X-Men: Dark Phoenix is expanding the Mutant series, and does that mean the introduction of the Fantastic Four? All talk about the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises of late have centered on whether (or, it now seems, when) the two popular Marvel Comics teams will make their way “home” to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Disney in the final stages of acquiring the film and television assets of 21st Century Fox, many fans and industry-watchers now see it as a foregone conclusion that the likes of Wolverine, Storm, Mr. Fantastic, The Thing and their various enemies and allies (all currently owned by Fox and segregated from their Marvel Cinematic brethren by old contracts struck before The House of Ideas was making its own movies) will eventually re-emerge – possibly in new forms – alongside The Avengers and company.

But while the questions about the MCU future of the Mutants center largely on whether or not the main characters will be recast (again) or, if not, whether the contradictory continuities of their respective franchises will somehow be combined at a narrative level, Reed Richards and his family face a more complicated set of questions. Not only do their rights only partly reside with Fox (the property is actually “owned,” in terms of adaptation powers, by Constantin Film), the most recent attempt at bringing them back to the screen was a critically-reviled bomb that scuttled the franchise. In other words, before The Fantastic Four come back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, either Marvel, Fox or some combination of the two will have to figure out how the property “comes back” – period.

Read More: Disney’s Fox Acquisition Could Leave the Fantastic Four Behind

With news of the Disney/Fox deal gaining traction, the logical assumption of many fans has been that the Richards Family wouldn’t be heard from until Marvel itself had reacquired the rights and decided on a course of action for restoring the beloved but tarnished brand to its original shine. But it’s equally unlikely that Fox had ever fully abandoned plans for jump-starting the property on their own – and while it’s true enough that various producers and businesspeople at Disney and Fox will have already been talking and making tentative plans about such matters for a significant amount of time before a major acquisition deal becomes “public” knowledge, it’s unlikely that Fox would have simply stopped planning for an in-house revival to wait on such a decision. The plans, in fact, may well already be in motion.

What Is The Current Future of the Fantastic Four?

How Dark Phoenix Can Introduce The Fantastic Four

What Is The Current Future of the Fantastic Four?

Fantastic Four Will X Men: Dark Phoenix Reboot The Fantastic Four?

At least two such Fox-specific plans for repairing the damage wrought by Josh Trank’s disastrously gloomy 2015 reboot (dubbed “Fant4stic” by some fans) are already well known: One aimed for a radical shift in focus, conceived around a “villain’s journey” narrative that would make longtime nemesis Doctor Doom the main character. The other took aim in an almost totally-opposite direction, with a kid-targeted premise that would recenter the property on Reed and Sue Richards’ son Franklin – possibly as a tie-in with the also Fox-owned X-Men franchise since in the original comics’ continuity Franklin Richards is a Mutant born with powerful psychic and telekinetic abilities. As of 2017, both of these plans appeared to have stalled – but is it possible that the secondary scheme of using an X-Men tie-in to add credibility to the brand has stayed on Fox’s radar?

Lately, all eyes in this realm of cinema-speculation are fixed on the upcoming release of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, a new adaptation of the Mutant heroes’ most iconic comic-book adventures which – should the Disney deal go through as currently projected – could also become the last main-series X-Men feature to be made outside the Marvel Studios banner. As such, some dedicated Marvel-watchers have floated predictions that the first hints of a crossover – in one form or another – might be seen there. But could it be that Fox producers have had plans of their own for a “surprise” appearance of a different kind, one that that would make good on the aforementioned long-rumored plans to make the Mutant and Fantastic heroes officially part of the same continuity?

A clue to this potential turn of events may already have been revealed in the pages of an Entertainment Weekly piece hyping a “first look” at Dark Phoenix itself, which sheds the first substantive light on what has thus far been an uncommonly-secretive X-Men production in terms of plot and character details. While stopping short of big reveals apart from acknowledging a still-mysterious massive twist central to the storyline, it does confirm such details as a mid-1990s setting and a new post-Apocalypse status quo that will find the X-Men as publicly-lauded heroes commanded by an increasingly “ego-driven” media-celebrity Professor Xavier.

Related: Jessica Chastain Could Be Playing This Skrull Empress In X-Men: Dark Phoenix

But of more immediate interest might be the confirmation of how the film will reimagine the Phoenix’s infamously convoluted origin story – with an inciting incident that will be new to the X-Men but may be very familiar for certain other Marvel mainstays.

How Dark Phoenix Can Introduce The Fantastic Four

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