Jason Aaron took over the writing duties on Avengers in May of 2018. His Avengers roster boasted one of the most powerful lineups in the team’s history, with T’Challa/the Black Panther serving as the Avengers’ chairperson and Steve Rogers/Captain America, Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, Thor Odinson, Tony Stark/Iron Man, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, and Avengers newcomer Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider filling their roster. Soon, Blade the Vampire Hunter would join their ranks. Their headquarters is the body of a dead Celestial, a race of cosmic space gods responsible for the creation of much of the universe, located in the unforgiving terrain of Antarctica and imbued with all sorts of universe-shaping tech. T’Challa’s Agents of Wakanda, led by Okoye, fill the information gathering and covert action void for the Avengers in a post-S.H.I.E.L.D. world. Together they have battled Celestials, waded into a vampire civil war, faced the Phoenix force’s return to Earth for a new host, halted Namor’s holy war against a pollution-spewing surface world, and juggled the always-mounting international tensions as all countries of the world wonder whose interests the Avengers serve.
Then one morning Blade woke up to a world where the Avengers never formed and he was the only one who remembered the way it was supposed to be. And I can’t stop thinking about this!
It is a not uncommon trope, the world being remade in such a way. Then our hero/heroes has/have to go about trying to find a way to right things. In Aaron’s “Heroes Reborn” story, Mephisto – the Devil, for all intents and purposes in the Marvel Universe – has been working with former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson to write the Avengers out of creation. You see, Coulson was a loyal S.H.E.I.L.D. agent who worked closely with the Avengers. Then he was murdered by Deadpool on the order of Steve Rogers/Captain America (who had become corrupted by a cosmic cube and remade into a Hydra agent (because…comics)). So Coulson made a literal deal with the devil and Mephisto brought him back from the dead. Together they sought to end the Age of the Avengers.
In this world Blade wakes up in, Phil Coulson is the President of the United States. “In Mephisto We Trust” is stamped on all U.S. currency, churches to Mephisto exist around the country, and prayers to Mephisto are regularly offered by the people. Also, the Squadron Supreme of America – Mark Milton/Hyperion, Zarda of Utopia Isle/Power Princess, Kyle Richmond/Nighthawk, Stanley Stewart/Blur, and Joseph Ledger/Doctor Spectrum – fight for and defend the “greatest country in the world” as the United States of America’s mightiest heroes.
They are also a brilliant satirical version of the Justice League so that’s super fun, too XD.
As Blade explores this foreign version of Earth, he finds Robbie Reyes is just a regular kid attending school in East L.A., never having bonded to the Spirit of Vengeance. Carol Danvers is still flying with the U.S. Airforce yet she never reached the rank of captain as she keeps getting in trouble for insubordination. Tony Stark never took any shrapnel to the chest and runs a lucrative arms manufacturing company. Thor Odinson has been drunk for centuries, always slumped over at one bar or another. Steve Rogers has remained frozen in the ice since World War II. Jennifer Walters runs a successful law practice in Los Angeles and never received a gamma-infused blood transfusion from her cousin. Wakanda never opened its borders and T’Challa only sneaks into the outside world from time to time under the guise of the Ronin.
Blade knows this is wrong. He can feel it in his gut. He knows his memories are right and something’s been done to turn the world into this simulacrum. After looking in on his fellow teammates, he begins assembling the Avengers on his own. He finds Steve Rogers and thaws him out. Then they track T’Challa’s Ronin to learn he ventures out of Wakanda because something he can’t quite put his finger on seems wrong to him, too. They find Maya Lopez, the newly chosen Phoenix, who is in an asylum because she remembers the truth and is locked away as being mentally ill because of it. Alongside the Starbrand child (long story for another post (but she is so fascinating and such an incredibly cool concept Aaron’s introduced)) and, eventually, Thor Odinson reunited with his hammer and his memories, they face off against the Squadron Supreme of America to set right what went wrong.
It is such an interesting story and I can’t stop thinking about it…but I’ve been spending more time thinking about me than I have been thinking about the Avengers.
What I can’t stop thinking about is what would I do if I woke up and the world was wrong?
In these sorts of stories, the heroes always eventually realize something is up and they find and stop the villain or they discover and break the magic spell or whatever that caused it. Then things go back to normal. The day is saved! Yay! But I don’t have superpowers. I am blessed with a beautiful collection of natural supports in my life who I love very much and who love me in return and together our lives are made all the brighter and more bearable. But none of the amazing natural supports in my life have world-shaking powers (that I know of). No one is a semi-immortal vampire hunter or a super soldier serum-imbued WWII vet or a gamma-powered rage machine or a hammer-wielding god or the host of a cosmic firebird able to raise or raze whole worlds at will (that I know of). So if I was to wake up and the world was wrong, what would I do?
As I’ve obsessed over this question, I’ve asked many people how they’d react in such circumstances. Now I want to ask you, dear reader (should you want to reply!), how you think you’d react if you woke up and the world was wrong?
Before we go any further, let’s get this straight. This is not the memory spell from Spider-Man: No Way Home that makes everyone forget about you. It’s more insidious than that. Blade wakes up in this world and none of the Avengers remember him or each other, yes. That’s true. But they all have different lives. Carol is in the Air Force. Tony is selling weapons. Jen is working as an attorney. So you’re waking up in a world where those closest to you have never met you. You aren’t with your partner so, if you have children now, you don’t here. You have a home and a job and a circle of natural supports…but none of them are the right ones. Different job. Different family. Different friends. Different life. It’s a life but it’s not the life you remember and none of your memories match-up and everyone who’s close to you now doesn’t know who you are here. So what would you do?
