The MCU‘s Phase 4 slate is diving deep into the concept of the multiverse – and here are all the characters already present who can travel between the dimensions. Marvel Studios has actually been setting up the Multiverse for quite some time, subtly introducing the multiverse through the Thor films. The concept was important to the resolution of the Infinity Saga, with the Avengers learning how to travel through time by accessing a subatomic dimension, and it’s clearly central to Phase 4. Loki features time travel being used to manage alternate timelines, while Doctor Strange 2 has the promising title Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
But Marvel’s multiverse is more than it may first appear. It’s based on a model of the multiverse explored in the comics, most notably Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #21, which explained the multiverse as an infinite ocean. Imagine Earth at the center of this vast sea of possibilities; alternate timelines are just a single swim-stroke away, but the further away a person goes, the more strange and impossible the planes of existence they encounter become. This is the multiverse the Ancient One cast Stephen Strange’s astral form through in a famous “Magical Mystery Tour” scene in Doctor Strange, with the future Sorcerer Supreme’s mind blown by the insane realities he experienced. Little wonder Strange fell to his knees and asked the Ancient One to teach him.
Naturally, there’s intense excitement over just which Marvel characters will be able to travel through the multiverse. Loki‘s Time Variance Authority police the timeline, and they seem to possess doors that take them through different timelines – an idea lifted straight from the comics themselves, where Kang the Conqueror lives in a city called Chronopolis with just that technology. Spider-Man: No Way Home looks set to be a multiversal adventure, with villains confirmed to be making their way from other continuities into the MCU – and heroes likely to be doing the same. And, of course, leaked art for Doctor Strange 2 showed new character America Chavez using the star-shaped portals she can open to travel between dimensions in the comics. But all of these are new characters and concepts; here are the MCU heroes who already possess the power to navigate the multiverse.
Doctor Strange – and Every Member of the Masters of the Mystic Arts
It’s easy to forget Doctor Strange can travel the multiverse – without an Infinity Stone. The Masters of the Mystic Arts possess sling rings, small two-finger rings that create gateways through time and space. The MCU has typically used these to travel from one place to another – even from one world to another, as seen when Doctor Strange used his sling ring to bring the heroes from Titan to Earth in order to participate in the final battle against Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. But they are actually even more powerful than that, as Baron Mordo explained in Doctor Strange. “Mastery of the sling ring is essential to the mystic arts,” Mordo told new recruit Stephen Strange. “It allows us to travel throughout the multiverse. All you have to do is focus. Visualize. See the destination in your mind. Look beyond the world in front of you.“
Because they possess the sling rings, then, the Masters of the Mystic Arts can travel throughout the multiverse. That would mean Strange, and all his fellow sorcerers, possess the ability to travel between the dimensions – and potentially between alternate timelines too. No doubt traveling between timelines is more difficult without a guide, though, because it would be hard for a sorcerer to differentiate one Earth from another at first glance.
In the MCU, all sorcerers draw upon power from other dimensions. “We harness energy drawn from other dimensions in the Multiverse,” the Ancient One explained when she was teaching Doctor Strange, “to cast spells, conjure shields and weapons to make magic.” According to WandaVision, the Scarlet Witch is the most powerful sorceress of all, able to wield Chaos Magic; capable of spontaneous creation, with power outstripping even the Sorcerer Supreme. Interestingly, in an interview with Rolling Stone head writer Jac Schaeffer revealed they almost had Wanda drawn into what she called a “Chaos Dimension” – presumably the source of Wanda Maximoff’s power, just as the Ancient One drew on the energy of the Dark Dimension.
That idea was abandoned, although of course, that doesn’t mean the Chaos Dimension won’t appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Still, in a recent interview, Elizabeth Olsen confirmed Scarlet Witch will be able to travel through the multiverse independently. According to Olsen, Wanda “has a few fun powers. You know, telekinesis, she can travel between universes…” It’s reasonable to assume she’s learned that particular trick from the Darkhold, which is frankly ominous; in the comics, the Darkhold is a book of dark magic left behind by the Elder God Chthon, and its spells have a corrupting influence upon any reader.
Hank Pym’s Pym Particles
Most viewers are understandably focused on the sorcerers who can travel between different dimensions, but it’s important to remember Hank Pym is the one scientist who has learned how to do so using science. He discovered the Quantum Realm, described as “a reality where all concepts of time and space become irrelevant,” and lost his beloved wife Janet Van Dyne there for decades. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has suggested the Quantum Realm works like a sort of series of concentric circles: the deeper someone gets into the Quantum Realm, the more the laws of reality – laws like time and gravity – cease to apply. Avengers: Endgame went one step further than the Ant-Man films, revealing it was possible to use the Quantum Realm to travel in time as well; it’s likely people can travel between different timelines through this dimension too, with Agents of SHIELD season 7 borrowing that particular idea.
It’s true Hank Pym doesn’t have the kind of unrestricted access to the multiverse possessed by the Masters of the Mystic Arts, but his achievement in finding a way into the Quantum Realm is frankly quite remarkable all the same. Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania will no doubt continue to explore the Quantum Realm, with time travel promising to be a major theme.
Marvel’s What If…? introduced the Watcher, a cosmic being who lives in a nexus at the heart of the multiverse. Traditionally a being who has sworn not to interfere, in What If…? season 1 the Watcher was forced to break his vow in order to defeat the threat of an Ultron granted the unlimited power of the Infinity Stones. What If…? episode 9 saw him swear a new oath, considering himself the “Protector of the Multiverse,” which no doubt means he’ll be fighting on the side of Earth’s various superheroes going forward. The Watcher transcends the normal laws of the multiverse, and is capable of perceiving past, present and future; consequently, it’s no surprise he can travel between the dimensions with ease.
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
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