I’m calling it now, America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) is the MCU’s gateway to introducing the X-Men. Let me explain.
Why the MCU had no mutants
If you haven’t noticed, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is pretty light on mutants. As in, there have been zero mutants. 27 movies. No mutants. Why?
Well, because in 1996, Marvel was bankrupt so they sold movie rights to X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, etc. We’re talking some of the heaviest hitters in comic book history. Fox snatched up X-Men and F4, while Sony took the X-Men. The rest is history. A very flawed history full of somersaulting quality. When you get something great like X2, it’s followed up by X-Men: The Last Stand. When you get Spider-Man 2 you get Spider-Man 3. And we don’t even need to talk about the Fantastic Four movies. In fact, what Fantastic Four movies?
When the MCU got started, Marvel had the challenge of being legally barred from their most popular characters. So they elevated some of the bench players to the starting lineup. Iron Man. Thor. Black Widow. Captain America. Etc. etc.
Spider-Man made it into the MCU because Sony was smart and realized they were completely incapable if left to their own devices (see Morbius). So they made a deal. Disney paid them a lot of money and that worked.
Fox was more stubborn. So what did Disney do? They bought Fox. I repeat: they bought Fox.
That was 2019. As of 2019, Disney once again owns cinematic rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four. Which jump-started the conversation: how do you introduce such important figures into the MCU? How do you explain their absence from major events?
The solution? Bring in the multiverse.
America Chavez and the madness of the multiverse
The multiverse is essentially a magician’s hat: whatever you need, you can pull from it. Need a rabbit? Ta da. Need a Reed Richards? Ta Da. Need a mutant? TA DA. Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) said it herself in Multiverse of Madness: with access to the multiverse, there’s a solution to every problem her children might face. Get sick? Some universe has the cure. Need a kidney? You get the idea.
So Multiverse of Madness is MCU architect Kevin Feige’s opportunity to begin incorporating major missing pieces. The Earth we’ve known, Earth-616, in the universe we’ve known, Universe-616, just didn’t have mutants or groups consisting of four fantastic people. But it turns out, others do. And they now have access to our Earth.
And the first newcomer is America Chavez.
I know, I know, I know. Some of your are comic book savvy. Or have already been on Wikipedia. You’re saying, “But, Chris, in the comics, America isn’t exactly a mutant. She grew up in a special dimension called the Utopian Parallel, built by the Demiurge. That’s what gave her powers.” Sure. But the MCU often veers from the comics in order to accomplish what it wants and needs to accomplish.
For example, in Sam Raimi’s Multiverse of Madness, how did America lose her moms? She was stung by a bee, panic-created a multi-dimensional portal, and the portal dragged the moms to another universe. That was the first manifestation of her power. In the comics, guess what happens? I quote from Marvel.com: “When America was six years old, mysterious forces permeated the Parallel with dimensional rifts that threatened to fracture it, kill its inhabitants, and scatter its fragments throughout the Multiverse’s infinite realities. To stabilize the Parallel, America’s two mothers sacrificed their lives to seal the rifts, diapering their atoms through them in the process.”
So, like, sure, maybe in the MCU the Demiurge gave her her powers. But you know what’s far more likely? That she’s a mutant.
If you’re familiar with X-Men origin stories, almost every mutant has the same experience. They’re born looking like every other human (except in rare occasions). They have a normal childhood. But then, one day, usually around puberty, the mutation manifests. You’re about to catch a baseball when lasers fire out of your eyes. You’re driving a car when suddenly you turn into a block of ice. You’re kissing someone and accidentally absorb their memories and strength. All sorts of things happen. And the results are often tragic. Which is why so many mutants end up at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. They’re there to control their powers and make sense of who they are and what’s happening to them.
That sounds like what happened to America in Multiverse, right? Bee sting causes her to want to run away, her power suddenly manifests for the first time, tragedy ensues. Why change her backstory so much from what happens in the comics? Why make it so similar to mutant origin stories? Is it just a coincidence?
If there was nothing else going on in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I’d keep my suspicions to myself. It would be a far-fetched thing to claim. But America wasn’t the only mutant-related person in Multiverse.
