Time travel in comics is as common as capes and tights. Often the concept of going back in time to change an integral part of a character's timeline can make for entertaining stories -- but these actions don't come without consequences. Back in January we talked a little bit about time travel and how it is used in the Marvel universe; for more on that you can check out the article here.
Basically, time travel in the regular Marvel Universe can't actually happen. If a character goes back in time, that act of time travel automatically creates an alternate reality. This means that another, alternate version of that character will appear. At least that's the way things have been in Marvel comics for as long as we can remember -- that is until recently.
Take for example one of the very first issues of the Fantastic Four's ongoing series. In issue #5 of FANTASTIC FOUR the team was sent into the past by Doctor Doom to retrieve Blackbeard's treasure. When they got there they discovered that the Thing who had been posing as Blackbeard really was Blackbeard the pirate. By going into the past the Fantastic Four created another alternate reality for themselves.
Yet what we saw in one of the very first issues of Fantastic Four is very different from what we've been seeing lately. Anyone who has been keeping up with the Fantastic Four and the Future Foundation probably noticed a huge discrepancy between what usually happens in the Marvel Universe when a character travels back in time, and what happened in the FF and Fantastic Four books.
In the current series future versions of both Valeria and Franklin Richards travel back into their past in order to defeat the Celestials. An older Franklin meets a young Franklin Richards and not only helps him to nurture and unlock his full powers and capabilities, but also acts as his guide. See, the grown-up Franklin already knows what's going to happen; and he completely gives all of that away.
We see this play out in issue #15 of FF where older Franklin keeps reassuring young Franklin that he must "hold on" to his power and not use it because he will "need to use it later." The question is, how is this happening? How is the older Franklin Richards able not only to travel back in time to a crucial moment in FF history, but also act as a guide to young Franklin. He tells him what to do, how to harness his powers and how to do it.
He reveals to him that the trouble they've run into is virtually nothing and that he will need all the power he has got later on. How is this older version of Franklin able to reveal all of this to young Franklin without creating an alternate reality? Not only that, but how is he able to travel back in time, influence the events of the past, and manage to do that without altering any of the timeline in his own universe, whatsoever?
Additionally, does this mean that if this older version of Franklin had never traveled into the past, that Franklin never would have learned to unlock his powers? We will have to wait and see if the actions of this future Franklin really will affect or alter the timeline in some way or whether his influence will create an alternate reality. What do you think of all of this? Have you been reading the FANTASTIC FOUR and FF? How do you think Franklin's actions will influence the timeline?