Also, we can all relax, Howard the Duck is alive.

Major spoilers for ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ below!

We’re just a few weeks beyond the release of Avengers: Infinity War, but speculation on what comes next for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has never been more intense or necessary. We all know Spider-Man is fine. Black Panther will be back. Disney has too much damn money to make on those Marvel all-stars to abandon them, and anyone reading this article is fully aware of the business fueling the narrative.

(That knowledge didn’t stop me from weeping as poor Peter crumbled into dust and sifted into oblivion through Tony Stark’s fingers. Fully engaged in the plight of the characters, Infinity War left me an emotional wreck.)

Just how different will the Avengers roster be in Phase 4? Will Cap pass the shield to Bucky or The Falcon? Is it time for Iron Man to settle down a la Clint Barton’s family farmhouse? The introduction of Captain Marvel could radically alter the roles of leadership. We don’t have any answers, but we love to pretend that we do.

Chris Hemsworth’s contract is also up, but we don’t seem as preoccupied with his potential absence as we do with RDJ and Chris Evans. Between Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War, his character has suffered more than most. Why are we not talking about who will wield Stormbreaker if the final Odinson should fall? It’s time to start that chatter.

The Russo Brothers are still making the rounds of their press tour. They’re obviously enjoying the devastation they’ve caused with the snap heard ’round the world. When talking to the Huffington Post, the directors listed a series of characters who did and did not survive the final judgment of Thanos.

You guys, Howard the Duck is ok. Fear of a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 without a Seth Green cameo can be abated. Matt Damon’s Actor Loki? Dead. We certainly don’t need to see that charlatan continuing his act post-Infinity War. The pain is too real. Betty Ross from The Incredible Hulk is gone as well. Liv Tyler’s awkward romance has been replaced with whatever is going on between Bruce Banner and Natasha these days. Lady Sif, yeah, no. She’s dust in the wind.

Do any of us really care about those listed above? Not really (although H.T. Duck holds a special place in my heart and I wouldn’t turn down a solo adventure). What started as a barrage of rapid-fire Yes/No answers to the fate of minor characters actually resulted in possible revelations for the future of the MCU.

When asked about the fate of Jane Foster, the Russos said that the answer was too spoilery. Wut? Anthony Russo elaborated a little further, “When we say spoiler, [we mean] potential spoiler.” Again, I say, wut?

After missing out on Age of Ultron and Thor: Ragnarok, the assumption was that Natalie Portman would have nothing more to do with the MCU. Her experiences on Thor: The Dark World had left her cold on the superhero genre, but recent talk indicated that she might actually be open to returning to Asgard. None of us actually believed her.

In the comic books, writer Jason Aaron just concluded a massive story arc involving Jane Foster as “The Mighty Thor.” While Odinson struggled to find his worthiness in the cosmos, Foster wielded Mjolnir as the Asgardian protector of Midgard. The plot raised several eyebrows during its initial run, but over the course of the last four years, Jane Foster’s Thor proved herself to be one of Marvel’s most successful titles.

Could we see Natalie Portman picking up the hammer? The Russo Brothers have now given us a little hope of that happening. With the MCU looking to shake up its boy’s club with Captain Marvel and The Wasp, a worthy Jane Foster seems like a brilliant addition. The Goddess of Thunder brought a tremendous amount of courage to the comic books, and the MCU will need a serious shake-up at the conclusion of 22 films.

We have less than a year until Avengers 4 resets the clock/rights the ship. How they do that and who will survive contract negotiations are the questions currently preoccupying fandom. In an effort to deal with that climactic look of contentment on Thanos’s face, we have lost ourselves to the void of theorizing and conjecture. Is it healthy? Hah — we don’t join the cult of comics because it extends our life expectancy. We feed off the scraps of nourishment offered from think-pieces and interviews because we have no choice. This life has us. There is no turning back.

Our know-it-all cynicism keeps us sane and snooty. When Spider-Man reforms in Avengers 4 we’ll turn to the movie novice next to us and chime, “Told you so.” Then Thor will have his head cut off, Jane Foster will wrap her knuckles around Stormbreaker, and everyone will lose their freaking minds. The MCU still has a surprise or two awaiting us.

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