Ever since Black Widow unleashed her full badassery in Iron Man 2 (yeah, you know the scene), Marvel fans have been clamoring for Scarlett Johansson’s superspy to headline her own movie, a project that seems to be finally moving forward. However, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded — introducing a whole ton of powerful, layered female heroes — moviegoers’ thirst for better representation onscreen has developed concurrently. With the success of Black Panther paving the way, the MCU is finally poised to feature a more diverse group of characters in forthcoming projects, including some in the LGBTQ community. So it seems to me that one worthwhile addition to Phase Four of the MCU is abundantly clear: A-Force.
For those unfamiliar with the relatively new Marvel Comics title, A-Force essentially centers on an all-female Avengers team. Although most of the roster consists of characters not currently appearing in the MCU films (including its leader, She-Hulk), the concept of a female-led ensemble piece has been steadily gaining support from both fans and the actresses who (presumably) would have a role to play in such a project. Thor: Ragnarok star Tessa Thompson has even recounted a conversation she and other MCU ladies had with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige about the idea, and just this week, Feige projected that the majority of the MCU’s heroes will soon be female, a status quo that would make an A-Force film far more likely.
Considering that Ant-Man and the Wasp goes to great lengths to establish Hope Van Dyne’s alter-ego as a force to be reckoned with, the film is only the most recent example of the MCU’s ever-expanding embrace of its female characters. Take, for instance, the breakout stars of Black Panther (Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright) or the mini female team-up that takes place amid the climax of Avengers: Infinity War. Although Marvel Studios has gradually introduced characters like Maria Hill, Scarlet Witch and Gamora into its predominantly male narratives, the last few entries in the MCU have really accelerated the franchise’s efforts. Of course, the biggest leap forward comes next year when Brie Larson suits up for Captain Marvel, setting the stage for the Phase Three-ending Avengers 4.
By then, the MCU will be even more jam-packed with strong female characters, and the stage will be set both creatively and financially — the aforementioned Black Panther and Infinity War are the highest-grossing MCU films ever, by the way — to give audiences what they want. After all, one of the biggest reasons that studios claim to be hesitant to put women front and center is a lack of marketability and/or interest from the moviegoing public. But between the MCU’s leisurely progress and the bolder success of Wonder Woman over at DC, the days of denying that female fans want to see people who look like them onscreen is officially a thing of the past. Certainly, the MCU should continue introducing more people of color into the mix (news that Ms. Marvel is on the docket is encouraging), but if Phase Four takes any ambitious leaps forward, it should be with A-Force.
The franchise already has more than enough characters currently in play to make up a formidable team. Just sub in Captain Marvel for the absent She-Hulk, and flesh out her crew with the likes of Valkyrie, Shuri, Wasp, Gamora, Scarlet Witch, Maria Hill, Black Widow, Sharon Carter, Nebula, Okoye, Nakia, Lady Sif, Mantis or any combination therein (depending on how Avengers 4 shakes out, of course). If Ocean’s Eight can take a group of powerful women on a mission and earn $187 million worldwide (and counting), there’s no reason to think the most successful franchise of all time wouldn’t be able to transform a concept like A-Force into a record-breaking smash. The audience is ready for it, and it finally seems like Marvel Studios is too.
With every film the company releases, Marvel expertly lays groundwork that it can then exploit later down the road. So it’s hard to imagine that the apparent build-up of the female heroes of the MCU over these last several films has happened by accident. With decades of source material to draw from, Marvel Studios has plenty of opportunities to weave more diverse characters into the storytelling tapestry it has been creating for more than a decade now (see: the possible introduction of an older Cassie Lang in Avengers 4). Moreover, the MCU is in a unique position to break the boundaries that have been holding women and people of color back from leading their own stories. At this point, moviegoers the world over wait with bated breath for anything Marvel does. So it’s reassuring that Marvel Studios may use that audience goodwill to improve representation among Hollywood blockbusters and finally tell stories like A-Force that no one has heard before.
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