Despite Phase 3’s box office success or Phase 4’s record-breaking number of releases, Marvel still hasn’t matched its most impressive Phase 2 feat.

The MCU has grown far more ambitious compared to its first years, but there is still one Phase 2 feat that Marvel Studios has yet to repeat. In terms of box office, Marvel’s Phase 3 takes the lead as five movies broke the billion-dollar barrier at the box office. Of that total, two grossed more than $2 billion, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. In terms of the number of releases, Phase 4 is Marvel’s biggest so far.

The Disney+’s Marvel series and the fact that the Infinity Saga was now over suggested that the MCU Phase 4 would also be Marvel’s most innovative so far. Several characters who had never appeared in live-action made their debut during Phase 4, not to mention how underused Avengers like Scarlet Witch and Vision got their moment in the spotlight. However, despite all the new releases, Marvel has yet to replicate one Phase 2 success.

Related: 1 Of The MCU’s First Characters Could Be Secret Invasion’s Best Skrull Reveal

The MCU Still Hasn’t Repeated The Winter Soldier’s Tone

Steve and Natasha on a bridge in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a unique film not only in terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also for superhero movies as a whole. It is no exaggeration to say that The Winter Soldier was to Marvel what The Dark Knight was to DC, as both took a character audiences were familiar with and placed them in an action-oriented, realistic thriller type of story that was not too common for superhero movies. Almost a decade after The Winter Soldier, the MCU never managed to successfully recapture what made the second Captain America movie so good despite trying a few times.

As a sequel to The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War had the chance of building up from the tone and the themes of the highly praised film. However, the third Captain America film was more of a crossover event that focused on several Avengers at the same time. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was close to The Winter Soldier in terms of tone, but it didn’t quite work due to pacing and villain issues. Perhaps the movie that came closest to replicating The Winter Soldier was Black Widow, but the latter didn’t nail its grounded thriller approach as much as the former.

Secret Invasion May Be A Worthy Follow Up To The Winter Soldier

phase 6 setup secret invasion

The Winter Soldier deconstructed Captain America in his first present-day, post-The Avengers MCU adventure, and it made Steve Rogers question what he was even fighting for. Based on that, Marvel’s Secret Invasion may be a worthy follow-up to The Winter Soldier. Secret Invasion, which is inspired by the Marvel comic book arc of the same name, is being described as an espionage thriller and will see Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury as the main character. Nick Fury and his constant state of paranoia set the tone for The Winter Soldier, which can now be replicated in the Secret Invasion series.

Granted, Secret Invasion may sound more sci-fi and less grounded than The Winter Soldier at first, as it will deal with the Skrull’s “secret invasion” of Earth. Still, the sci-fi aspect of the Skrulls aside, Marvel’s Secret Invasion series can be as grounded as The Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier works so well because its action was a reflection of its story, which Secret Invasion can achieve by focusing on Nick Fury rather than on the Marvel universe as a whole. The first Secret Invasion trailer confirms the espionage thriller promises, which will hopefully lead to similarly grounded MCU projects. Armor Wars and Captain America: New World Order, for example.

More: Steve & Sam’s Forgotten First Meeting Makes Captain America 4 More Special

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