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Marvel and DC have another big year ahead of them in 2018. While the DC Extended Universe only has one movie coming out, it's James Wan's Aquaman, a standalone feature that's built up a lot of hype over the last year. Then over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase Three will be hitting its penultimate year, while the X-Men universe over at Fox will explore three different corners of this mutant-filled world.
Now that 2017 is wrapping up, I've looked over all the major characters who will be featured in the Marvel and DC franchises during 2018 and selected the ones who are the likeliest to shine and steal the show. Starting off, let's look at someone we just saw help save the world last month.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice introduced Aquaman to the DC Extended Universe, and Justice League started to flesh him out, but we'll really get to know him in the Aquaman movie next year. Although Justice League wasn't the critical powerhouse that DC and Warner Bros was hoping for, Jason Momoa's Arthur Curry was among the more well-received elements of the movie, so one can imagine that with the proverbial stage all to himself, he'll draw even more fans. But beyond giving moviegoers more of Aquaman's gruff personality, the Aquaman movie will also show Arthur embracing his royal Atlantean duties for the first time, which will surely make him a more interesting character.
Ever since Thanos grinned at the camera in The Avengers' mid-credits scene, Marvel movie fans have been waiting to see the Mad Titan get off his space throne and finally show why he's the overarching antagonist of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That time will finally arrive in Avengers: Infinity War, when he leads The Black Order and his monstrous hordes in trying to obtain the six Infinity Stones, and as we've seen in the first Infinity War trailer, Thanos will secure at least two Stones. Thanos will also be driving the story in a way that's akin to a heist film, so fans needn't worry about him being treated like many other MCU villains. The comic book Thanos remains one of the Marvel universe's greatest baddies, and I suspect that Infinity War will present Josh Brolin's iteration as being equally notorious.
Venom's theatrical debut in Spider-Man 3 didn't go over well, but Eddie Brock is getting another chance at silver screen glory. While the idea of a Venom origin story being told without Spider-Man being involved still sounds strange, Sony casting Tom Hardy as the symbiote-powered anti-hero was an incredibly smart decision. Hardy has consistently proven he's great at playing tough guys, and having already contributed to the comic book movie genre by bringing Bane to life in The Dark Knight Rises, Venom is a great next step up. Throw in how the Venom movie is rumored to be adapting the Lethal Protector storyline, and there's a good chance that Hardy's Venom will finally be the one we've been waiting for.
Although Hope van Dyne was an integral character in Ant-Man, unlike Scott Lang, she didn't get to run around as a superhero. Fortunately, the movie left audiences with a seed of hope, as Hope's father, Hank Pym, gave her the Wasp suit he'd been keeping in storage for years. Now having officially inherited the Wasp mantle from her mother, Janet, Hope will show off her own shrinking abilities in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Hope's already demonstrated how smart she is, so her brains putting the Pym Particles to good use in the sequel will make her an excellent crimefighting partner for Scott Lang, if not an even better superhero than him.
Nearly 30 years after he was introduced in the comics and after almost two decades of X-Men movies, Cable will finally make the jump to the big screen next year in Deadpool 2. Pulling double-duty in the Marvel realm, Josh Brolin is playing the cybernetically-enhanced mutant from the future, and while we're not expected to learn a whole lot about Cable's past in the sequel, it doesn't matter. Between Cable guaranteed to leave a trail of destruction in the wake of his enemies and him serving as a great straight man to the fourth wall-breaking absurdity that is Wade Wilson, It's a good bet that Cable will become the next big cinematic action hero, superhero movie genre to otherwise.
Captain America: Civil War has been one of Marvel's more popularly-received movies, and Black Panther was a big part of that. It says a lot when a character can distinguish themselves amidst a large ensemble. Now T'Challa will be snagging the spotlight for himself in the Black Panther movie, and from what's been previewed so far, this will be an excellent showcase for why the character has been a Marvel heavy hitter for over 50 years. We already know how formidable Black Panther in combat, but now we'll see how well he navigates the politics of Wakanda ensure his country doesn't fall into the control of Erik Killmonger and Ulysses Klaue. And if you're itching for more Black Panther after his movie comes out, not to worry, because he'll be back a couple months later for Avengers: Infinity War.
Since there's only been one New Mutants trailer released so far, it's hard to tell which of the five young protagonists will be the standout. However, if I had to guess, I would say that Rahne Sinclair, a.k.a. Wolfsbane, is the primary contender. Besides most people being familiar with how talented an actress Maisie Williams is from projects like Game of Thrones and Doctor Who, Wolfsbane also has two things working in her favor. First, her ability to turn into a humanoid wolf creature could make her the most visually interesting character in New Mutants. Then there's the fact that her religious background makes it difficult to accept her mutant ability, and considering how horror-driven this movie will be, this struggle will ideally mesh well with her freakish transformations.
The Aquaman movie isn't wasting any time introducing moviegoers to the King of the Seven Seas' greatest enemies, Ocean Master and Black Manta. While Arthur Curry's conflict with the former is certainly an interesting one, the latter has the edge as far as standing out goes. While the exact reasons for Black Manta hating Aquaman vary depending on what era of DC Comics we're talking about, the Aquaman movie looks to be going the New 52 route and having the villain simply wanting revenge against Arthur Curry. It's basic motivation, but the sheer primality of it is what we'll make Black Manta force to be reckoned with for Aquaman. But more importantly, Black Manta has one of the most visually distinctive costumes in the DC Comics mythos. Looks don't always matter, but for this villain, it's definitely helps.
Although Jean Grey has appeared in many X-Men movies, but X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be Sophie Turner's second time playing the character, and like Famke Janssen's version, Turner's Jean will be succumbing to the Phoenix Force. Given how X-Men: The Last Stand failed to do The Dark Phoenix Saga justice, one wouldn't be faulted for being concerned about this franchise adapting the story a second time. That being said, X-Men: Dark Phoenix's willingness to go more cosmic this time around (though not too much) suggests that this movie will at least have a better handle on the source material, and having already seen Turner's Jean Grey in action, as well as the actress' performing ability in Game of Thrones, it stands to reason that her version of Dark Phoenix will not only be superior to what came before, but also be a compelling antagonist.
T'Challa will have many allies in Black Panther, but the one who's piqued my interest the most is his sister, Shuri. Described as the Tony Stark of Wakanda, Shuri is a technological genius and is eager to bring her country into a new era with her inventions. While Shuri has no doubt learned the art of combat like her brother and the Dora Milaje, as you can see in the above photo, she'll be bringing her own weaponry into battle during Black Panther, which may help give our eponymous hero an edge against his enemies. Whether or not she one days inherits the Black Panther mantle like her comic book counterpart does, Shuri looks like she's primed to be not just an important Black Panther supporting character, but one of the more interesting MCU players overall.