Who is the Next Avenger?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched a dozen years ago, and it has gone on to become one of the most successful film franchises in movie history. As one successful movie follows another, more and more characters have been translated from the comic books to the big screen. In 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, there were 20 different heroic characters (not including ex-villains such as Loki or assistants like Wong) who fought the mad titan Thanos. In a matter of days, their newest character, Bree Larsen’s Captain Marvel will be introduced into her own film before inevitably taking her place in the team. This leads to the question, which character can we expect to see next.

To determine this, I’ve gathered data regarding all of the heroic characters who have appeared in 100 or more issues with the Avengers and when they first appeared. I then grouped the characters into four different categories: (1 – Blue) Those characters who have already appeared in the Marvel movie franchise, (2 – Red) Those characters who have not been able to appear in the MCU due to legal issues (3 – Green) Those characters who are available, but have not yet appeared in, the Marvel Cinematic Universe but have “overlapping” powers with current characters and (4-Yellow) Those characters who are available with a unique set of powers.

In some ways, the “easy” choices have already been made. The top 9 characters who’ve appeared in Avengers-related comics have already been portrayed. They include Captain America (#1/1723 appearances/first appeared in 1964), Iron Man (#2/1504 appearances/1963 comics debut), Thor (#3/1239/1963), Hawkeye (#4/1011/1964), Vision (#5/1009/1968), Spider-Man (#8/698/1964) and Hulk (#9/614/1963). For character consistency sake, I’m counting Janet van Dyne’s Wasp (#6/938/1963) and Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Pym’s character as the same character (since they both fill the “Wasp” slot) and Henry Pym’s Ant-Man (#7/854/1964) and Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang (#51/116/1979) as the Ant-Man designate.

Other characters included in the list are Black Widow, Quicksilver, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, War Machine and Bucky/Winter Soldier.

Now that still leaves 41 potential recruits. Of those, 18 have to be filtered out due to legal rights surrounding the characters. Members of the X-Men and Fantastic Four teams, as well as the Silver Surfer; were all licensed to 20th Century Fox. While Marvel just recently regained the rights to those characters, it’s still too early for them to appear in the next slate of films; and even if they did, it’s far more likely that they will be introduced via separate movies that showcase those teams, rather than as ad hoc members of the Marvel Universe. Likewise, the characters from the Marvel/Netflix universe; such as Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist; should be ruled out, even though those characters are part of the larger shared Marvel Universe, the legal rights between the now-feuding parent companies should prevent their appearance in the MCU for a while.

The following table shows characters that have already appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (blue), those who can’t appear due to legal reasons (red), those who have powers that strongly duplicate existing MCU heroes (green) and available characters with a different power-set (yellow):

From the sheer number of appearances; Hercules, She-Hulk and Wonder Man would seem to be the most likely additions; but given that the primary ability of each of these three characters is their great strength; and that you already have several “bricks” on the team; such as Thor, Hulk and Captain Marvel; I’d argue that they wouldn’t really add much to the existing team. That being said, if Mark Ruffalo ever decides to quit the franchise, his cousin Jennifer’s She-Hulk would be an obvious replacement.

That leaves the most likely addition being Dane Whitman’s Black Knight. He’s appeared in nearly 300 issues and has been associated with the team since 1967. He’s an expert hand-to-hand fighter and tactician who would fill the void from the likely-to-depart Captain America; plus, he has a flying horse that would “show” nicely on the film.

Going further down the list of top-10 “available” characters, Jessica Drew’s Spider-Woman would seem unnecessary given the fact that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is new to the franchise. Monica Rambeau’s character (who has been called both Spectrum and Captain Marvel) would also seem a logical choice given her tenure with the team and the fact that a similarly-sounding character by that name (Maria Rambeau) is being portrayed by Lashana Lynch in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie. However, the movie is set place in the 90s, so I’m guessing they are using the Maria character as a way to eventually introduce a younger Monica. Either way, it’s not her time yet.

Crystal would seem to fit into the planned Inhumans movie, so I would rule her out as well until then. Jane Foster has been introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but given Natalie Portman’s exit from the MCU, it’s doubtful that they’d reintroduce her; plus, as long as Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is in the franchise, it’s doubtful they’d need the “Lady Thor” version as well. The magical abilities of Sersi are offset by Doctor Strange’s presence on the team. Finally, the Bobbi Morse “Mockingbird” character is already showcased in the Agents of SHIELD TV series and it seems that she will be continued to be utilized there.

There are definitely other options further down the list (you’ve got a couple of versions of Nova listed and Tigra would be an intriguing choice that would provide another female character); but if I’m going to go for a deep pick; I’d choose the relatively new character of Kamala Khan; which would not only provide another female character; it would also help diversify the MCU a bit more by showcasing a female, Muslim hero with a unique set of powers who could easily bond with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and have a “little sister” relationship with Bree Larsen’s Captain Marvel, whom Kamala has always idolized.

Looking forward as to whether or not I’ll be proved right here or to any comments/suggestions that you might have.

Written by David Curewitz

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