A New Phase: Marvel Releases Four New Miniseries


Screencap from Marvel Studio’s “WandaVision”, the first miniseries Marvel released. ©Disney/Marvel Studios.

Emily Yue, General

2020 marked the first year since the release of Iron Man without any new MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films due to scheduled movies being pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The highly anticipated finale to Phase 3, Avengers: Endgame, had been received to critical acclaim the previous year, with many fans wondering: What comes after the villain they’ve been foreshadowing for since the first Avengers film has been defeated? 

Four Phase 4 projects, WandaVision; The Falcon and the Winter Soldier; Loki; and …What If, had been announced by Kevin Feige at Disney Investor Day 2019, which took place fifteen days before the release of Avengers: Endgame. However, the original plans for order of release had to be shuffled after the disruption of the pandemic.

Movies to Miniseries

Rather than saying that Marvel sprung the Disney + miniseries on fans after Endgame, it should be said that they experienced a change in plans. The original roll out for Phase 4 had Black Widow—a superhero action movie not breaking far from the usual Marvel formula— slated for release May 1, 2020, followed by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney + and Eternals later that year. WandaVision as the second Disney + series would air in early 2021, with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness coming out not long after. Loki would air at around the same time, but Spider-Man: No Way Home and Thor: Love and Thunder would have been out before the end of this year. 

It would be logical speculation to say that Marvel pushed back its big blockbuster films to maximize movie ticket revenues, which meant the miniseries would all have to be released before the movie theaters open again. The production of the miniseries, however, has been in the works since 2019, with Disney gearing up to release its streaming service Disney + to compete with streaming mega-giants Netflix and Hulu. Streaming services’ revenues skyrocketed while everybody stayed at home, which was a completely happy accident to Disney, as it meant they gained 50 million subscribers in just six months (It took Netflix seven years!). 


Sitcom Superheros: WandaVision 

Instead of Black Widow, Marvel started off their return with WandaVision: A story of grief above all, combining the continued love story of lesser-loved Avengers Wanda Maximoff and Vision, magic and witchcraft, told as a tribute to American sitcoms through the decades. 

WandaVision garnered both critics’ and fans’ praise alike during and after its release; the careful replication of early filmmaking techniques, the new roles given to old characters, and the underlying mystery for the audience to piece together week by week all captured the interest of Marvel enthusiasts.

“WandaVision” official series poster. ©Disney/Marvel Studios.

Witness[es] at Weddington: One junior says WandaVision was their favourite out of all the new shows. They were quoted saying, “I liked how confusing it first was… so you had no idea what was going on, but then all of a sudden it just clicked, like in one episode! And… a lot of heartache.” 

Coach Bays, an American History teacher, mentioned that WandaVision was his least favourite out of all four: “It was just too slow at the beginning… The first three episodes were just… And then it got good.” 

Passing on the Shield: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier 

Following the absolute success of WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier started streaming on Disney + starting March 19th, two weeks after WandaVision drew to a close. ‘Captain America’s henchmen’ Sam Wilson “Falcon” and Bucky Barnes “Winter Soldier” team up once again to combat a terrorist group that has arisen from an aspiration to return to how Earth was during the Blip. 

Two new Captain Americas, the return of a villain and an ally who switch roles, exploration into Bucky’s trauma as the Winter Soldier, and the emergence of eight new super soldiers Cap-tivated audiences with the first episode being the most watched series premiere on Disney + in its opening weekend.

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” official poster. ©Disney/Marvel Studios.

However, the pacing of the series was criticized. Some critics felt that the peak of the series was not the finale, and while there were definite high points, depth, and development, the series was too rushed in general. Others felt that the series had succeeded in tying together multiple complex storylines, social issues, and the tight-packed action that Marvel is so known for. Witness at Weddington, a junior: “My favourite character is Bucky Barnes… it was just really good! It wasn’t really sad, like WandaVision and Loki, they were really good, but I really liked The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” 

God of Mischief, Chaos Times Two: Loki

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has been a fan favourite since his first appearance in Thor (2011), and his *spoiler* death in Avengers: Infinity War devastated many in 2018. When Avengers: Endgame aired, the Time Heist resulted in an alternate timeline Loki escaping with the Tesseract, but it was unknown of what happened to him until Loki aired. 

The first episode begins exactly where the alternate timeline of the 2012 New York attack left off: with Loki disappearing with the Tesseract. Loki is quickly tracked down by the TVA (Time Variance Authority) and recruited to find a variant of himself by Mobius, a TVA official. The show is mischievously unpredictable to the very end: A controversial love story, the morality of pruning alternate timelines the way you would branches on a bonsai tree, and the lawlessness of time travel.

“Loki” series official poster. ©Disney/Marvel Studios.

Critics found the discordant banter between Loki and other new characters “charming” and “compelling”, but some complained that the series seemed “filler”. Loki is not action-heavy like the miniseries that came before it; the lore and entire show sets up the future of Phase 4, with Loki and WandaVision directly leading up to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home. Loki was chaotic, fun, and despairing, but most of all, it was fulfilling, for those missing Loki in the past two Avengers movies. Witness at Weddington: Coach Bays’ favourite miniseries was Loki. Why? He kept the answer short and sweet: “Because of the time travel stuff.” 

What if… : …What If?

What if… we were able to see into other Marvel universes? What if… Peggy Carter drank the Super Soldier Serum? What if… Thor was an only child? What if… zombies took over the universe? What if… Ultron won? 

Based on the Marvel comics of the same title, …What If? gives the audience a glimpse into what could have happened if there was one choice, one situation that was different. Unlike its miniseries predecessors, …What If? does not follow a linear storyline. That being said, the episodes should be watched in order as they lead up to an action (and stress) packed finale that is reminiscent of all the previous superhero showdowns that Marvel excels so much at.

The official poster for Marvel Studio’s “What If…” series. ©Disney/Marvel Studios.

With a nonlinear storyline, the writers were at liberty to change the pace and tone of each episode, with some being lighthearted and comedic and others dark in despair. Critics praised the “comic book flare” of it all, as well as how “endless the possibilities were”. 

…What If? also marks the final portrayal of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, with Boseman being one of the first returning cast members to agree to return. Episode 2, “What if… T’Challa became a Star-Lord?” was dedicated to the late actor.

More on the horizon? 

As of the time of writing, all the miniseries above have finished airing (with some awaiting their second season). There’s more on the horizon. Airing this year is Hawkeye, which follows Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) facing his demons as Ronin during the five years Earth was left in disarray after Thanos. 2022 also has four miniseries currently lined up: Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and Secret Invasion.