This piece includes spoilers for all MCU movies including Shang-Chi.
In the wake of Shang-Chi one thing seems incredibly clear: The MCU is rapidly introducing multiple secret societies and communities, each with a powerful army or collective of fighters. Shang-Chi introduces Ta Lo, a mystical community of martial artists, as well as a new version of the Ten Rings. It’s the latest addition to the growing trend, but what does it all mean? Well, of course we have a theory about Phase Four and it’s one that could change the MCU forever.
Secret Societies in the MCU
Shang-Chi’s Ta Lo is just the newest in a recent trend of secret and hidden societies in the MCU. The earliest example we saw was Asgard. While that seems to have been a template for these secret locales, it no longer exists in the same way. So where do we go from there? The most obvious is Wakanda. T’Challa’s homeworld is not only an advanced Techno Jungle, but it’s also a militarized base of operations with the potential to defend itself on a massive scale. Basically, Wakanda could be a major player in any intergalactic, cosmic, or universal war that might be coming.
Another key example is Kamar-Taj, where the Masters of the Mystic Arts train. It’s a secret space filled with a ton of powerful people who are ready to protect or attack whenever they’re needed. Speaking of the mystic arts, WandaVision appeared to leave the Scarlet Witch at the base of the infamous Mount Wundagore. In the comics, the scenic locale houses the High Evolutionary’s secret scientific base, filled with mutated humanoid animals known as New Men.
Looking forward, there’s the Eternals who definitely fit this bill. The secretive beings have lived a secluded life, one that has been defined by only being able to interfere with the human world if it’s to do with the Deviants. Both groups are wildly powerful and have lived without wider human knowledge… until now. It’s very likely that the reveal of both groups to the world could even be the thing that sparks the Secret War… but we’ll get to that later.
Other Organizations That Fit the Bill
It’s not just secret nations, though. The MCU has actually seeded secret societies and organizations since Phase One. S.H.I.E.L.D. launched he Avengers Initiative; Captain America: The First Avenger introduced us to HYDRA. Each of these organizations has shaped the stories and heroes within it. And yes, throughout their histories they’ve been incredibly militarized and ready to partake in any warlike activities at the drop of a hat. Far From Home seemingly introduced and WandaVision fleshed out the next evolution of the MCU secret organization with S.W.O.R.D. It’s a space-set protection agency, with deep connections to the Skrulls. While the Skrulls don’t have a locale, their lack of a home planet is deeply connected to their conflict and they are another secretive sect with immense power and abilities.
Next up is the TVA. While they might not seem like as much of an obvious military power as the rest, they are an unknowable organization with a huge amount of power in the multiverse. If Secret Wars does occur, it’s likely we’d see the TVA brought in to either protect, attack, or erase certain parts of the multiverse.
At the beginning of this piece we referenced the Ten Rings. While they’re now run by Shang-Chi’s badass sister Xialing, they’ve been in the MCU since Iron Man. That makes them an influential and long running secret org that could have a big part to play going forward. That’s especially likely now that Xialing has her super crew to help her. But while Wenwu ran them as a solely nefarious organization, we think Xialing might have a little more nuance to her criminal dealings. So don’t be surprised to see them as both allies and antagonists going into the battles to come.
Some Places and People That Might Not Be Canon But Should Be Mentioned
While it’s unclear whether the Jeph Loeb era of Marvel TV is canon, those shows did seed multiple secret societies that could come into play. The clearest and most terrible was the Inhumans. The moon-dwelling superfolks who flailed on TV with a failed ABC miniseries are one of the Marvel Universe’s most well known secret societies. We also got to visit K’un-Lun in the equally reviled Iron Fist. Plus, there was the Hand in Daredevil and the Pride on Runaways. Although they may well have been retired from the MCU at this point, we’ve already seen Feige and co. reimagine pieces from these shows like the Darkhold. So don’t be surprised if when the war begins we get some slightly familiar faces.
