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What’s Next For Marvel’s Merry Mutants In X-Men ’97?

We break down the implications of the season finale, that end credits scene, potential storylines from the comics, and the show's ties to the MCU.

by | May 17, 2024 | Comments


X-Men ‘97 pulled off a trick worthy of its powerful telekinetics like Jean Grey (Jennifer Hale), Madeline Pryor (yes, they are sort of the same person), and Cable (Chris Potter). It used the warmth and genuine nostalgia fans feel for the 1990s X-Men animated series to tell some pretty intense tales about prejudice, acceptance (in several forms), grief, and families. It also pushed the animated series’ period setting to a new level of thematic and technical sophistication. And it gave Morph (JP Karliak) ample opportunity to make fun of Wolverine (Cal Dodd). The result: a show people are pretty pleased about, with a Certified Fresh 98% on the Tomatometer and an Audience Score of 95%.

But what comes next?

After shocking revelations, identity twists, a surprise death, curious cameos, and that amazing cliffhanger ending, where can X-Men ’97 go in its second season? Yes, one is already being produced, and considering how the first season utilized stories like “Inferno,” “E for Extinction,” and Cable’s wild backstory for inspiration, the X-Men comics offer more of an insight than they otherwise might for a Marvel Studios production. So, let’s co-opt Destiny’s powers of prognostication and guess at what comes next for X-Men ’97.

[Warning: Spoilers for X-Men ’97: Season 1 Below]

The Adventures Of Cyclops And Phoenix

Image from X-Men '97 (2024)

(Photo by Marvel Animation)

Now that the X-Men are timelost in the distant past and far future, the immediate continuation for Jean and Cyclops (Ray Chase) is obvious: They get to raise Cable! The inspiration comes via the 1994 miniseries The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, which saw the pair arriving in the future thanks to their other timelost child. With their consciousnesses installed into new bodies, they looked after the young Nathan and taught him how his telekinetic abilities could keep the lingering techno-organic virus at bay – a metaphor for chronic pain if ever we heard one. The three of them, along with the Askani clan, also put an end to a long-term threat stretching back millennia.

It’s easy to see how this would translate to X-Men ’97 — even with Jean and Scott in their own bodies. Whereas they hid their identities in the comic, it’s clear who they are here, and that opens the way for Jean and Nathan to bond. Meanwhile, the action and adventure could tie in to the next storyline.

The Rise (Or Age) Of Apocalypse

Image from X-Men '97 (2024)

(Photo by Marvel Animation)

As glimpsed in the final moments of “Tolerance is Extinction Part 3,” Professor Charles Xavier (Ross Marquand), Magneto, Beast (George Buza), and most of the others on Asteroid M resurfaced in Egypt some 5000 years ago — the era when a Mutant named En Sabah Nur first emerged. Many years later, this person would tell the X-Men he is as far beyond Mutant as the Mutants are beyond humanity. Yes, he is Apocalypse (Marquand) in his original form.

Although he appeared in most of the ’97 title sequences, Apocalypse was curiously absent the entire season, so that glimpse of his face on the Moon when Rogue battled with Bastion was a pretty significant clue to where things might go, but to see Xavier and Magneto both encounter his younger form sets things off in a whole new direction. Although, we imagine many of the details will take their cues from the history told in The Rise of Apocalypse miniseries from 1996/97. How it all relates to the mid-credit stinger, in which Apocalypse mourns for Genosha, is anyone’s guess.

One possibility: Xavier and Magnus teaching Apocalypse could precipitate an alternate history in which he conquers the world in the late 20th century, as seen in the mid-90s X-Men crossover event “Age of Apocalypse.” In that reality, things are grim as Apocalypse continues to attempt his “survival of the fittest” goals for the world and the person who, ultimately, defeats him emerges as a very different X-Man. It was a popular story and gave rise to characters like Blink and Dark Beast. Perhaps the X-Men left behind in 1997 will face Apocalypse’s attempts to create his dystopic society even as Xavier and Magneto try to teach the young En Sabah Nur another path — one that may even lead to the future, where Scott, Jean, and Nathan face the fallout.

