This article contains Loki spoilers. We have a spoiler free review here.
The arrival of Marvel’s Loki on Disney+ is maybe the biggest expansion of the MCU since Guardians of the Galaxy brought viewers out into the cosmos. However, the added dimension in Loki is an order of cosmological magnitude greater than just going into space.
The main setting of Loki is the Time Variance Authority, created by the Time-Keepers to guard the one true sacred timeline. But who are these mysterious space lizards, and where do they get off deciding what the true timeline is? Let’s look to the comics to find out.
Loki’s Time-Keepers are introduced in Miss Minutes’ orientation video as survivors of a massive, multiversal war with enormous powers, who decided that in order to prevent that kind of war from ever happening again, they would cultivate the timestream and make sure no alternate realities ever emerged. Setting aside all of the obvious questions (like “But…the Spider-Verse???” or “Is What If cancelled?” or “Wait isn’t this just Crisis on Infinite Earths and Hypertime?”), this isn’t quite who they are in the comics.
In 1978’s Thor #282, by Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio, the Time-Keepers were introduced as creations of He Who Remains, the last remnant of the previous universe, as a way to guide and shape the new multiverse. His first attempt didn’t go so great – the Time-Keepers were a little bit genocidey, destroying multiple different realities. So Thor traveled back in time and convinced He Who Remains to retry, and his efforts split the timeline and created the Keepers, who limited their work to some light, Avengers-related pruning.
Kang the Conqueror
Through the years they were in charge of the TVA, the organization they created to help police the timeline, and most of their work that we know about was spent messing with Thor and the Fantastic Four. They also eventually subcontracted to Immortus, picking Kang the Conqueror’s future self to help execute their timestream gardening and putting them in regular conflict with the Avengers. They would eventually come to blows with Avengers from various points in their subjective timelines who, allied with Kang, fought to save Rick Jones and the Destiny Force from Immortus and Time Keeper deletion. In that battle, Kang would kill the three space lizards.
Loki and Secret Wars
The thing is, in the comics we’re on our 8th Marvel multiverse.
There is a lot of metaphysical mumbo jumbo involved, but Secret Wars marked the end of the 7th multiverse and the beginning of the 8th. The colliding realities eventually collapsed into Battleworld, the lone planetoid existing in a void of nothingness, comprised of bits and pieces from 50ish universes saved by Dr. Doom and Doctor Strange (and the Molecule Man), and mushed together to keep humanity alive. Molecule Man eventually gave the power he was letting Doom use to Reed Richards, and Mr. Fantastic recreated the multiverse with the help of his family.
The collapse of the multiverse created conditions by which the First Firmament, the personified essence of the first multiverse, could break the chains it had been shackled in by the Celestials, and led to it trying to consume the new multiverse. They were eventually stopped by Galactus Life Bringer and his Ultimates, led by Monica Rambeau and Black Panther. Al Ewing’s Ultimates is a trip, y’all.
You’ll note that the Time Variance Authority has nothing to do with any of that above nonsense. The point here is that the comics TVA is focused entirely on maintaining the timeline in their corner of the multiverse, and not heading off potential problems that would come from a branching timeline.
Is MCU Phase 5 Avengers Forever?
Other shows have their “is this how the mutants get introduced to the MCU?” hobbyhorses. We here in the Den are concerned with a different idea: that the next phase of the MCU is going to be the Time-Keepers and Immortus picking a fight with a team of Avengers plucked from different points in their subjective timelines (allowing Chris Evans to come back maybe?), led by Kang the Conqueror. Yes, we passionately feel that Avengers Forever is coming to the MCU…and the Time-Keepers are our way in.
Will it come to pass? Only the Time-Keepers (and probably Kevin Feige) know.
Loki airs new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.