“Most people get their time travel logic from “Back to the Future”. That is good. That is great, I love that. But there are other philosophies of time travel that we are hinting at from “Age of Ultron” all the way through that are worth exploring, that bring us much more interesting storytelling; scarier storytelling. Some of it will be revealed in the “All-New X-Men” and “Uncanny X-Men” annuals with Eva, who – as you see from the solicitations – will be traveling throughout the Marvel Universe, both past and future. She will see things and find things out about time travel, about herself, about the Marvel Universe that will affect her personally and reveal things about the nature of the world that will frustrate the hell out of or excite many readers.”
In August 2013, I wrote an article examining how time travel works in the Marvel Universe. Traditionally, every action has created whole new timelines; but something had changed. With ‘Age of Ultron’, time and space were fractured, shattered, and the Marvel Universe became a much more dangerous place.
Well, now we know how time travel works in a post-‘Age of Ultron’ world.
The key scene is in the ‘All-New X-Men’ annual.
So, the future is forever in motion; continuity is not fixed, and the moment time-travel happens, history can be rewritten at a whim. I mean, what reasonable action meant the Sorcerer Supreme of 2099 became Tony Stark rather than Illyana Rasputin? Bendis seems to have included that just to give an indication of how profoundly mixed-up time and space have now become.
But – and here’s the interesting thing – this is the story that Brian Bendis has been telling since ‘All-New X-Men #1’. Only he’s just revealed his hand – and I don’t think X-fans have considered the implications…
The All-New X-Men
A time traveller moves from their present into the future, and builds a life there. Mysteriously, even though they’ve stepped out of time altogether, the timeline still runs along as though they’d never left. But the moment they travel back, everything is rewritten.
That’s what happened to Eva Bell in the annuals. Now let’s put the All-New X-Men into this picture.
The All-New X-Men travel from their present into the future, and build a life there. Mysteriously, even though they’ve stepped out of time altogether, the tmeline still runs along as though they’d never left.
You see why Eva’s story was completed in the ‘All-New X-Men’ annual? She’s a parallel. Her experience is directly equivalent to that of the All-New X-Men. And, if her experience is anything to go by, the moment they travel back, continuity as we know it will be rewritten.
All of which means that the timeline as we know it remains only so far as the All-New X-Men remain in the present day. They can never go home. If they do, then everything changes around them.
But surely it’s not that dangerous? Surely none of the changes they’ve experienced are so big a deal?
Think about it: Jean Grey has developed a whole new powerset. Iceman is, in recent issues, experimenting with his power to make ice duplicates – an ability he shouldn’t be trying out until Jason Aaron began his run on ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’. Beast’s love for Jean, secret throughout the X-Men’s history, has been revealed. Fractures have been created in the relationship between Cyclops and Jean Grey. Cyclops has learned that his father is alive, and is spending time with the Starjammers.
In the early issues of ‘All-New X-Men’, we saw a constant refrain; the knowledge could be mind-wiped (usually by the past Charles Xavier, as though he wouldn’t gain foreknowledge and change the timeline as a result anyway). We’re well past that point. Sure, none of the All-New X-Men have married and had a kid as Eva did, but they’ve still passed the point of no return.
So: our whole timeline only stands so long as the All-New X-Men remain in the present day.
The Brotherhood of tomorrow
It puzzled me for a while. As consistent as the ‘Battle of the Atom’ timeline seemed to be, there were gaps in it – such as the Wolverine of the future having no memory of the time capsule uncovered in the school grounds. And these problems were only compounded when Bendis brought the Brotherhood back in ‘All-New X-Men’.
In ‘Battle of the Atom’, Xorn was a future Jean Grey. She acted independently of Kid Xavier, having ideas that he was surprised by, and she was able to fight her younger self while Kid Xavier was psychically restraining Rachel Grey. All-New X-Men Jean was able to delve deep into her mind, and we still haven’t really learned what it was that she saw there.
When the Brotherhood returned, though, Xorn was a telekinetic shell, an extension of Kid Xavier’s will, incapable of independent action and falling apart when he was injured.
In ‘Battle of the Atom’, the Brotherhood of the future are committed to their path, even when Kid Xavier is crippled and left unconscious. In ‘All-New X-Men’, the moment Kid Xavier is out of commission, they’re freed from his mental control.
I didn’t get it. Now, I do. These, quite simply, are not the same Brotherhood. The future is in motion; the timeline we explored in ‘Battle of the Atom’ ceased to be, and the Brotherhood we’ve seen since are similar, but not the same.
And now we get to the real headliner. In the latest issue of ‘Uncanny X-Men’, Eva travelled back in time to speak with Charles Xavier. We have no way of knowing yet how that conversation is going to turn out, but this much we do know – the timeline is in flux.
I’m pretty confident that the issue showed the deaths of Cyclops and Magik. But in the Avengers plotline ‘Time Runs Out’, Cyclops is alive and well – and leading the X-Men. All of which strongly suggests that time is about to be rewritten.
What does this all mean?
Well, simple. Forget what you knew. Watch time-travel with care. Anything can be rewritten…