This article contains major MCU spoilers, up to and including Thor: Love and Thunder
Ooh, the MCU is a lot, isn’t it? It was always a lot, but now it’s a LOT lot. With the ongoing rollout of Phase 4, fans don’t just have a handful of blockbuster films to keep up with every year; there are now multiple TV shows streaming on Disney+ that introduce important new characters and corners of the Marvel Universe that interconnect with those aforementioned big budget theatrical releases.
It’s been a gamble for Marvel Studios, who first properly tested audience reactions with the release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in the first half of 2022. Fully understanding the plot of the Benedict Cumberbatch-led sequel meant you really had to have seen WandaVision on Disney+, and in the next batch of MCU movies, characters and stories from other shows will be important, too.
2023’s The Marvels, featuring Brie Larson reprising her role as Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, also co-stars Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau (introduced in WandaVision), and Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan (introduced in Ms. Marvel). Loki villain He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) will also pop up again in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as an even more villainous multiverse Variant called Kang the Conqueror. Fans who missed the beginning of these journeys on Disney+ may end up being a little confused!
With that in mind, we’re putting together a
team list of all the major Phase 4 characters to date, and we’ll be updating it regularly. It’s our hope that this can fill in some blanks for anyone who has skipped a few movies or shows but who still wants to keep up with the sprawling MCU landscape. Now, notice we said “major” characters back there? There have been plenty of other characters in Phase 4 that are not listed here yet (and there are even more who haven’t made their debut) but these are the ones that it feels like we should definitely be keeping an eye on in terms of future appearances!
The first movie of MCU Phase 4 was Black Widow, a swansong for Natasha Romanoff who sacrificed her life in Avengers: Endgame. The project was a prequel, which meant we got to see what Natasha was up to between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. This adventure marked the end of Natasha’s quest to wipe out the red in her ledger from years of unpleasant missions that occasionally ended with innocent blood being shed. Here, she was seeking to put an end to the Red Room – a top-secret Russian training program for young girls – once and for all.
Along the way, we met Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), who once posed as Natasha’s sister when they were working undercover in America as kids. They were both trained in the Red Room, but Yelena had continued working for the Russians after Natasha defected. Yelena’s mind was being controlled by the leader of the Red Room programme, Dreykov, but she managed to finally escape his grasp and met up with Natasha while she was on the run. Amidst the destruction of the Red Room, the two mended their bridges, so Yelena was upset and angry when she found out that Natasha had died soon after. When she was told that Clint Barton aka Hawkeye was the one responsible for Natasha’s death, Yelena picked up an offer to assassinate him in Marvel’s Hawkeye, but the truth eventually emerged and she let him go.
Natasha thought she had accidentally killed Dreykov’s daughter Antonia (Olga Kurylenko) in a bombing when she was a child, but it turns out that Antonia had survived the blast. She was maimed, however, and a disappointed Dreykov had then raised Antonia to be a weapon against his enemies. Under the moniker “Taskmaster” Antonia can mimic opponents’ fighting styles, and has been shown using battle techniques copied from the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, the Winter Soldier, Spider-Man, and Black Panther.
We haven’t seen Taskmaster re-emerge since the events of Black Widow, but we’d put good money on seeing her again – Taskmaster is regularly an iconic villain (and sometimes an anti-hero) in the pages of Marvel Comics.
In a coup by Marvel Studios, Stranger Things star David Harbour joined the MCU as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian in Black Widow. Alexei is a super soldier, and is known to rattle on about his heyday as Russia’s version of Captain America. He even claims to have fought Captain America in the 80s, but this has been disputed by people who knew that Steve Rogers was still in the ice back then. He may be telling the truth, though, and we go into that further right here! Red Guardian was an ally to Natasha Romanoff, and may continue to be an ally to Yelena Belova. He originally masqueraded as the pair’s fake father when they were sent on an undercover mission to America in the 90s.
Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) was also a Black Widow, and then became one of the Red Room’s leading scientists. She posed as Yelena and Natasha’s mother on the undercover mission, and later helped them bring down the Red Room. In the comics, Melina later becomes a supervillain, but in the MCU it appears she is much more willing to be a force for good. It is unclear if we’ll see Alexei and Melina again soon, but with Marvel’s fondness for geopolitical struggles, neither of the characters seem off the table during future conflicts.
Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) is a Salem witch who was condemned by her own coven for practicing dark magic. She then somehow acquired the Darkhold, a grimoire based on carvings by the elder god Chthon. This boosted her powers substantially but she became even more villainous, and when she sensed Wanda Maximoff using “chaos” magic in the small town of Westview during WandaVision, she also sought to steal that magic. She wasn’t afraid of killing an innocent dog to get the job done!
Wanda, who had meanwhile found her destiny as the Scarlet Witch, dealt with Agatha by forcing her to live out her life in Westview and cast a spell to convince her that she was just another regular resident of the town. A spinoff series awaits, though, so we haven’t seen the last of Agatha Harkness!
Also getting mixed up in the drama in Westview was Monica Rambeau, the daughter of air force pilot and Carol Danvers’ best friend Maria, who eventually founded S.W.O.R.D.. after Carol went back into space. Monica also joined S.W.O.R.D. when she was old enough.
In WandaVision, Monica tried to help Wanda Maximoff several times by travelling through a Hex barrier that Wanda had cast over the town of Westview. Repeated interactions with the barrier caused Monica to develop superhuman abilities, and she was then recruited by the Skrulls for mysterious reasons. Monica will return in The Marvels next year alongside Brie Larson and Iman Vellani’s Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel.
In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we met a host of new characters from a new corner of the Marvel Universe that had actually been referenced since the first Iron Man film back in 2008! Lead character Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) was trained to be an assassin by his father Wenwu – leader of criminal organization the Ten Rings – when he was a child. Leaving his father’s circle as a teen and travelling to America, Shang-Chi spun his wheels in several dead-end jobs before he was pulled back into his father’s dangerous orbit.
Having helped slay the Dweller-in-Darkness, Shang-Chi has now accepted his place in the world. He has become a budding superhero, and is the current wielder of the legendary Ten Rings – a set of mystical iron rings previously used by Wenwu that grant their user enhanced strength, can emit energy blasts, and be telepathically controlled. Shang-Chi was also quickly recruited by Sorcerer Supreme Wong, along with Bruce Banner and Captain Marvel, who have all shown great interest in the origin of the rings.
It is not clear how long Wenwu (Tony Leung) possessed the Ten Rings before they were passed to his son Shang-Chi, but he used them to become a very powerful figure for a very long time. Historically he was thought of as a villain, but when he started a family Wenwu softened for a while before his wife was killed and he deteriorated into a much harsher person.
Wenwu died toward the end of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings while mistakenly trying to find his dead wife, unleashing the Dweller in Darkness who was later slain by his son. But Wenwu’s story seems far from over: an old Ten Rings temple was later uncovered during the 1940s part of the MCU timeline that once contained many of Wenwu’s artefacts, including the a Kree arm and a bangle that Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel now uses to access her powers.
Xu Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) is Shang-Chi’s sister and the current leader of Wenwu’s criminal organization. As a child, she watched as Wenwu trained Shang-Chi, and always felt left out and eager to master the same skills as her brother. By staying close during Shang-Chi’s training, she was able to grasp the same fighting techniques and is now so adept at them that she can easily beat Shang-Chi in battle.
Although Xu Xialing appeared to be on the side of good, she secretly took over the Ten Rings organization as soon as Shang-Chi’s back was turned, and is now likely a powerful figure in the criminal underworld as a result. It’s unclear if we will see Xu Xialing in the planned sequel to Shang-Chi, but we may see her again in other MCU projects before that film emerges.
Sersi (Gemma Chan) is the defacto leader of the Eternals, a race of synthetic alien beings formed by the godlike Celestials to help populations blossom on healthy planets, therefore building enough energy to fuel the creation of a new Celestial. She led the Eternals on a mission to prevent a new Celestial being born on Earth, which would have wiped out the human race. This went against the group’s orders to usher in the birth, and the Celestial Arishem discovered Sersi’s betrayal at the end of Marvel’s Eternals. He snatched her from the Earth to pass judgment on both her actions and her reasons for preserving humankind.
