The words “Proof that Tony Stark has a heart” have just floated off the screen. Clint Barton (Hawkeye) references the defeat of evil forces, and how his lost S.H.E.I.L.D. agency comrade will never know. Wanda Maximoff, standing by his side, glances over and acknowledges. Confidently her reply is: “She knows. They both do.” As the Avengers: Endgame credits roll, the audience is baited into believing all the MCU heroes will selflessly continue the fight.

Oh, how misleading! Phase Four would soon unravel the proverbial cathartic blanket, and produce a few of the most selfish decision-makers. Spider-Man’s noble Uncle Ben would be ashamed to look upon these so called “heroes”.

Wanda Maximoff Abducts a Suburb

SHIELD rover vehicle with Monica and Woo.

A fabulous visual recollection of several by-gone TV eras was on full display for viewers of the Disney+ series WandaVision. However, it could not forever mask the dark truth. As the heroine slowly descended into the chaotic power that would label her the Scarlet Witch, the former Sokovian citizen made the entirety of Westview her stage.

The poor townsfolk began to work jobs without purpose, endlessly maintain white-picketed fence housing, and pretend to attend community gatherings they might have freely organized on their own. “Lieutenant Trouble” Monica Rambeau (from Captain Marvel) quickly came to suspect the national security anomaly was actually a Hex, and certainly nowhere close to the vision intended by Wanda’s Super-Bot fiancé. S.W.O.R.D was not allowing any more of this grief-driven nonsense.

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Spider-Man and Doctor Strange Vandalize Spacetime.

A power-suited Quentin Beck looks off-screen beside a laughing J. Jonah Jameson in a business suit.

What’s better than one defeated villain? Summoning five (six) more to take its place! To be fair, Doctor Strange’s superhero public relations could use some improvement in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Alas, in the attempt to reverse the reveal of Peter Parker as a superhero – via the hapless J. Jonah Jameson smear campaign – the wizard and pre-collegiate teenager fail spectacularly.

There were dire consequences. In their race to close their Pandora’s box, they battle each other across fantastic sequences of mystical dimensions, fight nemeses atop an iconic landmark, and confront fate-bound occurrences stretching back two iterations of the web-slinger’s (alternate) past. Mysterio’s ex-Stark Industries crew couldn’t have choreographed this drama! Someone should suggest to our hero’s friends MJ and Ned Leeds, in other timelines they should consider a gap year before entering college.

Loki Laufeyson resists arrest at the TVA.

Miss Minutes and Ravonna Renslayer look at each other across a room with Alioth in roaring in the background.

Technically, this next selfish saboteur never redeemed themselves as a hero, depending on a particular pre-Avengers: Endgame interpretation. A grisly end awaited Mr. Laufeyson, at the hands of his former boss, had he not nabbed one Infinity stone and stepped off the Sacred Timeline in Loki (Season 1). The son of Johtunheim Asgard is soon summoned by his government name and served justice, but his new intent upon discovering the purpose of the Time Variance Authority (TVA) is clear.

Sylvie (the Enchantress) and Agent Mobius call him out on his attempts to attain Glorious Purpose before he is face-to-face with equally power-mad variants; each with a lust to rule over all of space, every universe, and dictate timelines. Repeated irony and more cleverly named characters intervene in this story. The god of Mischief inadvertently seeks an audience with He Who Remains (Kang), a threat that makes everyone question what defines true altruism.

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Wanda Maximoff (again) caught trespassing in other realities.

Wanda Maximoff (out-of-uniform) uses sheers to tend to a blossoming plant with an alternate garden dimension behind her.

Like a snake eating its tail, The Scarlet Witch finds herself on this list of selfish MCU characters again! Whatever she read in the multiverse teaching book, The Darkhold – which was previously in the possession of fellow magic user Agatha Harkness – amplified a desperate ambition to regain what our heroin had lost. After altering reality in WestView to include facsimiles of her missing family, we see in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that she attempts to bypass Kamar Taj authority, allowing the troubled mother to continue pursuing “her own” children.

Not only is the portal-producing America Chavez chased across dimensions, but relentless monsters (rivaling those absorbed by the evil Strange Supreme) are unleashed. Alternate versions of Wanda’s children, Billy and Tommy, are terrified to see their own mother. After conforming to her role as a Nexus Being, she participates in the loss of heroes not yet known to exist outside the comics. To stop her, at the height of her selfish quest, Sorcerer Supreme Wong is forced to grant his blessing on the use of techniques he would otherwise forbid his Sanctum Sanctorum colleague from considering.

As the grand story in the Marvel Cinematic Universe builds off the power vacuum caused by the removal of Victor Timely and progresses toward the Fantastic Four inclusive Secret Wars, the selfishness of Phase Four will remain a unique zeitgeist. It inspired some of the most social media-worthy banter and multiverse fatiguing debates, while pulling fans from streaming shows back into theaters.

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WandaVision, Loki (Season 1 and 2), Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are all available now on Disney+.

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Jonathan Outlaw

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