Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for What If…? season 2 episode 8


Marvel’s What If…? season 2 adapts the Marvel 1602 storyline but excludes the X-Men, missing an opportunity to explore their characters and themes. The 1602 comics feature key roles for the X-Men and Magneto, but their involvement was left out of What If…?’s adaptation. The decision to exclude the X-Men from the 1602 episode maintained narrative coherence and avoided stealing their thunder before their official introduction in the MCU Mutants movie.

The latest MCU release removed the X-Men from a key Marvel Comics storyline, years before the new mutants appear in the shared universe for real. What If…? season 2 adapts the multiverse chaos of Marvel 1602, which saw Marvel’s modern heroes dropped into the turn of the 17th Century, and given different roles in that universe. What If…? changes the story for the Marvel timeline, but then that’s Marvel Studios’ usual trick – it’s just a shame that it comes at the cost of the X-Men’s involvement.

Some individual X-Men characters have obviously appeared in the MCU already, largely in glorified cameos until Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine appears in 2024’s Deadpool 3. But the team itself hasn’t arrived, and none of the key themes behind Marvel’s mutants have really been explored, other than very vague hints at the existence of the X-Gene/superhero gene. Marvel’s latest MCU release had an opportunity to plant the seeds for mutantkind’s Civil Rights struggle, with a look at them as social pariahs. But a major change to the Neil Gaiman adaptation made that impossible.


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The X-Men Should Have Appeared In What If…?’s 1602 Episode

What If…? season 2 episode 8 soft-adapted Gaiman’s Marvel 1602 comics run, sending the majority of the mainline Marvel cast to a late Elizabethan era universe after an unknown anomaly caused an incursion that threatened to destroy the universe outright. In the MCU version, Captain Carter is recruited from a neighboring universe by Scarlet Witch and commanded to save the universe by Queen Hela and her head of intelligence, Nick Fury (before the former is quickly killed off by the rift anomaly). Eventually, Carter discovers that the anomaly was created by the “Fore-Runner” – someone from a different, future, timeline whose presence in the 1602 universe was an abomination.

In the comics, the 1602 cast is huge, including prominent roles for the likes of Doctor Doom, The Fantastic Four, and the X-Men and Magneto. Spaniard Carlos Javier (Charles Xavier) runs the “College for the Sons of Gentlefolk”, where he offers sanctuary to the so-called “Witchbreed”. His young charges are Roberto Trefusis (Bobby Drake), Scotius Summerisle (Scott Summers), Hal McCoy (Hank McCoy), Werner (Angel), and “John” Grey (Jean Grey, in disguise as a man). They are hunted by Grand Inquisitor Enrique (Magneto) when they’re implicated in the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Sadly, their key role in the comics was entirely left out of What If…?‘s adaptation of Marvel 1602.


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Why What If…? Cut The Mutants

The decision to leave the X-Men out of the MCU’s 1602 adaptation has one very tangible narrative explanation, and a behind-the-scenes justification. For the former, Gaiman’s 1602 introduces the idea of “Witchbreed” as outcasts, feared and hated for their difference: but the MCU version of 1602 embraces superpowers more overtly. Thor, Loki, and Hela replace the real world Royal Families, Scarlet Witch is a close advisor, and their potential saviour – Captain Carter – is a superpowered hero from another universe entirely. The idea of ostracized “Witchbreed” simply makes no sense in this version: and the 1602 X-Men’s story is entirely tied to that story.

What If…?

What If… ? is an animated anthology series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which features fan-favorite characters, including Peggy Carter, T’Challa, Doctor Strange, Killmonger, Thor, and more. The new series, directed by Bryan Andrews with AC Bradley as head writer, features signature MCU action with a curious twist. The show sees Uatu the Watcher, an omnipotent being that observes the events of multiple universes from afar as they unfold, unable to interfere. However, things shift when an entity peers beyond the veil, jeopardizing the multiverse. 

In wider terms, debuting the X-Men as a team in What If…? before their real arrival in the MCU – in the so-far untitled, undated, but very much upcoming MCU Mutants movie would have stolen too much of their thunder. Multiversal cameos for Sir Patrick Stewart and Kelsey Grammer’s Hank McCoy are a different matter without quite the same stakes. What If…? having a more wholesale debut would have promised too much, particularly with the question of casting.

Marvel’s What If…? season 2 is streaming on Disney+ now.

Key Release Dates

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Blade (2025)

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Avengers: Secret Wars

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