Captain Marvel was already set to make history as the first female-led Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, but could it also be an X-Men crossover? With the landmark and potentially industry-reshaping purchase of 20th Century Fox’s film and television assets by the Walt Disney Company now effectively complete (pending a round of federal hearings that are all-but obligatory when corporate consolidation of this scale is concerned), attention has – fairly or not – increasingly turned to questions of what this means for the X-Men and Marvel Cinematic Universe film series; franchises that share the unique distinction of being “re-unified” by the merger.
Though the X-Men share continuity with the rest of the Marvel multiverse in the comics, deals struck decades before Marvel made its own films have kept the Mutant characters segregated to their own universe under the Fox banner. But their rights en route to being held by the same company as the other Marvel characters has led fans to anticipate a crossover sooner than later – with the main question now being what form it might take.
As outlined many times elsewhere previously, however, this would seem to be easier said than done. During their respective lifespans, the MCU and the X-Men moves have both established a recurring stable of actors in iconic roles and rich mythologies that incorporate decades of real-world “alt-history.” These alternate histories would seemingly contradict one another if merged in the same “I’ve actually been here the whole time!” fashion that the Sony co-owned Spider-Man franchise joined the broader Marvel collective in Captain America: Civil War. As such, popular theories among many fans tend to predict that the arrival of the X-Men will be facilitated in some way by the reality-altering events of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War (or the untitled fourth Avengers film); perhaps with the two continuities being retconned into a single timeline or new versions of the X-Men and broader Mutant community being somehow willed into existence by The Infinity Gauntlet.
However, those are hardly the only hypothetical ways in which the new status-quo could be achieved, and some dedicated superhero movie speculators have seized onto more left-field suggestions such as the X-Men popping in through the narrative back door of one of the more cosmically-inclined Marvel properties where the rules of plausibility are already accepted as less hard and fast than one expects elsewhere. One such property would be the upcoming debut of Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel – and as fans have no doubt already noted, both the character and the circumstances of her cinematic adaptation feature tangential connections to both the X-Men and other Fox properties thought to be heading home to Marvel.
THE X-MEN AND THE EX-AVENGER
Longtime Marvel Comics readers will recall that Carol Danvers’ tumultuous pre-Captain Marvel life for a long time connected her more prominently to the X-Men than to The Avengers – largely owing to the complicated (and often controversial) nature of her existence as a character. Originally created as a female counterpart to the Marvel Universe’s original Captain Marvel (a Kree alien interloper named “Mar-Vell”) named Ms. Marvel in the 70s, she became an Avenger following the cancellation of her own self-titled solo series. Her tenure, however, was short-lived and ended with a bizarre interdimensional kidnapping/impregnation storyline in Avengers #200 that was played as an out-there meta/scifi love story, but was blasted as effectively romanticizing a rape narrative by other writers, fans and cultural commentators alike at the time.
One such aggrieved comics pro was X-Men-revamp overseer Chris Claremont, who took it on himself to pen a story where Carol Danvers returned sans-powers (her abilities having been stolen by Rogue, then a villain of the X-Men stories) and blasted her former fellow Avengers for not knowing a rape when they saw one. She instead became the X-Men’s go-to human ally for an extended period, which included the fallout of the famous Dark Phoenix Saga, eventually taking up with The Starjammers (a Guardians of The Galaxy-esque team of spacefaring rogues led by Cyclop’s estranged father Corsair) and briefly gaining new powers under the identity of “Binary.”
Thus, precedent exists for Carol Danvers to be framed as a bridge-character between the X-Men and Avengers respective setups – at least in terms of a history that would be recognized by the sort of devout fan likely to care deeply about the integrity of the internal Cinematic Universe continuity. Perhaps more substantively, however, is the detail that both Captain Marvel and the (current) final Fox-produced “main series” X-Men feature, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, will share intriguing details in common in terms of what will set them apart from the rest of their own (for now) still separate universes.
Captain Marvel and Dark Phoenix’s Shared Settings
Onetime X-Men series main director Bryan Singer‘s return to the franchise not-uncoincidentally dovetailed with a concerted effort by Fox to purge the widely-panned X3: X-Men United and X-Men Origins: Wolverine from continuity. This effort culminated in X-Men: Days of Future Past, which sent a time-traveling Wolverine back to save the future of Mutantkind by altering the events of the past and ultimately created two divergent timelines – one where the original X-Men actors of the early-2000s got a happier ending than had previously been afforded them, and one where the adventure began in earnest in the 1970s.
That “new past” timeline (and its crew of younger X-Men incarnations) continued into the 1980s for X-Men: Apocalypse, and it’s already been confirmed that this retro-styled trend will continue with X-Men: Dark Phoenix being set in the mid-1990s… which also happens to be the setting of Captain Marvel. And while that alone might be flimsy evidence on which to posit a crossover, it’s not the only odd coincidence: Both films will also take their heroes to outer space.
Traditionally, the Dark Phoenix storyline involves Jean Grey becoming the host for a destructive cosmic presence called the Phoenix Force during an adventure on the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe. The film will reportedly follow suit, with the X-Men being dispatched to outer space to rescue the crew of a shuttle under unknown circumstances (which we’ve already speculated on elsewhere). At this point, Jean Grey is expected to have her latent extra abilities and unlocked and presumably adopt the “Phoenix” persona as a result (the X-Men films, thus far, have held to the earliest issues of the comics’ storyline, where Phoenix is simply a name Jean gives herself rather than a separate entity.)
But rumors relating to Dark Phoenix’s cosmic happenings extend beyond a mere visit to space, additionally claiming that the X-Men will face an alien nemesis in addition to however the problems of Phoenix play out. For comics fans, that news would be a long time coming. While film and TV adaptations have mainly focused on inter-Mutant conflicts, extraterrestrial enemies are a frequent issue for the X-Men, with the Phoenix Saga itself involving dozens of Cosmic Marvel races and a significant supporting role for the fan-favorite Shi’ar Empire. However, what makes the new rumors especially juicy is the speculation that an entirely different set of Marvel aliens might be involved: The Skrulls, a shape-shifting race that have also been named as likely participants in Captain Marvel – and that’s where things get interesting.
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