The X-Men ’97 Finale’s Wolverine Cliffhanger Was Set Up 29 Years Ago

A 29-year-old episode of X-Men: The Animated Series may hold the key to where Wolverine, Storm, and Morph disappeared to at the end of X-Men '97.

Wolverine in X-Men 97
Photo: Marvel Studios

This X-Men ’97 article contains spoilers.

The first nine episodes of X-Men ‘97 teased a suitably epic finale to the X-Men: The Animated Series revival, and it’s safe to say that “Tolerance Is Extinction, Pt. 3” catapulted us into the already confirmed season 2 in style. Magneto and Professor Xavier put their differences aside, Bastion was bested, and a smorgasbord of cameos squeezed in everyone from Black Panther to Daredevil. 

More than just teasing a potential Spider-Man: The Animated Series reboot, X-Men ‘97’s cliffhanger ending set up what’s next for Charles Xavier’s Gifted Youngsters. The team was divided across time, with Magneto, Xavier, Rogue, Nightcrawler, and Beast trapped in the year 3000 B.C., while Jean and Cyclops are marooned in 3960 A.D. But the ending doesn’t account for all of our spandex-clad heroes, and for those questioning where a certain de-clawed Canadian is, you aren’t alone. 

While X-Men ‘97’s near-perfect freshman season was already accused of sidelining Storm, the finale didn’t do Ororo Munroe any favors. Similarly, Wolverine had a climactic penultimate episode where his adamantium skeleton was ripped out by Magneto, presumably setting up his feral form from the comics. Alongside Morph, they were caught in Magneto’s blast when Asteroid M was destroyed, and like the rest, presumably find themselves in a new time. But we never see where Wolverine, Storm, or Morph ended up before the credits rolled.

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The Return to “One Man’s Worth”

The internet is rife with theories that Morph, Storm, and Wolverine now find themselves in some dystopian future where the X-Men were never formed, specifically the future first glimpsed in the X-Men: The Animated Series episode “One Man’s Worth.” The Animated Series season 4’s two-part episode featured an alternate future where Xavier was killed years ago, Storm and Wolverine are married, and a mutant rebellion led by Magneto sees our heroes fight the Avengers (as agents of Apocalypse). 

To add fuel to the fire, showrunner Beau De Mayo himself assigned “One Man’s Worth” as one of the episodes fans should go back and watch ahead of “Tolerance Is Extinction,” which would imply a connection between that classic two-parter and the X-Men ’97 finale. Putting their own slant on the theory, Redditor u/no-cool-names-left guessed, “If one group went back in time and one group went forward in time, what if those three got sent sideways?” Forge’s present-day map at the end of the X-Men ’97 finale (a clear homage to Days of Future Past) refers to Morph, Storm, and Wolverine as “Missing: Presumed Dead,” which is in contrast to Jubilee and Sunspot being “AWOL.” This suggests the former group isn’t in that time period.

Of course, it’s important to note that Bastion’s mother actually appears in the background of “One Man’s Worth,” so this might’ve been what DeMayo was referring to. But that’s not where the connections end…

The Age of Apocalypse Connection

Also backing up the “One Man’s Worth” timeline is its tie to the Age of Apocalypse comics, which saw the creation of an alternate timeline in which the evil mutant ruled the earth and Professor X was dead. X-Men: The Animated Series creator Eric Lewald previously told Polygon how the episodes inspired Marvel Comics to write the epic arc. With Apocalypse clearly being set up as a major figure in season 2, the Age of Apocalypse and “One Man’s Worth” connection seems to be one fans should keep in mind.

DeMayo has recently referred to Age of Apocalypse as one of the “greatest and most popular crossovers in X-Men history” and highlighted it as part of X-Men ‘97’s potential five-season plan. Of course, all of this was before he left the series. Still, many are sold on the idea that this is where our missing X-Men are.

There are other fanciful theories that X-Men ’97’s Wolverine is actually the animated version of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine who “failed” his universe in Deadpool & Wolverine. But that one feels like more of a stretch, as the finale would have almost certainly set up a tie-in with Marvel’s biggest blockbuster of the year in a much more direct way.

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Even if the writers don’t have time travel abilities akin to Cable, it’s incredible to think X-Men: The Animated Series could’ve set up Wolverine’s fate some 29 years ago. Considering Storm and Wolverine are a dynamic duo from the old guard of X-Men, and with Morph being a highlight of X-Men ‘97 thanks to some much-needed comic relief, let’s hope the writers don’t forget about them for too long. Either way, as the dust settles on X-Men ‘97, a disbanded team across time and Apocalypse waiting in the wings means things will likely never be the same again.

X-Men ’97 is streaming now on Disney+.