Marvel Studios' X-men: Which Phase 4 Project Will Introduce Mutants?

It's no longer a matter of if the X-Men will show up but when and more accurately, how.

As the previously embargoed Fantastic Four acquires an official director and logo, it's only a matter of time before 20th Century Fox's other famous Marvel Comics property is integrated within the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). However, unlike Marvel's First Family, the X-Men are a group that comes with a host of internal baggage for Marvel and their shared universe of storylines. X-Men are not only superheroes but mutants, an evolutionary leap of humanity capable of developing superpowers from birth, existing alongside humans. If the MCU is to place the X-Men into their current universe, the studio will need to begin to lay the groundwork for the team's arrival sooner rather than later.

Here are the Marvel Studio projects that are going to introduce mutants:

Black Widow

1. Black Widow (2021)

While the long-awaited Black Widow may primarily take place in the past, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has hinted that the events of the film will lay the seeds for several future MCU projects. This may include the titular heroine's reacquaintance with father figure Red Guardian, played by Stranger Things star David Harbour, who teased hardcore fans on Instagram with the inclusion of Russia's makeshift Avengers known as The Winter Guard.

In the comics, The Winter Guard has featured a variety of heroes since its inception including Red Guardian, but the team's standout member is Mikhail Ursus a.k.a. Ursa Major. Introduced in 1981's The Incredible Hulk #258, Ursus was a former agent of the Russian government who acquired the ability to transform into a massive bear, through a form of natural mutation. While Ursa Major has yet to feature on an X-Men team, the bear's introduction would only bring the MCU one step closer to Marvel's "Children of the Atom". 

Shang Chi & The Legend of The Ten Rings

2. Shang Chi & The Legend of The Ten Rings (2021)

Marvel Studios' first original property of 2021, Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings will expand the MCU beyond The Avengers. As the title character (played by actor Simu Liu) navigates to find not only himself but the true nature of his abilities, Marvel's premier martial artist may end up finding more than he bargained for as he travels from California to the farthest lands of China.

As Shang Chi tangles with his own father Wen-Wu a.k.a. Mandarin (Tony Leung), the self-appointed "Master of Kung Fu" may have to participate in a brutal contest of strength and skill before landing blows with the infamous Ten Rings leader. There exists a stable wealth of Chinese mutants that Shang-Chi could run into on his perilous journey including Jubilee, Wiz-Kid, and The Radioactive Man. In a somewhat predictable move, Shang Chi's current ongoing comic title has even gifted the titular character with a mutant sibling... a mere coincidence or feature film set up?


3. Eternals (2021)

Academy Award-winning director Chloe Zhao's Eternals will be introducing audiences to a race of superhumans who have been laying low on Earth for decades (sound familiar?). While The Eternals are far from mutants, the two Marvel species share a certain similarity in their comics origin. In the comics, The Eternals as a race are given their existence by the omnipotent space gods The Celestials. It is through their early experimentation on humanity where The Celestials lay the seed for mutations amongst humans to take form. With Eternals introducing yet another subspecies of humanity to the MCU, it may be excessive for Marvel to begin teasing mutants in the same film but far weirder things have happened.

Spider-Man No Way Home

4. Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)

The final Marvel Studios entry of 2021, Jon Watts' Spider-Man No Way Home is a film that remains a near-absolute mystery to audiences. One of Spider-Man's closest mutant allies in the comic source material has been Bobby Drake a.k.a. Iceman, one of the founding members of the original comic X-Men lineup. Though a significant amount of time will likely see Spidey travel across the "Marvel Multiverse" alongside Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), it's easy to forget Peter Parker's commitment as a student at New York City's Midtown High School takes equal precedence.

Bobby can either brought into the film as a transfer student or a pre-existing character in the school who has not been given focus until now. While No Way Home began development well before Marvel reacquired the rights to X-Men, the latest Spider-Man feature can still feature the wall crawler's friendship with Iceman or another teenage mutant (Kitty Pryde?) as a post-credits tease. 

Black Panther Wakanda Forever

5. Black Panther Wakanda Forever (2022)

Black Panther Wakanda Forever may already have quite enough on its plate to tackle, but adding in a famous X-Men can only add to the growing intrigue of the film. With the famous Black Panther and Storm romance likely off the table for the foreseeable future, there exists another opportunity to introduce Ororo Munroe a.k.a. Storm within the world of Wakanda itself.

Prior to her recruitment to the X-Men in the comic source material, Storm posed as an African goddess endowing poverty-stricken villages with water, which may be an interesting spin on reintroducing the character cinematically. There would be a precedence for Storm to make her debut in the Black Panther sequel. While Storm has been typically presented as Kenyan in the comics and other forms of media, the update to a Wakandan backstory only helps to tie Ororo and the X-Men within the MCU. 

Captain Marvel sequel

6. The Marvels (2022)

2022's Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels may be a cosmic-heavy venture, but that does not permit the movie from featuring a fan-favorite mutant with ties to comic book Carol Danvers. Rogue's introduction in Marvel Comics saw the present heroine as an initial member of her stepmother, the villainous shapeshifter Mystique's, "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants". In an attempt to best The Avengers, Rogue would absorb the powers and abilities of Carol Danvers a.k.a. Ms. Marvel (pre-Captain Marvel) before cutting ties with the villainous Brotherhood and defecting to Charles Xavier's X-Men.

Rogue was severely underused in the 20th Century Fox X-Men films, so it would be interesting to follow the plan laid by the comics and showcase the character as a villain initially rather than a hero. As actress Brie Larson's Captain Marvel remains a relatively new MCU character, Rogue's conflict with Carol Danvers may be better served for a third Captain Marvel film or even Avengers crossover rather than the sequel. 

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania

7. Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania 

Ant-Man and The Wasp Quantumania will feature a major Avengers antagonist in the form of Kang the Conqueror (played by Lovecraft Country's Jonathan Majors). While Kang himself is not homo superior, it's Kang's time travel gimmick that may open the door for mutants' entry into the MCU mythology.

An experienced time traveler, Kang hails from the future of the Marvel Universe, precisely the 30th century where flying cars and holographic technology are well established. If Marvel decides to maintain Kang's comic backstory by featuring a future timeline, the path is laid in introducing new superhero teams and species (mutants). While superhumans and alien beings may be on the top of the food chain now, the future of the MCU will only continue to get weirder.

When mutants enter the MCU fray, The Avengers and audiences are going to be in for a rude awakening. Not only do superheroes exist, but soon they will be sharing the world with a group of Earth-based individuals who can exhibit powers at any point and appear in any film or any TV series. While the X-Men may have one of the foremost rogues' galleries in comics, it's the potential of the mutant integration that even transcends their foes. It's the opportunity for expansive world-building that the X-Men bring to the Marvel Universe, which makes the mutants such an appealing commodity.

Current junior Writing Arts major attending Rowan University. I am an avid writer, comic book reader, and film enthusiast.

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