WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Wolverine: Infinity Watch #1 by Gerry Duggan, Andy MacDonald, Jordie Bellaire and Cory Petit, in stores now.
In late 2017, Marvel relaunched its line of titles under the "Marvel Legacy" brand kicking things off with the release of Marvel Legacy #1, a one-shot that introduced brand new characters, stories and mysteries to the Marvel Universe. Chief among them was the long-awaited return of Wolverine, who mysteriously resurfaced with a new purpose, and, somehow, possession of the Space Stone.
Logan would later bequeath the blue Infinity Stone to the Black Widow for reasons unknown, a move that would set the stage for Marvel's 2018 cosmic event, Infinity Wars, which saw Gamora collect all six Infinity Stones, kill Thanos and fold reality in on itself — resulting in the creation of an entire new reality populated by mash-up characters known as Infinity Warps.
Ever since the release of Marvel Legacy #1, fans have wondered about Wolverine's mysterious tie to the Space Stone, and his role in the cosmic events that unfolded in the wake of that revelation. The answers have finally arrived in Wolverine: Infinity Watch #1, and it's safe to say that everything we thought we knew about the last two years of Marvel stories was, if not completely wrong, at least somewhat off.
For starters, the Wolverine we saw in the one-shot wasn't who we thought he was. While everyone assumed that it was the newly resurrected Logan, it was actually Old Man Phoenix, an alternate future, Phoenix-possessed version of the character. Though Marvel Legacy #1 hit store shelves in November 2017, Old Man Phoenix made what we thought was his first appearance months later, in Jason Aaron, Mike Del Mundo and Christian Ward's Thor #1, which was released in June 2018. Therefore, there was absolutely no way for readers to even suspect we were seeing a different Wolverine, given that we didn't know about the character when we first saw him. This effectively retroactively alters Old Man Phoenix's first appearance, which is no longer in Thor #1, but rather Marvel Legacy #1.
But that's not even the craziest part of all of this. Hang on -- it gets a little insane, here.
In Wolverine: Infinity Watch #1, Old Man Phoenix travels back from his bleak future at the end of time to the present day of the Marvel Universe to pay a visit to Loki and Logan. He explains to them that not only was the trip such a difficult undertaking that it basically extinguished his flames (depleted his Phoenix Force power), it had lasting repercussions on the main Marvel timeline. In short, his intervention to prevent Loki from claiming the Time Stone in Marvel Legacy #1 was the domino he needed to tip over in order to prevent an entirely different timeline from unfolding across the Marvel Universe.
In essence, all of Marvel's comics now take place in a What If...? reality.
By coming back to that specific point in time, taking the Space Stone and entrusting it to Black Widow, Old Man Phoenix altered the course of Marvel history. In the original timeline, Loki not only took possession of the Space Stone, he collected the rest of the Infinity Stones, adopted the Requiem identity instead of Gamora, and killed Thanos. Then, after a disastrous visit to the God Quarry (the other-dimensional reality where Infinity Stones are mined), Loki would seek Old Man Phoenix out and beg him to alter the course of history.
And Old Man Phoenix did just that. His involvement altered history, leading to the Infinity Wars event, which we now know to take place in what is, by his vantage point, an alternate timeline. Therefore, by coming back in time, the future version of Wolverine quietly altered the course of the Marvel Universe timeline forever.
It's a lot to wrap your head around, but it's actually a revelation that makes a certain amount of sense. Now, not only are the mysteries of Marvel Legacy finally solved, but the effects of Old Man Phoenix's alterations in the timeline will likely be explored for years to come.