The year in Marvel: How 2021 rocked the multiverse and what's next in the MCU

As we enter 2022, there's no better time to look on back the craziness of the past year in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the start of Phase 4.

With 2021 coming to an end, there's no better time than to look back at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the beginning stages of Phase 4.
With 2021 coming to an end, there's no better time than to look back at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the beginning stages of Phase 4.  © Collage: IMAGO/Prod.DB & Prod.DB & Prod.DB & Cinema Publishers Collection

No one can deny that the MCU has had a pretty enormous – albeit trippy – 2021.

And for those who aren't die-hard Marvel fans, it's easy to get confused by all the movies, TV shows, and chaos of the multiverse.

Marvel kicked off Phase 4 of its cinematic universe this year with the premiere of the series WandaVision.

Elon Musk: Elon Musk makes bold accusations against Apple in string of tweets
Elon Musk Elon Musk makes bold accusations against Apple in string of tweets

The show aptly set the tone for how crazy things have gotten, and continue to be, since the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019).

While this newest phase of the MCU won't be completed until 2023, the year's end is the perfect time to take a look back on how everything has tied together – and the loose ends that remain.

Loki and Wanda's choices will cause future problems

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany (l.) reprised their roles as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch and Vision in WandaVision, while Tom Hiddleston returned as Loki in the series of the same name.
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany (l.) reprised their roles as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch and Vision in WandaVision, while Tom Hiddleston returned as Loki in the series of the same name.  © Collage: IMAGO/Prod.DB & Cinema Publishers Collection

Disney+ featured numerous Marvel series this year, from Hawkeye, to WandaVision, to Loki.

The premises of the later two were surprisingly similar, and truly shook things up.

Unable to deal with her grief, Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett With creates an alternate reality with magic where she and her deceased love Vision are living the life they always dreamed of.

Merriam-Webster dictionary announces 2022 word of the year
Entertainment Merriam-Webster dictionary announces 2022 word of the year

However, the series ends with the revelation that Wanda has also trapped innocent people in the fictional world she's created, which leads to the former Avenger going into hiding.

Meanwhile, the series Loki spent a good amount of time explaining that in the MCU, everyone has a different variant.

And when one person's falls out of line, it messes up the entire timeline.

The epic finale for the Marvel series introduced a very important character, He Who Remains – who happens to be an alternate version of one of the biggest baddies in the MCU, Kang the Conqueror.

Loki's variant Sylvie kills He Who Remains after he explicitly warned them both that his death will lead to a multiverse war.

Both Wanda and Loki's decisions will continue to play out as Phase 4 progresses, since Kang is now loose and Wanda's powers are even greater than before.

New heroes emerge after the Avengers' Endgame sacrifice

Gemma Chan (r.) and Richard Madden play on-screen lovers Sersi and Ikaris in Marvel's Eternals.
Gemma Chan (r.) and Richard Madden play on-screen lovers Sersi and Ikaris in Marvel's Eternals.  © Imago/Prod.Db

Phase 4 of the MCU has done some fine work with introducing new characters and storylines in 2021.

And if Black Widow proved anything this year, it's that a female-led Marvel film can smash box office records, too.

Yet, one film in particular that was highly-anticipated ended up ultimately being a disappointment: Eternals.

Set after the events of Endgame, the Eternals – a group of celestial beings living discreetly on Earth – emerge to save the planet from their ancient counterparts, the Deviants.

Though the movie didn't leave a huge impression on Marvel fans, it did give viewers additions to the family and something to look forward to.

With new characters that have intriguing powers now part of the MCU, it will be interesting to see how they will interact with the more notable heroes such as Spider-man and The Hulk, for example.

Plus, Angeline Jolie, who played Thena in the film, is now officially a part of the MCU, which isn't a bad thing at all.

Additionally, other newcomers such as Shang-Chi from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings were also introduced this year, and have already been teased to help the remaining Avengers in the future.

All in all, after the loss of Iron Man and Black Widow in Endgame, it was time Marvel brought some new faces to the big and small screens.

What If...? teases how vast and deadly the multiverse really is

In the animated series What If...?, Doctor Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, becomes the evil version of himself, Strange Supreme.
In the animated series What If...?, Doctor Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, becomes the evil version of himself, Strange Supreme.  © imago/Cinema Publishers Collection

What If...? is arguably the most poignant and daring TV series Marvel has attempted so far.

The animated show debuted in August and was narrated by Jeffrey Wright as the peculiar alien figure The Watcher. The series expertly showcased fans' favorite Marvel characters living in alternate timelines of the multiverse.

However, no one's story was more important than that of Doctor Strange.

The animated series saw the former keeper of the Time Stone's arch go down a different path, which led to the birth of his evil counterpart, Strange Supreme.

Judging by the events in Spider-Man: No Way Home – the follow-up film released in December – Strange Supreme will seemingly escape the multiverse.

Though What If....? took some time to find its footing, it proved to be very vital to the MCU.

Spider-Man and Dr. Strange accidentally thrust Phase 4 into madness

Tom Holland (l.) and Benedict Cumberbatch star as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Doctor Strange in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Tom Holland (l.) and Benedict Cumberbatch star as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Doctor Strange in Spider-Man: No Way Home.  © Imago/Prod.Db

The final Marvel flick of 2021 was probably the most important.

It features Tom Holland's turn as Peter Parker, whose identity as Spider-Man is revealed. Soon after, Spidey's life turns into a shambles.

Yet, seeking help from Doctor Strange only ends up making things worse, as the two accidentally tamper with the multiverse.

It is precisely what will lead to more chaos in the MCU, as teased in the trailer for the upcoming 2022 film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Apparently, the all-powerful wizard will still be dealing with the aftermath of his mistake.

And don't forget: the preview also showed the Master of Mystic Arts facing off against the evil variant of himself.

So it appears that Spider-Man and Doctor Strange are largely responsible for what will happen in future films and shows as Phase 4 continues and the MCU expands in 2022.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO/Prod.DB & Prod.DB & Prod.DB & Cinema Publishers Collection

More on the topic Movies: