Welcome to the MCU Age of Mutants
Welcome to the MCU Age of Mutants
Anticipation is high for the next addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the big screen when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is released on November 11, 2022. The promotional pitch is ramping up, especially with the release of the film’s second and probably final trailer. In it, we got our first glimpse of Namor the Submariner flying, and we got our first glimpse of Shuri in full Black Panther mode. But, it’s Namor who we’ve got to talk about and why it’s monumental that we have direct confirmation of the mutant origins of his character.
Some background may be necessary for those not as entrenched in the nerdom of mutants within the MCU. The term “mutant” and all characters tied to that word cinematically were purchased by 20th Century Fox in 1993. The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man went to Sony. Namor’s film rights were sold to Universal. And while Marvel confirmed in 2016 that Namor was back with Marvel, there hasn’t been clear knowledge of the distribution part of the mess.
This type of entanglement is not new within the MCU. Hulk hasn’t had a solo film since The Incredible Hulk because his distribution rights are owned by Universal, which is why he has only appeared as a supporting character in multiple films instead of a standalone.
Namor’s story gets interesting in part from the $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox by The Walt Disney Company in 2019. That meant that the rights to the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool returned to Marvel (which was acquired by Disney in 2009) — along with the rights to the word “mutant.” Namor’s comic origins are that of an Atlantean/ Human mutant hybrid, and he first debuted in 1939. He’s one of Marvel’s original characters, older than the name Marvel as a publisher. So cinematically, though he could have appeared after 2016, Marvel likely sat with his rights, waiting for the opportunity to introduce a mutant to the MCU.
This brings us to how Marvel has extremely carefully considered how to integrate the extremely valuable “mutants” into the MCU.
The MCU Mutants We Know About So Far
Fans of the comics and movies waited with bated breath after the 2019 acquisition. They were thrilled at the agreements between Sony and Marvel to integrate Spider-Man into the MCU, which has been insanely successful for both partners.
While Marvel considered how to introduce mutants into the MCU, fans grasped for any hint of an explanation or tease to where mutants might be. When the multiverse entered the MCU, many thought it might be the way to get mutants introduced, especially when Doctor Strange met the Illuminati in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. In the comics, Wanda Maximoff is a mutant, and her storyline is historically complex and powerful (search for “House of M” to learn more). While her roots in the MCU were reworked and eliminated her mutant origins (along with Pietro), it took until Disney+ shows for us to first hear that fateful word.
At the end of Ms. Marvel episode six, “No Normal,” Bruno reveals to Kamala that while testing her blood, he discovered a “genetic mutation” that differentiates her from her family. Shortly after the series finale aired, star Iman Vellani confirmed in a Reddit AMA that Kamala Khan is, in fact, the MCU’s first mutant. This reveal was a huge deal for fans online, and it was an even bigger deal for the future of the MCU, altering the landscape of how mutants would be folded into the big screen adaptations.
Making a recent appearance in She-Hulk, The one and only Mr. Immortal is a mutant. Well, at least he is in the comics, and while it isn’t confirmed within the show, there’s no reason to suspect otherwise. The power to not die (at least not long-term) puts this particular character at a different echelon of mutant hierarchy. In comics canon, Mr. Immortal is the one and only member of homo supreme, a step above homo superior, the race of mutants. Fans alike have taken the introduction of Mr. Immortal as a tease of the second on-screen mutant within the MCU.
In She-Hulk episode 7, “The Retreat,” we are introduced to El Águila, our presumably third on-screen mutant. Much like Mr. Immortal, while he has not been confirmed as a mutant on-screen, his comics canon confirms as much. His powers include the ability to transfer electrostatic charges through this body, sometimes harnessing them through the sword he carries. We’re given a glimpse of this power during the retreat circle, though Emil Blonsky talks him down from this brief display of power.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Is the Mutant Hint Payoff
So how does Black Panther: Wakanda Forever work into this? This is, of course, speculation, but it was confirmed by the star behind Namor and director Ryan Coogler that the MCU big screen evolution of mutants has arrived. And with the new Age of Mutants, we can speculate how this film will play as the payoff to the recent hints of drops of mutant presence.
Assuming that Kamala Khan is the first we know of, as well as Mr. Immortal and El Águila, we can assume that mutants have existed for a while within the MCU. While the events that occur within the shows on Disney+ do impact the movies, they aren’t always directly referenced. One thought behind this is that writers and directors understand that not everyone watches the shows, but pretty much everyone watches the movies.
It seems likely that mutant origins will be explained for Namor in detail during the events of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. There haven’t been any hints of mutants beyond those yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising for this to be the film where the payoff comes due. It could be within the film itself, or even more likely, via the post-credits stinger that will end the movies of Phase 4 and kick-off Phase 5, which begins in 2023 with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever releases in theaters on November 11, 2022.