In less than two weeks, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters, and it’s poised to have a seismic impact on the MCU. Marvel has embraced the idea of the multiverse in a big way during its Phase 4. WandaVision teased the idea of alternate realities, Loki broke the Sacred Timeline and started the branching of multiple universes, and Spider-Man: No Way Home cracked the known Marvel universe wide open. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will deal with the ramifications of Stephen Strange’s spell that went awry in the Spider-Man movie and started allowing other universes to leak through into their own.
The movie picks up shortly after No Way Home. The cracks in the universe that started showing at the end of that movie are now breaking apart, and the multiverse is in chaos. For his part in breaking the multiverse, Doctor Strange is brought to judgment by the Illuminati. As the world starts crumbling, Strange must enlist the help of powerful allies to help him save the multiverse he upended–and he’ll also face terrifying adversaries, even ones wearing his own face.
There’s a lot going on, and those who haven’t seen a new Marvel movie or TV show in a while might be a little confused. Who are the Illuminati? Who’s the new girl in the jean jacket? Why are there multiple Doctor Stranges? Is Scarlet Witch evil now? And is that Professor X?! Let’s answer all your questions.
Who Are The Illuminati?
Every trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and many TV spots have shown a scene of Doctor Strange, in handcuffs, being escorted in front of a panel of people. As the narration implies, he’s being brought before the group to be judged for his crime of breaking the multiverse. That group is the Illuminati. In the comics, the Illuminati were a secretive, exclusive organization of some of the most powerful superheroes in the world who each represented a different aspect of the superhero community, such as magic and mysticism, science, mutantkind, government-facing groups, and so on, bringing a different mindset and worldview to the table. In the comics, the Illuminati are comprised of Tony Stark/Iron Man, who represents the superheroes not born with powers as well as being the government liaison; Namor, who represents the kingdom of Atlantis and a more antihero mindset; Charles Xavier/Professor X, who represents mutantkind; Reed Richards/Mister Fantastic, who represents science and technology; Black Bolt, king and representative of the Inhumans, and Doctor Strange, who represented the magical and supernatural aspect of the superhero world. T’Challa/Black Panther was also invited to be part of the group but declined, fearing that the Illuminati’s goals, while noble, will fall to corruption.
Tony Stark formed the Illuminati shortly after Earth got roped into the Kree-Skrull War, realizing that they needed to coordinate their strategy against major threats between the major individual groups of superpowered individuals on Earth. For quite some time, the Illuminati secretly worked together behind the scenes to shape the direction of the superhero world and the world at large. In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it appears the Illuminati might be slightly modified from the comics. Rather than simply protecting Earth, it’s entirely possible that they watch over the multiverse, similarly to how Loki‘s Time Variance Authority watched over the Sacred Timeline. Likewise, it appears they may be acting as a sort of tribunal, seeing as how they arrest Doctor Strange and have him brought before them.
Holy S**t, Was That Professor X?!
In the official trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, during the Illuminati tribunal scene, one of them says off-screen, “We should tell him the truth.” The distinctive voice is complete with the glimpse of the back of a bald head and what appears to be the low edge of a chair–or a wheelchair. It’s unmistakably Patrick Stewart as Professor X, leader of the X-Men. Ever since Disney acquired the rights to 20th Century Fox, fans have been wondering how Marvel would incorporate mutants and the X-Men into the MCU, with the going theory being that the multiverse will open the door for their introduction. It appears that will indeed be the case, though, if this is a multiversal version of the Illuminati, it’s entirely possible that the X-Men/mutants will actually exist in a different universe rather than the MCU proper, similar to how Sony’s Venom and now Morbius appear to exist in their own universe adjacent to the MCU.
What’s Up With All The Different Versions Of Doctor Strange?
The Doctor Strange 2 trailers and TV spots have also shown something rather curious: multiple, different versions of Doctor Strange. Those who watched the Loki series will understand what they are: multiversal variants, these ones variants of Doctor Strange, each one from a different universe. There are a few who have been featured in the promo material and in some merchandising. The first one, of course, is the normal MCU Doctor Strange. The second is a Doctor Strange who appears to be darker, and smirks in the trailer that “things just got out of hand.” That would be Strange Supreme, an ultra-powerful version of Doctor Strange warped by dark magic who first appeared in the animated Marvel series What If…?. The third is a Doctor Strange sporting a ponytail/slicked-back hair and a black and red costume. Interestingly, this is Defender Strange, which seems to be a homage to Doctor Strange’s time in the comics as a member of the Defenders–yes, the same group from the Marvel Netflix series. There’s also a fourth, incredibly disturbing version of Doctor Strange, who appears to be the zombie Doctor Strange, also first glimpsed in What If…?. Whether there are even more versions of Doctor Strange, or if they’ll be friend or foe, remains to be seen.
Who’s The Teenage Girl In The Jean Jacket?
Along with Professor X and the multiple versions of Doctor Strange, there’s also a young girl in a denim jacket decorated with a big star on the back fighting alongside the good doctor. World, say hello to America Chavez. America is a great superhero to have on your side in anything involving the multiverse. She has the usual super-abilities of super strength and durability, as well as the power of flight. But her unique and incredible power is the ability to kick and punch star-shaped holes in the fabric of reality, allowing her to traverse the multiverse from dimension to dimension whenever she wishes. In the comics, she’s also a member of the Young Avengers, one more character from the teenage superhero team to make her debut in the MCU in recent years. And in one very cool fact, she’s also the first Latina LGBTQ+ character to headline her own comic book series.
Wait, Is Scarlet Witch The Villain In This?
From the looks of it, the answer to that question is yes…and no. It appears that, just like Doctor Strange, there are a few different versions of Wanda in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, as well. One of them appears to be the Wanda who is living in isolation and remorseful for her actions in WandaVision, in which she accidentally trapped the people of Westview in an alternate reality in her grief over losing Vision. But the other, dressed in her Scarlet Witch costume, is more bitter and resentful, one who appears poised to go to any lengths to get her family back, even if it means unleashing her dangerous Chaos Magic upon the multiverse to make it happen.
Clearly, the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are poised to shake up the MCU in a major way. It’s safe to say that from this point on, things will never be the same. Whether or not the multiverse will still be in peril at the end of the sequel will be unveiled on May 6th when it hits theaters.