Editor’s note: The below article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
With Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Now having premiered and set to drop on Disney + as of this week, we have all the confirmation we need that the mysterious book that was first introduced back in WandaVision came to play a very important role in not only threatening the MCU’s future – but the very existence of the multiverse as we know it. The Darkhold, which Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is glimpsed exploring the pages of in the closer of WandaVision‘s series finale while her Wanda Maximoff persona goes about her life in seclusion, is one of the most powerful – if not the most powerful – magical tome in the Marvel universe. But what is the Darkhold?
“That’s the book of the damned,” Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) is the one who first explains the particulars to Wanda while the two take a breather in between their magic-fueled fighting early in Wandavision‘s “The Series Finale.” Agatha goes on to describe an entire section in this cursed book devoted to the fabled Scarlet Witch, telling Wanda,
“The Scarlet Witch is not born, she is forged. She has no coven or need for incantation. Your power exceeds that of the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s your destiny to destroy the world.”
If that sounds like Bad News, that’s because the Darkhold has been delivering nothing but since it first debuted in 1972. Created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Mike Ploog for Marvel Spotlight, the Darkhold is the work of the evil Elder God Chthon, who is basically Marvel’s Cthulhu. Many, many eons ago, Chthon scribbled down his most devious spells and incantations before departing for another plane of existence (he was fleeing from Demogorge, the God-Eater, naturally), leaving his writings behind on Earth in the hopes it’d lead. to his return one day. As you might expect, it mostly led to centuries of death and dark magic as the book was handed from new owner to new owner, corrupting anyone it touched. There are countless tales of the Darkhold littered throughout Marvel history. At one point, Dracula tried to steal the book from the Vatican. (This needs to be a Disney + limited series immediately.)
Additionally, Wanda and Agatha both play a part in the events of The Darkhold: Tales from the Book of Sins, and you best believe there is some end-of-days prophetizing going on there, too. Issue # 6, written by Chris Cooper and penciled by Richard Case, opens with Agatha reciting this deeply ominous bad boy of a prophecy from the Darkhold’s pages: “A child born of no man and of a woman marked by sin; daughter becomes mother; then will the dark return begin.” She then makes it very clear that prophecy refers to Wanda. In doing so, Wanda is now aligned in the comics with the Darkhold and its powers.
In Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madnessit’s clear that Wanda’s experimentation with the Darkhold has led to some serious issues for her – right down to the blackened fingertips that we saw Agatha Harkness sporting on WandaVision after years upon years of wielding dark magic. She’s been using the book to track the existence of her twin sons, Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne) throughout the multiverse. Her ultimate aim, as revealed by Wanda herself, is to reunite with both of them, stealing the dimension-traveling powers of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) in order to complete her mission. Conjuring Gargantos to kidnap America on her behalf is, in Wanda’s mind, reasonable and sensical behavior before she rolls up her witchy sleeves and proceeds to try and snatch the teen herself. (Whether you actually buy the fact that the film itself does a convincing enough job of illustrating the fact that Wanda’s behavior is the result of using the Darkhold for an unclear amount of time is another matter entirely.)
However, when the Darkhold is destroyed at Kamar-Taj, Wong (Benedict Wong) confesses – admittedly under duress – that the book itself is only a copy. The real Darkhold exists in a temple on Mount Wundagore, where the demon Chthon (remember that guy?) Wrote his evil spells onto the walls of the fortress. The spells were later copied down into book form, copies of which exist all throughout the multiverse (it’s also revealed that at least one version of Dr. Strange, on Earth-838, attempted to use the Darkhold himself and created a sticky interdimensional wicket for the Illuminati to have to clean up). When Wanda and Wong reach Wundagore, the signs of her destiny are clear; There’s even an image of the Scarlet Witch that has been carved into the very structure itself.
But the Darkhold, for all its power and possibilities, is something that corrupts, because it’s rooted in magic that should not be. Forbidden magic. Chaos magic, as Agatha describes it in WandaVision. Knowing the risks that it could present to himself, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) chooses to use a Darkhold from another universe in order to fight the Scarlet Witch head-on, which results in him taking a dead copy of himself for a joyride while wearing the Souls of the Damned as a makeshift cloak. Yes, it does look as awesome as it sounds, but on the other hand, given that Strange has been warned away from using the Darkhold after several multiverse versions fell prey to its power, it seems as though he might yet be suffering some consequences of his own for merely dabbling in its pages for only a short time. (Third eye, anyone?)
It takes the Scarlet Witch being confronted with the faces of her terrified sons, who existed in another universe very happily with their version of their mother, to realize how far she’s trespassed while being fueled by grief and loss. Ultimately, Wanda makes the choice to destroy the Darkhold – not just the version of it in Wundagore, but every single copy across the multiverse. Using her power, she brings the entire temple down on herself, but given that we see a quick glimpse of red, scarlet magic poof out before everything is reduced to rubble, it stands to reason that the Scarlet Witch is not down for the count just yet. After all, if we haven’t glimpsed a body, chances are that Wanda Maximoff will make another appearance at some point in the future of the MCU – and as viewers know, sometimes even death can’t stop a character from making a return appearance. . However, at least for now, the Darkhold seems to have been erased from existence entirely.
Vinnie Mancuso also contributed to this article.
Read more about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:
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Elizabeth Olsen Explains Why Wanda Doesn’t Search For Vision in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ [Exclusive]
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What Happens in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’? 11 Questions Answered
‘Doctor Strange 2’ Post-Credits Scenes Explained: Could There Be More Multiverse Madness?
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