6:15am PT by Richard Newby
How Marvel's Next 10-Year Saga Could Unite Avengers and X-Men
[This story contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame]
Avengers: Endgame opened up worlds of possibility, literally. Within this newly expanded multiverse lies the potential for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next major event. While Endgame directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, have long entertained the idea of Secret Wars being the shiny, dangling object that draws them back to the MCU, screenwriter Stephen McFeely is enticed by another comic book event worthy of cinema screens.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, McFeely and co-writer Christopher Markus detailed a document of possible ideas that served the two-film journey that would eventually become Infinity War and Endgame. Within that list of ideas one surprising item stood out: House of M. On the possibility of a film adaptation, McFeely said “I think House of M would be awesome. But you’ve got to earn it.” And he’s right. With mutants, multiverses, and madness, House of M would require a lot of work to establish well. But Marvel Studios was able to sell audiences on the idea of cosmic stones and time travel, and now with access to characters previously owned by Fox, such an undertaking doesn’t seem too far out of the realm of possibility. Is it plausible then that by 2028, House of M could be the next Endgame-level MCU event?
The 2005 storyline by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel, House of M, ushered in a new era for the Avengers and X-Men, while offering ramifications still seen in today’s Marvel publications. For those out of the loop, House of M begins with Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, mourning the loss of the mutant nation Genosha, which was destroyed in the opening salvo of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. On top of that, she’s also still dealing with the earlier dismantling of her husband Vision and the erasure of her children from existence in the pages of Avengers West Coast, and the disassembling of the Avengers in Avengers: Disassembled. Wanda is in a bad place and it’s the result of years of tragedy building around her. Professor Xavier has joined with Wanda’s father, Magneto to try to keep Wanda’s reality-warping under control but not even Xavier is able to keep her mind together for long. Xavier gathers the Avengers and X-Men to discuss what should be done about Wanda, and the fact that her powers could eventually set Earth back a millennia, if it survives at all. Wolverine and Emma Frost decide she has to be killed for the sake of mutant-human relations, while Captain America argues for an alternative solution. They ultimately decide to talk to her in person before deciding her fate but when the teams arrive in Genosha Wanda is missing and then the Avengers and X-Men start disappearing as white light consumes everything.
The result of this white light sees the Avengers and X-Men finding themselves in a world in which all of their dreams have supposedly come true. Steve Rogers is an elderly veteran married to Peggy Carter, Carol Danvers (who was still Ms. Marvel at this point) is the world’s most celebrated superhero, Captain Marvel, Wolverine is the head of SHIELD, Tony Stark earned a weapons contract with Magneto and makes sentinels that kept humans in check, and Spider-Man is a famous multi-media sensation married to Gwen Stacy, and whose Uncle Ben is still alive. At the forefront of all these changes is the fact that mutants are recognized as the dominant species thanks to Magneto revealing Nixon’s anti-mutant conspiracy in the 1970s.
Through House of Magnus, Magneto rules the world alongside his children Quicksilver, Polaris, and Scarlet Witch, who has resurrected her own children. When the former Avengers and X-Men are made aware that the reality they are living in is a lie, thanks to a young mutant named Layla Miller, they attack the House of Magnus and it’s revealed that it was Quicksilver who convinced Wanda to create this alternate reality. When Magneto, awakened to the fact that he has been manipulated, kills Quicksilver, Wanda snaps and utters the famous words “no more mutants,” and the world seemingly returns to normal, except millions of mutants all over the world suddenly find themselves without their powers.
So what would the MCU need to do in order to pull this storyline off? Just as Infinity War and Endgame were significantly different from The Infinity Gauntlet storyline, any adaptation of House of M would deviate from the comics. The key to this story working in the MCU is the Scarlet Witch. Elizabeth Olsen is certainly up to the performance requirements, but Wanda’s descent into madness is a tricky subject matter, and one that needs to happen over time. She’s already lost her brother Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and Vision (Paul Bettany) in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), so the door to her break from reality has been cracked open. But after taking on Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Endgame, Wanda seems to be in a decent place, at least judging by her conversation with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) after Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) funeral.
Of course the upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision, will provide a more intimate look at Wanda’s mental state. The series is rumored to showcase Wanda’s reality warping powers as she and Vision attempt to lead a normal life in pastiche of 1950s American living. If the series draws inspiration from Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s Vision (2018) comic series, then Wanda and Vision are in for a rude awakening about normalcy. With Marvel Studios' head Kevin Feige stating that the Disney+ series will be essential to the film journeys of these characters, there’s significant groundwork for House of M that could be laid if Wanda were to lose Vision again, and any children she might have conjured up for them.
While Wanda earns her M with her last name, Maximoff, there’s no indication that she or Quicksilver have any ties to Magneto. This could easily be changed. Their Sokovian parents could have adopted them. And since Wanda and Pietro are the only examples of the mind stone granting super powers, it could easily be explained that the stone unlocked their repressed mutant genes. Creating Scarlet Witch’s connection to Magneto is the easy part, but what’s more difficult is making mutants matter within the span of 10 years. So far the MCU has no mutants, at least none that have been introduced yet. That’s likely to change soon, and given how quickly Marvel Studios brought Spider-Man into the MCU, mutants and X-Men can’t be too far off.
But will they gain a foothold soon enough for Wanda’s words of “no more mutants” to really carry an impact? It seems unlikely unless we really got a deluge of X-Men related content from the MCU over the next decade. After all, Marvel Comics had spent more than 40 years building up mutants before House of M. But “no more superpowers” is a likely alternative. An MCU in which Doctor Strange is cut off from magic, Peter loses his abilities, and Carol Danvers her powers, sets up a number of interesting story-arcs that could manifest in a new Sorcerer Supreme, a Clone Saga, eight-armed Spider-Man, or Miles Morales as Peter attempts to re-create his powers, and Carol Danvers quest to regain her stolen powers from Scarlet Witch, a slight deviation on her conflict with Rogue in the comics.
Ever since it was reported that Disney was interested in acquiring 21st Century Fox, thoughts have gravitated to an adaptation of Avengers vs X-Men. But such a showdown is perhaps too hasty. Avengers vs X-Men is a direct result of House of M, with the mutants taking a stand against the Avengers for choosing to protect Wanda and the Phoenix Force seeking to make mutants a dominate life force again. Avengers vs. X-Men doesn’t work without an inciting incident to tie these two character groups together and “no more superpowers” seems like just the thing. If Marvel Studios puts in the work across their films and television series, and makes Scarlet Witch a more prominent player in the MCU going forward, with an attention to her relationships and tutelage under Doctor Strange, then House of M could be one of the MCU’s most impactful and emotionally resonating storylines. Imagine for a minute that in 2028, the Avengers and X-Men are taken to an alternate reality by Scarlet Witch, a sinister utopia that sees our heroes caught in a world where even the wildest ideas are plausible. And then imagine that a year later, in 2029, that the Avengers and X-Men are forced to wake up and become divided over whether to stay in this better world or return home and face the full force of Wanda’s wrath. That sounds like a two-part epic that could give Infinity War and Endgame a serious run for their money.