying to make up for his past recklessness – and thus sees him hunting down and imprisoning superpowered individuals. When he captures Bucky (and/or one of the Maximoffs), Cap realizes that history is repeating – Tony is working out of fear, not hope. Cap assembles a team of Avengers to save his friends, while Stark assembles one of his own to fight them.

One of the battlegrounds: Wakanda – where the superpowered Black Panther is revealed and forced to take a side (against his country's isolationist position). T'Challa basically becomes the Peter Parker of this story, torn between sides. Ultimately, Tony has to put his suit on one last time and fight his friend.

Cap and Iron Man both fall – one dead and the other into the lonely darkness of exile. I'm guessing Tony dies and Cap puts down the shield. Again... the world is left with fewer heroes than it started with. Maybe Bucky steps up to take the shield, putting together a new team of heroes to stand against the next threats.

 Doctor Strange


In a totally-separate corner of the Marvel Universe, we meet the Sorcerer Supreme: Doctor Strange. Marvel's supernatural horror fantasy. Introduce another infinity stone through the antagonist (presumably Dormammu)... and a coming darkness even greater than Dread Dormammu. While he succeeds in protecting our dimension – and maybe in making a friend (Wong?), Strange learns that while he doesn't play well with others, he may have to seek help if our dimension is to survive... the Infinity War.

 Guardians of the Galaxy 2 director


Speaking of Infinity War: Thanos goes to war with the galaxy, outright. Starts messing shit up HARD just to get at the Infinity Stones. No more lackeys. Time to fight for real. The Guardians do their rag-tag thing, maybe seeking out the power of Adam Warlock or the like to fight Thanos – but they ultimately fail... and have to head to the last place Peter Quill ever wants to go:

Earth. Why? Because the only thing that can stand in his way is on that planet, an ancient safeguard against Thanos planted by the Kree. But what is it? We'll find out...

Avengers: Age of Ultron: The Hulk Alternately: Hulk is shot into space at the end of AGE OF ULTRON and is recruited by Thanos. The film finds Hulk being used against the Guardians – to destroy planets and conquer them and hunt down Infinity Stones – until Quill manages to discover Banner underneath. Banner gets control back and turns on Thanos – slowing him down just enough that the Guardians can head to Earth to warn of the coming invasion. Thor 3 Ragnarok Logo official


Thanos' war comes to Asgard, just as Loki's reign as Odin is discovered by a newly returned Thor. A massive and brutal war begins between Asgard's forces and those of Loki/Surtur/Whoever-fights-

for-Thanos. Thor is forced to finally take his father's throne. Maybe Loki allies himself with Thanos' general (not sure who that'd be, but probably not Thanos himself, as to save the big bad for Infinity War).

In the end, Thor dies heroically to save Asgard... but Thanos gets his gem. Thor's hammer falls to Earth, ready to be reclaimed by another. Loki, terrified for the end of all things, heads to Earth as well.

 Black Panther Concept Art


The story of an old and proud nation being introduced to the insanity of the modern world – and of its champion, the Black Panther. He must choose to be a hero for Wakanda, or for the world at large. After all, following Civil War, so few heroes are left. Introduce his American military counterpart, the strong and adventurous Carol Danvers. They work together against Klaw.

Kind of a Bond film that ends with Wakanda embracing its role in the world. Also: reveal that Wakanda's advanced power comes at least in part from its possession of an Infinity Stone.

 Infinity Gauntlet


The Guardians of the Galaxy arrive on Earth just in time to warn them: Thanos is coming and Earth is unprepared. Thor's hammer sits somewhere on Earth, unmoving. Cap and Iron Man are off the map. Banner simply won't Hulk out, since he has no idea how to control it any longer.

It's Black Panther / Carol Danvers / Maximoff / Doctor Strange / surviving Guardians against Thanos and most of the infinity stones as he tries to take the Wakanda stone (which they assume is the last hope). Wakanda falls. There's some big final battle. Reality begins to fall. Carol Danvers tries to take him down herself – and is obliterated by the Infinity Gauntlet.

Thanos rules all.

In a last ditch effort, Strange and the Guardians unleash the Cinematic equivalent of the Terragen Mists (the very thing Coulson was trying to stop back in Agents of SHIELD)... activating strange powers around the globe. Humanity just became... INHUMAN.

 Who Is Captain Marvel


The last damn superhero – and the newest. Imbued with powers from her encounter with the Infinity Stones, Carol Danvers is resurrected somewhere in space. She's alone and has to become her own kind of hero – taking the fight to Thanos. Running a guerrilla war against Thano's empire. Taking him down piece by piece. Becoming the hero she always wanted to be. The ultimate resistance fighter, standing up for herself and for the weak among the galaxy. The space-based Captain America to Peter Quill's space bound Iron Man.

 Inhumans Logo Official


Kamala Khan, huge superhero fangirl, has just become Inhuman. Her world is falling – having been taken by Thanos – but that's okay, cause she and many others have been introduced to their destiny through Attilan (an earth/moonbound city of Inhumans that have lived forever in secret), But they are unruly, disorganized, they fight within their own ranks. Kamala must team with Black Bolt to unify them... before Thanos discovers their location.

Avengers Infinity War Logo Officia


Giant war to take back Earth. Somehow – through reality manipulation perhaps – Cap and Iron Man return to settle their differences. Maybe one brings the other back from the dead (stronger if Cap brings Tony back, since he'd have some experience with resurrection).

The Inhumans rise.

Captain Marvel returns.

Someone (maybe a woman? Maybe Jane Foster? Maybe Sif? Maybe Loki??) picks up the hammer of Thor.

Earth is protected... and liberated. And with the stones scattered and a large part of the population now wielding superpowers, the Marvel Universe is set to once again take on a whole new Phase.

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    Jackson Lanzing is a comics creator and screenwriter living in Los Angeles, CA. His work includes FREAKSHOW (w/ David Server), HACKTIVIST (w/ Collin Kelly) and the upcoming JOYRIDE (w/ Kelly and Marcus To). Check him out at