Marvel’s Phase 5 Botches The MCU Timeline Worse Than Ever Before (But We Fixed It)

Summary

  • Marvel’s Phase 5 introduced the worst timeline botch since Iron Man kicked the franchise off.
  • Secret Invasion should have been released as the first post-Endgame installment to make sense of Nick Fury’s character development and tie into Endgame’s storyline.
  • Marvel should retcon Phase 4 into a new phase, placing Spider-Man: Far From Home and Secret Invasion together, followed by other post-Endgame projects in a revised order.

The MCU has timeline problems, but Marvel’s Phase 5 introduced the worst timeline botch since Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man cockily kicked off Kevin Feige’s sprawling franchise. Some of those problems are somewhat inevitable: after 40 releases, the level of continuity homework is beyond the capability of any creative team, so it makes sense that some things slip. That is exacerbated when you bring in things like Avengers: Endgame‘s 5 year time jump, MCU post-credits scenes seemingly appearing out of linear order, and Marvel’s more recent attempts to avoid outright stating within releases when their events are actually happening.

It’s almost like the very idea of a huge shared universe consolidating every single character in existence while also bringing in as slippery a concept as the multiverse is a challenging one. But really, Marvel Studios should be commended for the unprecedented success with which the so-called Sacred Timeline has been marshaled. With so many interlocking stories, Marvel retconning stories like Endgame to service other emerging stories is mostly accepted by the audience, and we’re now so far away from the MCU’s point of origin that keeping track of the minutiae is only important to the most engaged element of that audience. Everyone else just wants the story to make sense, which is why Secret Invasion‘s timeline mistake is Marvel’s worst in years.

Why Secret Invasion Was Disney+’s Perfect Post-Endgame Opener

Marvel released Secret Invasion at the wrong time. Everything about Secret Invasion places it as Endgame‘s epilogue, right down to it introducing Endgame‘s missing post-credits scene with the Avengers DNA Harvest reveal. The Disney+ miniseries repeatedly examines Nick Fury through the filter of his Blip experience, going to great lengths to suggest he is not the man he once was because of the 5 years he missed after Thanos snapped his fingers in Infinity War. And then with the introduction of the Avengers DNA storyline, Secret Invasion irrefutably ties itself to Endgame‘s events while failing to offer an excuse for why it instead came out 4 years later.

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Even on a philosophical level, Secret Invasion‘s attempted musings on the very idea of the Avengers – which Nick Fury challenges in a confusing deconstruction that suggests that Earth should stop over-relying on heroes – fit far better if you’ve just watched Endgame. After all, Fury had just watched his supposed friend Tony Stark sacrifice himself, finally revealing the true cost of superheroism, and perhaps giving Fury a reason to question the morality of superhero dependence. In that context, it feels less like Fury is challenging the Avengers as Earth’s defenders and instead examining his own part in placing the weight of the entire world on their shoulders. Given Secret Invasion reveals Fury did that same thing to the Skrulls, the recontextualization is a far more elegant solution to what appears to be an issue with logic when he says it.

When Secret Invasion Should Have Been Released

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury Looking Aghast in Secret Invasion

In short, Secret Invasion should have been the first release after Avengers: Endgame. According to Marvel’s own definitions, Phases 4, 5 and 6 are officially called the Multiverse Saga, with the first 3 chapters existing under the Infinity Saga title. The definition was a conscious move to separate the pre- and post-Thanos eras, as well as the less tangible promise that the MCU could, theoretically, have multiple Sagas that could stretch almost infinitely into the future. Or at least until the reboot question got too irresistible to ignore from a business point of view, presumably. And strictly speaking, it made sense to distinguish those chapters… or it would have if it had been executed properly. The problem, though, is that Thanos and Avengers: Endgame are still too interesting to the MCU.

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Secret Invasion is a post-Endgame story the same way Falcon & The Winter Soldier, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Hawkeye, WandaVision and Black Widow all are. Even Thor: Love & Thunder deals with Thor reclaiming himself after the Blip. Each deals directly with the fallout of the Blip, exploring the still gaping wound of the world losing and then regaining billions of lives. Far From Home, WandaVision, Hawkeye, and Black Widow are more personal stories, with Falcon & The Winter Soldier straddling the line of the personal and the wider geopolitical ramifications of Endgame‘s ending. Secret Invasion fits that same category, portraying not only Nick Fury’s own post-Endgame story, but also turning the lens onto wider global issues, thanks to the Skrull invasion and the idea of displaced people like F&TWS. While Secret Invasion makes no sense in Phase 5, it fits perfectly with those other post-Endgame projects.

Marvel Should Retcon Phase 4 Into A New Phase Entirely

MCU True Phase 4 Timeline

None of those post-Endgame projects have much to do with the Multiverse at all, so their placement in the Multiverse Saga makes no sense. The solution, then, is to propose a different Phase 4 to the one Marvel officially released, starting with Spider-Man: Far From Home. Initially, Spidey’s first sequel was presented as Endgame‘s Phase 3 epilogue because it dealt with Iron Man’s death and the Blip directly, but then half of Phase 4 and Secret Invasion did the same thing, so there’s no need for Far From Home not to drop out of Phase 3 and join the releases it fits thematically. Here’s the new order of the True Phase 4 that Marvel should retcon into existence:

  • Spider-Man: Far From Home
  • Secret Invasion
  • The Falcon & The Winter Soldier
  • Black Widow
  • Thor: Love & Thunder
  • Hawkeye
  • What If…?
  • WandaVision
  • Loki

There are two edge cases here, but both have solid reasoning. What If…? might appear to be a Multiverse story, but it is fundamentally an Elseworlds retelling of the Infinity Saga, with Ultron gaining control of the Infinity Stones. In Phase 4, it could have primed Marvel’s audience for the idea of the Multiverse before WandaVision’s post-credits set-up and Loki introduced the idea more concretely. Loki season 1 coming at the end of Phase 4 would have been the perfect bridge between Loki’s post-Endgame story (since it follows directly on from Tom Hiddleston’s appearance there) and the opening of the MCU’s Multiverse. The only questionable release is She-Hulk, which does add to the Smart Hulk story, but cannot possibly come before Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings because of the post-credits scene showing Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, so that has to stay in Phase 5.

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That would then leave Phase 5 looking like this, with further changes to tie the actual Multiverse stories together, leading up Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, the crossover that should be the Multiverse Saga’s culmination:

  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • Eternals
  • Moon Knight
  • Ms. Marvel
  • She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
  • Loki Season 2
  • The Marvels
  • Agatha: Coven of Chaos
  • Deadpool 3
  • Avengers: Kang Dynasty

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Moon Knight and Eternals are all free throws, so can pretty much come anywhere in the MCU timeline, even if the latter explains why the other MCU superteam sat out Infinity War. Moving everything else in Marvel’s official Phase 5 into Phase 6 tightens the story-telling, and allows a stronger through-line from Quantumania‘s Kang story through to Kang Dynasty, with brief deviations to tie up Ms Marvel, Secret Invasion and WandaVision‘s stories in The Marvels and Agatha: Coven Of Chaos. Obviously, none of this is possible given the production logistics in real life, but this will at least offer a corrected viewing order when everything is released. And by then, Secret Invasion‘s timeline mistake will be a thing of the past.

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