Warning: This post is full of Ant-Man spoilers, so stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie yet.
Earlier this summer, Avengers: Age of Ultron made headlines by defying a long-standing Marvel practice and including only one post-credits sequence instead of the more traditional two. (The original Avengers, of course, featured both a quick glimpse of Infinity Stone-obsessed god Thanos midway through the credits and then concluded with the now-famous shawarma scene.) With Ultron, director Joss Whedon included only one mid-credits stinger, which featured Thanos donning the Infinity Gauntlet, a reality-altering piece of weaponry that will play a central role in the two-part Avengers: Infinity War, due out in 2018 and 2019.
Marvel’s latest superhero adventure, Ant-Man, on the other hand, plays by the studio’s original rules, returning to the two-bonus-scenes format. The first arrives midway through the end credits and features original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), escorting his previously estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), to the well-equipped basement lab in his swanky San Francisco house. Working alongside new Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), the two have just successfully foiled Darren Cross’s (Corey Stoll) plot to weaponize shrinking technology that’s a facsimile of Pym’s Ant-Man tech. “There’s something I want to show you,” Pym says, opening the door to a secret room, where a familiar winged costume hangs on the wall.
It’s an upgraded version of the Wasp outfit previously worn by Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, Janet van Dyne, who vanished into the subatomic world during a late ‘80s mission to prevent a Soviet-launched ICBM missile striking America. Her loss led Hank to actively discourage Hope from pursuing a career as a costumed avenger, even though she has the training and the adventurous spirit. Coming off Ant-Man’s big heist, Pym finally sees the hero his daughter could become and gifts her with the right suit to make that possible. He and Janet were working on suitable Wasp-ish upgrades at the time she disappeared, so the improvements were left incomplete. “Maybe it’s time we finished it,” Hank says to his eager daughter. After a beat, she responds, “It’s about damn time.”
In other words, look for a new Wasp to emerge from the Marvel hive in an upcoming movie, although it likely won’t be Captain America: Civil War, due out on May 6, 2016. Lilly isn’t among the hero-packed cast list previously released by the studio, even though Rudd’s Ant-Man will be making an appearance. And while there’s always a chance of a surprise, it’s more likely that Marvel will save Hope’s debut as the Wasp for Infinity War, a conflict that will demand the participation of virtually every hero in the studio’s arsenal. After that, we’d like to put our vote in for a Black Widow/Wasp team-up (suggested title: Agents of S.T.I.N.G.) in 2020.
Before we can get to Infinity War though, the heroes first have to survive the coming Civil War, and Marvel provides us with what could be our first look at that Joe and Anthony Russo-directed film in a brief presumed excerpt tagged on to the end of Ant-Man. The scene begins with an out-of-costume Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) approaching a crouching man whose arm is trapped inside some kind of contraption. The man raises his face and reveals himself to be Cap’s old World War II buddy, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), since remade into the HYDRA-trained assassin, the Winter Soldier. Following their confrontation in the previous Captain America film, Bucky escaped to parts unknown, but Steve has apparently managed to track him down, with the help of fellow Avenger Sam Wilson, a.k.a. the Falcon.
Now that they have the Winter Soldier in custody, the next question is: What do they do with him? Sam suggests contacting former Avenger Tony (as in Stark), but Cap immediately overrules that, suggesting that the conflict between the two that emerged in Age of Ultron has continued to fester. It also appears that calling in the new roster of Avengers — Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, War Machine and the Vision — isn’t an option, either, which could mean that they’ve chosen to side with Tony or that Steve has deliberately gone rogue. As they’re pondering their next steps and possible allies, Sam volunteers a crucial bit of intel: “I know a guy.”
That “guy” is Ant-Man, who he tangled with earlier in the movie when Scott breaks into Avengers HQ to steal a piece of technology that’s crucial to their plan to bring down Darren Cross. And, in fact, Ant-Man ends with Lang’s buddy, Luis (Michael Pena), passing along word that the Falcon is looking for “a guy who shrinks.” (As opposed to a “guy who climbs walls,” the first clear Marvel Cinematic Universe reference to the new Spider-Man.) That implies that the events of Civil War are, at least in part, occurring concurrently with Ant-Man. “Ant-Man will return,” promises the film’s credits. When he does, it looks like he’ll be standing alongside Steve, rather than Tony, when the Civil War erupts.
Watch ‘Ant-Man’ director Peyton Reed and Kevin Feige narrate a scene: