Avengers Mech Strike ends with Black Panther saving the day… by breaking all the rules of time travel with a ridiculous time paradox.
Warning: contains spoilers for Avengers: Mech Strike #5!
The Black Panther just proved that the rules of time travel in the Marvel Universe make zero sense. Avengers Mech Strike #5 – written by Jed MacKay with art by Carlos Magno and colors by Guru-eFX – concludes the miniseries with a climatic showdown between the Avengers (in their giant mech suits) and the villainous Kang the Conquerer. Though Kang is formidable (even destroying Thanos the Mad Titan), he is ultimately defeated by one of the most ridiculous time paradoxes in Avengers history.
The Avengers Mech Strike series focuses on Kang’s attempt to defeat the Avengers once and for all, and the Avengers’ counterattack through the use of giant robots courtesy of Tony Stark. Kang demonstrated his phenomenal power early on in the series by ruthlessly killing Black Panther – but in the previous issue, T’Challa awoke in a celestial void, having been chosen by Eternity to become its herald. Eternity cannot interfere with the broken timestream directly, and has chosen Black Panther as its instrument of correction.
Black Panther appears and goads Kang into chasing him through the timestream. Kang leaves the remaining Avengers to deal with twisted variants of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes plucked from alternate timelines and gives chase. It appears that the ruler of Wakanda is running from his adversary, but T’Challa reveals he’s actually hunting – sprinting back through time to find Kang before he attacked the Avengers in the first place. “No… you can’t… you can’t just go back to the beginning–“ Kang protests, but Black Panther does just that, erasing the events of the miniseries from Marvel continuity. Immediately, the evil Avengers variants disappear from the present-day battlefield and the threat is no more.
Of course, this creates a classic time paradox scenario. Because Black Panther went back in time to stop Kang from attacking the Avengers, that means no attack occurred, which in turn means Black Panther was never chosen by Eternity to go back in time to stop Kang. This ontological loop has no beginning, no end, and no possible way to make sense. Even Spider-Man is confused, asking if the entire event was erased from history. Black Panther affirms the guess, saying that all the death and destruction of the past few months have indeed been completely undone. “Time has been put right” he says.
The rules of time travel often vary in Marvel Comics, but this is generally explained by there being different “types” of time travel with their own consistent rules. Sadly, this is one of those rare instances in which the act of time travel makes little sense even in-universe. Rather than creating a divergent timeline or reverting the present moment back to the point at which Black Panther changed events, the last few months have apparently changed around the Avengers, who retain their memories of battling Kang. It’s possible for fans to assume that Eternity is holding the consequences of this paradox at bay, but this is generally outside the godlike being’s remit (Eternity is made up of all that is, but explicitly doesn’t have control over events that didn’t happen), and isn’t offered as an explanation in the comic.
Given that past stories such as Age of Ultron have seen the Avengers carefully plan their time-travel adventures and still end up harming the fabric of reality, Kang’s protestations seem totally justified. Black Panther saves the day, but Avengers Mech Strike #5 pays little attention to a process that is generally treated as a huge risk in Marvel Comics, confronting fans with the fact that when a story needs a simple ending, the rules of time travel apparently don’t apply.
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