After the latest in a series of travels through time, Captain America finds himself shaken and supported by Iron Man.
At least Steve thinks it is Iron Man but he is corrected.
It is Iron Lad, one of the many identities of Kang. Kang informs him that he is at the end of time.
Well, I think it looks great. Peaceful. Yes, it's a bit rundown but this is far better than a chaotic urban scenario. The vegetation growing over the monuments give a sense of nature and tranquility. And those monuments! C'mon, they're jaw droppers. Art is by Leinil Francis Yu. It is fitting for the end of time to have a worn out, faded, about-to-close-shop kind of look.
Iron Lad talks very authoritatively and Captain America questions the veracity of Iron Lad's analysis of the situation. Iron Lad has this to say about it.
I love the phrase: "... ponder a question long enough, and you start to figure things out ...". It is a statement of hope that refers to the power of persistence.
Iron Lad goes on to point out the common factor between the numerous time jumps that the Captain has been experiencing: Every era he visits have Avengers in them. This current time jump is no exception. Iron Lad introduces Captain America to the last Avengers.
Behind Iron Lad is Kang the Conqueror and behind Kang is Immortus.
Maybe it is more accurate for me to say 'the last Avenger'.
Iron Lad, Kang, and Immortus are the same person from different time eras. They may be the same person but they have different personalities on account of their experiences. Iron Lad's attitude is nearest to that of the other Avengers; Immortus is aloof; Kang is most like a super-villain.
The biggest surprise to me here is that Kang in his various guises - is an Avenger. Although seeing as how the information is coming from 'the Kangs' let's take it with a grain of salt.
The Kang's ask Captain America to hold out his hand, and, when Steve does so, the Time Gem begins to materialize.
On cue, the various Kangs ready their energy projection devices.
Immortus is the oldest, and thus his device seems to be the most advanced - built into his gauntlets. Kang the Conqueror has a gun, of course. Most interesting of all is Iron Lad with thos filigree-like appendages sprouting out of his armor - very ornate.
All three Kangs hit the emergent Time Gem at the same time.
The effect is the creation of a pillar of energy that holds the shattered Time Gem in a stasis referred to by the Kangs as "No-Time".
With the Time Gem secured, the four participants in this meeting at the end of time talk about just what exactly is happening here.
The big topic are the incursions - the collision of universes that result in one survivor universe and another destroyed universe. The Kangs, through Iron Lad, have something interesting to report.
I wonder who the "Others" are that Iron Lad is referring to? What a delightful mystery. Cause of the incursions: unknown.
The Kangs have this to say to Captain America, and it is all very reasonable.
The Masters of Time have been through a past where Captain America was involved in stopping incursion. The various approaches taken to stem incursion was influenced by the Captains value system, essentially a fine balance of justice and mercy. A number of approaches were implemented. NONE WERE SUCCESSFUL.
A second approach is being undertaken under the leadership of Tony Stark (who the Kangs - I think, unfairly - keep referring to as 'the monster' Tony Stark). This is much more ruthless involving the sacrifice of universes. The Kangs want to give this approach a chance.
In order for the second approach to be tried Captain America must not interfere. In order for the Captain not to interfere the Kangs are keeping him prisoner here, at the end of time.
Cap has this to say about it.
In retrospect, Captain America did not only remind us and the Kangs of who he is - he reminded himself.
Back to the matter of the incursions.
One way to look at it is this way: The incursion can be compared to the Financial Crisis of the late 2000s.
Iron Man's plan is to use Main Street's money to bail out Wall Street and save the economy. The cost is massive unemployment in the short and medium term. The justification is to choose pain for the few rather then the many.
Captain America says don't think in the abstract. Look at what 'pain for the few' means. The family breadwinner with no job. The dream house lost because of a spike in the mortgage payment. Real people. Real problems. Real pain. And the thing to do is help them. Just help every person who needs help, plain and simple. The big picture? There is no big picture. There is just the moment and our choices in that moment. Choices that must reflect who we are.
Whether we are talking about the Incursion or the Financial Crisis it is a discussion about the importance of the group vs the importance of the individual.
So who's right? I don't know.
My take away from all of this is that Captain America knows who he is, and through that speech, we have a better understanding of what he stands for.
The Kangs are unmoved. So Captain America makes a move.
Carefully calculated ricochet frees the Time Gem from the stasis field.
Time Gem in hand, the Captain blinks out of the end of time and into our current time period.
Firmly in the present, Captain America begins to organize a group of heroes who believe in his principles against a rival group of heroes. Shades of Civil War.