With Marvel almost halfway through its announced projects for Phase 4, fans still have one big question—where are the mutants? With the Disney-Fox merger well in the past, fans have been excitedly awaiting any news regarding the return of the X-Men to the big screen, with Marvel failing to respond. A reboot is almost certainly in the works, but any information there is about its development or timing is tightly guarded.
Even though no official plans have been revealed, that hasn't stopped a slew of mutant-related teases from making their way into the MCU. The recent Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is perhaps the best example of this, featuring not only scrapped X-Men characters, hints toward the upcoming X-Men '97 animated series, and a brief glimpse at a famous X-Men-related location, but also a real-live mutant in the form of Patrick Stewart's Professor X.
However, even these major inclusions have shied away from dropping the word mutant, wholly ignoring this part of the character's origin. Interviews have revealed that this was a conscious decision, with the writers feeling that the film wasn't the "right place" to open the door to mutants.
More major cameos and theories, like those teasing the appearance of Storm in Thor: Love and Thunder or a real mutant presence in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness have proven false, showing a reluctance on the part of Marvel to fully show their cards when it comes to the future of mutantkind in the MCU.
For fans of the X-Men suite of characters, this omission has proven frustrating, especially considering that the last official word on the future of MCU mutants came over a year ago. However, talent from the upper echelons of the Marvel world has recently opened up about the issue, sharing why exactly Kevin Feige might be so hesitant to plant the seeds for the emergence of mutantkind.
Marvel’s Hesitancy to Touch the X-Men
Speaking with AP Entertainment about a possible future in the MCU, directors Joe and Anthony Russo addressed Marvel's approach when it comes to the X-Men.
Beyond sharing their general excitement over the X-Men characters, Joe Russo revealed that the reason that Feige and co. "rightfully put aside" the Mutants to allow Marvel Studios more room to "introduce some new characters" to the MCU:
"That was one of my favorite comics growing up, Wolverine. One of my prized possessions is ‘Incredible Hulk 181,’ which was the first appearance of Wolverine. It’s an important part of my comic book collection. Wolverine being so essential to the X-Men, of course, that would be a fun project to work on and find a new way into it. But I do think that’s probably something that Kevin has rightfully put aside for a while to introduce some new characters to the world and bring that back when it’s ready."
Marvel's Timeline for the X-Men
The Russo brothers, having directed four MCU films, are clearly individuals with some sense of Marvel and Feige's mindset and approach. As such, their insight into the decision-making process surrounding the X-Men is likely accurate. Joe Russo's comments on the issue point towards a measured approach being taken, one that only pulls new characters into the limelight when the time is right.
With the MCU balancing so many storylines at the moment (the Dark Avengers-like Thunderbolts, a Skrull infiltration in Secret Invasion, and a whole bunch of Multiversal breaches), it makes sense that the time isn't quite right for the X-Men to make their grand appearance. The seeds are slowly being sown, with a larger plan likely in the works.
There is still, however, the question of how mutantkind will be introduced into the MCU. The possibilities are seemingly endless, with there being plausible avenues through the multiverse, magic, the machinations of the Celestials, and more. Even so, no clear path has, as of yet, been laid out.
The timeline is also still unclear, with the unique projects filling out Phase 4 extending well into next year and beyond. Additionally, the MCU is always in the process of introducing new characters. Echo, Moon Knight, and Ms. Marvel are all new arrivals to the franchise, with Blade, Ironheart, and the Fantastic Four all on the horizon. This magical time when the franchise is "ready," after new characters have been introduced, is extremely vague, giving no clear sense of when fans should expect to see their favorite mutants on screen.
Even so, with a significant Comic-Con panel coming up, news of the X-Men's return may come sooner rather than later. The folks over at Marvel likely have a clear plan in the works for the X-Men, and even if it may take a bit longer to realize than some fans would like, news of this future may be just over the horizon.