Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Man. Almost out of time. Just not enough time these days.

I’ve got just a little bit of time this week to throw a brief shout out to what I loved about time travel in the under-appreciated Earth X/Universe X/Paradise X trilogy (sadly left incomplete…sniff. Sniff.)

I had a discussion a week or so about Back to the Future with fellow editor Brandon. Brandon made some interesting points about plotholes in BTF I had never thought about before.

What it came down to, ultimately, was this:

Does time travel account for free will? That is, can I CHANGE time…make a choice that restructures time…

Or has everything in time already happened, to quote a lot of Lost fans? That is, even if I seem to be going back in time and making choices, are those choices and their effects already accounted for in the timeline, and in a sense, have already happened?

For years, the Marvel timeline deal always drove me nuts. It was an easy out, I suppose. This idea that you COULDN’T change time. Instead, you just created a new dimension. And this dimension’s timeline ran parallel to the original timeline.

This made time travel a risky business. So essentially, time travelers like Rachel Summers (Jean Grey and Scott Summers' daughter from a bleak future) might hope to travel into the past and make changes that would assist them in their present.

In reality though, they’ll never return to their present. They’re sort of stuck in the new timeline that they, themselves, have created. And in their timeline they disappeared without a trace.

The X-trilogy gets DEEP into the metaphysics of the Marvel universe. Really OUT THERE stuff. My favorite realization (at the hands of Aaron Stack, a.k.a. Machine Man)?

What if time was broken?

Like this whole thing--exactly what I described--what if time was never supposed to be that way?

What if (yes, I just went there), at some point in time, the Marvel Universe timeline WAS linear. Point A to point B. But someone, somewhere, schemed and dabbled. And created this overgrown forest of timelines? Big names like Immortus and Galactus come to mind, but more and more, Mephisto was starting to stand out as a real villain in the X-trilogy.

Look at it this way. What if Mephisto knew that somewhere, at the end of time, good really does overcome evil? What’s evil to do?

Well, maybe evil can’t beat good. But evil might be able to DELAY good. If every choice good makes shunts time off in some new direction, than everything just becomes nonsense. There IS no good and evil. In one dimension Peter Parker is a hero, in another a killer. It’s all just CHAOS.

Evil can’t beat good, but with some manipulation, it can load good down, make good drag to a halt through confusion. It can stalemate good. Because every time someone makes a choice for good there’s some other dimension where they DON’T make that choice.

Trippy stuff, isn’t it? If you can appreciate this line of thought, than I challenge you to read the X-trilogy. It is SO BIZARRE, I know. Stick it out long enough though just so you can appreciate the bizarre kind of philosophical questions it raises about the Marvel Universe’s cosmology. It won’t disappoint in that regard.