The Infinity Stones are gone, there’s the big secret. At some point in the MCU’s history, the history that Steve Rogers altered when he went back and replaced all the stones, like it or not, the stones still ended up being destroyed. Thanos did it in Endgame after all and nearly killed himself, so why couldn’t someone else do it at some point? The only thing that’s confusing is that as powerful as the stones are, and for all they represent, how could be destroyed without tearing through the fabric of time and space in some way? Obviously there’s bound to be an explanation for this that the MCU would file away for later by making up something that sounded plausible to their ears and all the Marvel fans that will just go along with about anything, but really, thinking the stones are gone for good is kind of a bluff that no one should be taking too seriously. What is going to happen it sounds like is that the stones will be retired for the time being while the next few phases are allowed to get underway and the damage wrought by the mad titan and his invasion, which failed utterly but left behind a massive amount of damage and confusion, is handled as best as it possibly can be. That’s the one thing that the MCU is going to have to deal with no matter what, that the effects of the snap will continue to reverberate moving forward since it’s very likely that other teams and hero’s were affected by the snap even if they didn’t get to help in the final battle. In a way it almost makes one wish that the Infinity Saga had waited to end on a note that would include more of the heroes, since then the continuity wouldn’t have to suffer and the story lines wouldn’t have to feel so stretched.
Let’s face it, there were plenty of other conflicts that came before the Infinity Gauntlet that could have preceded it, but the MCU had been working so long towards the climax and ending to this saga that they really had no other choice but to go through with it finally. There were plenty of other wars that could have taken place and kept the MCU on track with what would eventually happened, and it could have allowed the Fox merger to finally get over the hump so that the X-Men and Fantastic Four could have joined the fight, along with She-Hulk, and Namor, and many others. But that’s not how Disney operates since they wanted to bring in the big gun first. There are plenty of other wars that happened after the Infinity Saga as well, though it’s not likely that we’ll see the Infinity Crusade since we haven’t even seen Adam Warlock yet, meaning we haven’t met the Magus or the Goddess, his good and bad aspects. Heck, we haven’t seen Moondragon and Pip, and they were part of the Infinity Watch. At this point it feels as though everyone is just about done with the Infinity idea as the MCU is about to embark on other journeys that might lead up to another big event, but that’s not really known at the moment. It’d be nice to see a World War Hulk timeline, but that would mean that Banner would have to lose control again and become more bestial than he was in Endgame, which was, huh boy, kind of a letdown since Ruffalo’s Hulk turned out be kind of a pacifistic weenie. No, no I won’t say ‘no offense’ to that one since it’s a pretty firm belief.
But what the MCU has in store next for the heroes that are still there and the heroes that are yet to come is hard to say since there wasn’t a lot of easy prediction possible during the Infinity Saga apart from what people could piece together from the end credits. We had an idea that the Hulk would return, that Thor was coming, that the Avengers were forming, that Thanos was coming, and that a few other things were going to happen, but apart from that we had to wait for the first trailers to come out, and we STILL weren’t prepared for the snap when it came. So at this point Marvel is really playing everything close to the chest as it kind of has to in order to keep everyone blabbing its secrets all over the place. But the Infinity Stones are going to be non-existent, as much as possible anyway, for a while to come it sounds like and the heroes and villains will just have to make do with what they have on hand when it comes to dealing with each other. That should be fun to watch.