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What bugs me about the end of Age of Ultron #10 is that the Beast is with Hank Pym and Tony Stark as they discuss time being ‘broken.’ I mean, there’s the fact that he’s drawn pre-Quitely, which makes no sense at all; but there’s also his action in All-New X-Men. No matter where you place that scene happening, he comes off poor: either he contributed to the problem by bringing the original X-Men into the future or he knew about the problem and still abused time travel. Given his association with the two men (while he’s a member of the Illuminati, he hasn’t associated with the Avengers really since Avengers vs. X-Men; but, he was with the group that rescued Spider-Woman), I’m sticking with my view that this scene takes place shortly after Avengers #12.1 and before Avengers vs. X-Men, meaning he still used time travel after time ‘broke’ because of too much time travel.
Part of the problem with trying to pinpoint events is that Brian Michael Bendis doesn’t always write stories or scenes consistent with other comics, including his own. While his characters argue that time is organic – a living being of some sort – that doesn’t really make sense with the way that he demonstrates that. What he seems to mean is that time is not something that one can affect like changing the channel on the TV. It’s not a switch that has no consequences or won’t react to provocation or abuse. At the same time, it’s not something that continually fluctuates. Yet, sometimes, he treats it like that. It makes sense to a degree given the way that these superhero universes are set up: decades of stories, which, up until the past, what, 20 years (maybe more depending on your view) that stories were really written with a longer view than the next couple of months by and large. These are not histories that were meant to stand the test of time nor were they necessarily concerned with anything outside of the specific story being told.
That latter point, actually, is something that prevalent today. With ‘runs’ and self-contained collections (that can span multiple volumes) more important than ever, a lot of stories are designed to work as a self-contained whole where a good idea trumps what it means in the long term. In a sense, time is in fluctuation, because there are ‘gods’ behind these universes that are constantly moving things around to suit their own needs.
In Age of Ultron #10, Bendis pulls off a retcon: Hank Pym knew that Ultron would turn evil, implanted programming that would allow him to kill the robot at a specific time, and purposefully forgot to ensure that the future’s history happens with as few changes as possible. That’s been the truth of the Marvel Universe since just before Ultron’s creation. It’s a retcon that services one specific story and serves almost no other function. Yet, it also has almost no other impact on the Marvel Universe. It’s actually one of the better retcons that a writer can pull off, because I’m not sure if anyone actually cares about it. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Age of Ultron #10, but the means of defeating Ultron doesn’t seem to be one ever.
Mostly, it’s ‘Superboy punch’ this and ‘What the fuck was that?’ that. Me, I like to find those weird little things that other people seem to not notice, like the Beast clearly understanding that time is not something to be trifled with and still choosing to go back in time and bring the original X-Men to the present. Is that a contradiction? I don’t think so. I think it’s a weird bit of subtle character development that demonstrates even more emphatically how much the events of Avengers vs. X-Men affected Hank McCoy. But, that’s the point I’ve been dancing around: one person’s contradiction is another person’s character development. If you like it, any crime against continuity can be ignored. The only time anyone complains about this sort of thing conceptually is when they don’t like the execution. Of course continuity is meant to be tweaked and changed and ignored when necessary and adhered to when convenient… and no one cares unless they just don’t like the story. It all counts; none of it counts; all that matters is enjoying the story. The rest is bullshit.
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