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Marvel's latest tour de force, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an exuberant adventure that firmly embeds Tom Holland's Spider-Man in the ongoing narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But the story raises a lot of questions about just how it relates to the wider MCU, so it's time to do a deep-dive and see how we can fit this film into the overall continuity...
Spider-Man: Homecoming opens in 2012 with a jubilant Adrian Toomes who's been hired to work on a salvage operation in the aftermath of the Chitauri invasion. Unfortunately for him, central government steps in with a partnership between the Department of Damage Control and Tony Stark, stealing the job from under his nose. Toomes is absolutely furious, as he's already invested a lot of money into this clean-up operation. The government has essentially bankrupted him.
But how do we reconcile this with the wider narrative of the #MCU? According to Item 47 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., these salvage operations were actually conducted under S.H.I.E.L.D. supervision. The only answer has to be then that the Department of Damage Control is actually a front for a major S.H.I.E.L.D. operation, with Fury working in partnership alongside Tony Stark to collect the alien technology. Given that S.H.I.E.L.D. was caught up in the story of the Battle of New York — and fired a nuclear missile on American soil — the organisation would want to keep its name out of that particular spotlight.
Toomes's career is ruined, and he desperately tries to think of a way to make a living. It's only when Adrian realizes that he possesses a lorry full of Chitauri tech that he begins to hit upon an idea, ordering Mason to work on reverse-engineering the alien technology. This enterprise soon develops into a successful business, with Toomes and his people secretly collecting alien technology and selling it on the black market. Understandably though, Adrian and his team keep the best weapons for themselves, which leads to Toomes eventually using some Chitauri wings to become the Vulture.
Dialogue in Homecoming hints that Toomes was in London shortly after the events of Thor: Ragnarok, as he got hold of "black hole grenades." That's particularly impressive, given Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s tie-in episode 'The Well' showed that Coulson and his team were on hand for the cleanup in London. No doubt, Toomes's job became a lot easier after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I can't help but suspect that he raided a few S.H.I.E.L.D. storehouses too. We know that Adrian recovered Ultron technology from the ruins of Sokovia — Again, that's an impressive feat, given how Stark wanted to destroy all trace of Ultron tech for fear that the AI would survive Sokovia.
The Avengers Project
Meanwhile, Spider-Man: Homecoming adds some new details to the story of the Avengers too. It seems that in the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony Stark didn't ship all the team's equipment over to the new base. Instead, he kept some of it — including the Hulkbuster armor and "Thor's magic belt" — in Avengers Tower. In the aftermath of Civil War, Stark appears to have taken charge of the Avengers Initiative again, and so he's had to help move everything out.
Of course, the amusing question is — what Avengers team is Stark left with? Over half the team are on the run, Black Panther's unlikely to cooperate, and War Machine is badly injured. It's little wonder then that Tony wants to hold a press conference to celebrate the potential new recruit!
Spider-Man: Homecoming is unique in that it carefully exploits the shared universe more than any other #Marvel movie to date. Marvel's even taken the time to retcon Peter Parker into the history of the MCU, confirming a popular fan theory that he appeared in Iron Man 2! It's true that some aspects of the continuity have problems, but in no way do they detract from the film's success. It's a remarkable achievement for Marvel Studios.