But that leaves one pair of X-Men unaccounted for.

Claws Of Bone

Image from X-Men '97 (2024)

(Photo by Marvel Animation)

Back in the comics, a more feral Logan — who soon discovered his claws were made of bone — emerged after Magneto ripped the adamantium from his skeleton, a sequence depicted in “Tolerance is Extinction Part 2.” After some time, he ended up in the clutches of Apocalypse, who was looking to make either Logan or Sabretooth one of his horsemen. This was a long process and, as it turns out, Apocalypse left an imposter Wolverine with the X-Men, providing the sort of twist X-Men ’97 loves to employ.

Of course, readers at the time were quite split about the whole “bone claw” era, but the pace of the new animated series could resolve this in an interesting way… especially considering the Apocalypse ties and the unknown whereabouts of Wolverine and Morph.

Our guess? A feral, bone-clawed Logan makes sense in the jungles of the Savage Land at just about any period of history. At the same time, plopping them both 150 or so years ago, around the time Wolverine was born, could also prove interesting, as he gets to learn his own history by watching it happen. Although the comic book Wolverine – and his fans – now know just about everything that was still mysterious about his past when the original X-Men animated series aired, the ’97 Logan is still in the dark about so much, even his own name.

Also, wouldn’t it be nice to see Morph become less of a joker through journeying with Logan? And, maybe, follow-up on their admission of love for Wolverine? Were they just playing Jean for the moment, or might all the cutting remarks across the season be a form of affection?

The pace of X-Men ’97 also suggests the X-Men lost in time may not be the only narrative next season. It could be, but the following ideas might be viable in the latter half or even season 3.


Image from X-Men '97 (2024)

(Photo by Marvel Animation)

While telling its own story, the penultimate episode of the season, “Tolerance is Extinction Part 2,” reached directly into the mid-1990s for two striking visuals: Charles Xavier giving Magneto the mind-womp and Magneto forcing the adamantium off of Wolverine’s skeleton. Both come from X-Men story “Fatal Attractions.” During a battle, the Master of Magnetism removed Logan’s metal augmentation and, in disgust, Xavier psychically attacked him, rendering Magnus catatonic.

The incident, though quick, had long lasting effects as it gave rise to Onslaught, a character born out of the fight who caused trouble for the X-Men for the next several years. Eventually, they required the aid of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four to defeat him. It also led to one of the more infamous Marvel Comics’ initiatives of the mid-90s: “Heroes Reborn.”

Although Xavier and Magneto seemingly recovered from their mind-meld in the finale’s closing moments, the constant references to the potential trauma of the event may lead to Onslaught in the future or even the past as the 3000 BC group, along with En Sabah Nur, face off against the entity. Apocalypse and Onslaught eventually came to blows in the comics, too. If not on the slate for next year, Onslaught could do some damage in season 3 as a slow-burn villain à la Bastion (Theo James) this year.


Image from X-Men '97 (2024)

(Photo by Marvel Animation)

Although the destruction of Genosha is a direct lift from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run, there are other elements from that era the series could explore.

For one: Mutants are poised to outnumber conventional humans within a few generations – an idea Bastion almost referenced in the finale. Anti-Mutant sentiment rages and a mysterious woman named Cassandra Nova gains control of the last remaining Master Mold. Its Sentinels wipe out Genosha. Through a series of events, she ends up possessing Xavier’s body, creating all kinds of trouble while the X-Men try to teach a new generation of Mutants, including a young person named Xorn.

That character, in particular, would fit into the X-Men ’97 milieu. Also, the stylish uniforms introduced by artist Frank Quitely as a compromise between the traditional blue-and-yellow spandex and the black leather of the X-Men films are still striking today. Seeing the team decked out in those threads – and Beast’s “secondary mutation” character design – would be something in the hands of the show’s design and animation team.

