We're now a week away from Avengers: Infinity War, and the big question on everyone's minds is just who—if anyone—is going to make out out of the movie alive.
But while most speculation has centered on who will die, here at Nerdist we got to wondering about what comes next—namely, who will defend the Earth if the Avengers fall. Even if some members live to tell the tale after facing off against Thanos, can the team itself survive the loss of heavy hitters like Iron Man and Captain America? And, if not, who will take their place?
Worry not! We've got the odds on which teams are likely to step up to the plate if the Avengers fall.
1. The New Avengers
Marvel has been conspicuously quiet about the title of Avengers 4, which has led to a lot of speculation. One big possibility? The New Avengers. Brian Michael Bendis famously started his eight-year-long Avengers run by breaking up the team, only to have them reform later with a whole new roster. While the Avengers had long been billed as "Earth's Mightiest Heroes," few of the Marvel Universe's most prominent heroes were on the team. Bendis fixed that by bringing together a team that included heavy-hitters like Wolverine, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four's Thing, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Luke Cage, to name a few. It was a dramatically different roster, and it helped the decades-old series feel fresh and, well, new.
It's easy to see how New Avengers could be Avengers 4, rather than a franchise in its own right, especially since so many of the classic New Avenger team members have been (or will be) introduced to the MCU. A team built on Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Ant-Man, and the Wasp would have a lot of potential.
There's also the possibility Marvel could use the New Avengers to bring together its cinematic and Netflix franchises since every single one of the Netflix Defenders team was a member of Bendis' New Avengers. This is probably unlikely in the near future, though, due to the fact that Marvel has targeted the Netflix series to an older audience. Still, it's a cool possibility.
Odds: 1:1, but 10:1 with the Defenders
2. The Young Avengers
The New Avengers weren't the only team that formed after the original team broke up. With the Earth without its mightiest heroes, a group of teen heroes stepped up to become the Young Avengers. The initial team was mostly made up of legacy heroes who were either related to or inspired by earlier Avengers, but the most famous roster (under writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie) also brought in a number of other teen heroes, including America Chavez and a kid version of Loki.
Because of the team's popularity, they're a shoe-in for the MCU... eventually. Aside from Loki, only one potential team member has been sighted so far in the MCU: Cassie Lang, who was about seven years old in Ant-Man. Marvel, for instance, has done nothing at all to seed the existence of key team members Wiccan and Speed (the reincarnated children of Scarlet Witch and Vision). With Young Avengers built so strongly on the concept of legacy, it's unlikely we'll see the team quite yet.
3. The Thunderbolts
Bendis' Avengers: Disassembled wasn't the first time the team left the Earth unprotected. Back in the '90s, the Avengers—along with the Fantastic Four—disappeared entirely in the wake of the battle against the villainous Onslaught. During their absence, the Avengers' shoes were briefly filled by a new team of heroes known as the Thunderbolts. There was just one twist: the Thunderbolts were secretly the villainous Masters of Evil, led by Baron Zemo. But a funny thing happened on their way to world domination, as the team's members realized the world really did need heroes. Later, the team became something like DC's Suicide Squad: an opportunity for anti-villains to redeem themselves.
A cinematic Thunderbolts could be a brilliant twist in the absence of the Avengers. There's just one problem: the MCU's notorious lack of strong villains. Sure, Helmut Zemo is still around from Captain America: Civil War, and Vulture from Spider-Man: Homecoming could be an interesting addition to the team, but who else would round it out when so many of the MCU's most interesting villains are dead?
4. The Champions
If Marvel is looking for some younger heroes to fill the Avengers' shoes, they could also promote the Champions to the big leagues. A recent addition to the Marvel Universe, the Champions are a team of teenagers loosely affiliated with the main Avengers squad. Like the Young Avengers, most are legacy heroes, but with members like Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) and Miles Morales (the younger Spider-Man), they have a lot more individual name recognition.
At a team, though, the Champions are not particularly well known, ultimately making them an unlikely choice to replace the Avengers. But, given Marvel's recent willingness to mix-and-match teams—as seen with the upcoming New Warriors TV series, which will draw ideas and characters from the Great Lakes Avengers—it's highly likely we'll eventually see some of the Champions show up in another Marvel franchise, like the Young Avengers.
5. The Fantastic Four
After several years away, the Fantastic Four are finally returning to the Marvel Universe later this year. Could the Avengers' absence also presage their appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? There's a lot of reasons to think it would be perfect timing—what better way to emphasize how utterly fantastic the team is than to have them fill a giant Avengers-shaped hole?—but there are also plenty of reasons why it might not happen.
While Disney has announced a plan to acquire Fox, which would give Marvel control of the Fantastic Four's movie rights for the first time since the 1980s, the deal is still pending antitrust approval and is unlikely to close before late 2018 (if ever). There have, however, long been rumors that Marvel had negotiated a separate deal with Fox for the Fantastic Four rights, making it a distinct possibility that Marvel has just been waiting for the perfect time to reintroduce the team.
Who do you think should replace the fallen Avengers? Let us know in the comments!
Images: Marvel Comics