This is How the X-Men Should be Brought into the MCU

And lo! The geek-gods finally heard our cry and allowed a Fox/Disney deal to happen. Cue jubilant celebration across the internet.

Although this makes the House of Mouse a multimedia goliath with increasingly little competition, the upside would be fans getting what they’ve wanted for years – X-Men and Fantastic Four in the Avengers universe. It’s just in time, too. Infinity War and its sequel end this chapter of a ten-year long saga, so there’s no better chance to introduce them. How do they pull it off, though?

If you’re not caught up on why this hasn’t happened before, here’s the short version: Marvel sold the film rights to their biggest characters in the 90s so they could avoid financial trouble. Spider-Man was bought by Sony, while Fox snapped up the X-Men and Fantastic Four. This meant that Marvel Studios couldn’t use them when they embarked on their own inter-connected movie series with Iron Man in 2008. Things have changed since then, of course – they cut a deal with Sony to include Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, etc – but mutants were still owned by Fox until very recently. Now everyone’s back under one roof. Well, mostly (here’s to you, Venom).

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Perhaps the X-Men have already been and gone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? (Concept art for X-Men: First Class by Matthew Savage)

Anyway, back to the question. How do we introduce X-Men and co.? One method would be to play with parallel dimensions. Doctor Strange has already floated the idea via a ‘multiverse’, so it wouldn’t be all that hard to engineer a threat that requires Professor X, Jean Grey, Magneto, Cyclops et al to hop over and team up with the Avengers. Indeed, the Fantastic Four/X-Men properties are rife with such intergalactic threats. Galactus, a godlike entity that consumes planets, would be a great place to start.

However, I’d prefer a straight reboot like we got with Spider-Man in Civil War. The reasoning is simple. Fox’s XMen movies are great, but their continuity is very tangled after almost 20 years with little oversight. It’d probably be easier to start over, even if this raises the question of where mutants have been for the last few years.

Perhaps the classic lineup of Professor X, Beast, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman, and Angel all existed in the 50s or 60s. As with Logan, something then curbed mutant birth rates until they were practically non-existent. It’s only now that the mutant gene is starting to manifest again, and this brings the team back together.

Maybe that could lead to a more up-to-date status quo from the comics. In that arc, Wolverine takes over the Xavier School as headmaster while Cyclops, embittered by years of loss and human bigotry, becomes something of a revolutionary. As a result, the old Professor X/Magneto rivalry begins again in the most unlikely of proteges.

This avoids rehashing what’s already been done but still offers a traditional struggle. It also allows Marvel to make a prequel with the old crew should they so wish.

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The Fantastic Four reboot also played with the idea of parallel dimensions (concept art by Steve Jung)

The same could be done with Fantastic Four. It’d make sense for their origin to occur sometime during the space race of the 20th century, and any movies set now could utilise the Future Foundation. This is a school for genius-level children who are taught to harness their gifts for the betterment of science and humanity, and they’re overseen by the Fantastic Four or (as in the Matt Fraction and Mike Allred comic) their replacements. It’d be a chance for them to buy Stark Tower as well after it was put up for sale in Spider-Man: Homecoming; this would weave the FF’s iconic ‘Baxter Building’ into continuity.

And finally, what about Deadpool? He breaks the fourth wall anyway, so there’s no reason he can’t be carted over as-is and make a joke about that fact. They even included an Avengers helicarrier in the background of his first movie, so it’s not too much of a stretch.

There are problems to contend with in all the above, sure, but this is too juicy an opportunity to miss. And hey; it’s just awesome to see the X-Men and Fantastic Four come home at last.

Check back each Friday for more on pop-culture story, lore, and settings.

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Thor: Ragnarok Gives Infinity War a Handy Tip – Sod Tradition

According to the trailers, synopsis, production team, and basically everyone who’s ever been involved with Avengers: Infinity War, this is the bone-crunching end to the MCU.

Well, sort of. What they really mean is that this part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come to a close; there are at least half a dozen films still on the docket. However, the old team? Well, they’re probably hanging up their capes for good. In my opinion, that can only be a good thing.

Thor: Ragnarok is a neon-hued case in point. This wickedly humorous end to the trilogy said goodbye to the god of thunder’s seven-year status-quo before offering something entirely different.

Quick, duck! Spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok are ahead.

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Sun’s getting real low, big guy – concept art by Ryan Meinerding

Some may disagree, but I’d argue that the film was better for it: it wasn’t precious about the ‘classic’ elements of his mythos, and there’s a ton more the studio can do with the character now as a result. Asgard’s been razed to the ground. Odin’s dead. The Warriors Three were mercilessly impaled (*sob*). Jane Foster is a distant memory. And Thor himself? He’s king of an entire civilisation with no home to call their own. He’s also responsible for safeguarding their culture and very way of life. This naturally lends itself to a different kind of story, one that wouldn’t have been possible before.

Even those iconic props are gone; Ragnarok washed its hands of them too. His flying hammer’s a pile of rubble, and he lost an eye for his trouble as well. Yes, it’s sad to see all of the above ride into the sunset. Nevertheless, the franchise is free to pursue different avenues in the future rather than being chained to tradition.

