Agents of SHIELD Season 4, after just two episodes, is proving to be a deep dive into Marvel Comics lore. First, there was the much-publicized introduction of Ghost Rider. Then there’s the new director, played by Jason O’Mara, who may be an even lesser known character dating back to the 1940s.
But in “Meet the New Boss,” Agents of SHIELD introduced its most esoteric artifact from the Marvel Universe yet, the mystical tome known as the Darkhold.
The Darkhold was mentioned on Agents of SHIELD by one of the several spectral figures now “haunting” a Momentum Alternative Energy Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The specters are only recently freed from their imprisonment in some sort of high-tech holding vault. As more of the ghosts are freed, they blame a woman named Lucy, and her quest for the power of the Darkhold, for being responsible for their current state.
In the Marvel Comics Universe, the Darkhold also goes by the name The Book of Sins. It was created by Chthon, an Elder God and the first practitioner of black magic. Chthon was the scholarly type, so he wrote all of his knowledge in what would come to be known as the Darkhold.
The Darkhold has been passed down through the ages. It was located on Atlantis before the city sunk, and was responsible for the creation of the first vampire in the Marvel Universe. It was also responsible for creating the curse of the werewolf and was an item of arcane power during the time of Merlin.
A human family, the Montesi, were responsible for safeguarding the Darkhold, which is indestructible. When Victoria Montesi proved lax in her duties, pages for the Darkhold began being distributed by a demonic dwarf in order to tempt humans to use the power to grant themselves their greatest wishes. Montesi had to form a group known as the Darkhold Redeemers, associated with the mystical heroes called the Midnight Sons, to stop the dwarf and retrieve the pages.
The Darkhold was co-created by writer Gerry Conway, who is still using the Darkhold as a plot device in his current run writing Carnage for Marvel Comics. Last week, Conway’s presence at the Agents of SHIELD Season 4 premiere event led to some speculation that the Punisher, also created by Conway, may be making an appearance in Agents of SHIELD Season 4. At the time, we were only considering the characters Conway has created for Marvel as a reason why he may have been invited, not artifacts. It seems the Darkhold may actually be Conway’s big contribution to Agents of SHIELD Season 4.
In Agents of SHIELD, it seems that the Darkhold is tied to the origin of Ghost Rider. In “Meet the New Boss,” Ghost Rider tells Quake that he’s not an Inhuman and that he got his powers by selling his soul to the devil. When Quake mentions the Momentum lab in Pasadena, Ghost Rider has a strong reaction and immediately goes to investigate. When he arrives, Ghost Rider seems familiar with the setting and with the spectral beings, and incinerates one of them without hesitation. Before leaving the Momentum lab, Ghost Rider takes a photo of the eight or so people who worked at the lab off the wall.
In “Meet the New Boss,” Quake also mentions that Robbie Reyes had an uncle. This ties into Robbie’s Ghost Rider origin from the Marvel Comics Universe. Most Ghost Riders become spirits of vengeance by selling their soul to the devil. It remains to be seen how literal Robbie was being when he said that line himself in “Meet the New Boss,” but in the Marvel Comics Universe, he got his Ghost Rider powers differently.
Robbie Reyes in the Marvel Comics Universe was killed. He was then resurrected and possessed by a spirit called Eli. What Robbie would not find out until later is that Eli was his uncle, Eli Morrow, a satanist serial killer who had murdered close to 40 people. Eli tried to take control of Robbie’s body to seek out revenge on the mobster hitman who killed him. With the help of another Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, Robbie was able to learn to control Eli and eventually agrees to feed Eli’s bloodlust by killing the wicked.
Taking all of this in, we now wonder if Eli Morrow is one of the people who worked for Momentum. Specifically, we wonder if Eli is the “him” that the ghosts kept referencing. It would make sense for Eli’s satanic leanings to lead him to discover the Darkhold, but it is still unclear what role Eli and the Darkhold played in turning Robbie into Ghost Rider, and whether or not Eli is still in Robbie’s head.
As a mystical artifact of power, Doctor Strange, Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, has had some interaction with the Darkhold. Usually, it involves Doctor Strange being forced to keep Chthon from returning in power, but Doctor Strange has used the power of the Darkhold in the past, such as when he used the Montesi formula found inside to eliminate all vampires from the Earth.
The Darkhold may prove to be a connection between Agents of SHIELD and the Doctor Strange movie, which premieres in November. Agents of SHIELD showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon have already discussed the relationship between Agents of SHIELD and Doctor Strange, noting that some questions being explored in Agents of SHIELD may turn up in Doctor Strange.
“Meet the New Boss” does specifically note that Momentum has a lab in New York City, where Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum is located. It’s unlikely that Doctor Strange will spend much time dealing with the Darkhold or Momentum directly, or fighting Chthon since we already know who the Doctor Strange villain is, but that’s not to say there couldn’t be some references, allusions, Easter eggs, or groundwork laid down for a sequel.
Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.