Marvel’s Unsolved Mysteries

For all the praise heaped on Marvel’s multi-billion dollar movie franchise – it wouldn’t be modern Hollywood without the need to nitpick. While some would categorise each movie and TV series as being nearly perfect, there is the odd occasion when something doesn’t quite make sense. So with that in mind, here’s a few questions that Marvel hasn’t answered, so we’ve tried to do it for them.

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What order do they actually go in?

Marvel’s chronology flies around depending on when each TV series, short film, or movie is set, but it’s safe to say they don’t follow the order in which they’re released. An example is 2008’s The Incredible Hulk being set after Iron Man 2 – released in 2010. Add to that there are now a massive 47 different flashbacks and recaps within all the different media, and you’re looking at something pretty confusing. Playing it on the safe side, and for the sake of the casual viewer, who isn’t going to watch Age of Ultron between episodes 19 and 20 of Season 2 of Agents of Shield, here’s a rough guide:

Captain America: The First Avenger
Agent Carter
Iron Man
Iron Man 2
The Incredible Hulk
Avengers Assemble
Iron Man 3
Agents of Shield
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Jessica Jones
Luke Cage
Iron Fist
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
Spider-Man: Homecoming

Let’s not discuss the confusion that comes from Spider-Man: Homecoming being set eight years after the original Avengers movie – which makes it set in 2020, and therefore after the upcoming Infinity War. We’ll just take that as an oversight on Marvel’s part.

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Why does Tony Stark have his arc reactor removed in Iron Man 3 – when he needs it to power his suit?

At the end of Iron Man 3, Tony Stark initiates his “Clean Slate” protocol, and self destructs all his Iron Man suits, while being able to have the arc reactor that stopped shrapnel inching its way to his heart removed thanks to adapting the Extremis virus. But then, in Age of Ultron, Stark has more than one suit again, which are powered by arc reactors – so how and why? All is explained by the fact that the suits in Stark’s armoury in Iron Man 2 all had their own arc reactors – and by virtue of the fact he was working on miniaturising technology in the first movie, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Stark had reduced the size so much by the time Age of Ultron came around that each suit had it’s own lengthy power supply from a relatively small reactor in the suit itself. The Hulkbuster suit is explained in Age of Ultron itself, where Stark and Bruce Banner discuss the special arrangements if the Hulk would ever go rogue – Stark’s enlarged armour is the result.

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What happened to Black Widow and Hawkeye in Budapest?

A throwaway line in Avengers Assemble, where the two aforementioned heroes reminisce about a mission in Budapest, only they both remember it very differently. Lots of fans have made up fan fiction to suggest a noirish spy thriller, and a deleted scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier further alludes to the incident – and that it was far from savoury. But, as it stands, there’s no concrete evidence as to what actually did happen – and indeed there never was, as evidenced by the past history of Avengers director Joss Whedon. During his work on Buffy The Vampire and Firefly, he often used the TV trope “The Noodle Incident”, which if you don’t know is classified as this:

The Noodle Incident is something from the past that is sometimes referred to but never explained (or, rarely, left conspicuously unexplained until a critical plot point), with the implication that it’s just too ludicrous for words, and the reality that any explanation would fall short of audience expectations. Questions about it are often met with “You Don’t Want To Know…”

So don’t expect a Budapest movie anytime soon.

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How could Arnim Zola experiment on the Winter Soldier, when he was captured by the US Army when Bucky was killed?

This one takes a little creative licence, as there is no definitive answer here. Let’s set the scene: In Captain America: The First Avenger, Cap and The Howling Commandos assault a train containing Hydra scientist Arnim Zola. During the attack, Cap’s best friend and comrade Bucky falls from the high speed transport, and is lost. The team capture Zola, and he then spends the rest of the war, and subsequent years, working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve, and its ancestor, SHIELD. But in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Bucky resurfaces as the eponymous villain, brainwashed by Hydra into doing its bidding. Part of that brainwashing though, is shown to be done by Zola – so how is that possible when Zola defected? Well, the big reveal of the movie aside – that Hydra infiltrated SHIELD, and that would allow Zola to continue his work – the scientist makes clear when talking to Captain America and Black Widow that he was allowed free reign to do whatever he wished while in SHIELD’s employ – so it’s a fair bet that he could disappear off the radar long enough to experiment on Bucky, who was of course believed dead, without Nick Fury ever knowing.

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Why don’t the Netflix heroes interact with the movie heroes?

There are references in all the Netflix shows to the larger picture going on – namely, incidents like the Battle of New York, and the Sokovia Accords, as well as the ridiculousness of people running around in garish costumes. Nick Fury and Maria Hill both popped up in Agents of SHIELD, and Agent Carter appeared in her own series.
Netflix though, is a different kettle of fish. Despite the star names, there’s a conscious effort not to cross the two over explicitly, as Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige explained to Collider in 2016:

“I think it’s extremely impressive what Netflix has done and it will be the same answer I always give, which is, it all depends on timing”, Feige said.
“It all depends on how to do it because I don’t think what anybody wants to do is have such important characters show up for one second. Black Panther and Spider-Man to me are the high bar in Civil War of how you can bring in new characters into something. Vision and Ultron, Wanda and Pietro in Ultron. And it takes a lot of screentime, and it takes a lot of work. [Upcoming Avengers sequel] Infinity War has a lot of people in it already. So it just depends on how we could figure it out”.

