With Avengers 4 both wrapping up Phase 3 of the MCU and kickstarting the next era of Marvel movies, the film is the perfect time to introduce new villains from the comics while bringing back some familiar faces. Avengers: Infinity War continues to break box office records left and right as it careens towards one of the highest hauls of all time. The movie has also been praised by critics and audiences, setting the bar rather high for next year's follow-up.

We've heard Avengers 4 is bigger than its predecessor, and the dramatic conclusion of Avengers 3 makes that claim seem well-founded. This summer's movie ended with the villain triumphant and half the universe wiped out. With many of those destroyed the very heroes protecting Earth and the rest of the galaxy, that vacuum of power could be an interesting avenue to explore. Thanos is still the kye threat, of course, but that may not be all. Many have assumed a time jump will occur between the two movies, so we could drop into a world where supervillains have run amok. Not only will that allow for new characters to appear, but we could see twists on some existing rogues that bring them closer to their comic book counterparts.

Despite how much of Marvel Studios' future rests on what goes down in Avengers 4, we know surprisingly little about the blockbuster. It's only a matter of time before marketing for the film kicks in, but until then there's a lot of room for speculation. With that in mind, here are some of the new and returning villains we think could show up in Avengers 4 next year.

The Avengers 4 Villain Fans Have Been Waiting For

Ever since Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely joined the MCU with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, they've been teasing the arrival of a classic villain for the star-spangled hero: M.O.D.O.K. A super-intelligent being created by the science-terrorist group A.I.M., the Mental/Mobile/Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing (it's changed over the years) has been plaguing Cap and the Avengers since his debut in 1967's Tales of Suspense #93.

Along with its gifted mind, MODOK possesses a range of psychic abilities and often controls large swathes of A.I.M.'s minions and resources. Though the character is rather outlandish looking, Markus and McFeely want MODOK in the MCU. There's no telling how close the villain would hew to the comics, but MODOK one of Marvel's biggest villains that's yet to appear on the big screen. Add in his ties to Captain America, and it does seem like the villain is a shoo-in for a future film.

At one point, it was even believed Peter Dinklage was playing MODOK in Avengers 3, but we now know he was cast as Eitri instead. Still, the writers of Avengers 4 have their sights set on the antagonist and his decades of comic book history means he can't avoid the MCU for long. With the world turned upside-down in Avengers 4, it's conceivable we could see A.I.M. revived after their appearance in Iron Man 3 when their boldest experiment to date gives them a new leader and the Avengers a deadly foe.

New Street-Level and Cosmic Villains

Rumors have swirled that the Skrulls will be in Avengers 4. It makes a certain amount of sense, as the villains will play a big role in Captain Marvel just a few months earlier. This could be the reason Nick Fury signals Carol Danvers at the end of Avengers: Infinity War and could segue into the more cosmic stories that are said to populate Phase 4 of the MCU. In the wake of Thanos wiping out many of Earth's heroes, the Skrulls might finally enact their invasion plot, swapping out people on the planet with shapeshifting aliens. That would then add elements of espionage to Avengers 4, tying the film back to the previous movies the Russo Brothers have done with Captain America.

Another cosmic possibility is the Beyonders. Though they first appeared in 1980, it was during the "Time Runs Out" build-up to Secret Wars (2015) that they came more into focus. With connections to the Living Tribunal and the Cosmic Cubes, the Beyonders could play a big role in the space-based adventures to come. They're also tied into Jonathan Hickman's work with Marvel, much of which inspired Avengers: Infinity War. Whether they seek to stop another Thanos-level event from occurring or if we learn the Mad Titan was trying to cull the universal population to hold them off, their mission to wipe out reality could be just the massive event to end Phase 3 and perhaps even reset some things for the next round of movies.

Aside from an increase in cosmic characters and plots, we know Phase 4 of the MCU is also supposed to focus on more grounded stories. The Black Widow film will naturally be a part of that, but Avengers 4 could easily feature some lead-ins. We know Hawkeye has been off on his own and Black Widow will be in Japan fighting the Yakuza. In fact, those tidbits are some of the only things we know about next year's Avengers film. With that in mind, it would make sense for Widow, Hawkeye, and others to face a new street-level threat.