Professor X and the Multiverse of Madness
When Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is in Earth-838, he meets the Illuminati, a group of that Earth’s mightiest heroes. They’re the ones essentially guiding the planet’s defense against supernatural threats. You have Karl Mordo (838’s Sorcerer Supreme)(Chiwetel Ejiofor), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) as a British Captain America, Black Bolt (King of the Inhumans)(Anson Mount), Maria Rambeau (as Captain Marvel)(Lashana Lynch), Reed Richards of the aforementioned Fantastic Four, and, of course Professor Charles mother f***ing Xavier, founder of the X-Men.
And it might be a little confusing that Professor X is still Patrick Stewart. This man has been Professor X since the debut X movie in the year 2000. Last we saw him was in 2017’s phenomenal film, Logan. If you saw that, you maybe wondered for a second, “How is he in this movie?” Hopefully you’ve already answered that question. That was a different universe. There are many Patrick Stewart versions of Professor X across many universes, the same way we saw plenty of Stephen Stranges and Wanda Maximoffs.
Which probably means mutants aren’t limited to just one universe. Why would they be? Just because they haven’t been in Earth-616 doesn’t mean they aren’t in 90% of other Earths. It doesn’t mean a bunch of mutants from another Earth might not suddenly appear on 616. Or that some inter-dimensional incursion might not trigger the activation of the mutant genome on Earth-616.
Regardless of whether or not America is a mutant, introducing Professor X, and even employing the theme music from the 90s X-Men animated series, means that Feige and the rest of the MCU team are gearing up for the arrival of mutants. We’ll see what happens when America finally dawns her formal superhero title of Miss America.
Is Wanda a mutant in the MCU
In the comics, Wanda was a mutant and the centerpiece of a lot of major stories (see Planet X and House of M). But in 2014, they decided to nix that. Her powers weren’t a mutation but due to witchcraft. And the MCU has carried that torch. Her introduction in Age of Ultron, along with her brother, Quicksilver (Pietro), explained the powers as a byproduct of Hydra experimentation. Then WandaVision retconned it, aligning with the comics and going with the whole biological witch thing. So mutant-like but not a mutant.
An alternative theory: WandaVision
Remember the Disney Plus MCU show, WandaVision? Wanda Maximoff, the good old Scarlet Witch, puts a Hex on the town of Westview. There’s a barrier around the town and everyone and everything inside the barrier is reality-bended by Wanda to conform to her sense of the ideal, small town life. That’s Wanda’s major power: changing the very nature of reality. It’s how in Multiverse she caused Black Bolt to have no mouth. Near the end of the show, S.W.O.R.D. agent Monica Rambeau (daughter of the Maria who was in the 838’s Illuminati)(Teyonah Parris) ends up going through the barrier, through the hex that’s literally reality altering. The aftermath is that Monica suddenly has powers, mostly energy based. She can see energy and also absorb it. She can also phase. And has enhanced physical reflexes. Pretty cool!
(Note: Like America, the MCU origin is way different. In the comics, Monica stops a scientist who created a device that traps “other-dimensional energy.” Destroying the device unleashes the energy and the energy changes Monica forever. You can see some parallels but the two origins diverge a great deal)
The change in Monica is, in some ways, a mutation, right? Her DNA was altered by Wanda’s hex. If she has a kid, will the kid of the altered DNA? Will they develop powers? Will other people who were in Westview develop powers? Will their kids develop powers?
The whole post-Thanos Wanda story has been a mild adaptation of the comic stories Planet X and House of M, where Wanda suffers a mental breakdown and causes some serious damage. In the comics, she actually re-writes reality to stop mutants from being born. Which was pretty wild. It’s an infamous “No more mutants,” line. There’s an argument to be made that the MCU could be inverting that. Instead of being the (almost) end of mutants, she’s their creator.
Is there an X-Men movie on the way?
You can bet your ass.
In July of 2019, at Comic-Con, in a post-Fox-acquisition announcement, Kevin Feige revealed the future of the MCU. Much of it has come to pass: Black Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, What If…, Hawkeye, and, now, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (funny how the title slightly changed). If announcing all of that wasn’t enough, Feige added Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Blade, as well as two big ones. First, Fantastic Four. Then something that was only called The Mutants.
So it’s taken a few years to get there, but the MCU is slowly moving to a place where the Fantastic Four and X-Men are major players. And the Multiverse of Madness was just an appetizer of what’s to come. Will the eventual primary MCU versions have Patrick Stewart as Professor X? Or James McAvoy? Or an entirely new actor? Or not even have an Xavier? Will John Krasinski play Reed Richards or was the appearance in Multiverse just a fun What If? We’ll find out. Eventually.
But the X-Men movie is on the way!