Marvel’s Phase Four and Grief
**SPOILERS for MCU Phase 4 movies, including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Marvel’s fourth phase — and the first part of the Multiverse Saga — has come to a close this week with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. According to Kevin Feige, this phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been all about introductions. And of course, that is true; we’ve witnessed the introduction of heroes like Shang-Chi, She-Hulk, and Ms. Marvel, antagonists such as Namor and He Who Remains (a.k.a. Kang the Conquerer), and we’ve even seen a few familiar faces reintroduced as they begin discovering who they are meant to be, such as Peter Parker, Sam Wilson, and, for better or worse, Wanda Maximoff. And of course, we got introduced to the multiverse throughout this phase, from Spider-Man’s mishaps in No Way Home, the TVA’s time-traveling shenanigans in Loki, and the madness in Doctor Strange’s second solo outing.
But as much as the fourth phase of the MCU has been about introductions, I also think it has been about grief. Beginning just after the Blip and the sacrifice of Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff in Endgame, Marvel has given us multiple stories that have dealt with loss and grief in profound ways. It is this handling of grief that makes many of the Phase 4 projects my favorite installments in the MCU thus far.
While not every single entry into this phase deals with grief on some level (I can’t think of how She-Hulk did, for example), we get plenty of instances where grief plays either a minor or major role in the story. In fact, Marvel gets a jump-start on showcasing grief with the final installment of Phase 3 with Spider-Man: Far Frome Home seeing Peter Parker dealing with the loss of Tony Stark and culminating in a beautifully heartbreaking scene where he and Happy Hogan talk through the loss of Tony and the legacy that he leaves behind.
Throughout the MCU’s fourth phase, many of the stories were intrinsically linked to grief. In Falcon and the Winter Soldier, grief at the loss of their mutual best friend is what brought Sam and Bucky together, and was a driving force in Sam’s decision to carry on the mantle of Captain America that Steve left to him. Episodes of What If…? showcased grief in the forms of…