6 Must-Read Marvel Time Travel Stories

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Marvel Time Travel Stories - But Why Tho

With Marvel Comics’ newest time-traveling series War Across Time here, I thought it might be a good time to look back at some of the great moments that comics have used time-traveling/time displacement as an amazing plot device. If you are new to comics and your only experience with superheroes skipping through time is the epic Avengers: Endgame, strap in. Because long before that Marvel time travel stories have seen these characters breaking, rewriting, and manipulating time for some amazing reads. Check out these 6 Marvel time travel stories and more with our ComiXology affiliate link.

1602 (2003-2004) #1-8

1602 - But Why Tho

It’s the year 1602 and the world looks strangely like the modern-day Marvel Universe. A cigar-chomping Nick Fury heads the English intelligence network while providing advice to the Queen alongside the sorcerer Stephan Strange. The Spanish Inquisition hunts down sinister agents of the Devil known as Witchbreed (mutants), and a mysterious weapon of unnatural power is sought after.

Written by Niel Gaiman and penciled by Andy Kubert, this entry in our list of Marvel time travel stories delivers grand scope, Shakespearian style, and one of the most unique alternate, yet familiar worlds the superhero genre has ever explored. It crafts a story that manages to be captivating, exciting, and at times terrifying all at once. How Gaiman blends the strong fantasy tones with the story’s eventual science fiction elements works to perfectly balance the story as a whole. A true gem among Marvel’s many great series.

Avengers Forever (1998-1999)

The time-traveling villain Immortus, Master of Time seeks to end the life of the Avengers’ long-time ally Rick Jones. With Immortus’s agents closing in for the kill, Jones momentarily accesses the Destiny Force and summons the Avengers to his side. But these are not the Avengers he expected. Plucked from the past, present, and future of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, this time-lost band of heroes, along with their uneasy ally Kang The Conqueror, must find a way to come together to save humanity’s future before it can be endlessly manipulated by a malevolent enemy.

Avengers Forever isn’t just my favorite Avengers story of all time, but it rests easily in my top ten superhero stories ever. Every plot beat, character interaction, and thrilling battle is a monument to the best that classic, high-stakes superhero storytelling can be. Every character has their purpose in the tale, and the story is so perfectly fit to them that I can’t imagine how it could’ve been told with any other cast. And while the Avengers are the spotlight characters, this story is also the one that cemented Kang as one of my all-time favorite villains. An iconic piece of science fiction that deserves its place in the pantheon of superhero tales.

New Mutants (2019-Present) #25-28 “The Labors of Magik”

Marvel Time Travel Stories - The Labors of Magik - But Why Tho

Tired of bearing the weight of being the Demon Queen of Limbo, and having more than enough to do as a War Captain of Krakoa, Magik decides to transfer the rule of Limbo to the recently resurrected Madalyn Pryor. But when Magik finds herself trapped in her old realm along with Wolfsbane and Moonstar, the mutant Sorceress will have to face not only the present threats before her, but her past as well if they are to escape this deadly peril.

As the final chapter of Vita Ayala’s widely praised New Mutants run, this story utilizes the special time-bending aspects of Limbo to put one of the X-Men’s most popular characters face to face with her younger self as she struggles to overcome the latest life-threatening hurdles her unwanted home has put before her. With portions of Ayala’s story delivered in a fairy tale format, this story has a style and presentation that sets it apart from any other comic I’ve ever read, while using time manipulation to explore the tragic life of Illyana Rasputin.

Uncanny X-Men (1963-2011) #141-142 “Days of Future Past”

Days of Future Past - But Why Tho

In the future, mutantkind has been pushed to the point of extinction. What remains of the mutant race has been rounded up and forced to cling to life in concentration camps. But the few remaining X-Men and their allies hatch a plan to send Kate Pryde back in time to prevent the moment that would trigger the chain of events that leads to this horrific future.

Arguably the most iconic of all Marvel time travel stories, this two-part tale has proven to be one of the most influential stories in X-Men history. Despite Kitty’s mission to thwart this timeline from ever existing, the series has used the motifs and concepts it first introduces countless times in subsequent trips to the future. Not to mention it gave us one of the most homaged covers ever with the now iconic Wolverine and Kitty in front of the wall plastered with posters declaring which X-Men have been terminated.

Uncanny X-Men (2013-2015) #23-29 “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier”

The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier - But Why Tho

Loosely connected to the event series Original Sin, this story sees Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk) arrive at the Jean Grey Insitute with the last will of the recently deceased Charles Xavier. The will requires that several key X-Men be present for the reading. Among them, Xavier’s killer himself, Cyclops. But once all the necessary parties are brought together, the X-Men learn of a startling secret the Professor had kept from them for years. But while this initially feels like yet another skeleton in Xavier’s deep closet, as the situation spirals out of control, it seems like Xavier may have been right in his handling of this particular situation. What lengths must be reached to save not just the X-Men but the entire world escalate drastically as the team searches for a way to stem the calamity that ensues.

This selection will probably be the most surprising to many on this list. It contains a great story that explores the lengths people will go to in search of their goals and questions whether any moral code in a super-powered world can be set in stone. As a story with time travel elements, this tale does a lot of shocking things that allow the weight of its situation to be put on full display. It’s also the storyline that makes me wish we could get a more active role from the character Tempus in an X-Book. Her solution to the crisis, as well as how hard she puts Cyclops in his place at the story’s end, made her one of my favorite X-Men side characters. Hopefully, they won’t keep her locked up in the Hatchery forever.

Young Avengers (2005-2006) #1-6 “Sidekicks”

Marvel Time Travel Stories - Sidekicks - But Why Tho

A new team of young supers has appeared and each bears a striking resemblance to a key member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. But who are these Young Avengers? And what secrets could they hold that will threaten the very fabric of time and space?

If you are a fan of science fiction and time travel, you’ve undoubtedly had the classic “would it be bad to go back in time and kill Hitler” discussion. This introductory story arc to the Young Avengers team takes that concept and expands upon it in a way that forces the Avengers to make a terrible choice that is necessary to prevent time from coming completely undone. Featuring the time-traveling villain Kang The Conqueror (antagonist of the upcoming Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantomania), this entry in our list of Marvel time travel stories could double as a strong introduction to the character for those looking to get familiar before that movie’s release.

And there you have it! Six must-read Marvel time travel stories. These are some fantastic tales showcasing just how many different ways time travel can be used to craft unique and compelling narratives. Check all these comics out and more with our ComiXology affiliate link.

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