The Marvel Studios Visual Dictionary raises the possibility that the MCU‘s version of Scarlet Witch could be a mutant after all. When Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch entered the MCU back in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it was with a radically different backstory. Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver) weren’t the mutants as fans knew from the comics, rather two young Sokovians who gained their powers after being exposed to the cosmic energies of the Mind Stone.
There was a simple business reason behind the characters’ rewritten history. While Marvel could use Wanda and Peter thanks to their strong links to the Avengers in the comics, they didn’t have the rights to use the word “mutant” in the MCU, as the X-Men license belongs to 21st Century Fox.
Disney’s proposed Fox merger now looks inevitable, and CEO Bob Iger has already confirmed that the X-Men and the Fantastic Four will be joining the MCU. If everything goes as planned, by the end of 2019 Marvel will have gained the right to use mutants in their shared cinematic universe. And a new canon book suggests Marvel may be preparing to retcon Scarlet Witch (and the late Quicksilver) as mutants after all.
Scarlet Witch Could Be A Latent Mutant
Marvel Studios has just published its first official Visual Dictionary. It’s a brief walk-through of the last ten years’ worth of Marvel movies, and one of the most interesting sections is dedicated to the Scarlet Witch. The Visual Dictionary devotes a paragraph to Scarlet Witch’s powers, and it hints at a possible retcon:
“She may be called Scarlet Witch, but Wanda’s powers aren’t derived from the occult. Whether it altered her or merely unlocked something latent inside Wanda, the Infinity Stone on Loki’s scepter bestowed incredible powers of the mind. Wanda’s internal neuro-electric interface allows her to conjure blasts of red telekinetic energy. She can also use this energy to create barriers, levitate and move objects; to communicate and read thoughts by telepathy; and even to manipulate the minds of others.”
Notice that careful and precise wording. The Visual Dictionary suggests that the Mind Stone may not have granted Wanda her phenomenal powers, but instead triggered something that was already latent within her. In the comics, mutants are individuals who possess a unique gene, referred to as the X-gene. The vast majority of people with the X-gene are said to be “latent” mutants, with the gene lying dormant unless triggered by an outside force. This brief description suggests that, once the Fox merger is complete and the rights to mutants have been regained, Marvel could retcon Wanda and her brother as latent mutants whose X-genes were activated by exposure to an Infinity Stone.
Narratively, the retcon makes perfect sense. While it wasn’t hard to believe the Mind Stone could have given Scarlet Witch powers such as telepathy and telekinesis – derived from the mind – it had always seemed odd that her brother became a super-speedster. If this idea is correct, though, it suggests that all the Mind Stone really did was trigger latent X-genes, and they simply developed the powers that could always have potentially been theirs.
Legally, it’s a little muddier. While Marvel will soon have the X-Men rights, Disney isn’t allowed to make any changes to its plans involving Fox properties until everything is finalized. That means the X-Men likely won’t appear in the MCU until 2021, but also that Marvel Studios can’t start any prep just yet. However, this may be vague enough to not be linked, just with some major ramifications.
What Does This Mean for Mutants and the MCU?
There’s been intense speculation about just how Marvel could introduce mutants into the MCU. This may be the first hint that Marvel is settling on an approach; that there have always been potential mutants in the MCU, but their X-genes have simply lain dormant, awaiting some sort of trigger event. Interestingly, there is comic book precedent for this idea. The 2012 Avengers Vs. X-Men event, for example, saw a blast of Phoenix Fire traverse the planet, activating dormant X-genes across the globe.
If this is indeed the approach Marvel choose to take, then the studio will effectively retcon Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch as mutants after all. They backstories would be rewritten to make them the first mutants seen in the MCU – a taste of all that is yet to come should everything go as planned between Fox and Disney.
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