Taskmaster is another character like MODOK that fans have been waiting years to see, and Avengers 4 could be the perfect place to introduce him. Though his costume would need to be toned down some, the mercenary capable of copying any movement he sees would be a gift to the fight choreographers of the film. Rumors of the character showing up in film or TV have abounded, but Taskmaster could be just the foe to give Hawkeye a meaty story after his absence in Avengers: Infinity War. And given his anti-hero nature, the movie would serve as a great jumping off point for a the MCU's first R-Rated film.

PAGE 2 of 2: New Versions Of Existing MCU Villains

New Takes on Old Villains in Avengers 4

Guardians of the Galaxy introduced a somewhat new version of Ronan the Accuser, and while the changes still kept a lot of the core elements of the character intact, fans weren't pleased with how little development the on-again, off-again villain from the comics received. Even worse, but he was killed off before he had a chance to be fully explored in the MCU. Luckily, Marvel Studios looks like they're going to rectify that somewhat.

Captain Marvel will not only bring Coulson back to the big screen, but it will feature Ronan and Korath. With the film set in the '90s and exploring the Kree-Skrull War, Marvel wisely decided to bring back one of the most popular Kree from the comics and his lieutenant. With any luck, they won't be killed off again and could instead appear in future films set around the same time period. Of course, it could be that Thanos broke time when he snapped his fingers in Avengers: Infinity War, meaning the fate of Ronan and others could be up in the air.

We've heard rumors for a long time now that Avengers 4 will involve time travel. Set photos have lent credence to this idea, though there's still plenty of options for other things that could be taking place. Regardless, it's clear that some alteration to time, space, and reality will take place in the new film - after all, characters like Spider-Man must return ahead of their future films. That means certain aspects of the MCU could be retconned. Ronan, for instance, may avoid his death and slowly shift more towards his comic book counterpart. The same could occur for other prominent villains as well.

Avengers: Infinity War's Red Skull revival after so many years proved the minds behind the MCU weren't afraid to play with their own reality. With that option on the table, there's no telling what absent villains could return. Yellowjacket could easily have a similar return given Ant-Man & the Wasp will see the team head to the Quantum Realm that he was sucked into. Thanos' attack could let Abomination out of his cage. And with the chance of MODOK appearing, AIM could finally resemble a version of the mad scientist team they are on the page.

Avengers 4 Could Establish The Thunderbolts

Helmut Zemo is still very much alive and may use the new chaos to assume a more supervillain-y identity as Baron Zemo. In the comics, he and his father have spent decades battling Captain America. The version of Zemo we met in Captain America: Civil War was a far-cry from the bombastic villain, of course, but he was used to great effect. But with the universe in shambles, Zemo could finally snap and become more dastardly and colorful. We could then see him form the Masters of Evil, or better yet, initiate the Thunderbolts.

If Marvel truly wants to explore more mature material, then their take on the Suicide Squad could make for a great film series. The Thunderbolts began as a plot by Zemo to take the place of Earth's fallen heroes after a calamitous event, only to be revealed as villains in disguise. That plot seems tailor-made for Avengers 4, which would allow an eventual Thunderbolts movie to then focus on the team as a mixture of reformed villains and criminals looking to reduce their sentences. What's more, Hawkeye long served as the mentor of the Thunderbolts, so his solo mission in Avengers 4 would offer an effortless way to connect to the group.

Realted: What We Know About The Plot Of Avengers 4

In the end, the plot and characters of Avengers 4 is up in the air. But Thanos' victory and the end of Phase 3 leave a number of doors open for the introduction of new villains. And with time and reality altered, who knows which rogues could crawl out of the woodwork with new costumes and missions. Whether next year's film focuses on a few key threats alongside the Mad Titan or teases out a slew of threads for future films, it's safe to assume comic fans will get to see some nefarious faces jump from the page to the screen in Avengers 4.

MORE: Every Phase of the MCU Has Been Better Than the Last

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