Tales of time travel and multiverses aren’t exactly the easiest to follow. When Marvel concluded its Infinity Saga with time travel, it left many fans confused about how we got to where we are. However, Marvel didn’t stop there. To begin phase four, we have already found ourselves neck-deep in multiversal potential. Although it’s easy to drown in the theories, the goal of this article is to help clear up any confusion you may have leading up to Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and future MCU titles. In WandaVision, we see Wanda Maximoff level up into the Scarlet Witch. In Loki, we are introduced to the concept of variants from different timelines. After thinking we already knew why the multiverse would be in shambles, the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer threw us for another loop. From what we have seen so far, which characters have tampered with the multiverse?
1. Wanda Maximoff
“The Scarlet Witch is not born, she is forged.” Words spoken by Agatha read from the Darkhold in the finale of Emmy nominated WandaVision. The Darkhold is an ancient book of magical power, believed to be the book of the damned. After gaining full control of her powers, defeating Agatha, and retaining the Darkhold, we have definitely not seen the last of Wanda Maximoff. Set to co-star alongside Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, we are primed to see how the magic Wanda learns from reading the Darkhold could wreak havoc on the multiverse.
The Loki series on Disney+ was a multiversal rollercoaster. Most confusing of all, the show introduced viewers to the concept of variants from different timelines. From the get-go, we follow the 2012 version of Loki, plucked from the timeline in which the Avengers traveled back in time to recover the Tesseract. From there we are taken to the TVA and explained the intricacies of the branch timeline. After plenty of Loki trickery and character development, Loki and his variant Sylvie, take out He Who Remains (the head of the TVA), ultimately creating the Marvel Multiverse with thousands of branch timelines, outside of the sacred MCU timeline we know and love.
We have seen all throughout What If…?, that when characters make different choices, the world around them plays out differently. Somewhere along the way in Asgard, someone’s choice lead to the birth of Sylvie in place of Loki. Named Loki at birth, the child was attacked by members of the TVA who attempted to remove her timeline from existence. This was our first look at a variant of a character we already knew and loved. Sylvie is a variation of Loki from a different timeline, who was never “supposed” to exist but managed to anyway. After years of living in various apocalypses, Sylvie plotted her revenge against the TVA. Finally climbing her way to the top, she ended the life of He Who Remains, opening up the possibility for branch timelines throughout the multiverse to flourish.
4. Doctor Strange
While we don’t know how the spell that Doctor Strange will cast in No Way Home will affect the MCU, we have seen firsthand in What If…? the damage Doctor Strange can do if left unchecked. The animated Strange that we saw, destroyed his whole universe. Whether or not we see this version of Doctor Strange in the upcoming Multiverse of Madness remains to be seen. However, we saw the potential trouble that could ensue if Doctor Strange’s ego gets the best of him.
Even though Spider-Man is on this list, I have a hard time believing the trailer isn’t trying to deceive us. Fans have speculated whether or not the Doctor Strange in the trailer casting the spell is even ours or not. While this could be the evil version of Strange we saw in What If…? deceiving Peter, I subscribe to another theory. I don’t buy for a second that the Stephen Strange we know and love, who played a game of “name that tune” while conducting surgery, would mess up a spell just from Peter talking too much. This man is too smart and powerful to make such a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe that he was arrogant enough to cast the spell. We have already seen Loki, Sylvie, and potentially Wanda causing chaos in their own ways. Could it be when Doctor Strange looked into the multiverse as he began the spell, everything had changed? Branch timelines and the manifestation of the Scarlet Witch could possibly cause things to be in flux. A completely different-looking multiverse causes Strange to panic and mess up the spell…and I’m sure Peter’s talking didn’t help either.
So What’s Next?
What’s a branch timeline? What is a variant? Are we going to have to follow all of the different timelines or just the one we are used to watching? Does this make every Marvel movie that has ever happened, canon? These are all questions fans of the MCU are left with from what we’ve seen to date in phase four.
The branch timelines created in Loki could theoretically allow Marvel CCO Kevin Feige to pick and choose what he wants to be canon from Marvel’s history. We can only assume the MCU will primarily follow one timeline, however projects like What If…? and their Sony partnership potentially allow us to explore wider ranges of the multiverse as well. Even if we don’t see characters in live-action in the MCU, opening up the multiverse allows fans to believe any of their favorite characters from the past could exist alongside these, but in a different universe.
All signs point to us seeing Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield reprising their roles in Spider-Man: No Way Home, giving us an example of how we may see more variants of the same character in live-action. Each universe is different, as we have seen in What If. While we will likely follow one main universe, the possibilities of where Marvel could take viewers are endless. If you can weave through the confusing branches, we are in for a tremendously exciting climb alongside our favourite MCU characters.
What questions do you have about the multiverse? Let us know in the comments or tag @TJ_Zwarych5 on Twitter!