Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I’m obsessed with the Negative Zone. I really think it’s one of the coolest pieces of Marvel lore.

Why? Well, partly just because it is so OUT THERE- I mean, there’s always some weird, counterpart universe that characters in comics and TV shows are encountering. Like in Star Trek, where in the one universe everybody is evil and Spock has a beard. But how many do you encounter where the laws of physics are inside out?

In case you weren’t totally sure what the deal with the Negative Zone is, here’s a little primer for you: the N.Z. is an alternate dimension (maybe timeline), close in proximity to Earth-616 (the main Marvel Universe dimension). Unfortunately, for the inhabitants of the Zone it’s a pretty harsh existence. The universe is undergoing a Big Crunch (the opposite of a Big Bang) where all of its matter is slowly retracting towards its center. So, the Zone is actually shrinking at a constant rate (the rate of the crunch is slow enough that its universe will continue to exist for a long, long time…but still). The days of the zone are numbered.

Consequently, there’s one big, gaping vortex at the very center of the universe drawing everything towards it. The vortex is so huge that it’s visible from almost everywhere in the zone and all sorts of loose planetary bodies, astral phenomenon and unwary travelers who get too close get caught in orbit and eventually sucked into it. There have been some weird Fantastic Four stories involving the vortex and the possibility that it serves as a kind of dimensional crossroads, but that’s a whole other story.

Either just because the Zone is one whacked-out alternate dimension, or maybe BECAUSE of the crunch, the laws of physics are insane here. The thought of it freaks me out, actually. To begin with, the vacuum that we call outer space in our dimension is filled with breathable, livable oxygen and atmosphere. So the huge, vast, empty portion of the zone’s universe can actually support life- you can just float in nothing and breathe in the zone.

Of course, there’s another reason I’m so fascinated with the N.Z. and that’s because there’s only (apparently) ONE N.Z. in the entire Marvel U. You know how there’s always another dimension, another timeline in the multiverse? Infinite Earths, yada-yada? Well, the thing is, every character that has ever traveled TO the Negative Zone has been to the SAME Negative Zone, regardless of where they’re from.

Example: Let’s take the hugely popular ‘Age of Apocalypse’ timeline (Earth-295, according to Marvel…where do they get the numbers anyway? I’ve often wondered if they have a formula- like maybe the first three numbers of the zip code of the writer who invented each timeline…I dunno. Just thinkin’.). The ‘Age of Apocalypse’ does not have a Negative Zone that corresponds to its timeline. If a character from that timeline enters the Negative Zone, it would be the SAME Negative Zone that characters from Earth-616 (main timeline) entered.

So when the mutant-teleporter Blink mistakenly arrived there, the Annhilus she encountered (a tyrannical, insect-like dictator that grew from a spore released by the former dominant species in the Zone, the progress-driven Tyannans, obsessed with finding a way to escape the Zone) is raving about Reed Richards, the Fantastic Four, his Cosmic Control Rod, and whatever else Annhilus is typically upset about. None of this is going to make sense to Blink, who, in her dimension, has never even heard the name Reed Richards.

I believe Reed and Johnny storm met their grim end at the hands of Apocalypse’s genetic cleansing squads, never having launched into space and receiving their powers. But it’s the same place OUR Reed has been to- the same Zone. Okay, actually there is ONE alternate version of the Negative Zone: the Ultimate universe has a particularly inhospitable alternate dimension called the N-Zone. So they broke the rule. But still.

The Crunch in the Negative Zone has some other really interesting (and weird) effects (at least, it’s POSSIBLE these effects are due to the Zone- or maybe they’re just intrinsic to the nature of that reality, who knows). Time is a funny subject in the Zone. Closer you get to the middle of it, the actual Crunch? Time passes at the rate it does in our world. Further out, away from the Crunch? Time passes…slower. I think the ratio is something like five hours in some areas of the Zone to one minute in our reality. So a minute could pass in the center of the Zone while five hours pass for someone else, in the same dimension, at a point further away.

Finally, the Zone is made up of completely negatively charged matter. Not a big deal, save for the fact that if negatively charged material interacts with positively charged material, there’s likely to be an explosion of epic proportions. Everyone who travels through the zone travels through a distortion area (or at least, they SHOULD- if Dr. Strange used some sort of teleportation spell to show up in the Zone without passing through this natural buffer first- ‘BOOM’). The distortion area charges matter traveling to and from the Zone (either negatively or positively, depending on the direction you’re travelling). Nobody knows why this natural feature exists- maybe it helps keep the presence of the negative reality, situated near (in space and time) other, positively-charged realities, safe? (I.E., without it, all of space and time would just BLOW UP, just by virtue of the Zone existing within the fabric OF reality?)

Actually, remember the F.F. costumes of the mid-eighties (black uniforms- my favorite for them to date)? They were a product of traveling through this distortion zone. Some residual effect of moving through the distortion field colored their uniforms black.