Phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe begins this week when Captain America: Civil War is finally released. And though there hasn’t been a Marvel movie released since last year, much has changed in the universe in that time.
Phase Two ended with Avengers: Age of Ultron last May, followed by Ant-Man in July. Since then new movies have been announced, canceled, new talent has been added, deleted and so much more. As it stands now, Phase three will continue through 2019, and includes Doctor Strange (November 2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 2017), Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 2017), Thor: Ragnarok (November 2017), Black Panther (February 2018), Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 (May 2018), Ant-man and The Wasp (July 2018), Captain Marvel (March 2019) and then Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 (May 2019). That’s a lot of ground to cover—which is why we thought you might want a refresher course. Here’s where everybody’s at as Civil War begins.
Iron Man - Tony Stark was pretty messed up after Avengers: Age of Ultron. He’s still footing the bill for the Avengers, even letting them set up shop at one of his own private bunkers in upstate New York. Emotionally, though, he’s recovering from the fact his creation—Ultron—almost destroyed the world. At the moment, he is not a part of the Avengers, but he’s still hanging around with them. He can’t get enough. And he’ll be forced back into the fight at the start of Civil War. Next appearances: Captain America: Civil War, then Spider-Man Homecoming.
Captain America - With Tony Stark stepping back, Cap is the new leader of the Avengers. He surely feels bitter toward Tony for what he did with Ultron, but also proud the team was able to overcome an impossible-to-defeat enemy. With Stark now out of the equation, his job is whipping together a new batch of superheroes to defend the world as the Avengers. But he can’t get his best friend Bucky, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier, out of his head. Next appearance: Captain America: Civil War.
Hulk - After finally forming a bond with someone (Black Widow), Bruce Banner and his alter-ego disappeared. Going into Phase Three, we don’t know his status. A downed jet found by the Avengers may be him, but he could be anywhere. We just know he couldn’t bear to hurt anyone anymore, so he removed himself from the equation. Like, REALLY removed himself—because he’ll next appear on another world. Next appearance: Thor: Ragnarok.
Thor - Though Thor helped his fellow Avengers defeat Ultron, he was preoccupied. He had some visions and realized that the Avengers and Ultron were pawns in a much larger game of chess, a game may have to do with the Infinity Stones. He’s once again left Earth for Asgard to try and figure out who, or what, is really going on. Also, it turns out he’s got a Hulk. Next appearance: Thor: Ragnarok.
Loki - He was the big bad guy in Phase One but for most of Phase Two, Loki was on the sidelines. For a brief time, he helped his brother in Thor: The Dark World but, in the end, Loki got even badder. He finished that film posing as his father, Odin, the ruler of Asgard. Which means he either killed or captured his father, and now is the most powerful person in the realm. That can’t be good. Next appearance: Thor: Ragnarok.
Guardians of the Galaxy - The MVPs of Phase Two, these Marvel Cinematic Universe newcomers are somewhere in space, doing a little something good and a little something bad. We know that the mystery of Peter Quill’s father is going to be a big deal coming up, and they also have unfinished business with Thanos, who stands to play a huge role in Infinity War. We also know Kurt Russell will appear alongside the group, as well as the new Mantis and expanded roles for Yondu, Nebula, and others. We may not know their larger connections to Earth for some time, however. Next appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Black Widow - After dealing with personal demons, kicking ass, falling in love and then losing it, Widow was pretty down as Phase Two ended. But Black Widow has faced far worse in her career, and is now helping Captain America run his brand new team of Avengers. Next appearance: Captain America: Civil War.
The Vision - Keeper of the only Infinity Stone on Earth (at least, that we know of) the mysterious Vision kicked major ass in Age of Ultron. Now he’ll likely do more of the same as the most mysterious, and powerful, member of the new Avengers. He’s also got to figure out where he fits into this crazy thing called reality. Next appearance: Captain America: Civil War.
Hawkeye - In Age of Ultron, we finally found out what the expert archer had been doing for the majority of Phase Two: He spent it with his family. As we get ready for Phase Three, he’s with them again, essentially retired. But he’ll be back in the game when he’s needed. Next appearance: Captain America: Civil War.
The Falcon - From best friend to trusted confidant, The Falcon is one of the newest members of the Avengers. He’s being trained by Captain America and Black Widow, and may have just met a new ally. While guarding the Avengers’ new hideout, he encountered Ant-Man, a hero who can shrink. He’s gonna use that contact and much more to help Captain America in his latest adventure. Next appearance: Captain America: Civil War.
Scarlet Witch - The Scarlet Witch lost her brother, Quicksilver, while battling Ultron, but she won’t let his death be in vain. She’s now a member of the Avengers, fighting alongside Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, Vision and War Machine. Her power is unlike any of theirs, though, so she’s got to figure out how to control it. Next appearance: Captain America: Civil War.
