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Deadpool 2 has a major clue about the future of Fox’s mutants

The key is Cable’s daughter.

Deadpool in Deadpool 2 Fox
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Spoilers for Deadpool 2 follow.

Tucked into the the third act of Deadpool 2 is a major Easter egg.

Both the marketing for Deadpool 2 and the film itself assures viewers that Cable’s complex origin story doesn’t matter — which is a relief, since Cable’s publication history is absolutely wild, full of time-jumping, clones, and general nonsense. None of that is really crucial to the film’s story, but in Deadpool 2’s third act, Cable drops a bomb from his backstory by telling us his daughter’s name: Hope.

For comic book fans, this is a huge deal — think neon lights, fireworks, booming cannons, and air horns, all of which were going off in my brain when that line was uttered. Hope Summers is a major deal in comic books but also has major connections to X-Force, the X-Men team that was introduced in Deadpool 2 and will soon get its own movie, which is set to begin shooting later this year.

Here’s why that tiny Easter egg reveals some big clues.

Why Hope Summers matters

Hope Summers’s importance in Fox’s cinematic world of Marvel is tied up in her importance to mutants in Marvel’s comic books. While Fox’s X-Men properties have undergone a series of reboots like X-Men: First Class, television shows like Legion and Gifted, and spinoffs like Deadpool and Deadpool 2, the X-Men have had a roller-coaster decade and a half in the comic books.

Quite frankly, they’ve been decimated.

In 2005, comic book crossover events called “House of M” and “Decimation” saw the Scarlet Witch cull over 99 percent of the Earth’s mutant population. Mutants, X-Men and non X-Men alike, lost their powers, and no new mutants were being born (not unlike the setting for 2017’s Logan). That changed in 2007 with a storyline called “Messiah Complex,” in which the first baby with an X-gene (the gene that signifies human mutation) is born.

Hope is that baby.

Similar to Deadpool 2, “Messiah Complex” involves a time-traveling Cable, a.k.a. Nathan Summers (the son of the X-Man known as Cyclops, a.k.a. Scott Summers, and Madelyne Pryor, a clone of Jean Grey), who goes back in time to save the baby and ensure the future of all mutants. That, of course, is easier said than done since there are lot of various groups, villains included, with a vested interest in the future of mutantkind (or the lack thereof).

At the end of “Messiah Complex,” Cable takes Hope forward in time to ensure the future of mutantkind. He saves Hope and the timeline, not unlike the final results of Deadpool 2. Hope’s importance to the future of mutants is what makes that ostensibly simple reveal of her name in Deadpool 2 such a big deal for comic book fans.

But Hope’s story doesn’t end with her mere existence making everything go back to normal for mutants. That’s just one facet of her complex origin story. There’s also another huge reason comic book fans are excited by the revelation of her presence in the movies: Hope’s connection to X-Force, a comic book team that’s spoofed in Deadpool 2 and will feature in an upcoming movie.

How X-Force connects Cable, Deadpool, and Hope Summers

Deadpool 2’s treatment of X-Force was pretty much perfect. The film’s marketing did a great job of hyping up the potential of an X-Force team in trailers, and then, in characteristic Deadpool fashion, the film turned the team into a katamari of limbs, blood, venomous spit, and severed pieces of Rob Delaney’s dad bod.

The film’s treatment of X-Force was a nod and a wink to fans who no doubt love the original team but also understood that dropping an iteration of an X-Force team into Deadpool 2 wouldn’t do it justice. The bloody joke that was X-Force’s Deadpool 2 introduction potentially sets up a more serious version of X-Force when the team appears in its own movie.

Then the unavoidable question becomes: What iteration of the team will appear in the upcoming X-Force movie?

Because of Disney’s desired acquisition of Fox (and the Comcast bid to unravel it), there’s still a lot of murkiness around what this project will become and which characters will be able to appear in it, but we do know a couple of things.

Back in September, prior to the news of the acquisition, Deadline reported that Drew Goddard was picked to write and direct X-Force, and that it would focus on “down and dirty mutant warriors who are far more ruthless than their X-Men counterparts.” The other detail we know is that Domino (Zazie Beetz), Cable (Josh Brolin), and Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool are set to return for the film.

Those factors, combined with Cable’s detail about his daughter Hope and Deadpool 2’s use of time travel, makes it seem like the 2008-’09 version of the team (give or take a few members) is the most likely X-Force scenario:

The X-Force roster from “Messiah War.”
Marvel Comics

In this version (which was written by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, who coincidentally have co-writing credits in Thor: Ragnarok), X-Force is a black-ops team that Cyclops sends on missions too bloody for the X-Men, who have a hard line against killing, as was mercilessly lampooned in Deadpool 2. A version of the team appears in the aforementioned three-part “Messiah Complex” arc in which Cable comes back in time to save Hope, whom he adopts. The roster pictured above is the team that, in the wake of “Messiah Complex,” is sent to the future to help Cable — notice that Domino, Cable, and Vanisher, characters who appear in Deadpool 2, are on the team — in the subsequent arc called “Messiah War.”

Deadpool also appears in the comic book, and (coincidentally?) the marketing for Deadpool 2 included the term “Second Coming” which, aside from the double entendre, is the name of the final installment in the “Messiah Complex”/Hope Summers event:

Deadpool in “Messiah War.”
Marvel Comics

The moral question in the heart of this X-Force team was determining what survival costs. Can one still be a hero if it means taking another life? If killing means ensuring the safety of others, then is it right? The answers aren’t easy.

There’s also a jagged edge between this team and the X-Men, who have no idea that Cyclops has assembled what’s essentially a murder squad. While their methods might be debatable, they’re crucial to the future and Hope’s story.

Telling this X-Force story would allow Fox to delve into deeper, bloodier, darker themes — the kind you see in Deadpool and don’t see in the X-Men movies. It also would allow Fox to use characters who have never been showcased before, and wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to be featured in an X-Men film. And the source material would allow X-Force to exist within the X-Men’s cinematic world but, largely because of time travel, not intrude on that world directly.

Of course, the business side of the matter is a different beast, and what happens between Fox, Disney, and possibly Comcast could affect the rights around these characters in ways that might alter the film’s creative direction. Or it might not; or X-Force might materialize before the deal is even finalized. Short of Cable popping in from the future to let us know who will end up owning the X-Men and their many associates, we’ll just have to wait and see.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Deadpool 2, in less than obvious ways, introduced elements of a great X-Force story. Now it’s just a question of if and when that story gets to be told.