So, simply, Daredevil, Luke Cage et al, aren’t a high priority for Marvel Studios at the moment – and getting Robert Downey Jr. or Samuel L. Jackson nailed down for a regular role in a hectic Netflix shooting schedule is even more of an issue.

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What are the cybernetic enhancements on Rocket Raccoon’s back?

To answer the unasked question by Star-Lord when he sees the technology grafted onto Rocket’s back in Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s obvious that the little fella has been through the wars. But to find out the real reason, you have to explore his history in the comics. Rocket Raccoon was born to a planet in a distant part of the galaxy known as “Halfworld.” Given the mental instability of his humanoid counterparts, Rocket did not know sanity in his life until he was “already a raccoon.” Halfworld is divided into two nearly equal hemispheres. One hemisphere is an industrial wasteland populated by robots who continually build machines which they cannot use. The second hemisphere is populated by a humanoid race known as the Loonies and the animals that lived on the planet. Halfworld was established as an insane asylum with robots and psychiatrists working to care for the “Loonies.” After a loss of funding, the psychiatrists left and the Loonies spawned for generations. This breeding did not help the race of Loonies to become less insane. Eventually, the Loonies were left by the Robots in the care of genetically enhanced animals. Rocket Raccoon was one of the genetically enhanced animals trusted with the care of the Loonies. The two main forces in Rocket Raccoon’s early development were horrific genetic testing and caring for the insane.

No wonder he has issues.

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Why was Quicksilver killed off in Age of Ultron?

So there were a few eyebrows raised, particularly given the somewhat “colourful” disagreements between 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios over the use of characters that Fox has the rights to use, when Marvel’s Age of Ultron was to feature a character called Quicksilver, as he’d already been introduced in Fox’s Days of Future Past X-Men movie twelve months prior. The complexities over the use of the character (being both an Avenger and X-Man, he was fair game for both studios under the terms of their agreement, as long as he was not referred to as belonging to the other group) were ripe to make the casual viewer more than a little confused when seeing the same character played by two different actors in two different movies. So Joss Whedon killed off his Quicksilver, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Was this all down to an inter-studio wrangle? Not so, according to the actor himself:

“So Joss spoke to me early on about where he wanted to take Pietro. From the beginning, he liked the idea of lulling the audience into a false sense of security. A lot of people thought Hawkeye was gonna bite it. My character was new, so surely he wasn’t going to die, right? To paraphrase Pietro, the viewer wouldn’t see it coming. So shock value was definitely one of the two reasons why they killed me off.”

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How can Vision lift Thor’s hammer?

It’s established pretty early on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that only Thor can lift Mjolnir. Hulk, Quicksilver, Captain America (nearly), and most of the Avengers give it a go, with no success – apart from Stark/Ultron-born android Vision, who lifts it with no trouble whatsoever in Age of Ultron. So with many-a-worthy individual running around the Marvel sandbox – why Vision? Is it because he’s imbued with the power of an Infinity Stone? Not quite, according to Joss Whedon, in an Empire podcast in 2015:

I had done something similar in an episode of Angel, where I needed you to know someone was telling the truth. It was, very simply, Angel saying, ‘He hates it if you ask questions, he can’t lie.’ So, you just accept that.
So on the one hand, I want them all to trust each other and go into battle not as a coherent group, but when they finally all show up at the church, they really do come together for the first time. On the other hand, I need them to take this guy with them, and I need something to say, ‘All right, we’re off!’ And that really does answer a lot of questions.

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Why doesn’t Doctor Strange use magic to heal his hands?

2016’s Doctor Strange is one of Marvel’s more mystical movies, and when you introduce magic, you always create a hand-waving explanation as to why problems can be solved. When you have an artifact that can reverse time, you create so many easy explanations to problems, the movie then has to spend more time explaining why they DON’T use magic to solve everything. For example, Stephen Strange ruins his hands, meaning he can no longer act as a world-renowned surgeon. When he learns magic from the Ancient One, why on earth doesn’t he go back in time and heal his injuries, or indeed just use magic to fix himself? The answer to this actually lies in the comics, and I refer you, my learned friend, to Marvel’s Strange Tales #115 – which tells Doctor Strange’s origin story:

His journey brings him to the temple of the Ancient One, who tells him that his soul should be healed rather than his hands, and offers to be the surgeon’s new teacher. Stephen thinks this is a terrible answer, but spends the night in the temple because hey, it’s late and the journey back is long.

So Doctor Strange healed his soul, and therefore no longer needed the use of perfect hands to be a surgeon, when he could be the Sorcerer Supreme instead.

That and possibly he couldn’t pay his hotel bill.

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Why doesn’t Spider-Man show up before Civil War?

As we’ve already mentioned, Spider-Man: Homecoming, mucks about with Marvel’s carefully constructed chronology – to the extent it doesn’t actually track with the rest of the movies around it. It’s safe to say though, that it happens after Captain America: Civil War, as the events of that are refereed to in Homecoming.
The simple answer? Marvel didn’t have the movie rights to their most bankable character. A long running attempt to prise the Wallcrawler away from Sony Pictures, who bought the rights in the late 90s when Marvel wasn’t the financial juggernaut it is now, only culminated just a couple of years ago, when the underperformance of Sony’s own Spidey pictures, couple with Marvel’s increased profitability, saw the two strike up an agreement that would see Spider-Man become part of the MCU. Civil War thus had several reshots to incorporate Tom Holland’s character, and the rest, as they say, is history.


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