While the future of the MCU has already taken a slight dent with the news of Spider-Man's expected removal, there's still lots of huge opportunities for Marvel to delight fans with spectacles as big as the Infinity Saga. It's not like they're short on characters.
The question for most of the new and returning characters in Phase 4 and beyond is how they're going to do it. The stories we're about to see woven on screen are the franchise's biggest selling point and with huge properties like X-Men and Fantastic Four incoming, the possibilities are delicious.
Ever since the Fox/Disney deal was announced, the big question for Marvel fans has been how they'll manage to integrate them. Surely, there's going to be a huge event that explains where mutants came from? Some universe changing shuffle that alters reality and explains why we've not heard anything of them so far, or something?
However it happens, the speculation is a lot of fun and there's no way whatever grand plan they've got planned can be disappointing. Or can it?
Well, a new report suggests it just might be, because there's some suggestion that mutants might come to the MCU through the backdoor in the form of black sheep The New Mutants. Still sitting on the shelf, that film poses something of a headache for Disney, since they clearly want to establish their own X-Men timeline within the MCU and this one will have links to the old Fox franchise. But that too might be about to change.
According to FandomWire, Marvel have cut all references to all previous Fox X-Men movies in the latest version of the film, including any lines suggesting "mutant" as an established term in the film's universe. In all honesty, it's quite an inspired move for this film's hopes of turning any sort of profit - particularly if they sell the characters as simply "exceptional" kids like the twins in Avengers: Age Of Ultron's prologue, but it's not the way anyone would have envisaged this going.
Apparently, Kevin Feige's intent here is to make New Mutants part of the MCU and also to bring the characters back in Phase 5 and beyond, which is a surprise given how much everyone has expected them to be walking towards the scrap heap already. Maybe they see something in the characters that previously uninspiring reports haven't seen?
That would fit with the surprising news that the newest cut of the movie is actually playing unexpectedly well with test audiences, even as an earlier cut rubbed Disney execs up the wrong way. Let's hope there are positives to take out of this and it means we get a good New Mutants movie.
But even with the positives here, it means that mutants simply exist in the background of the MCU. There's no trigger event or alternative reality crossover or something along those lines. So that would suggest we're going to get mutants like Magneto and Wolverine with absolutely no history behind them. If they simply come into existence - because they HAVE to, there's just no way anyone could accept the idea of mutant superheroes and villains existing and nobody noticing them at all, right? - then they're robbed of something that defines them.
Barring some sort of Harry Potter-style reveal of the hidden world nobody was ever aware of until now, that's going to be a hard sell.
The problem, of course, is that the term mutants not being in the MCU sort of compromises the fact that the title of the movie is New MUTANTS. But maybe that's no longer set in stone? Time will tell.