By now most Marvel fans have accepted the rules of time travel in Avengers: Endgame. It either doesn’t make sense and that’s fine, or it makes perfect sense and we’re all too stupid to get it. But one fan on Reddit dug into their long boxes and found the 12-issue miniseries, Avengers Forever, published way back in 1999, that had extremely similar time travel rules.
On Reddit, user u/TKaraDimes shared on r/marvelstudios a panel from Avengers Forever #3. The panel depicts Kang the Conquerer, talking to Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. The Wasp, where Kang lays out the rules of time travel which are way, way different from Back to the Future.
“Time travel does not change the past — as I trust you’ve learned,” Kang tells Janet. “If one alters the flow of events, it merely creates a new, divergent branch of the timestream, while the old one flows on.”
Kang then mentions that if one truly wishes to change time, it can only happen through Chronopolis, Kang’s city base in the future where he rules all realms. Regarding the Marvel Cinematic Universe, TKaraDimes suggests that Chronopolis could be in the quantum realm as “it can affect all timelines.”
Kang’s explanation for time travel is pretty much the same as the Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton) explained to the Hulk in Avengers: Endgame. By displacing the Infinity Stones, the Avengers basically create new unknown timelines, while the old one also continues. Given the severity of the Infinity Stones as well as those who want them (i.e., Thanos), you can understand just how much of a risk the Avengers were taking in stealing them in Endgame.
Luckily, things worked out in the end. Or did they?
First published in December 1998 and running until its final issue in November 1999, Avengers Forever is a crossover series written by Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern, illustrated by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino. The story involves multiple Avengers plucked throughout time — the past, present, and the future — who assemble and reluctantly team up with the villain Kang the Conquerer in order to protect their ally, Rick Jones, from Immortus the Master of Time.
While the story of Avengers Forever is different to that of Avengers: Endgame, there are structural similarities to the plot of the film. Like Endgame, the plot of Avengers Forever sees the Avengers divide into separate groups in order to battle Immortus who attacks different eras of time, ranging from the American Old West to the 1950s. So it stands to reason that Endgame would also borrow the “rules” of time travel from Avengers Forever.
Now if only the MCU “borrowed” Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man instead of him the teenaged fanboy of a war profiteer.
Avengers: Endgame is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.