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Marvel's Guide To Destroying Time

Re: Where Are They Now?

Above: Stark tries to convince Wolverine not to go back into the future again. Or course, he doesn't listen. Excerpt from Age of Ultron #9 (2013).

I rarely criticize Marvel, DC, and the many independent superhero comic books publishers. That's a slogan I've followed for four decades and still believe is important. If you want to see good art, strong stories, and great events in the future, they have to be supported with positive encouragement.

There's two reasons why I won't, typically, speak negative about them. First, the "suspension of disbelief" is inferred. Complaining that "a story about a hero with powers not being true to physics because he beat the villain by doing something that shouldn't work" is disingenuous. You have to assume a) the character's powers are possible, and b) the character then performed impossibly. And so why stop there? It's all not true; you probably shouldn't be following comic books.

Second, comic books writers like to leave loose ends. I've often been confused by some element appearing in one issue that conflicts with another. Maybe a villain has two completely different origins (also known as a retcon) or perhaps an extremely powerful superhero is toned down when facing another favorite (take, for example, a match-up between Batman and Superman or Spider-Man and Hulk). This happens a lot. But the key is to be patient; most of the time the reasons are explained in a later issue; sometimes, the answer can be part of big event. And that's when I say Whew! glad I waited.

This time, unfortunately, will not be one of those times. I'll let you decide if I'm acting too soon.

My accusation involves Marvel Comics, the Timestream, and their mishandling of Time Travel. It starts with the Marvel NOW! event from October 2012 with their release of All-New X-Men #1 (2012), moves through the Age of Ultron event, and continue on to this day while following the Age of Ultron Aftermath and the Battle of The Atom story arcs. It might not be a coincidence that mutants are all involved here, but that's not important for the purpose of my argument.

The problem is how Marvel is screwing with time. It's so bad now that temporal problems are spreading everywhere:
  1. In All-New X-Men #1 (2012), Beast snatches the early versions of Iceman, Beast, Cyclops, Angel, and Marvel Girl. Bringing them to the present, his goal is to reform our time's Cyclops with the original concepts of the late Professor X. The problem here is known as a paradox. If you remove a person from the past, he is no longer in the present. Present-day Beast should have disappeared immediately;  Cyclops, as well. Mutantkind would be dramatically different if the original X-Men were gone.
  2. In Age of Ultron #1 (2013), we learn Ultron destroyed our populations from the future. Although intuitively this could be a paradox, it can be conceivable that a brilliant machine, watching every change to his future, carefully alters the past (our timeline).
  3. In Age of Ultron #6 (2013), Wolverine kills Henry Pym. When he (and Susan Richards) returns to his timeline, reality has changed. This is not a paradox. It could also be explained as an diverging timeline-alternate reality.
  4. By Age of Ultron #10 (2013), Marvel shows us time is broke. Once Wolverine learned that killing Pym was a bad idea, he goes back again and stops himself. One Logan then kills the other and then heads to his present timeline. This creates another paradox, but not the one that was portrayed. The two Wolverines were from different times, not present day. Present day Wolverine (Subj. A) died and had "present day minus a few hours" Wolverine (Subj. B) return to his own time. Once A was killed, A no longer existed, but he also wouldn't have existed once B returned, because B never would have left. So guess who is REALLY in our present timeline?
    • A)Susan Richards A who returned to the present timeline,
    • B)Susan Richards B who never knew of The Age of Ultron and never left,
    • C)Wolverine B who experienced The Age of Ultron, decided NOT to kill Pym, returned, and
    • C) Wolverine C who never experienced the Age of Ultron and never left.
    So guess what, we're screwed!
  5. Let's not forget Reed Richards and The Fantastic Four. All they've been doing since creating "The Bridge" is jumping around time and space. They've been to creation, the end, and all over the place.
But okay, let's forgive them. Suspension of disbelief, right? Marvel, rightfully showed us that all this time traveling screwed us up and finally broke. Here are some of the results:
  1.  In the New Avengers title, the Illuminati are facing Incursions. These dimensional events are causing alternate Earths to be destroyed.
  2. There's the Age of Ultron Aftermath event where Indestructible Hulk has to beat up "Chronarchists" from the future and our Galactus wants to destroy Earth-1610, part of The "Ultimate" Universe.
  3. We just recently learned in Uncanny X-Men #13 (2013), part of Battle of The Atom, that the past versions of the five original X-Men can't return to their timeline, even if they wanted. Although the reason hasn't been officially given, we can't ignore that time has already been broken.
  4. And then, there's the Infinity event. The ancient race known as "The Builders", who are currently credited with the creation of humans, wants to kill us in every dimension. Complete termination! They blame us for destroying the "Superflow", a device they created to make everything orderly.
 As you can see, time is messed up everywhere. Can it be fixed? I assure you: it will. Brian Michael Bendis, at the helm of Infinity, is likely governing the healing of temporal mechanics. Maybe he'll make Time Travel near-impossible from now on. Maybe he'll lead Marvel in a completely thrilling and unexpected direction. It's all worth the waiting.

But it doesn't change all the violations of consistency. When Wolverine allowed Pym to live in AU#9, making sure Age of Ultron would never occur, ALL time-traveling versions should have been wiped out. In the Battle of The Atom, the past version of Cyclops almost died in X-Men: Battle of The Atom #1 (2013); at the same time, present-day Cyclops almost faded away.

What your seeing is a true conflict. Either there are two Susan Richards and Logans in New York right now, or the five original X-Men have disappeared for decades. Beast took them from the past; their present day counterparts shouldn't be here.

I'm not judging which temporal result is right or wrong. My point is to say the inconsistency is true. It may be confusing to follow all this time traveling, but once you jump on the belief bandwagon, it should be a good ride.


  1. I have to be honest. Until Beast brought the Founding X-Men back, I hadn't been paying much attention to Marvel's temporal continuity cohesiveness because of the fact that there have been so many possible futures that have been altered or averted in so many titles and series, and in every other issue, the FF are jumping all over space and time, and Mephisto is making conniving deals, that for me, Time Travel in the Marvel line-ups had become Old Hat, Routine, and Expected - like the go-to plot device when you're stuck for something to do.

    However, when Beast stepped in and brought the Original X-Men to meet themselves in the future, I nearly fell off my chair doing a huge "WTF?!" which was complicated by the subsequent visits of more Time Travelling X-Men from more possible futures all showing up with different stories! I said, almost exactly what you did: "Wait a minute... If Beast took them from the past, their present day counterparts shouldn't be here!" I thought maybe they would do a "What If". But they didn't.

    Then when Logan and Susan started mucking about with Pym, I did another double take, saying, "How does this work now? How can the X-Men timeline be unaltered by the removal of the *entire original team*, yet the Avenger's timeline be so screwed up by one man's death?"

    And finally, when they stopped the Age of Ultron, I sat up and said, "If Ultron was stopped, then nobody had to go back in time. And if nobody had to go back, then Pym wouldn't have had any warning. And if Pym wasn't warned, they couldn't have stopped Ultron, so if they didn't stop Ultron, then somebody would have had to go back..." and collapsed under the weight of confusion, uncertainty, and circular logic.

  2. I guess our saving grace here is if we would believe that Dr. McCoy will be able to return the original five at that very moment when he took them. Past Prof. X mind-wiped them and lived their normal lives. Or am I getting these all wrong? Haha