The Marvel Cinematic Universe officially rolled out Phase 4 at San Diego Comic-Con on July 20. But though fans are excited by all the new titles, there are many questions still to be answered. The good news is fans will meet new faces in brand new franchises like The Eternals, old friends will return in sequels like Thor: Love & Thunder, and alternate timelines will be explored in show's like What If..? on Disney+. But there was one face notably missing from the presentation: Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. This Spider-Man: Far From Home post-credit theory might explain why.
Spider-Man: Far From Home has, what seems at first glance, a great punchline at the very end of the film. The final post-credits sequence reveals Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., has been an imposter the whole time. It's Talos, the Skrull from Captain Marvel. He starts grumping that holding down the fort for Fury while he's on vacation had been going so well until Mysterio showed up.
Cut to Fury, lying in front of a sandy beach simulation, somewhere in the depths of space on a Skrull-filled ship, barefoot, with his pants rolled up.
Audiences laughed. (Well, I did anyway.) But according to at least one theory, this scene might have radical implications that could lead to Fury not just burning those use-it-or-lose-it vacation days, but retiring.
When Fury stands up, he calls out to those around him to get moving. That's a strange thing for a man on vacation on a space vessel he doesn't own to be doing. As the camera pulls back, the ship is revealed to be a spaceport. The Skrulls look like they are there to help with construction.
This has lead fans to speculate Fury isn't on vacation at all. He's working on a new project, a cosmic base from which Earth can run operations and keep a sharp watch on things, lest another Thanos rise from the ashes. In the S.H.I.E.L.D. comics, that sort of base is run by a Sentient World Observation and Response Department: aka S.W.O.R.D.
As the Marvel-verse starts spreading further afield from Earth, moving operations to a sister operation designed to handle interstellar threats sounds like a smart idea. But for movie-goers dropping another group in like this, on top of everything else, would be too much. It makes far more sense to have Fury midwife S.W.O.R.D. into the MCU, and then bring its director, Special Agent Abigail Brand, aboard.
Moreover, Brand is a figure who appears regularly in the X-Men comics. Having Fury introduce her ahead of adding Professor X and his merry band of mutants into the mix would also ease the way for the inevitable merger.
But the introduction of S.W.O.R.D. also heralds another change: Director Fury's retirement. With Fury's hand off the tiller, S.W.O.R.D. and Brand take more of a central position, and S.H.I.E.L.D., much to the frustration of those running it, becomes less involved.
Could this be the MCU's path to allowing Jackson to retire as Fury eventually? (The actor is in his 70s, but has stated he is having too much fun to stop anytime soon.) Fans will have to wait until Phase 4 begins in 2020 to find out.