Another important member of the Eternals is Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani). Unlike other members of the group, Kingo used his natural immortality to become a Bollywood movie star with a long lineage, and is a familiar face to fans of the genre! Kingo fell out of love with the ongoing saga of the Eternals, the humans, and the Celestials, and preferred the limelight.
When the Eternals decided to go against the wishes of the Celestials and save the human race, Kingo didn’t want to take either side of the argument and chose to abandon the group instead. Ms. Marvel has since referenced Kingo’s Bollywood fame, and we likely haven’t seen the last of this irreverent character in the MCU.
Kit Harington’s appearance in Eternals is just the beginning of a potential journey for the character of Professor Dane Whitman, as it is thought he will ultimately fulfil his destiny to become the iconic Black Knight.
Whitman is a scientist and a historian who happens to be heir to an ancient family line, and he had just begun a romance with the Eternal Sersi when an apocalypse on Earth loomed once again. Whitman then tried to make amends with his mysterious uncle after that close call with oblivion and continued investigating his family’s history, which led to him possessing the Ebony Blade – a sword that can imbue its wielder with incredible power. But that power comes at a great cost, and he now seems to have caught the attention of the MCU’s rebooted daywalking vampire, Blade.
All we’ve seen of Eros so far has been a brief appearance in the post-credits scene of Eternals, but what an entrance he made! Cutting a rather more human-looking figure than his adoptive brother Thanos, Eros (also known as Starfox) is played by none other than pop sensation Harry Styles, and he is sure to get much more screen time later in MCU Phase 4 or 5.
Eros was also an Eternal created by Arishem and hails from Titan, where he was a prince until he too rejected the Celestial mandate and ran away. He’d been traveling the cosmos ever since, but when he was made aware of the Earth Eternals’ Celestial troubles, it piqued his interest to meet the remaining members of the group as their potential ally. Eros hopes that more Eternals who reject Arishem’s rules can be found amongst the stars.
When Steve Rogers traveled back in time to replace the Infinity Stones at the end of Avengers: Endgame, the world suddenly found itself with a Captain America void to contend with. The US government decided that the best course of action would be to just simply make another one! Thus, ex-marine John Walker was chosen to wield Steve’s shield and step up to the plate as a new Captain America in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Sure, Walker had no superpowers, but he certainly had a willingness to follow orders – unlike Steve.
Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson did not respond well to Walker becoming the next Cap, as you can imagine, and things went from bad to worse when Walker decided to take some supersoldier serum in a quest to be as powerful as Steve. He wound up committing murder in full view of the public, which led to his downfall. Walker did redeem himself somewhat in the end, but by then he’d caught the eye of someone with their own agenda who could see potential in Walker for missions that utilized his more “heavy-handed” tactics as US Agent.
Valentina Allegra de Fontaine
Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a mysterious figure who has made several appearances in Phase 4. Coming across a bit like a more sinister Nick Fury, Val’s motives and origin story are currently unknown, but she has recruited both Yelena Belova and John Walker to her cause already in Black Widow and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier respectively.
Some Marvel fans wonder if this is the beginning of the Thunderbolts in the MCU. In the comics, the Thunderbolts were a team of villains who masked up and pretended to be heroes so that they could manipulate key events to their advantage. Their original leader? The villain of Captain America: Civil War, Baron Zemo, who remains alive but who is still cooped up in a maximum security prison.
Mobius M. Mobius
Time Variance Authority agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) managed to do the impossible: he actually got through to Loki. And not just any Loki, but a Variant Loki fresh from a Battle of New York beatdown by the Avengers. It was weird enough that Loki had now made a genuine human friend, but the pair also immediately faced danger when they uncovered clues that the TVA was not all that it seemed, and Mobius then had to risk everything in the face of a crackdown by his employers, who had captured Loki and were planning to kill him when he’d worn out his welcome.
After the events of Loki played out, we discovered that Mobius no longer recognized the trickster, and Loki now has to earn Mobius’ trust if the two are to set right what has gone wrong and become the best of friends again. Oh, and Mobius loves jet skis! Very important information.
Ravonna Renslayer is Mobius’ boss at the TVA. Like Mobius, she was also a Variant put to work by a mysterious figure at the head of the organization, and she was soon promoted to a judge role. Ravonna had “pruned” many Variants like Loki in the past, but she was convinced to let our Endgame Variant Loki work as a TVA consultant until he was no longer needed. Ravonna didn’t like the way Mobius and Loki went about that business, which included capturing another Variant of Loki who had begun to terrorize the TVA behind the scenes.
When we last saw Ravonna, she was departing the TVA to find free will after it became clear that her bureaucracy was a sham. We will definitely see her again, as she has heavy ties to Phase 4 villain Kang the Conqueror in Marvel Comics.
Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) is a female multiverse Variant of Loki (an MCU mashup of The Enchantress and Lady Loki) who managed to escape the clutches of the bureaucratic Time Variance Authority by hiding in apocalyptic events. Like Loki, she is also very clever and can be spiteful. Naturally, our new Loki has fallen in love with this other version of himself! Unfortunately, Sylvie is far more dedicated to seeing a plan through its bitter end than he is, and she defied Loki to kill off He Who Remains, a version of Kang the Conqueror who created the Sacred Timeline to prevent the multiverse from existing in the MCU. This is the reason that the MCU is now deep into its multiverse stage!
Sylvie’s whereabouts are currently unknown, but she’s likely to return to wreak more havoc on Loki’s heart in Season 2 of the God of Mischief’s Disney+ series.
He Who Remains
This gentleman was a very complicated sort, and even the motivations he revealed before meeting the end of Sylvie’s blade in Loki are extremely questionable. He Who Remains claimed to be from the future. He said he was the first person to make contact with other universes, and had met various other versions of himself in the process. Some of them were apparently so damn dangerous that they started a Multiversal War, so He Who Remains decided that the only way to protect everyone was to found the TVA and create a “Sacred Timeline” where any pesky alternate timelines and Variants who strayed off the path were destroyed. He gave Loki and Sylvie a choice: kill him and allow the multiverse to exist, possibly creating unbelievable violence and chaos, or take over his job running the TVA and the Sacred Timeline. Loki heeded his warning and chose the latter, but lost out to Sylvie, who…did not.
We will also be introduced to a different Variant version of He Who Remains (as played by Jonathan Majors) in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania: Kang the Conqueror.
Uatu The Watcher (voiced by The Batman star Jeffrey Wright) observes the blossoming MCU multiverse from the Nexus of All Realities. He has made an oath not to intervene in any events, but let’s just say he can be convinced fairly easily if the occasion calls for it! When an extremely powerful Variant of Ultron emerged in Marvel’s What If…?, Uatu decided to put a team together to stop everyone’s favorite MCU murderbot. Captain Carter, Star-Lord, Doctor Strange, Erik Killmonger, Gamora, Thor, and Black Widow all eventually joined the gang, and they called themselves the Guardians of the Multiverse.
Captain Carter is a multiverse Variant of a Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) who took the supersoldier serum during WWII instead of Steve Rogers. She fights on the side of good with a Howard Stark-made vibranium shield much like Steve, but their similarities are only vague aside from that. Captain Carter is known to be a member of the Avengers, the Illuminati, and the Guardians of the Multiverse, but she has a much more brutal fighting style than Steve, and will often easily make decisions that Steve might struggle with.
Captain Carter has shown up several times in the MCU to date, first in Marvel’s What If…? and then in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The former Captain Carter lived to tell the tale, but the latter didn’t as she was killed by Scarlet Witch! Peggy Carter’s ongoing importance in Phase 4 was also hinted at in Loki, where yet another Variant version of the love of Steve’s life was pruned by the TVA for straying off the set timeline.
A gifted archer in her own right, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) teamed up with Hawkeye to take down Kingpin, the Tracksuit Mafia, and her own mother in Marvel Studios’ Clint Barton spinoff series. Kate is very different to Clint. She’s bright-eyed, eager to learn, and keen to pick up the “Hawkeye” mantle as soon as possible. The origins of her obsession date back to the Battle of New York, where she saw Hawkeye in action on the day her father died and was inspired to pursue that superhero life.
She quite accidentally made friends with Yelena Belova when the former Black Widow arrived in New York to kill Clint towards the end of the series, and the two have some great chemistry that is sure to endure through MCU Phase 4 and 5.
