If all comic books were to share a theme song, a top contender would be R.E.M.’s “It’s The End of the World As We Know It.” Why? Well, nearly every major super hero arc or crossover event involves a cataclysmic catastrophe that threatens the world, the universe, or, greater still, the Multiverse. Sometimes we can blame a super-villain but occasionally the heroes we have come to trust are the culprits.
Marvel Studios’ Phase 4 has introduced many reality-shattering aspects of the Multiverse right out of Marvel comics. Everyone knows the Scarlet Witch’s potential in messing up the Multiverse on a massive scale, but she’s not the only one. To prepare for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, let’s review all the Marvel characters who have broken the world as we know it — on the pages or on the screen!
Mysterio? The dude with the crystal ball for a head? Yeah, think about it — if Mysterio had never revealed to the world Spider-Man’s secret identity, the Multiverse might still be intact. Well, that might be asking a lot of our MCU heroes (lookin’ at you, Loki) but at the very least it might not have been Peter Parker’s fault.
Without Mysterio’s sinister influence, villains like Doc Ock and the Green Goblin would have stayed within their own universes. The fragile barriers of the Multiverse wouldn’t have been strained by Doctor Strange’s haphazard spell. And Stephen Strange wouldn’t have had a glimpse of all the other universes just beyond our own. Thanks a lot, Quentin.
Mystique is another villain who made one small decision that affected the entire universe. In Mystique’s case, that decision was reforming the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and assassinating the anti-mutant politician Robert Kelly. The regular timeline saw the X-Men successfully thwart this assassination but the regular timeline isn’t the only timeline.
Days of Future Past explores an alternate reality in which Mystique successfully kills Kelly along with Charles Xavier and Moira McTaggert. A similar version of this plot is also explored on screen. This pivotal event turns the tide against mutants. The majority of humans give in to their prejudice against mutants and eventually Sentinels take control of North America. Most mutants or super-powered people are killed or put in concentration camps. This grim reality is only corrected through time traveling heroics from Kate Pryde and Rachel Summers.
It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it? Not that Professor Charles Xavier is quiet, per se, but he is a determined pacifist. His dream is to foster peace between mutantkind and humankind, without resorting to violence like his longtime companion Magneto. But even the most peaceful of people have their breaking points.
When Magneto brutally strips Wolverine of his Adamantium skeleton, Xavier decides he will tolerate the mutant extremist no longer. Xavier launches a psychic attack against Magneto to shut down his mind. Unwittingly, this psychic contact between the two men awakens a psionic entity known as Onslaught. Born of Xavier’s deeply suppressed resentment and Magneto’s violent tendencies, Onslaught proceeded to rip apart Earth-616. Only Franklin Richards, the son of Mister Fantastic and Invisible Woman, could defeat Onslaught using his mutant power of reality manipulation.
While the comics version of Thanos is pretty different from the MCU version, both characters are driven by their deeply corrupted perspective. In Marvel comics, Thanos unknowingly falls in love with Death herself, driving him mad and inspiring him to devise his plans of universal ruin. On screen, the MCU Thanos believes systematic genocide is the only logical solution to overpopulation and resource depletion.
No matter the motivation, Thanos is a terrifying figure because he always believes his cause to be righteous. And a self-righteous villain bent on annihilating existence is never something to be taken lightly. You just never know when they’ll Snap.
Galactus and Silver Surfer
Ending worlds is quite literally in the job description for these two. As the single remnant of the current Multiverse’s previous incarnation, there is only one way for Galactus to continue existing. Galactus is doomed to an eternity of consuming planets. He depends on his herald, Silver Surfer, to scout planets that are ready to be eaten. Talk about an appetite for destruction.
At first, Galactus only consumed planets without sentient life. Eventually, however, he discovered that consuming sentient life was much more satisfying — especially a world such as Earth-616. Galactus has introduced other colossal enemies to Earth such as Abraxas. Over time, Galactus has shifted between his role as the Devourer of Worlds and a nebulous ally of heroes like Reed Richards.
Doctor Doom and the Beyonders
Doctor Doom is one of those villains whose main goal is always remaking the world completely in his image. For that reason, his plans often involve the destruction of reality as it currently exists. Without Wanda’s consent, he even influenced the powers of Scarlet Witch to bring about the events of M-Day, as revealed in The Children’s Crusade.
In a scheme against the extra-dimensional Beyonders, Doom even worked to destroy every Molecule Man in the Multiverse. With every Molecule Man’s death, his universe would be destroyed as well. This ongoing struggle between Doom and the Beyonders caused universal collisions (called incursions) throughout the Multiverse. Eventually, of course, Doom attempted to manipulate reality by assembling his own “patchwork” planet, called Battleworld.
As far as mutation makeovers go, few Marvel characters have undergone a transformation as dramatic as Jean Grey. Or should we say, Phoenix, the inferno that brings the whole galaxy to its knees? If that sounds like an exaggeration then you must not have heard how Dark Phoenix completely annihilated an entire star and its neighboring planet, along with five billion of its inhabitants. Oops.
Time and time again, the Phoenix Force finds its way back to Jean no matter how many sacrifices are made or relationships are incinerated. Nobody does cosmic catastrophes quite like Jean and the Phoenix Force.
David Haller, AKA Legion, is the conflicted son of Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller. When he tried to go back in time and murder Magneto, thus stopping any opposition to his father’s pacifist dream, Legion accidentally killed Xavier instead. With this action, he caused the Age of Apocalypse, an alternate reality in which Apocalypse had managed to take control of the world. Though the X-Men eventually formed in this reality, the world definitely suffered for a long while under the rule of Apocalypse.
Loki & Sylvie
Throughout the Disney+ series Loki, we saw new rules and limitations established: the Time Variance Authority, the possible of alternate timelines, a place called the Void for lost and destroyed matter, and even alternate characters called variants. It stands to reason then that Loki would also introduce a major disruption to the Multiverse.
Sylvie is one of many variants of Loki, the Asgardian god of mischief. As a child she was forcibly taken from her timeline. Though she manage to escape the TVA, she dedicated her life to getting revenge on the corrupt time-control system. In a final confrontation with He Who Remains, himself a variant of Kang the Conqueror, Sylvie kills him. This murder only causes more chaotic disruption to the Multiverse by introducing a whole new branch of disrupted timelines.
Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange
Ending the world is nothing new, when you think about it. Big bad villain wants to rule the planet? Seen it a thousand times — yawn.
But what happens when the reason for the world’s destruction is love itself? Perhaps a corrupted, misguided form of love, but love nonetheless. That’s the case for both Wanda Maximoff and Doctor Strange. In both the comics and the MCU, these two characters use their immense magical power to correct events they deem unfair. For Strange, he attempts to undo the death of Dr. Christine Palmer. Unfortunately, certain multiversal events are inevitable. His determination, however, introduces an evil Doctor Strange variant who crushes the Multiverse into utter darkness.
Likewise, Scarlet Witch’s heartbreak drives her to tamper with reality with horrific results. After her children, Billy and Tommy, are taken away, Wanda attempts to undo their deaths. Her actions in the comics lead to M-Day and the Decimation, and in the MCU she is only just beginning to test the limits of the Multiverse. All is fair in love and reality.
The Marvel Multiverse is full of vast possibilities. Infinite possibilities, in fact, for any kind of reality. And many Marvel heroes and villains are more than capable of taking matters into their own hands.
What predictions do you have for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Who’s your favorite Marvel Multiverse manipulator? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!