On the surface, "Phase 2" simply means the next wave of blockbuster superhero movies from Marvel. The movies leading up to The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, were Phase One. Phase 2 refers the movies after "The Avengers", including "Iron Man 3", "Thor: The Dark Age", "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", "Guardians of the Galaxy" and possibly "Ant-Man", all of which lead up to an "Avengers" sequel. But Phase 2 was also mentioned explicitly in the first "Avengers" movie - and I don't think it was coincidence.
"Phase 2" refers to the countermeasures SHIELD's World Security Council had in place in case of a superpowered threat as seen in "Avengers". Powered by the Cosmic Cube, they included stockpiled Hydra weapons from Captain America's day, as well as other weapons of mass destruction and several other "prototypes" mentioned but never seen. "Phase 2" was a sticking point for the team, who weren't quite happy to learn about Nick Fury's directive. But Nick Fury's pet project was "Phase 1", the Avengers Initiative, which gathered together superhero friendlies to fight the good fight. "The Avengers" pretty much ends with Nick Fury (and if you watch the deleted scenes, Maria Hill) bucking the World Security Council's orders and backing the Avengers.
You have to think though: the World Security Council can't be too happy about these developments.
So here's my theory: what if "Phase 2" doesn't just refer to the next stage of the Marvel cinematic franchise, but also the World Security Council's efforts to keep superhumans in line?
While the Cosmic Cube is "out of our reach" by the end of "Avengers", the short "Item 47" shows there is alien tech scattered all over Manhattan, and SHIELD is working to reverse-engineer it. The closing credits of "Item 47" show a series of such prototypes, ending with a Hummer-mounted energy weapon. Perhaps we'll see it in action over the course of the next four movies.
The most likely candidate is the upcoming "Iron Man 3", which has Iron Man tangling with Mandarin's Ten Rings terrorist organization. There's "Captain America: Winter Soldier", which pits Captain America against a ghost from his past. The World Security Council could easily play a role in both movies. And let us not forget the Cosmic Cube is back in Asgard, which is said to be in a pretty bad state in "Thor: The Dark Age". "Guardians of the Galaxy" probably won't be set on Earth much, but "Ant-Man" could also feature such a tie-in.
While all of this is speculation, such a "Phase 2" would be very helpful in promoting consistency throughout the Marvel cinematic universe. If you re-watch all the Phase 1 Marvel films, you'll probably find yourself scratching your head a few times. In the end of "The Incredible Hulk", Tony Stark approaches General Ross, presenting the Avengers as a solution for the Hulk. But later, it turns out not only is Tony Stark only a "consultant", but that SHIELD was looking out for Banner the whole time. Joss Whedon didn't board "The Avengers" until relatively late in the game, so "Phase 1" is littered with several plot elements which never really connect due to the ever-changing nature of the "Avengers" movie. "Phase 2" gives the filmmakers dots to connect while still pursuing their own unique tone and feel.
I think it will be a while before we see the shadowed faces of the World Security Council, but I have the hunch we haven't seen the last of them by a long-shot.
(That's it for this rant. Check out a new Blue Yonder next week.)