We’ve all been celebrating an X-Men reference in Ms Marvel. It seems Kamala Khan is the MCU‘s first mutant, how cool is that? Well, it’s great, but it’s also not entirely true: we’ve already had a mutant in the franchise; we just didn’t see their powers.
Ursa Major appears in Black Widow as one of the prisoners around David Harbour’s Red Guardian. In Marvel comics, Ursa is a mutant that can transform into a bear with enhanced strength, speed, and fearsome claws – all that good bear stuff. He’s little more than a cameo, really, but as a mutant, and a character commonly associated with X-Men, fans considered him a backdoor into Xavier’s School for Gifted Children.
The problem is we only see him as a regular human. We don’t know if he has his powers yet, or if he’ll ever get them. Kamala, on the other hand, has been definitively called a “mutation”, and explicit use of the term makes it feel like a watershed moment for the MCU over a mere Easter egg.
Nobody involved in Black Widow has come out and said Ursa’s the MCU’s first mutant, only the actor, Olivier Richters. We don’t want to burst his bubble and say he isn’t, but Ms Marvel does steal the thunder a little bit.
That said, the MCU is built on crossovers, and Ursa seems like a seed planted for down the line when mutants are more widespread. We’re not at that stage yet – none of the upcoming MCU Phase 4 releases involves any X-Men characters– but we’re at the cusp. Or Wolverine could show up in She-Hulk; predicting Marvel movies and MCU series is a fool’s game, really.