What New Mutants' Present-Day Setting Means For the X-Men Timeline

By the early '80s, the classic X-Men were getting older, having kids, being co-opted by evil forces, or dying in battle. So, Marvel charged Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod with creating a new team. The New Mutants debuted in 1982, infusing the X-Men with fresh blood. Their new troop consisted of Danielle Moonstar a.k.a. Mirage (played by Blu Hunt), Rahne Sinclair a.k.a. Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), Xi'an Coy Manh or Karma, Sam Guthrie or Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), and Roberto da Costa aka Sunspot (Henry Zaga) – and later added Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy).

The movie version takes the New Mutants (minus Karma, for now) and the franchise in a very different direction, with director Josh Boone giving the team an X-Men-meets-horror-flick vibe. As the first trailer reveals, 20th Century Fox let him run with the concept. Despite Boone's paranormal twist (an intriguing angle), the film still falls within FOX’s muddled continuity.

So, where exactly do the New Mutants fit in, and what does the recent reveal that the movie is set in the present day mean for the X-Men universe?

Where Do the New Mutants Fit In?

In the comics, Professor X’s new students fit squarely into the mutant world after the timeline-wiping event, “Days of Future Past.” Debuting in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 (1982), the team’s solo book launched in 1983, fitting neatly in with the ‘80s-era X-Men. The New Mutants also took part, peripherally or directly, in several of the decade’s most iconic events, including the rise of Apocalypse in “The Fall of the Mutants,” “Mutant Massacre,” and the mutant-enslavement debacle of “Genosha.”

Since X-Men: Apocalypse was set in the early ‘80s and Dark Phoenix is rumored to take place during the early ‘90s, New Mutants was initially thought to be a prequel of sorts, set along a similar timeline to its original launch  or at least lining up with the era in which Dark Phoenix occurs. The trailer included a remixed version of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (part II)” – which was released in 1979 but remained on heavy rotation throughout the early 80s as well. In addition, aspects of the plot and one of the (possible) villains are reportedly pulled from the “Demon Bear” saga, which ran in 1984 originally.

Adding to the confusion, the comic had a serious presence in the early '90s before its cancellation. It also introduced two of the most iconic characters of that era, Deadpool in issue #98 (1991) and Cable in New Mutants #86 (1990). The squad was rebooted twice, in 2004, as New X-Men: Academy X, and with the classic lineup and title in 2009, making its place in the X-Men continuity fairly ubiquitous.

Despite their strong ties to the ‘80s and ‘90s, though, official word arrived from Boone himself. Shortly after the first teaser aired, he confirmed the mutant scare fare is set in the “present day.” This means, Moonstar, Cannonball, and their cohorts are actually teenage contemporaries of Wade Wilson, Colossus, and Domino. But how does their place in the timeline impact X-Men continuity?

What Does a Modern New Mutants Mean?

Fox’s X-Men franchise timeline is, to say the least, complicated. The first three films in the franchise, X-MenX2, and X-Men: The Last Stand, as well as X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine make up the classic timeline. Everything changed after Days of Future Past, though, which effectively reset the universe and set up the First Class cast as FOX's official X-Men squad in the cinematic realm. Deadpool, its sequel, and the in-development X-Force movies also exist in contemporary days, toward the latter end of the timeline – although Wade Wilson is a bit of an in-universe anomaly. Logan, in theory, falls at the tail end of the current continuity, suggesting possible mutant-depowering storylines or even an eventual meet-up with X-23 for the New Mutants.

Although it’s unfortunate that fans won’t get any direct interaction between the current X-Men team and their theoretical trainees (at least for now), there are several advantages to setting the New Mutants in the present. Since Deadpool 2 will introduce Cable and exists in the contemporary era, the time-traveling mutant could assume the same leadership role he had in the comic books  assuming he's not too busy assembling X-Force or keeping Wade out of trouble that is. Nate’s mentorship could also avoid forcing a confusing continuity where Professor X and First Class mutants become the new team's teachers – who seem to be led (or antagonized) by Dr. Cecillia Reyes at this point.

It’s also interesting to note that Dani and her cohorts partook in the comic book storyline “Mutant Messiah,” which features Hope Summers  the first mutant born after Scarlet Witch depowered most of mutant-kind. Even though mutants appear to have been wiped out by Transigen Corporation (from Logan) in the film world, early stills from Deadpool 2 showed Cable wearing a teddy bear, hinting at Hope for future stories. Most of the New Mutants also transitioned into Cable's more militarized team,. X-Force, including Mirage, Cannonball, Shatterstar, Warpath, Domino, and others. The film’s location in the timeline acts as a solid set up for the X-Force movie, as well as other possible projects in the works.

Boone also noted there would be deeper connections between the other branches of the X-Men franchise, even though he couldn’t say more at present. His hint implies an association between the new team and Cable, the Merc with a Mouth, and others, which also fits with the overall comic book history. The director also confirmed that the New Mutants sequel will add characters like Karma and Warlock into the mix, something which could link up to the cosmic storyline teased by Dark Phoenix.

Of course, having the First Class X-Men of the '90s work alongside their contemporary new recruits is tricky without introducing more general audience-befuddling time travel. Nevertheless, Marvel comics, as well as FOX's little corner of their universe, are no stranger to temporal shenanigans.

New Mutants opens up a new, freaky chapter (an entire trilogy, for that matter) for the X-Men's cinematic universe. While it's somewhat disappointing that the latest squad won’t be era-appropriate for a team-up with Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Professor X, their introduction is an exciting step in the evolution of FOX's franchise. Their place in the timeline certainly allows for a collaboration with Cable, Deadpool, or even X-23, perhaps even X-Force, assuming it moves forward with production.

Future entries will also continue the first film's horror themes and add tie-ins to the larger mutant universe, including Warlock and the Technarchy. Although the full extent of the New Mutants' connections remain under wraps, the feature offers a lot of curious possibilities… and hopefully a spooky good time as well.

Next: New Mutants May Start A New X-Men Horror Trilogy

Key Release Dates
  • New Mutants (2019) release date: Aug 02, 2019
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What New Mutants' Present-Day Setting Means For the X-Men Timeline