There’s a rumour doing the rounds lately that Marvel are going to use their upcoming Axis event (or an untitled event next summer) to basically erase mutants from the Marvel universe. This sort of thing usually comes across as laughable paranoia and a ridiculous rampaging rumour born of speculation. I normally would never cover something like this because it just seems too silly.
But here’s the stupid thing: It kind of fits.
Just because it adds up it doesn’t mean it’s true, however it does mean it’s plausible. As I absolutely adore the X-Men books right now, I thought I’d take a moment to write up my take on things.
First let’s look at the evidence. Marvel don’t like that Fox have the rights to the X-Men movies, that’s obvious. When Marvel started pushing the Inhumans brand last year it seemed reasonable to think that they were being positioned as mutant replacements, as we all of a sudden saw people (especially teenagers) worldwide manifesting super powers and scaring the population but this time they’re called inhumans and not mutants. However the X-Men themselves were still trucking along and doing their thing at the same time. No one was being replaced; it was more like copying what worked in a new way.
This whole ‘Inhumans are the new X-Men’ thing started to feel even more plausible lately when it seemed like Marvel were downplaying the X-Men and the Fantastic Four in terms of future promotion and merchandise. It seems dumb but from a cold, logical business point of view I kind of get why they’d actually do that. The Avengers movie made over a billion dollars, by comparison the comics sell peanuts. It’d be nice if the comics skyrocketed in sales but that just didn’t happen. Which means from a financial point of view, if you really wanted to stretch it, you could hypothesise that somewhere, someone at Marvel is annoyed that by advertising the X-Men comics they’re inadvertently advertising the new X-Men movies. Marvel are said to have a pretty rocky relationship with Fox and if you look at the lack of LEGO and action figures for Days of Future Past compared to Guardians of the Galaxy then it’s hard to argue they aren’t playing favourites. A little annoying for us consumers although it’s understandable, but it’s quite a stretch to go from that to saying that Marvel will completely slice off their whole arm of X-Men comics too.
The following paragraph is a spoiler for an upcoming Wolverine story. Yes, that one. If you follow comic book news you’ll already know but I’ve put a warning just in case.
Next on the paranoid evidence list is the fact that Wolverine is one of Marvel’s most popular characters. So getting rid of the mutants means getting rid of Wolverine, which would be crazy right? Well as you are probably already aware, Wolverine is already set to die in just a couple of months. That’s hardly a spoiler considering the whole event is being marketed around the fact it’s counting down to his death. Assuming this isn’t a trick, Wolverine will be dead before the X-Men get the axe. We’re going even more down the speculation hole with this one, but killing him now does mean there’s room to revive him later without his mutant status. The rumour mill states that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are apparently coming back as inhumans in time for Avengers 2. True or not, I certainly expect both of them to get a push around that time, that much is obvious. But if they are newly inhuman-ed then Wolverine could too.
So that’s the evidence for it, how about the stuff against it? Well for starters the X-Men are pretty well known in popular culture. Sure, the movie rights stuff muddies the waters but Marvel are still making creative use of the brand in other ways. Look at the recent LEGO game for instance, the X-Men are a huge part of the game there’s even an entire level set in the mansion. They’re still Marvel’s characters when all is said and done. You could argue that Fox are doing Marvel a favour by making such successful films as they can sit back and benefit from them too.
Tom Breevort, a senior editor at Marvel, has recently stated that Fantastic Four will still be going next year. Now I’d say that if Marvel really wanted to drop anything that helps out Fox then Fantastic Four would go first, which actually was its own separate rumour, as it’s only one series right now after FF ended a few months ago. Cancelling the X-Men means killing a number of ongoing series’, some of which only recently started. If Marvel really were ending the X-Men, wouldn’t it make more sense to wind the franchise down now? Cancel a couple books for instance or at least stop launching them?
EDIT: I’ve seen some people point out that Breevort said that after May 2015 anything is possible regarding Fantastic Four. This is true but he’s also said the same thing about Avengers, so I don’t think you can reasonably use his answer as evidence beyond saying something is happening next summer. Considering Marvel have jumped back into doing events, we can expect some sort of event then anyway (which they have teased) so I don’t think that’s necessarily evidence either way, yet.
It’s an obvious point but it’s also worth mentioning that Marvel’s X-Men books are top sellers and are written by some of the company’s top talent. Brian Michael Bendis, who writes two X-Men books currently, chimed in on the rumour and essentially made that point as well as flat out saying there were interesting things coming for the X-Men next year. Of course he wouldn’t spill the beans if it was true but I doubt he’d completely lie when it’s his own books that would be heading for the furnace.
What’s my overall opinion then? It seems unlikely Marvel would do it but there is a strange amount of “evidence”. The rumour might have started because it does simply make sense as a viable option, so somebody figured they could stir up a plausible idea. On the other hand perhaps there’s some truth to it but the message has been muddled in transmission. Maybe the whole brand is getting radically re-launched? Maybe they’re merging them with the Avengers? We’ll have to wait and see. In comics things rarely stay a secret for long, so whatever the truth is I bet we don’t have to wait too long to find out.