This is a character who’s been on a journey of profound change, and I hope the same will be true of the Avengers when Thanos, MCU supervillain extraordinaire, blows their status-quo to kingdom come. Whatever’s left will be altered in a big way, and I hope there’s no going back. You can’t move forward if you’re clinging onto what’s already been done.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been a wonderful journey so far. But we’ll eventually reach a point where there’s nothing left to say, and perhaps the best way to keep things relevant is to throw a spanner in the works and see what happens. Iron Man benefitted from this when he turned over a new leaf at the end of Iron Man 3 and became a mentor to Spider-Man in Civil War/Homecoming. 

I hope Infinity War has the same effect on the likes of Captain America or Hulk. That’s if they survive, anyway…

Check back each Friday for more as I go into the weeds on pop-culture story, lore, and settings.

Are the Sinister Six Out There in Spider-Man: Homecoming? Nah, Probs Not

Please excuse me – I’m still quietly screaming over Spider-Man: Homecoming. Funny, heartfelt, and true to the character in a way the other movies didn’t quite manage, it was both familiar and deeply novel. What a cracker of a film.

Naturally, the internet’s already getting over-excited about what its sequel might feature.

Watch out! Spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming follow. Duck and run for cover if you’ve not seen it yet.

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Is Spidey’s rogue’s gallery about to get more… Sinister? Concept art by Ryan Meinerding

The most popular theory is based on a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quote from the mid-credits sting. After winding up in prison for his high-flying antics, the Vulture is approached by petty crook Mac Gargan (a small-timer that Spider-Man stopped in the ferry scene) and is pressured to reveal the webhead’s identity. According to Gargan, there are some ‘interested parties’ who’d like to get their revenge on the teen superhero. Cue an evil get-together for the next film.

Many have assumed that this refers to the Sinister Six, a classic team of villains who all want Spidey dead. It’d be an intimidating line-up for any cape-wearing do-gooder, never mind one who’s only 15; although their roster changes on a regular basis, the Sinister Six often count Doctor Octopus, Electro (last portrayed by Jamie Foxx), the Vulture, and Green Goblin amongst their number. The idea is clearly on rightsholder Sony’s mind, too. Prior to the current deal that allows Spider-Man to appear in MCU movies, it was a concept the Amazing Spider-Man series was setting up for a solo film. As such, some think that these baddies must have already crossed paths with the new version of Spidey.

I call bull on that one, however. Firstly, I’m not sure Marvel would want to repeat villains that have been handled before in other incarnations. We’ve seen three different Green Goblins in the last twelve years, for example.

It’s also implied in Captain America: Civil War that Peter’s never fought other superpowered people before – this is his first time. While that can be easily reversed, the period after his battle with Cap can’t; a big feature of Homecoming is Iron Man stopping him from fighting anything other than street muggings and theft. Because of this, the goons Mac Gargan is referring to are probably small-fry gang members or Spider-Man’s less powerful foes (Mysterio is just a bloke with clever gadgets, for instance). The theory is suddenly a bit less exciting. Look out, it’s the Big Wheel! Yes, they are exactly as stupid as they sound.

Not that this makes Gargan’s plan any less dangerous, of course; he’s well known in the comics as Scorpion, an insane killer with a suit designed specifically to take down the wallcrawler. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vulture’s tech expert (the Tinkerer) has something to do with that.

What’s more, he could always recruit some extra muscle if needed. Kraven the Hunter is another villain who wants the ultimate kill – Spider-Man – and Hugh Jackman was tweeting something about being ‘partners’ with Disney recently… Just sayin’.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 is the Best MCU Movie (Drops Mic)

I’ve recently been smacked around the head by an epiphany. After seeing Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 and squeeing like a squeezy dog-toy, I now understand what everyone’s banging on about when they say that superhero movies should be fun. Although I’ve got a lot of time for grittier versions (a la Man of Steel or Logan), a film that goes for your sense of humour is arguably more… enjoyable? Is that the word I’m looking for? Anyway, you leave the cinema content that all is well with the world and practically bouncing along the pavement. You also get many, many quotable memes out of it. As such, I’d peg it as the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the original. Fight me.

Something good, something bad… a bit of both? Concept art by Andy Park

This is thanks to its refusal to take things too seriously. Volume 2 is wonderfully irreverent, poking fun at itself while bringing back 80s nostalgia with a raised middle-finger. The film isn’t afraid to get weird either – and I mean properly weird. When it’s not using daft locations from the comics (including a living planet, of all things), it’s diving into well-worn tropes that are given a self-deprecating twist. There’s the obligatory ‘follow your heart’/realisation-of-great-power moment that’s shunted off kilter by a certain videogame character, and this is preceded by a ridiculous father-son game of catch mid-way through the story. Guardians knows that it’s silly, so everything’s very tongue-in-cheek. I suppose this is only fair when you’ve got a film starring sentient trees and a talking racoon.

Another bullseye is its strong character-development, of course. Karen Gillen’s Nebula benefits from this in particular, as does Michael Rooker’s brilliant Yondu (out-of-context quote of the day: ‘I’m Mary Poppins, y’all’). The main cast’s arcs aren’t quite so strong this time around, but they still get a thumbs-up as well. The only other MCU franchise that can match it in this regard is Captain America, or – and I know I’ll get stick for this – Iron Man.

Basically, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 hits all the right notes: it’d love nothing more than for you to just enjoy yourself. Seriously, go see it.