How Can Marvel Use The X-Men?
After over a decade, mutants in the MCU may seem impossible, but it's actually very simple
For the past twelve years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a mutant-free zone. And attempts to turn the Inhumans into the MCU's take on mutants ended up falling flat. But now that Disney has purchased many Fox assets, including the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, Marvel has the chance to introduce mutants. The question everyone asks is, "is it too late?"
It's understandable why some would ask that question. The Inhumans being a secret race for so long felt a little difficult to swallow when the idea was introduced in Agents of SHIELD. So can Kevin Feige avoid the problems of Jeph Loeb and Ike Perlmutter?
There are some who believe the answer is yes. A simple perusal of Marvel fan communities on the internet will show a number of different ideas.
The multiverse has been the most-common suggestions, particularly with Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness on the horizon. The multiverse was initially mentioned in the first Doctor Strange movie, and then Avengers: Endgame used the concept of alternate timelines to great effect.
Now, Marvel will take it a step further with the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel, which will also feature Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch (more on her later). The Loki series on Disney+ will also feature the use of the multiverse and time travel, so it seems Marvel is very comfortable with using alternate realities.
The multiverse is perhaps the easiest way to bring mutants into the MCU. The CW's recent Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover among their Arrowverse shows have merged the worlds of Supergirl and Black Lightning with the other shows, and with a minimum of fuss.
One way Marvel could attempt something similar is by introducing the X-Men in their own separate universe. Then, they could build to a Crisis-esque crossover, possibly in the form of an adaptation of Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars event.
The problem with this is two-fold. For starters, it feels very similar to what Crisis just did, and would be viewed by some as a rip-off. The second problem is that it should require a long lead time. Secret Wars has the potential to be an even bigger event than the Infinity Saga, and it should be treated with the reverence it deserves.
But that's not the only option.
Leave it to the Witch
Another possibility is using the Scarlet Witch to bring in mutants. This has been mentioned as a reversal of what was done in the House of M crossover event. For those who don't remember that comic (or have never heard of it), the story involved the Scarlet Witch using her hex abilities to warp reality. The story ended with her uttering the words "No more mutants," an event which became known as the Decimation. This reduced the mutant population in the Marvel Universe to just under 200, while all other mutants lost their powers.
Some fans have suggested that Wanda could do the opposite in the MCU, use her powers to bring mutants into this world. Another subset argues for something similar, by revealing that the MCU as we know it is actually the result of Wanda previously warping reality.
This would be an easy shorthand. And as previously mentioned, Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch will be sharing the screen with Doctor Strange in his next movie. She will also star in the Disney+ series WandaVision, which looks likely to spotlight her ability to warp reality.
But the problem with this is that it's a bit too easy, to the point that it feels like a deus ex machina.
However, there is a better option than either of these.
Out of the shadows
What if mutants have always existed?
Now I know some of you may be thinking that I forgot what I wrote about the Inhumans. But that's not true. There is a way to introduce the notion that mutants have been around all this time while still making it work logically. And the answer came in Jonathan Hickman's House of X series that relaunched the X-Men comics.
One of the things Hickman established is that the living island of Krakoa is now a mutant nation. And this is part of what can be done. Just as in the comics, Krakoa can be the secret home of mutants, established by Professor X and Magneto.
"But how come nobody has heard of mutants before now?"
That is a problem, yet not an insurmountable one. The whole concept of mutants is that they are the next stage in human evolution. Evolution traditionally works very slowly. So what I propose is mutants have always existed, but in very small numbers. At first maybe it was one a century. Then slowly, they've increased.
But they've always been a fraction of a fraction of the overall population. This has enabled them to remain hidden. Some time ago, Xavier and Magneto met and learned that they weren't alone. They set out to find others like them and give them a home in Krakoa. These mutants have remained in hiding, secretly finding others like them. Perhaps even with some assistance from Nick Fury and SHIELD.
So how have their numbers grown?
Think back to how Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch gained their powers in the MCU—it was because Baron Strucker tried to use the energies of an Infinity Stone to create his own army of super soldiers. However, Pietro and Wanda were the only ones who survived.
What if the reason for that was because the Maximoff twins had inactive x-genes?
The x-gene (or x-factor as it was once called) is what gives mutants their powers. So what if there are a number of people who have a latent x-gene? Had things continued as normal, these people would never exhibit mutant abilities. Yet perhaps their children or grandchildren were.
Earth has been the location of three uses of the Infinity Gauntlet—first Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and then Hulk and Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame. That's a lot of infinity stone energy saturating the planet.
What if that energy has expanded across the globe and is now triggering these latent x-genes? And with memories of Thanos and the Blip still fresh in people's minds, that could lead them to fear these emerging mutants, which helps address the issue of why mutants face persecution in a world where the Avengers are global heroes.
As the mutant population expands and tensions grow with humans, that could lead to the rift between Xavier and Magneto, which kicks off the events of the X-Men film series.
Of course, there's one other problem to address.
What about Deadpool?
Ryan Reynolds' portrayal of the Merc with a Mouth in both Deadpool and Deadpool 2 has been met with universal (and well-deserved) praise. But now, Deadpool is also owned by the House of Mouse, so how can Reynolds' Deadpool be worked into the MCU?
This is actually the easiest solution. One of the key aspects of Deadpool's character is his breaking of the fourth wall. Such as him asking if Colossus is referring to McAvoy or Stewart when Colossus says they're going to see the Professor, or when he comments on how the studio won't pay for more X-Men to appear in the film.
Nobody else in the movie understands what Wade is talking about when he breaks the fourth wall. And that's how Deadpool can continue in the MCU—you have Wade be the only one who knows that there was a previous universe where the X-Men existed independent of any other superheroes.
A universe of possibilities
The addition of mutants into the MCU presents the opportunity for many more great stories to be told. both in the past and going forward into the future. Imagine Chris Evans returning for a Captain America cameo in a solo Wolverine movie that features the two meeting in a WW2 flashback, or Beast joining the Avengers as he's done in the comics. The retconning in the comics of Magneto being the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch can also be undone if that aspect is added into the movies.
And of course, the elephant in the room—the eventual adaptation of the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover.
This is a clean way that works with MCU history and also preserves the history of long-lived mutants like Wolverine, Apocalypse, and Namor. It also allows for the X-Men to have been around in secret on Krakoa, which eliminates the problem of the origin story movie.
But time will tell just how exactly Marvel will move forward.