Maya Lopez aka Echo (Alaqua Cox) is a deaf martial artist with a prosthetic leg who ran the Tracksuit Mafia for Kingpin until it was revealed that he had been responsible for her father’s death. Having formerly thought that Clint Barton was involved in the killing during his phase as Ronin, Maya ultimately let Clint go and killed Kingpin instead (or so it seems).
Cox will return as Maya Lopez in Echo, a spinoff series on Disney+ that will team her with Charlie Cox’s Daredevil now that he’s officially a part of the Disney version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The two are also heavily linked, along with Kingpin, in Marvel Comics.
Marc Spector is a former mercenary with Dissociative Identity Disorder. He has two other identities inside him: Steven Grant and Jake Lockley. All three are played by Oscar Isaac, and all three make up “Moon Knight”, an avatar of the Egyptian god Khonshu who guides those travelling by night and seeks vengeance on any villainous sorts who might trouble them on their path. The character was introduced in the limited TV series Moon Knight, but currently it is Jake Lockley in place as the Fist of Khonshu, while the others remain blissfully unaware of his existence.
Isaac only signed on to play Moon Knight for one season of the Disney+ show, but he will almost certainly be back in the future, as the character remains a cult favorite amongst comic book readers. However, Moon Knight is a rare studio projects that currently remains unconnected to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Archaeologist Layla Abdallah El-Faouly (May Calamawy) is the estranged wife of Marc Spector, who joined him in his guise as Moon Knight to thwart the plans of the villainous Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke). During their final battle against him in Marvel’s Moon Knight, she struck a deal with the Egyptian goddess Taweret to become her avatar on Earth. Layla is now the Scarlet Scarab! Her relationship with Marc, however, has yet to be resolved, as Marc’s alternate identity Steven Grant has also fallen in love with her. It’s a very complicated love triangle.
America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) joined the MCU in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness when it was revealed to Stephen(s) Strange that she could travel the multiverse utilizing portals. She is unique in the Marvel multiverse, because she has no Variants. Thanks to her dimension-hopping abilities, she drew the attention of many bad people and creatures, including a Darkhold-twisted Scarlet Witch, who hunted her and planned to take her powers.
Doctor Strange ultimately rescued America, but she learned to control her abilities in the meantime, and she then joined Sorcerer Supreme Wong to discover the mystic arts.
Stephen Strange met Clea, played by Charlize Theron, during a mid-credits scene in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, where she sought his assistance. In the comics, she is the niece of Dormammu, the villain that Stephen struck a bargain with at the end of his MCU origin story back in 2017. Hailing from the Dark Dimension, Clea is indeed a dimension-hopper of sorts who is incredibly powerful. Whether she will later marry Stephen and then become Earth’s next Sorcerer Supreme when he dies, as she did in Marvel Comics, remains to be seen.
Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is a young Pakistani-American Muslim girl from New Jersey who fan-worshipped the Avengers – especially Captain Marvel – and longed to become a superhero herself. She got her wish when she was sent a mystical bangle by her grandmother that unlocked her natural powerset. Kamala’s story is only just beginning to unravel with Ms. Marvel, but she will join Monica Rambeau and Carol Danvers in an MCU team-up movie next year called The Marvels.
Kamala has been associated with several superhero group rosters in Marvel Comics, including the Avengers, the New Avengers, the Champions, and the Secret Warriors, and has been a fan favorite character since she was first created back in 2013.
Ted Lasso breakout Brett Goldstein just entered the MCU in a major way as Zeus’s son, Hercules! Thor: Love and Thunder’s mid-credits scene provided the backdrop for Hercules to be sent on a mission by his wounded father: strike fear into our hearts on behalf of all the gods who feel they have become a joke to those who once worshipped them without question.
Although this Brett-shaped spin on the Hercules myth currently feels like he has MCU antagonist vibes, he’s a long-time Avenger in Marvel Comics, and has had a friendly rivalry with Thor. Nevertheless, the pair clashing could make for a formidable fifth entry into the God of Thunder’s franchise. Just the thought of Chris Hemsworth and Mr. Goldstein flexing muscles and barbs at each other has got us reserving tickets in advance!