The Best Marvel Character Comeback Isn't Deadpool or Wolverine

This is the hottest mutant of them all.

Aaron Stanford in 'Deadpool & Wolverine.'

The savior of the Marvel universe is here! Yes, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) are teaming up for Deadpool & Wolverine, but the multiverse-bending new trailer also revealed the return of a former member of the X-Men, whom we haven’t seen in almost 20 years. That’s right, the coolest Marvel return in Deadpool 3 might be the most underrated mutant of them all — Pyro.

In the new Deadpool & Wolverine trailer, released during the 2024 Super Bowl, it was made clear that this film will be the moment in which the X-Men movie characters would start to truly be integrated into the MCU. Before 2019, when the Fox/Disney merger was finalized, movie rights to the majority of X-Men characters belonged to 20th Century Fox, while the bulk of the other Marvel characters existed in the Disney-owned Marvel Studios, better known as the MCU. Since 2017, when the seeds of this merger began, fans and pundits alike have been speculating what this would look like, and now it’s actually happening. Or rather, now it’s happening on a bigger scale in which very important X-Men characters will be part of an MCU project, and not just multiverse cameos or twisty fake-outs.

With this film, it seems the MCU will be truly linked with the canon of the X-Men films of the early aughts.

Pyro’s Deadpool return

In one moment of the new trailer, actor Aaron Stanford returns as Pyro, the flame-wielding mutant first introduced in The Uncanny X-Men in 1981, and prominently featured in the film X2, played by Stanford. In X2 (2003), Pyro ditched the “good” X-Men led by Professor X and joined Magneto. Pyro was also a big part of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), but, other than a small Easter egg in Days of Future Past (2014), we haven’t seen Stanford’s version of Pyro since 2006.

Technically, Alexander Burton played a younger version of Pyro in a brief scene in the 2000 X-Men, though it’s Stanford who gave the character his true and memorable debut in X2. Stanford confirmed his return with an Instagram post the same day the trailer went live.

In the trailer, Pyro is only seen for an instant, seemingly battling Deadpool, and saying, “God, I love this part!” Pyro is also rocking some kind of steampunk-ish goggles which feel low-key ripped-off from Quicksilver. Is he still working for Magneto? Working against Deadpool? Is this the same version of Pyro from the universe we’re all familiar with? Presumably, he’ll still shoot flames?

Regardless of how Pyro’s involvement is explained, it seems like more than an Easter egg. Combined with some brief appearances from X-Force (including Shatterstar and Colossus), the inclusion of Stanford’s Pyro in the trailer sends a not-so-subtle signal that this movie is very much for fans of the X-Men movies. On top of all of this, Aaron Stanford is basically geek royalty. For four seasons, he played James Cole, the lead of Terry Matalas’ version of 12 Monkeys on the SyFy network. More recently, he’s popped up in guest roles in Westworld Season 4 and Picard Season 3. This is the kind of veteran sci-fi/comic book actor you want in your big crossover movie.

Bottom line: The return of Aaron Stanford as Pyro is not just a cool detail, it’s almost like with his inclusion, this movie is making a promise. The character of Pyro is simultaneously deep-cut and a well-known character. It’s not quite on the level of putting somebody like Storm of Cyclops in the trailer, but it’s damn close. Pyro may only be the first of several X-Men characters crossing over into this movie, but right now, other than the titular Deadpool & Wolverine, he’s the best sign that this movie is going to get deep into those comic book weeds.

Deadpool & Wolverine hits theaters on July 26.

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