With ‘Captain America: Civil War‘ behind us and ‘Infinity War’ on the horizon, it’s time to ramp up the speculation. What’s next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Both ‘Civil War’ and ‘Infinity War’ are theatrical takes on major events from the comic books. It stands to reason that the next big threat to our heroes will likewise be inspired by comics. Unfortunately, some are off the table. It couldn’t be ‘House of M’ or ‘Avengers vs X-Men’ because Marvel Studios does not have the film rights to half the required characters. It couldn’t be ‘Age of Ultron’ because they already used the name and the villain. ‘Fear Itself’ is a Asgard centric event, which I find unlikely given that the third Thor movie’s title, ‘Ragnarok’, implies that Asgard will be no more. Which leads us to ‘Secret Invasion’, an event in which shape-shifting aliens invade Earth. Others have speculated, even hoped, that ‘Secret Invasion’ awaits the post-Thanos universe. I see a couple obstacles.

Secret Invasion has two things working against it. First, an alien invasion has already been done in the first Avengers movie and no one wants to look redundant. Second, the aliens in question are the Skrulls. The Skrulls are mostly a Fantastic Four enemy. This means that the rights may be out of reach of Marvel Studios. There is a chance that they could acquire Mr. Fantastic and company, but Marvel can’t count on this. Interestingly though, the end of ‘Secret Invasion’ informs my pet theory of the future of the MCU.

osbornSpoiler for an old comic book event follows…

‘Secret Invasion’ ends with Norman Osborn saving the day by taking out the last of the Skrull Invasion. Osborn is a Spider-Man villain. He is the Spider-Man villain: Green Goblin. I can’t help but notice that ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ will be released before the ‘Infinity War’ movies. This would introduce audiences to the new Norman Osborn before he appears in ‘Infinity War’. There, Osborn could play the same role he played in ‘Secret Invasion’, essentially taking the last deadly shot at the bad guy–Thanos, in this case. Just as in the comics, this would elevate Osborn to a position of power. He could be the head of a new S.H.E.I.L.D., the President of the USA, the leader of a new security organization, whatever. In the comics, this period was called ‘Dark Reign’ and led to the crossover event ‘Siege.’ The point is that a super evil guy will be in a position to cause enough havoc to propel another ten films worth of content–exactly what Marvel Studios needs after the threat of Thanos is dispatched.

One of the few consistent criticisms of Marvel Studios is their lackluster development and execution of villains. If cast well, Osborn flips that on its head. The Green Goblin is one of Marvel’s few great antagonists, one who they’ve only recently had the ability to leverage. As Osborn, he is as cunning as Lex Luthor and is Joker-esque crazy as the Green Goblin. Of course, the crazy will have to be behind closed doors at first, which is why I think this story will work even better in film than in the comics. The acceptance of Osborn into a position of power is more believable now because the character is new to the universe. Hell, even Spider-Man might not realize that he is evil until it is too late. Speaking of Spidey, using Osborn would thrust Spider-Man to the forefront of the Avengers. If there is one thing we learned from ‘Civil War’ it’s that people want more Spider-Man. This is almost too perfect.

What do you think? Would the Green Goblin hold his own taking on the entire MCU? If not, who should be Marvel’s next big bad?

horizontal line

 Steven is a relativistically-locked time-traveler. Follow him on Twitter  for insights from the present.