Of course, there are several obstacles to introducing more New X-Men ideas besides the timelost teams. Several of the ideas covered in Morrison’s run are already firmly part of X-Men ’97, from the anti-mutant sentiment to the destruction of Genosha by a Sentinel attack, and even Emma Frost’s secondary mutation. Additionally, Cassandra Nova is poised to make her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Deadpool and Wolverine (played there by Emma Corrin) this July. Also, the X-Men just changed costumes in season one’s penultimate episode, so switching from their 1980s costumes to the early 2000s attire might be too swift an alteration even if the X-Men had returned to the mansion without incident in the finale.

That said, characters like Quentin Quire, Fantomex, the Stepford Cuckoos, and Beak could make interesting additions to the roster of allies and adversaries, if under slightly different circumstances. Also, the dramatic shift in aesthetics could serve a fourth season should it decide to venture into the 21st century.

The Krakoa Era

Image from X-Men '97 (2024)

(Photo by Marvel Animation)

We’ll admit, we fully expected Gambit (A.J. LoCascio) to wake up in a post-credit stinger. Confused, he would emerge from a pod of organic material to a be greeted by a walking Xavier. His first words to Remy: “Welcome to Krakoa, my X-Man.”

The concept comes directly from the recently ended Krakoa era of the X-Men comics. As devised by writer Jonathan Hickman, Xavier and Magneto set aside their differences to establish a new Mutant nation on Krakoa, a living island capable of, among other things, resurrecting Mutants. Setting up their own political system, defense plans, internal security, and other aspects of society, they invite all the other Mutants to join them – although Sabretooth finds living on Krakoa particularly dicey.

Nevertheless, old enmities are mostly set down as a group including Emma Frost, Sinister, and even Apocalypse attempt to lead a new way of life for mutantkind. It eventually leads to a whole Mutant world being established, several Hellfire Galas, and a surprising number of tertiary characters getting the spotlight.

And out of every X-Men status quo in the last 35 years, this one is potentially the most exciting to see adapted. Of course, that would require a significant time jump to pull off. But Remy would then serve as our viewpoint character while Xavier or Scott reveals how their Krakoan nation came to be. Also, because Krakoa is a compelling setting, it could contain some of the other stories we’ve outlined above. Well, once the missing X-Men return from elsewhen in time.

But part of the magic of X-Men ’97 so far is its ability to condense some classic X-Men tales into effective plot threads to aid an overall theme. Concepts like Onslaught, Krakoa, and Wolverine’s journey could all play into a larger idea, just as Jean’s issues with identity, a powerless Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith), and a conflicted Roberto Da Costa (Gui Agustini) played into the first season’s major plot. With that in mind, we’d love to see all of these concepts make their way into the series, either as the focus or as part of the greater whole.

Again, once the team resolves their temporal quandary.

Is It All Connected?

Image from X-Men '97 (2024)

(Photo by Marvel Animation)

But as ’97 is produced by Marvel Studios, there is one lingering question over everything: is it tied to the MCU? The studio has spoken out on the subject, saying the animated series is not part of their Multiverse. But one of the great things about a Multiverse is the way it can be inclusive of offshoot ideas like, say, the Japanese Spider-Man. That said, the barrier between animation and live action is a primary reason to claim the series exists outside of the structure Loki (Tom Hiddleston) now controls in the MCU Multiverse.

Another reason might be the references to the nearly contemporaneous Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Captain America animated series. Though they were never officially part of the same universe – Captain America and Iron Man were made for syndication while X-Men and Spider-Man ran during Fox’s kids entertainment hours – a loose continuity was implied between them (with X-Men and Spider-Man sharing closer ties). And as seen from the reaction to Spider-Man’s brief cameo in ’97 (which some claim resolves that Spider-Man series’ cliffhanger ending), there may yet be some value in reviving those shows as well… and possibly some of the other 1990s Marvel animated programs. Giving them their own Multiverse to facilitate that may be advantageous.

Then again, the presence of Uatu the Watcher just before the tragedy on Genosha (and the King T’Chaka cameo in the finale) may suggest the strands of the main Marvel Multiverse include a place where it is still the 20th Century and the X-Men have a long road ahead of them.

99% X-Men '97: Season 1 (2024) is currently available to stream on Disney+.

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