Retcons, Reboots And Resurrections #47: Iron Men Crossing Time-Tossed Paths

As with most things, not all retcons are created equal. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just plain ridiculous. 

Welcome to a new month of Retcons, Reboots, and Resurrections where this time we’re going to specifically focus on the wildest, most ridiculous, and best left forgotten retcons around! It’s all leading up to the big 50th edition of this column, where we’ll dive into one of the retcons so horrible it got its own wild ridiculous retcon!

As usual for this column: Retcons are elements retroactively added to a character’s history, reboots can either be revivals of a character/their title or extensive changes to canon, and resurrections are characters clawing their way back from the afterlife. Each week we’ll explore the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Retcons, Reboots, and Resurrections!

When it comes to retcons there are some characters that find themselves the target of the retcon brush far more than others. The reasons come down to their longevity/popularity and the sheer amount of stories featuring them in most cases. One of those characters with a good list of retcons to their name would be one Tony Stark, who slips back and forth on the scale of beloved hero and loathsome jerk, and even borderline villain at times. 

There was once a time though where a slip into a more villain sort of space (long before Civil War was even a thought in anyone’s head) was sure to be quite the shock to readers. So shocking that it actually became one of the most hated, laughed at, and quickly moved on from retcons in the character’s history. Yes, we’re going to dive into The Crossing this week. 

Buckle up, it’s about to get wild!

The Backstory:

As has been covered in this column previously, and in many other places, the ’90s were a pretty rough time for the Avengers and most of Marvel Comics as a whole. While the X-Men were still riding high on a wave of sales magic, the rest of the lines were sagging and running into a lot of issues. All of this of course eventually led to Heroes Reborn and the eventual move to file for bankruptcy before the company regained footing in the 2000s. 

Well before that though they were still trying to throw various things at the wall, to see what stuck. Including the 1995 Kang-centric event known as Avengers: The Crossing. Comprising six issues of the main Avengers series as well as pretty much mandatory tie-in issues within Iron Man, War Machine, and Force Works. 

The Nitty Gritty:

Avengers: The Crossing was a twenty-five-part (two preludes, 22 main chapters, and an aftermath issue) event meant to redefine Tony Stark/Iron Man as a character. Their first step in this direction is to make the character a murderer and reveal that he’s been working against the Avengers for quite some time. When the Yellowjacket of the future comes to warn the Avengers of a potential bad future, Iron Man kills her and then later murders an Inhuman woman named Marilla who was the nanny to Crystal and Quicksilver’s daughter Luna, when she discovers him before a mysterious subbasement door. 

Through some of the issues, it’s shown that Stark keeps having blackouts and isn’t aware of what is happening, only to discover footage of him killing and blacking out before putting Force Works on the trail of Hawkeye, after doctoring the footage to make Clint seem to be the murderer. Eventually, mostly through the tie-ins rather than the main Avengers issues, it’s revealed that not only is Stark being mind-controlled by the time-traveling Kang the Conqueror, but supposedly he has been been in Kang’s mental employ since the first time the time-traveler faced the Avengers. 

Basically, this retcon made it so that for 30 of our years (not so much for the sliding scale of Marvel) Iron Man was basically a mind-controlled villain. That’s a pretty hefty retcon to just throw out there. 

Kang is up to the usual confusing Kang stuff, trying to conquer the world/fighting a future war, and is using Tony Stark to forward plans of some kind. Iron Man fights and defeats the Avengers, mortally wounding Wasp (leading to her big ’90s era mutated Wasp form), and escaping. 

It gets even more ridiculous from here. 

There is a whole thing with a future version of Luna who is part of Kang’s inner circle betraying him, and dying for it, telling them about the door in the basement of the now collapsed Avengers Mansion is a time portal. Once Wasp emerges from her cocoon as a pink human-wasp hybrid, she comes up with the idea that the only way to fight a bad Iron Man is with a good Iron Man. Okay sure Janet, why not. 

Even though there was an Iron Man era Tony that was around in the period of time before they first fought Kang, before he would have been turned by the villain, apparently that wasn’t where the brains of the Avengers went. Nope, they decided to use the portal to go back in time to find and recruit a 19-year-old version of Tony. You know, a version well before he was Iron Man. 

Chaos ensues in the past as Kang’s minions find them, they escape to the present with young Tony, and he ends up betting his own suit of armor just in time to rescue the Avengers. This teen Tony battles himself and surprise surprise is soundly defeated by his far more experienced self. A final battle goes down between the Avengers and Kang where adult Tony’s brainwashing is broken and he sacrifices his own life to stop Kang and bring the event to an end. 

Yes, the redefining of Tony Stark was meant to keep his older self dead and have this teenage Tony Stark run around in the present day, therefore, giving them a much younger Stark to sprinkle into stories. Luckily this disliked series of events did not last for more than a year, because that’s when the overly bloated long Onslaught event happened and the heroes sacrificed their lives and ended up on Franklin Richards’ Counter-Earth for Heroes Reborn. 

Over in that “reboot”, Tony Stark was an adult again and that was how he remained once the heroes returned to Earth a year later. Things around this were so confusing, that Kurt Busiek retroactively retconned and tried to explain most of the inconsistencies within the much more beloved Avengers Forever series, despite some of those changes (Immortus rather than Kang was the puppet master) making the whole previous event even more confusing in many senses. 

The Verdict:

Not great Bob. 

Spending twenty-five issues of comics, plus all the subsequent ones that tried to fix that first twenty-five, to kill a character and replace them with their teenage self sure is something. Avengers: The Crossing is an overly messy, confusing, bloated event that speaks to some of the big issues in the 90s where creators were trying anything to jumpstart these books and most of it was not working at all. 

It would probably rank higher on the list of 90s wacky bloated events if Marvel: Onslaught and Spider-Man: The Clone Saga didn’t exist. 

Next Week: One year later a Batgirl breaks bad

As with most things, not all retcons are created equal. Some are good, some are bad, and some are justCOMICONRead More

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