Die hard marvel fans and moviegoers alike have had favourable critical responses to the Doctor Strange sequel, ushering in a multiverse of gladness. The latest installment in the MCU has provided the fanbase with the most amount of information regarding the current state of affairs in the cinematic superhero canon.
What is a crossover
Crossover events are the comic book term for a story arc that brings together a vast cast of characters. Since the advent of the underwhelming 'Captain Marvel', fans have been speculating that the next crossover event will be related to the Skrulls. This alien race of shapeshifters are one of the biggest antagonistic groups in the comic canon and have a very popular story arc where high-level Skrull agents infiltrate earth's mightiest heroes and replace them, sowing discord and mistrust amongst earth's protectors. The Skrull have been showing up as breadcrumbs in small yet pivotal scenes leading fans to believe that the next galaxy shaking event will have the Skrulls as central players.
The story so far
However the stories of Loki, 'What If', Spider-Man and Dr. Strange in that order have moved the plot towards multiversal incursions.
Ms. Loki broke apart the sacred timeline with her vengeful murder of Kang the Conqueror, to no avail as he gets replaced with another Variant of himself who assumes control of the TVA.
'What If' shows the audience that opening up multiple timelines allows beings of a certain power level to be able to break through into other universes. This is evidenced by the last two episodes of 'What if' wherein the Guardians of the Multiverse have to fight off Infinite Ultron (a corrupted Vision who wields the full power of all the infinity stones).
Spider-Man's latest cinematic outing shows just exactly how dangerous a multiversal incursion can be, enough to rip apart the fabric of multiple realities. Which brings us to the latest Dr. Strange which painfully outlines the costs of multiversal wars, bringing it full circle to what He Who Remains warns with his final words. In the 'Multiverse of Madness' we see multiple powerful beings trying to come to grips with the blooming multiverse and how to best protect it. The simple fact of the matter is that apart from Kang not many people realise the true breadth of what the chaos of the multiverse can wreak.
Where it's headed
Marvel's veil of secrecy is absolute. So much so, that Elizabeth Olsen claimed that she had never met John Krasinski while hooked up to a polygraph. Their storytelling chops are also nothing to be sneezed at. Kevin Feige has managed to weave macro overarching plots that stitch together the entire Marvel pantheon. It would be both foolish and hard to predict where the plot is headed if we do not take into account how many IPs are slated to release and over what timeframe.
The Fantastic Four and the X-Men are set to join the MCU within the next year. Which means the inclusions of both teams' rogue galleries. Currently as it stands there is no central anchor of the MCU apart from Dr. Strange. Tony Stark is dead and the original line-up of the Avengers has essentially disbanded.
The MCU is too old in its current iteration to be able to just introduce Reed Richards or mutant kind without having to do massive retcons.
Mr. Fantastic is the foremost scientist in Marvel, he is the scientist that other scientists consult just to be sure, it would be absurd to introduce him without explaining how he has never been mentioned over the 20 plus instalments in the MCU. The same goes for the mutants, Xavier cannot just pop-up in the MCU and claim to have been around all along due to the civil rights theme of all X-men stories.
Comic book fans will know that all the aforementioned events can only lead down a few roads. The most bombastic of which would be the Secret Wars story arc.
Without giving too much away; this particular arc sees all the major players of the marvel universe transported to a pocket dimension of sorts where they have to fight for the continuation of their reality. The biggest reason we believe this is where the MCU is headed is because of a post-credit scene where the symbiote is formally made part of Peter Parker's world. 'Secret Wars' was also the first time we saw Spidey in his iconic black suit.
Spider-Man has essentially been reset at the end of his film and now has all the time and leeway to become one of the biggest anchors of the MCU. Spiderman is also directly linked to the Fantastic Four as Reed Richards is one of the few people to help Peter start up Parker Industries and even joined the Fantastic Family as a temporary member. It remains to be seen who the villain for the 'Secret Wars' will be, all signs point to Kang the conqueror but Marvel is no stranger to playing into expectations and may just introduce the most famous Fantastic Four villain: Dr. Doom (if they wish to stay true to the comics).
Even if they don't, the MCU has proven their expert mettle in spiritually adapting iconic comic moments for the big screen. 'Secret Wars' is arguably the only story arc that could rival 'Avengers: Endgame' in terms of impact and excitement.