Retcons are to comics what root canal is to hockey players. It’s an unavoidable hazard that often results in some ugly scars. Sometimes it’s necessary to minimize the damage of poorly thought-out stories. The entire Clone Saga comes to mind. But more often than not, a retcon is like adding nitro-glycerine to any mixture. It doesn’t take much to blow up in everyone’s face. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t make for a compelling story.
Marvel’s latest attempt at an overly bold retcon isn’t quite at Clone Saga levels, but it has the potential to be. The biggest fallout from Avengers and X-men: AXIS involved a complete deconstruction of the history of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. In a revelation that drops a load of napalm on several decades of established continuity, the Scarlet Witch found out that Magneto was not her biological father. That essentially means that all her roles in the human/mutant struggle might as well have been a Simpson cameo.
Such a retcon has left a lot of cracks in the foundation of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. And by some remarkable and completely expected coincidence, it’s just in time for their debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But this unstable foundation is the bedrock on which Uncanny Avengers #1 is built. From a conceptual point-of-view, it’s attempting to run a marathon with lead bricks attached to its feet. The ends results might not get it to the finish line in record time, but it still manages to run a competitive race.
The story doesn’t attempt to gloss over the big revelation about Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch’s lineage. Instead of dealing with the massive ramifications caused by Avengers and X-men: AXIS, it focuses in on this new issue of who fathered the Maximoff twins. It is admittedly a more pressing story than an inverted Sabretooth or the overly contrived drama surrounding Havok and Wasp. The problem is that this story doesn’t just hit the ground running. It hits the ground in the middle of the race.
Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch have already ditched the new Unity Squad, which had to undergo some impromptu recruiting. They’re now on their own personal quest to find out who their real father is and this takes them to Counter-Earth, a fascinating world created by the High Evolutionary. But for some reason, this quest involves them cheating at a card game and picking a bar fight. It makes Counter-Earth feel more like Mos Eisley in Star Wars and less like a strange new world that they have to navigate in order to uncover the truth. And unlike Han Solo, they don’t succeed. They end up getting shot, ensuring that no Greedo issues arise.
This conflict leads to plenty of bar fights, high speed chases, and angry poker players. There are some moments that explore how Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are reacting to this revelation, but it remains secondary. It ends up making the impact of that revelation feel rushed. They go from learning the truth about their heritage to picking bar fights on Counter-Earth. It gives a clear impression that they skipped a few steps.
More steps have to be skipped in order for the rest of the Unity Squad to go after them. They already know from recent experience that an upset Wanda Maximoff can only end badly. They attempt to go after them in hopes of preventing another inversion or genocide. Again, there is some effort made to explore their reactions to the revelation that Magneto did not father the Maximoff Twins. But these reactions really don’t factor heavily into the plot. They just follow their trail to Wundagore, try to teleport to Counter-Earth, and encounter some complications along the way. It’s basically follows the same structure as a rerun of Scooby Doo.
It’s at this point where the plot begins to diverge. The Unity Squad gets separated and the story becomes less concise. They do make it to Counter-Earth, but they end up getting separated like a bunch of teenagers in a haunted house. Each member encounters their own complication. Some are very uncomfortable and involve creepy old men. Some are even tempting in that they involve an attractive robot female. Not all of them are compelling, but they do add some new ingredients to the mix.
That’s not to say the plot gets too chaotic. Despite all these diverting plots, the story remains fairly coherent. Issues like Vision’s unresolved anger towards the Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man being stuck in Rogue’s mind are touched on. They’re just rushed. This is the greatest shortcoming of the story. It tries to squeeze too many elements into the plot while maintaining a solid pace. But like open heart surgery, some things can’t be rushed. This story never flat-lines. It just moves too quickly to leave a lasting impact.
In addition to the pace, the setup of the story makes it feel like a full-blown re-launch of the title was unnecessary. The events in this issue directly follow the events of the previous arc in Uncanny Avengers. Most successful re-launches are pitched as good starting on points. Anyone who tries to use this issue as a starting point is going to get more confused than someone trying to understand Lost after starting on the third season.
There are plenty of compelling elements in Uncanny Avengers #1, even for those not happy about the retcon of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch’s heritage. However, it does little to make it feel as though that retcon was worth doing. It’s still too early to say whether it’ll be a failure on the level of the Clone Saga. It’s got a long ways to go before it gets to that point. In the end, some will never be satisfied. But like internet trolls or boy bands, this is an audience that is best ignored for the sake of the story.