Thanos finally met the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy in hand-to-gauntlet combat in Avengers: Infinity War in April, but Marvel had been building up to that showdown since 2012's Avengers Assemble, where we saw the purple villain smirking in the post-credits scene.
But could 20th Century Fox be seeding its own major threat – and going about it even more subtly than the MCU?
The first clue arrived at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse. In the post-credits scene, a group of typical men-in-black types arrive at the devastated Weapon X facility, which Wolverine had pretty much destroyed when he escaped earlier in the movie. One of the shady figures collects a sample of Logan's blood and puts it in a briefcase marked 'Essex Corp'.
The Essex in question is doubtlessly Nathaniel Essex – better know as the X-Men villain Mister Sinister.
In the comics, Sinister is a megalomaniacal Victorian-era scientist who was obsessed with the theory of evolution and started to notice the emergence of superpowered mutants in the human population. He encountered the newly awakened, ancient mutant Apocalypse, who transformed him into the immortal, shapeshifting being who would be known as Mister Sinister.
Sinister eventually became obsessed with the genetic inheritance of two mutants – Jean Grey and Scott Summers (aka Cyclops). His meddling eventually led to the birth of their child, who grew up to become the mercenary called Cable (now where have we heard that name recently? We should ask Josh Brolin).
Now, if you think we're getting a bit carried away with one reference, Deadpool 2 provides another. Domino (Zazie Beetz) and Russell (Julian Dennison) both spent time in an orphanage for mutants that is known for brutally torturing its charges. Its name? The Essex House for Mutant Rehabilitation.
Could this be a cover for Sinister's experiments? Where better to gather genetic material?
There are theories that Jessica Chastain's enigmatic shapeshifting villain in Dark Phoenix will actually be Essex – who has spent time in the comics as the gender-swapped 'Miss Sinister'. Sinister has a connection to the Phoenix, who will – as you may have guessed from the name – be a big part of the upcoming movie.
And if Chastain isn't Sinister, can it be too long before he shows up elsewhere in the franchise? Perhaps he's in charge of the creepy asylum in which The New Mutants is set. Only time will tell…
Deadpool 2 is out now in the UK and will be released on May 18 in the US. Book tickets here.
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