Spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spider-Man: Homecoming breaks the Marvel timeline. From the very early moments of the MCU’s latest hit, it’s clear something doesn’t add up, with an “eight years later” tag placing the film in 2020 when all conventional logic placed it in 2016, the Fall after Captain America: Civil War.

The plot hole centers on the Vulture’s origin, with his clean-up crew pushed aside by Tony Stark’s Damage Control and over the better part of a decade evolving into an alien-tech criminal empire. And make no mistake, this is a break, with fans all over trying to figure out what it means for the series and, more pertinently, how such a major oversight could happen.

Our initial explanation for why all this happened in the first place wasn’t any grand shift in the MCU timeline (although that was technically possible) but that it was all in reaction to a recently revealed cameo; the child wearing an Iron Man mask who Tony Stark saves from some of Justin Hammer’s robots in Iron Man 2 is actually Peter Parker, reaffirming how inspired by the Avengers this Spider-Man is. However, this created something of a continuity error – by accepted canon, Peter would have been ten during the events of the film, but the kid on screen looked much younger. We posited that to allow for this shift, the eight years justification was used.

The problem there is it’s essentially undoing nine years of built-up continuity to prove a cool fan theory, something that doesn’t really benefit the film at hand or the wider shared universe. In fact, our conclusion was that it was as unsatisfying as Marvel simply not realizing their error. However, we may have just found a stronger reasoning for the mistake.

It’s All About Liz’s Avengers Drawing

Laura Harrier as Liz Allan in Spider Man Homecoming The Reason Spider Man: Homecoming Breaks The Timeline

After the Sony and Columbia Pictures logos (but before the Marvel fanfare), Homecoming opens showing Vulture looking at a child’s drawing of The Avengers in the Battle of New York. In the moment it’s a nod from director Jon Watts that we’re in a world inspired by the heroes and drawing a contrast between Toomes’ aspirations and frustrations, but as the movie goes on it gains more substantive weight. This is one of the few clues in the first half of the film that Vulture is powered by a family including a character similar in age to our hero; this drawing has to come from Peter Parker’s future sweetheart Liz, who in a shocking third-act twist is revealed to be Toomes’ daughter.

Like with the Peter/Iron Man 2 easter egg, though, the timeline doesn’t work for this directly. Liz is a senior in the film so would have been 12 at the time of The Avengers, surely too old to be drawing such juvenile pictures. Make her four years younger, however, and it all suddenly snaps into place.

This is the same basic logic as the Iron Man 2 consideration, but whereas the underlying logic to fudging the timeline was pretty weak, here it’s right at the core of Homecoming and can be argued to be strong enough in the film itself to justify tossing aside franchise concerns.

Next Page: Why The Picture Explains The Timeline Break

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