The most popular response of the people I talked to was – start over. They felt it’s a new lease on life and there are certain people they’d want to find and try to reconnect with and certain people they’d be happy to be free from. So they’d pick up and figure out their way in the new world. The only caveat with that response came from those who also have children. How do you go on in a world without your kids? Would it be ok knowing the never existed? Would that be easier than knowing they died or were taken or had another parent in your stead (I mean that’s not the way biology works and if you never knew their other parent then they couldn’t exist (but this is a hypothetical based on a story where the Devil wanted to get rid of a team with a kid who has a flaming skull for a head, a centuries-old vampire hunter, and a Norse god who is a part of the modern world so anything’s possible))? That was the hardest piece of the hypothetical for those asked to try and puzzle out though the general consensus was, if their children had never existed it would be easier to cope and try to move on than if they were lost or stolen from them.
However, the other main group of responses centered on a key question – would this break me? They wondered whether or not they could ever live a normal life in a world they knew was wrong. And how long would it be before they began to doubt their own sanity? If you’re not an immortal vampire hunter who regularly fights cosmic space gods you may be inclined to believe the problem isn’t with the Mephisto-damned world but with your own Mephisto-damned mind.
What I found fascinating in all these conversations was that the discussion was happening at all. I know it would break me.
I still have vivid memories of Sunday, April 5th 2020. Locally, it was Day #20 of our lockdown. It is one of my most vivid memories from that period as it was the night I broke. I had been reading articles about how, at that time, the best case scenario was another three months until Covid was all solved (ha…ahhh the optimism of the spring of 2020). As I read, I felt starkly alone. I tried to meditate – a mixture of the mindfulness meditation I’ve practiced since I first studied Buddhism in college and the technique of finding, following, exploring, and understanding my emotions I’d been learning in therapy. Touching those emotions, touching that sense of loneliness, opened the floodgates. I began sobbing. For over forty-five minutes straight I wept violent, choking sobs that shook my entire body. Tears streamed down my face as I cried, continually repeating out loud, “I can’t do this. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” It had only been twenty days. How was I to last ninety more? I wanted it to be over. I wanted life to go back to normal. I wanted to be with people again. I couldn’t live like that. I kept repeating all of that out loud again and again as I sobbed. I felt so very, very alone.
Granted, a lockdown to stop the spread of a pandemic and waking up to find the entire world, all your relationships, and everything you knew was rewritten are two different things…which is why I know the wrong world would break me. Even in those early days of lockdown I had FaceTime calls and Zoom chats and walks with very distant waving to people along my route and regular phone calls and the like. I still had the people I love even if I had them at a distance. And that was all but unbearable. So I can’t imagine I’d be able to handle waking up in a world where none of the people I love know who I am.
Also, I know the way my mind works. No matter how entertaining I find Obi-Wan Kenobi (trust me, the analogy will fit, I promise) I can’t really enjoy it because it blatantly contradicts A New Hope (no, Vader doesn’t specifically state how long it’s been since he and Obi-Wan saw each other but the scene clearly implies Mustafar and everything about Revenge of the Sith reinforces that (and the message Leia records in Artoo for Obi-Wan in A New Hope is clearly to the man her father told her about and not they guy she remembers from a life-defining adventure when she was ten (and isn’t an Inquisitor’s job to find Jedi and isn’t part of that sensing them so how could Reva not sense Leia’s abilities when she is the daughter of the Chosen One?? (and why would Vader have his Inquisitors roam a town doing absolutely nothing instead of being by his side as he hunted Obi-Wan freaking Kenobi?!? (and…I’m sorry…I’ve digressed XD))))). I can’t not see that when I watch the show and I can’t let it go. That’s not how my mind works. So there is NO WAY IN HELL I could EVER let go of THE ENTIRE WORLD not matching up with how I know it should be. My life would be one big continuity mistake and I couldn’t let that go.
But I also don’t know how long I could go before I started to doubt myself. I think, like Maya Lopez/Phoenix, I’d end up institutionalized. I think my loved ones…or should I say “loved ones” for whoever plays that role in this wrong world…would be concerned over my “break with reality.” And there’s the chance some of my real loved ones would contact the authorities if my attempts to convince them of the truth felt too stalker-ish. So, like Maya, I bet I’d end up institutionalized. But, whereas Maya joined with Avengers who may’ve been fuzzy on the details but certain the world was wrong to fight to set it right, I think I’d probably just end up crying a lot.
I’d like to think I’d find the strength to adjust and live a new life but I’m not sure I have that in me. I’d also like to say I’d fight to set the world right…but how does one even go about doing something like that when you’re not a superhero and none of your loved ones have amazing powers (that you know of)?
This is a terribly bleak note to end the piece on XD. So, instead, I’ll end with one more question. This has a far more positive connotation to it. Who in my life now would remember me in this wrong world? Because while, at first, Blade appears to be the only one who remembers, he’s able to convince Steve Rogers the world is wrong. He finds T’Challa, who also knows things aren’t as they’re supposed to be and is actively seeking the truth. He finds Maya Lopez who remembers, as he does, the truth of the world. The Starbrand (again, such an awesome character/concept but the story for another post) and Thor Odinson both come to remember as well. They find strength in each other and together they fight to set the world right.
While none of my loved ones have shocking or fantastic abilities (that I know of) for us to fight to fix the world…that doesn’t mean none of my loved ones would also have the sense that something was wrong and become a source of support in a world gone wrong. But I wonder who…?
Alrighty then, so ends my alternate reality musings. If anyone has enjoyed pondering this along with me and would like to let me know how you’d handle waking up in the wrong world, feel free to leave a comment! Any answer that would help keep me from crying all the time if I woke up in a wrong world is especially welcome ;D.