Spider-Man: Homecoming was a tremendous box office success and a huge amount of fun, but the film made something of a mess of the MCU timeline. The Avengers was originally supposed to be set in 2012, but Homecoming happens "eight years later" ... in either 2016 or 2017?!
Marvel fans have been desperately attempting to put the pieces together. Now, intriguingly, a new piece of evidence has come to light. The Homecoming Blu-ray cover includes a slip that gives another key date...
Spider-Man: Homecoming Blu-Ray Slip Gives Some Clarification
This inside slip clearly shows notes from Peter Parker's physics lesson, and you'll note that the lesson is dated March 22nd, 2016. The sketch of the Winter Soldier arm, which so impressed Peter in Captain America: Civil War, suggests that he's fresh from his trip to Germany. If that's the case, then Spider-Man: Homecoming only happens a few months later, in Fall 2016.
This matters because Homecoming tied up the timeline in some pretty awkward ways. In Civil War, Vision explicitly stated that Tony Stark had suited up as Iron Man eight years ago. In Homecoming, the Chitauri invasion of New York had happened eight years earlier. Fans were essentially forced to redraw the whole timeline, desperately trying to make sense of things. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige recently revealed that there is indeed a solution of some kind, but when pressed he avoided answering. Instead, he settled for assuring us that Marvel would get around to publishing an official timeline sooner or later.
If this sketch is correct, the entire first phase of the MCU must happen within the space of a year. Even then, we have to assume that the "eight years" references are actually examples of characters rounding up or down; dialogue in The Avengers clearly states that the Chitauri invasion is set the following year after Thor arrived on Earth.
But This Sketch Doesn't Solve All The Issues
Unfortunately, this doesn't solve all the timeline issues for Spider-Man: Homecoming. The film itself presents evidence that it's set in 2017, not 2016. The key scene is a moment when Spider-Man asks his artificial intelligence Karen about Aaron Davis, a criminal whom Peter hopes will provide a lead on the Vulture. Karen tells Spider-Man all about Davis, even stating that he was born on April 15th, 1984, and that he's currently aged 33. That fixes the film in 2017.
The sad reality is that this sketch doesn't solve #Marvel's issues. Instead, it just adds another layer of complexity, leaving us faced with contradictory information as to when exactly Homecoming — and, by extension, Civil War — is set.
Although Homecoming has seen the most high-profile continuity problems to date, the movie is by no means alone. James Gunn admitted a continuity error in the much-loved Stan Lee cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with the Watcher's Informant discussing events that would happen years later. The recently-published (canon) Black Panther Prelude suggests that the film is set ten years after the events of Iron Man, an uncomfortable detail given that the synopsis has strongly implied it's based straight after Civil War. The #MCU timeline is in a very difficult place right now, and the Homecoming Blu-ray cover has just added another layer of complexity.
This is the problem with a shared universe. Sooner or later, the details start to contradict. Kevin Feige has promised to publish a timeline to explain how it all works out, but it's going to be interesting to see what has to be ignored to achieve that.
Do you think continuity matters in the MCU? Let me know in the comments!