Marvel Comics is currently in the midst of Apocalypse Wars, a major universe-shaking event series and will soon head into Civil War II just in time for Captain America: Civil War. But the publisher is also looking ahead to its future -- not just as a multimedia brand, but as a "universe" of superhero stories recently reborn from the ground up in the Secret Wars finale. And if a new teaser image is any indication, that future could be dire for one or more of the big names from one of their most celebrated franchises: The X-Men.
Released today, a the preview image spells it out cryptically as "The Death of X," with "X" blown up in big, boody, red typeface. But who (or what) is actually dying?
The X-Men franchise currently occupies a precarious place in the Marvel canon: While it remains one of the company's most popular sets of characters and is soon set to launch another in the series of blockbuster X-Men movies with Bryan Singer's X-Men: Apocalypse, it's also the last remaining (major) franchise that Marvel itself doesn't exert any control over when it comes to the company's now-dominant movie business. Unlike Spider-Man, where custody is now shared between Marvel Studios and Sony, the rights to the X-Men films are still owned wholly by Fox -- meaning Marvel has no control over the direction of the films and only sees a small direct profit from them.
That doesn't sit well with the upper echelons of Marvel's management, and rumors have persisted for years that the powers that be wanted the publisher to reduce or eliminate the presence of characters and franchises the studio didn't control the film rights to from the comics. Such rumors were given credence when The Fantastic Four largely ceased to exist right around the time their most recent movie (also from Fox) bombed out of theaters, and many feel a similar target could be on the backs of many (or even all) of the X-Men.
Already, Marvel has made many moves that would indicate a diminished presence for the once all-powerful franchise. In the current comics continuity, Mutants have been rendered an endangered species by an outbreak of sterilizing (and in some cases fatal) "M-Pox" related to a mass-release of Terrigen Mist -- which, coincidentally, has dramatically increased the Marvel Universe's population of "Inhumans" -- a race of super-powered beings similar to Mutants, but with an added backstory of having descended from early humans who were experimented on by aliens.
Something else that makes The Inhumans different from The X-Men? Marvel owns their movie rights, and have already planned a feature film for 2019 -- a move the studio seems confident enough about to dedicate the last two seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to laying out its backstory. This has led many fans to speculate the X-Men's days in the Marvel Universe could be numbered, perhaps shuffling them off to a universe of their own or putting the characters on indefinite hiatus until (presumably) the movie rights can be reclaimed. But with "The Death of X" now teased, fans will no doubt wonder if the change will be something more drastic: The death of all Mutants, perhaps? Somehow transforming them all into Inhumans instead and ending the "Mutant" concept for good? Marvel has had plenty of similar shake-ups after similar teases, including Steve Rogers' return and the Death of Wolverine; which many saw as an early signal of trouble ahead for The X-Men.
The event is teased for a fall 2016 launch.
Source: Marvel Comics
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