War Machine - He wanted some action, and now he’s got it. After working with the government in one of Tony Stark’s suits, War Machine has gone from the sidelines to a full-fledged member of the Avengers. He remains Tony’s best friend and closest ally. Next appearance: Captain America: Civil War.
Ant-Man - The newest member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe tried to keep a low profile as he saved the world from Yellowjacket. However, he got on the radar of the Avengers, and now The Falcon is looking for him. He’ll join the team soon and play a small but important role in Civil War (no pun intended). Next appearances: Captain America: Civil War, then Ant-Man and The Wasp.
Thanos - Probably the baddest being in the galaxy, Thanos made his first appearance at the end of Phase One. He next appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, still on the hunt for some Infinity Stones. Then, at the end of Age of Ultron, he said he’s going to “do it himself.” That suggests he’s finished with being a puppetmaster and is going to take more direct action. Next appearance: Unknown, but potentially not until Avengers: Infinity War Part 1.
The Winter Soldier - Formerly Captain America’s best friend, Bucky, this genetically modified super soldier was on the run at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He’s briefly alluded to in Age of Ultron with Falcon being on the case and then, at the end of Ant-Man, we see that he’s in Cap’s custody. We’ll find how he ended up there, and where his allegiances lie, soon. But trust us, he’s way, way more than just a supporting player. Next appearance: Captain America: Civil War.
Nick Fury - The man who put all of this together was a helpful, but minor, player in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Samuel L. Jackson revealed he’s not in Captain America: Civil War, so where or what Fury’s doing is a mystery. Next appearance: Unknown, but probably Avengers: Infinity War.
Black Panther - Chadwick Boseman plays the Wakandan superhero who, as of now, has only been tangentially referred to the films. His country is the source of vibranium, the strongest metal in the world, which is found in Cap’s shield, the Vision’s body, and Ultron’s floating city creation. As for the Panther himself, what he’s like and what his alliances are, we don’t know. We just know he’s got a part to play as Phase Three begins before his own movie. First appearance: Captain America: Civil War.
The Wasp - As Ant-Man ended, Hope Van Dyne was given an advanced prototype suit that will make her the Wasp. She’ll eventually join in all this fun and though she was rumored to appear in Civil War, she’s getting her own movie instead. Next appearance: Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Doctor Strange - The Sorcerer Supreme was briefly name-dropped in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as someone HYDRA knew was a potential threat. Benedict Cumberbatch is playing the role and we’ll see his origin soon. How he fits into this larger puzzle, however, remains a mystery. That amulet he uses—the Eye of Agamotto—has a stone in it though, right? First appearance: Doctor Strange.
Spider-Man - Everyone’s favorite webslinger is finally coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Phase Three, as played by actor Tom Holland. This is a full reboot from the Andrew Garfield films and, to set it up, he’ll appear in Civil War as almost a mini-origin. He’ll then get his own movie, which will feature a role for Tony Stark. First appearances: Captain America: Civil War, then Spider-Man Homecoming.
Captain Marvel - In the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we know literally nothing about this impending female superhero. She could be similar to the comics, could be different; writers Meg LeFauve and Nicole Perlman are making those decisions now. According to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, a director and actress will be revealed soon. First appearances: Maybe Avengers: Infinity War, definitely Captain Marvel.
Inhumans - When Marvel announced all the titles for Phase Three of the Cinematic Universe, the final film on the list was Inhumans, kind of a space-bound version of the X-Men. After that, very little was mentioned about the film. Then characters called “Inhumans” started appearing on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. It seemed like a natural bridge, but the movie was recently removed from the schedule and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige admitted it would be difficult to line up the TV shows and movies. So it’s not looking good. First appearance: Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. First cinematic appearance: Maybe never.
The Defenders - New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen is getting packed with heroes. We’re now two seasons into Daredevil; we’ve met Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist is coming; The Punisher is about to get his own show; Elektra is around; the Kingpin got a plan—that’s a great roster of Marvel talent. Unfortunaly, though most of their stories refer to events we’ve seen in the films, Marvel’s man in charge of the cinematic universe, Kevin Feige, has admitted working everyone in will be difficult. Which sucks, because there’s now a webslinger these could could easily run into... First cinematic appearance: Maybe never.
Infinity Stones - They’re not a character, but these have long been a crucial part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are six stones in total, and whoever can get all of them will have unlimited power. So far in the MCU, we’ve only seen four: There’s the Blue Space Stone (currently on Asgard, as seen in The Avengers), the Yellow Mind Stone (currently on Earth with Vision, as seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron), the Red Reality Stone (currently with the Collector, as seen in Thor: The Dark World) and the Purple Power Stone (currently on Xandar, as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy.) At the end of Age of Ultron, Thanos was seen with an Infinity Gauntlet with six empty slots. The above image is from a teaser trailer for 2018 and 2019’s Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 and 2, so apparently those blanks may be filled in soon.
Note: This is an updated version of an article which originally ran on July 21, 2015.