SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Marvel Legacy #1, out now.
Marvel loves to ask “What if…?”
What if there have always been Avengers? What if the Earth has been under constant alien threat since the beginning of time? What if the current generation of legacy heroes who we know and love is only the latest in a succession of beings who have held the title Sorcerers Supreme, the Ghost Rider, or the Iron Fist?
These are some of the questions that Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic answer in Marvel Legacy #1, the soft reboot of the Marvel Universe that takes us from the distant past to a present that was twice reset in recent memory: once when the multiverse collapsed and coalesced during Secret Wars, and again when Kobik reset reality—on multiple occasions—during Secret Empire.
So what is the new status quo that emerges out of these questions? Let’s take a look at what happened and shed some light on what it means.
The Way-Back Machine
Legacy starts off at the beginning of the Stone Age, in the year 1,000,000 B.C. The first thing we see is Mjolnir, and one of our early ancestors—of the species homo erectus, to be precise—trying to lift the mystical hammer. He is chased away by Odin, who is chided by the Phoenix for this lack of control over the implement. We then meet the rest of the earliest incarnation of the Avengers, the sorcerer Agamotto, and the earliest versions of Starbrand, Black Panther, and Ghost Rider.
Assembled, the team squares off against one of the oldest beings in the universe, a Celestial who is digging underground in search of something unknown. We know from Marvel history that the first Celestial Host came to Earth at approximately this era, and created the two offshoots of humanity, the Eternals—who include Eros and Thanos of Titan—, and the Deviants, the original inhabitants of the lost city of Lemuria.
Whether this Celestial is part of that first Host isn’t made clear. However, we do learn that the earliest Avengers did not heed Odin’s advice to pin the corpse of their fallen foe to the dark side of the Moon, as a beacon to others who might seek to attack the Earth.
We know that the Celestials have since returned thrice. Twenty-five thousand years ago to destroy the Lemurians for failing to live up to their potential (in the process also sinking Atlantis); a thousand years ago to check up on the human race and to battle the gods of Asgard and Olympus (who subsequently withdrew from human affairs); and in the last fifty years to judge humanity’s worthiness upon the activation of mutant DNA in humans due to rising radiation levels. But as we’ll learn, the repercussions of that first encounter with those long-ago Avengers will reverberate in the present, as the first link in a chain of events that will alter the course of the Marvel Universe.
The action then shifts to the present day. Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes wakes from a dream about his prehistoric predecessor. Having fallen asleep at the wheel of his supernaturally-possessed vehicle, he discovers that he is no longer in East L.A. but somewhere in the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. After a brief high speed chase involving the local police, Reyes clashes with the current Starbrand, Kevin Connor, who seeks to prevent him from accessing an archeological dig in the Great Karoo region of the country, which lies on the highway between Capetown and Johannesburg.
The location of the site is significant for two reasons. The first is that the Great Karoo is home to the Wonderwerk Cave, where archeologists discovered the oldest use of fire by hominids. The implication here is that the Phoenix and Ghost Rider brought fire to humanity’s forebears. The second may be pure coincidence, or a case of Aaron having fun with readers. The region is also home to the headwaters of the River Groot.
Starbrand warns Reyes to not disturb the fallen, lest he trigger the return of the Host. As he prepares to use lethal force against Reyes, the Rider unleashes the Penance Stare and kills Connor, leaving only the glowing imprint of the Starbrand on the ground.
The pair are not the only descendants of those first Avengers to zero in on the site. After a failed attempt to steal an undisclosed artifact from a top secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, Loki makes his way to South Africa, ostensibly, as he tells readers, to save the world.