Mysteries abound in Avengers #675, probably the biggest being just where the hell the Earth has gone. Early on in this first issue of the weekly “No Surrender” story, our heroes discover, in a very plain way, the grandest of all larcenies.
But even before Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel) makes her definitive observation, there are major clues down on the ground that things are very different.
Catastrophic events are occurring all over the globe, and while they could just be chalked up to standard disaster movie imagery, Mark Waid (one of the three writers of “No Surrender,” along with Al Ewing and Jim Zub) is known for sprinkling bits of real science into his stories. By looking at the specific events depicted here, can we make an educated guess as to what’s happened to the Earth?
In Heaven as on Earth
Let’s run down that newsfeed: Volcanoes, earthquakes and hurricanes. If you know a little bit about the ground beneath your feet, you already realize that volcanoes and earthquakes are (often) consequences of the same phenomenon — plate tectonics. Plates of the Earth’s crust (technically, the “lithosphere”) move past, against and underneath each other, causing major earthquakes at plate boundaries and volcanoes where one plate slides beneath another, melting the “subducted” plate and spewing material back out onto the surface.
Normally, the Earth’s plate tectonics is due to energy coming from within the planet, both from the radioactive decay of unstable elements and what’s called the “residual heat of accretion” or “primordial heat” — the energy left over from all those bits of matter smashing together to form the Earth in the first place. That heat creates convection currents in the mantle (the mostly solid layer of the Earth that the crust sits on), pushing and pulling the tectonic plates along. But there’s a way to put extra energy into that system.
And it’s the reason Io, one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter, is the most geologically active body in the solar system. Moons don’t typically have enough radioactive elements or primordial heat to kick start tectonics, but Io does have a hugely massive body with a monstrous gravitational pull right nearby. Jupiter’s gravity is so strong that its pull on the side of Io facing it stretches the satellite, creating a whole lot of frictional heat (through what’s called “tidal heating”) in the process. Io doesn’t have true tectonics, but it does exhibit many of its consequences, including at least three volcanoes that are taller than any mountain on Earth.
So is that the answer? Has the Earth become Jupiter’s fifth Galilean moon in Avengers #675? But that wouldn’t explain the hurricanes, would it?
Notice the nod to “high pressure systems” in that news report. Seems almost too specific to not mean something. And sure enough, when the Moon is directly above you, for the same tidal reasons, the atmosphere is pulled toward it, creating higher pressure. Hurricanes are associated with low atmospheric pressure, though — just the kind that would then occur on the other sides of the planet. It’s not inconceivable that Jupiter’s tidal forces could (indirectly) cause major weather events on a nearby Earth.
Wait a minute, wait a minute; Io isn’t the only moon that undergoes tidal heating thanks to the planet it orbits — so does the giant moon of Saturn called Titan. Much of the outer layers of Titan is made up of ice, so there aren’t volcanoes belching molten rock, but there likely are cryovolcanoes that eject water and ammonia. Tidal winds are also thought to help the formation of Titan’s so-called “dark terrain,” recently revealed to be dunes of granular material, so it’s clear that Saturn also affects Titan’s weather.
The tidal forces exerted by Saturn on Titan are about 400 times what the Earth experiences from the Moon. Is that enough to cause the disastrous effects shown in Avengers #675?
Has the Earth been relocated to the backyard of Thanos, the mad god of Titan?
What do you think? Am I reading too much into it, or did the scientifically sly Mark Waid leave the right bread crumbs?