Rumors About Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
As reported by CBR, Production Weekly ran an exciting (unconfirmed) plot description of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. “Both Wakanda and Atlantis are hidden civilizations with advanced technology and increased militaristic abilities that decided to separate themselves from the rest of the world for their own safety, and in a way, out of fear. Wakanda feared that their technology would be abused. Atlantis feared that surface dwellers would come and desecrate the mythical city just as they did so many years ago. And yet their fears escalate even further when these two once-hidden nations clash with each other. Wakanda and Atlantis have a shockingly intertwined history. Wakanda is the only county in the world with access to vibranium. However, rumors of its power spread throughout the world, and Namor’s human father was sent searching for this rare material in Antarctica…”
This fits with the comics’ history of both places. The inclusion of Namor makes a lot of sense as he’s a common Wakandan ally and antagonist. But it’s the description of both locales as “hidden civilizations with advanced technology and increased militaristic abilities” that is most interesting here. It once again plays into the notion of multiple organized nations ready and able to fight if needs be. Both are also secret societies that have been disconnected from the outside world for years. Those aren’t the only secret locations hinted at, though. The final line of the description hints at another famed hidden community in the Marvel Universe: the Savage Land. Most well known for its connection to the X-Men, the Savage Land is in the Antarctic and known for being one of the few places on Earth where you can find Vibranium. And it sounds like we’re headed there.
So Why Does This Point to Secret Wars?
Secret Wars has been in conversation since we really started to see the multiverse in the MCU. The 2015 series took the multiple worlds of Marvel Comics, combining them in the so-called Battleworld. Though it was essentially a way for them to bring the Ultimate Universe, Marvel 2099, and more to the main continuity, it was also an epic line-wide crossover event which pitted the biggest heroes and villains against each other in a battle for multiversal survival. So with the Multiverse headed to the MCU, thinking of Secret Wars only makes sense. But the MCU doesn’t have multiple battling universes to set up Battleworld. What it does have is many secretive societies, nations, and organizations who could easily be pitted against each other as the multiversal madness begins.
What is Battleworld?
In case you haven’t read the awesome nine-issue main series from Jonathan Hickman and Asad Ribic—or its many many spinoffs and tie-in books—here’s a primer on Battleworld. It’s essentially one world made up of different universes and storylines. It’s particularly interesting in the MCU because not only can they introduce a battle between all the nations and organizations we’ve mentioned, but it’s also a way to bring in any other Marvel live action property they want. If they follow Battleworld rules, we could see them bring in multiple versions of the same character. That could be a lot of fun and could sate fans’ hopes for different universe heroes.
How Could This Change the MCU?
Well, let us count the ways. The first and most obvious is by setting up a huge multiversal battle featuring all the many realms, universes, and heroes we know from the MCU. Then we get to the potential of introducing other heroes from Fox, Sony, and Marvel TV properties. There’s also the matter of mutants. If Secret Wars sees heroes from around the Marvel Universe team up against or with multiversal additions to the MCU, there’s no reason why a reality where mutants already exist wouldn’t be fair game. So yes, this would be an easy way to introduce the X-Men.
Aside from those broader strokes, there are some direct character beats we can expect. Doctor Doom as God Emperor Doom is the primary antagonist of Secret Wars. He also fits into the recent trend of secret societies and nations with his homeworld of Latveria. With the Fantastic Four headed to the MCU, seeing Doom soon would make a lot of sense. Long Live Latveria!!
One of the other resounding takeaways from Secret Wars was the introduction of Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales, to the main Marvel Universe. Fans have been desperate for Miles to arrive in the MCU for years and this would be the perfect way to introduce him. Not as a friend of Peter’s or new student. But as a hero in his own right.
The MCU is in a transitional phase, so anything is possible. But our odds are on the blockbuster franchise taking on Secret Wars sooner rather than later. And we are ready!
Featured Image: Marvel Comics, Alex Ross