[X-Men: Apocalypse](tag:1194267) was probably all over your news feed this month (in amongst all the Star Wars, Star Trek, Civil War and Batman vs Superman news, of course!) as Fox released an absolutely incredible trailer for the latest installment in the X-Men franchise.
The new film looks incredible, but it's not the only Apocalypse-centric X-Men release for 2016.
Earlier this week, Marvel announced that they would be releasing a three-part Apocalypse comic event, connecting three X-Men series (Extraordinary X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and All New X-Men).
The fight for survival will be waged across three different titles as the X-Men battle one of their greatest foes.
Editor Daniel Ketchum explains that while each series revolves around an “Apocalypse-centric” storyline, the stories will not overlap, giving the creators a lot of room to play with and the ability to tell their own unique tales. Each story will have a serious impact and far-reaching consequences for the X-Men.
Fans are sure to enjoy seeing Apocalpyse taking on each of these three teams in turn, as well as collecting the three variant covers that combine to form a single Apocalypse Wars image.
The FOX/Marvel Cold War
While the comic event alone sounds incredible, the real impact of this news is for movie fans who want to see the X-Men take their places in the MCU. Fans have long bemoaned the lack of Wolverine in the Avengers (including Hugh Jackman himself!), and as the MCU continues to expand, the lack of one of Marvel's most famous teams becomes more and more awkward.
Up until now, it had been assumed that the X-Men would remain an entirely separate franchise, as FOX and Marvel aren't exactly friendly. The comic book giant has been accused of freezing out the studio who owns the X-Men film rights; cutting back on X-Men comic titles and new characters, refusing to create merchandise that is connected to to films, and generally sidelining the mutant favorites. In general, Marvel has made no secret of the fact that they aren't going to be going overboard to promote a team when they don't make 100% of the profit from their popularity.
X-Men isn't the only team to be cut out of the action by Marvel, either. Fantastic Four (another property where film rights belong to FOX) has also suffered from a lack of merchandising.
First Spiderman, Now Apocalypse?
However, there is one character whose part-ownership has been recently overcome by studios working together. Spiderman, one of Marvel's flagship characters, was sold off to Sony, but will now be finding his (rebooted) way to the MCU. Sony and Marvel were able to work out a rights-sharing agreement for the web-slinger so that he could make his debut in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War... which shows that Marvel is willing to negotiate in order to get everyone back home.
The fan-reaction to the announcement was also huge. While some felt that this would kill the Andrew Garfield/Amazing Spider-Man universe before its time, the overall reaction was incredible positive. Marvel may be learning that the majority of fans really would love to see an exhaustive MCU.
Why The Comic Matters
Creating (and promoting) a comic event for multiple X-Men teams, featuring Apocalypse, only months before the X-Men: Apocalypse movie is released? This marks a huge turnaround for the comic giant. Instead of continuing to ignore the FOX films completely, the creation of a tie-in comic suggests that Marvel may be angling for another rights-sharing agreement.
This may not be a line of toys, but it's something that proves that Marvel isn't quite as ready to give up on the X-Men as we thought they were. It could even be part of a larger strategy that will include official toys and merchandising for the film.
Fan Reaction Matters
While this is absolutely incredible news, some may wonder why Marvel would change it's mind. The issues with FOX have been long-standing, but there are a few things that have happened in recent years that may have had an impact on Marvel's thinking when it comes to the X-Men.
The actual quality of the films has undoubtedly made a difference to Marvel, just as it has to the fans. The original films garnered complaints and frustrations over deviation from the comics, poor writing, and generally just weren't considered incredible movies (although they are credited for launching the live-action superhero renaissance, so there's that!). However, the recent soft-reboot of the franchise that started with X-Men: First Class has been a significant improvement, and these new incarnations of the characters are proving pretty popular. It seems that the X-Men films won't just die out from lack of interest (as you might have been forgiven for thinking after Wolverine: Origins) which means that it's time to play ball.
The fan reaction in general is also a huge factor in marketing and production strategies. The X-Men remain a hugely popular team within the world of Marvel, and while there have been rumors of the comic creators attempting to replace them with the Inhumans, they just don't have the same level of fan support.
Could This Really Happen?
Marvel knows that the fans matter and as a long-time comics underdog, they know the cost of not keeping fans happy. With their readers (and viewers) making it clear that they would still love to see the X-Men in the MCU, it seems that this may finally be on the cards.
The comic-event may be something of an experiment; a way to see if a rights-sharing agreement might pay off. If this is Marvel's way of testing the waters, it's time for everyone who wants to see Wolverine joining Spidey and the gang in a future Avengers movie to head out and scoop up a copy.
The Apocalypse Wars hits shelves in March