Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness could be concealing its greatest secret – how Doctor Strange breaks the multiverse wide open!
Stephen Strange could be the one responsible for destroying the multiverse in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – by reading the Darkhold. Avengers: Endgame’s time travel set up the MCU’s multiverse, and the idea lies at the heart of Phase 4. Unfortunately, heroes like Doctor Strange are learning about the multiverse the hard way, as it begins to break down. One important question remains unanswered, though; what’s the cause?
So far, there are three major theories. The first is that Scarlet Witch is responsible for the multiverse of madness, with Wanda Maximoff claiming the powers she possesses in the comics – namely the ability to reshape reality at will. This particular theory is popular in light of WandaVision, in which Wanda Maximoff developed an affinity for the reality-rewriting power of Chaos Magic, and learned of a disturbing prophecy that she would destroy the world. A second proposal is that this springs forth from Loki, in which a variant of the trickster god unleashed the multiverse and unwittingly triggered a multiversal war. And a third is that the cause is Doctor Strange himself, with his spell in Spider-Man: No Way Home causing lasting damage to the fabric of reality. The first trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness supported this idea.
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But it’s important to remember that Marvel’s trailers have always concealed as much as they have revealed; indeed, Doctor Strange 2’s trailers haven’t even hinted at an answer to a major mystery, how he regained the Eye of Agamotto. What’s more, at one point Doctor Strange 2 and Spider-Man: No Way Home were scheduled to release in the opposite order, meaning Marvel didn’t originally plan the events of the Spider-Man threequel to cause the multiverse of madness. And one striking possibility is being ignored – that Doctor Strange is himself responsible for the chaos being unleashed, but through something he does in the film itself.
Doctor Strange Is Shown Reading The Darkhold
WandaVision introduced the MCU’s version of a book of dark magic called the Darkhold, a legendary tome that was possessed by Agatha Harkness and has now passed into the ownership of the Scarlet Witch. In the comics, the Darkhold was created by a monstrous being called Chthon – one of the Elder Gods who ruled the Earth in primordial times. Chthon learned he could increase his power by consuming his kin, and became one of the most powerful beings in all creation – but he learned he was destined to be banished from this plane of existence. He left behind a collection of scrolls that were initially transcribed on stone and later on parchment, containing some of his darkest magic.
The problem is that Chthon’s Darkhold is a very dangerous book indeed. All the spells contained within the Darkhold have been chosen by Chthon for one purpose; to damage the fabric of reality itself. Worse still, to read the Darkhold is to fall under Chthon’s influence, and any sorcerer who uses the magic contained within this dangerous book is corrupted. In the comics, the core of the Darkhold are prophecies of Chthon’s return, designed to weave this into the future of history. Agatha Harkness herself translated one of these prophecies, and the heroes initially misinterpreted it as they attempted to preserve reality – just as Chthon had intended.
Scarlet Witch Seems To Give Doctor Strange The Darkhold In Multiverse Of Madness
The trailers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness have revealed Strange will go to Scarlet Witch for help in dealing with some multiversal threat. It’s currently unclear why Doctor Strange goes to Scarlet Witch – not least why he believes she knows secrets of the multiverse he does not – but it seems she will give him the Darkhold; one shot in the trailers shows Doctor Strange reading it, summoning arcane spheres as he uses the dark magic contained within it. Assuming the MCU’s Darkhold bears the same characteristics as the version seen in the comics, this is very dangerous indeed; it means Strange has opened himself up to Chthon’s influence, and is using magic that damages the fabric of reality.
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It’s therefore possible that the cause of the titular “Multiverse of Madness” is something the MCU hasn’t shown yet; Doctor Strange himself responding to some sort of cosmic event by using the forbidden magic of the Darkhold. Strange has developed a tendency for using magic he doesn’t fully understand, as seen in the first Doctor Strange film when he experimented with the Time Stone while reading the Book of Cagliostro; his overconfidence is his greatest weakness, and it would be perfectly in character for Doctor Strange to unwittingly cause the multiverse of madness. Indeed, this idea would even explain several key lines in the trailer; dialogue suggesting Doctor Strange is personally to blame for what happens, and the fact he seems to be arrested by some sort of multiversal Illuminati.
Doctor Strange Thus Unleashes The Film’s Greatest Threat
This would, of course, mean Doctor Strange is not the true villain – but rather the forces he has unleashed upon the multiverse, that must be fought. But, curiously enough, this probably isn’t going to be Chthon; rather, it’s more likely to be a composite of Chthon and another of the Elder Gods, Shuma-Gorath. This latter being was set up in What If…?, with both Captain Carter and Evil Doctor Strange going up against Shuma-Gorath’s tentacles. One of Shuma-Gorath’s avatars is seen in the Doctor Strange 2 trailers, while the Marvel Studios title sequence for the movie features a subtle homage to the monstrous being. It would make sense for Marvel to combine the two Elder Gods, given conceptually they are very similar, even sharing the same motivations. It’s worth noting the MCU has renamed Shuma-Gorath as “Gargantos,” because the name Shuma-Gorath is technically tied to the Conan franchise – meaning Marvel needed to modify the mystical entity anyway.
If Doctor Strange is indeed the cause of the “Multiverse of Madness,” then the challenge facing him will simply be to put it right. In the comics, Doctor Strange’s greatest battle with Shuma-Gorath saw him prove himself worthy to become the Sorcerer Supreme – an arc the MCU is already potentially setting up, given Wong has claimed the title for now according to Spider-Man: No Way Home. It will be exciting to see whether or not he can accomplish the same feat in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Jul 28, 2023
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About The Author
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Tom Bacon is one of Screen Rant’s staff writers, as well as a Peer Mentor for new writers and a member of the Care Team, offering support and a listening ear to members of the Comics group. A lifelong fan of major franchises including Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Marvel, Tom is delighted his childhood is back – and this time it’s cool. You can find him on Twitter @TomABacon.
A graduate of Edge Hill University, Tom remains strongly connected with his alma mater as a volunteer chaplain. He’s heavily involved with his local church, and anyone who checks him out on Twitter will swiftly learn he’s into British politics too.
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