Doctor Strange 2: How the Multiverse of Madness Could Lead to Secret Wars

Marvel Studios has never officially said that they're making a Secret Wars movie, but the idea has been spoken about so much in the press — by franchise directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and even Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige — that it seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. If it is, in fact, something that Marvel is building towards, then the bread crumbs that will get us there are no doubt already being planted. But this week's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has the potential to be not just a crumb in the trail toward this crossover, but a complete loaf of bread that says "Secret Wars This Way." Assuming that a Secret Wars movie is inspired by the 2015 version by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribić, the biggest stepping stone to getting there could be this week's Doctor Strange sequel.

The title of the movie, combined with the plot of Spider-Man: No Way Home, gives us our first clue that the movie might be building toward the event. Central to the Hickman/Ribić story was the blending of the entire Marvel multiverse into an all-new planet, a place divided into countries and realms from countless alternate realities — among them are The Wastelands from Old Man Logan, The Deadlands from Marvel Zombies, 2099 from....well, 2099, and countless others. Since Spider-Man: No Way Home has technically already made every other Spider-Man movie canon by association, Marvel Studios is uniquely poised to fold in countless other Marvel movies that they didn't actually make into their larger continuity.

We know this is being taken a step further by the inclusion of Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, who is seemingly playing a variant of the character we saw in 20th Century Fox's X-Men movies. Should the next logical step be taken by Marvel Studios, a Secret Wars film could fold in countless Marvel movies into one space on the big screen. There's potential for not only the Avengers of the MCU to appear, but Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, Nicolas Cage's Ghost Rider, any version of the Fantastic Four, the Spider-Men, plus variants of other MCU characters that might have died already on screen. Doctor Strange 2 is the big stepping stone toward expanding this idea in a big way for audiences.

Key to the plot of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the secret society The Illuminati. In the film, they appear to be a collective of superhero variants from (naturally) across the multiverse that may have something to say about Stephen Strange's meddling with other worlds. There's a possibility, however, that they could be operating from the same viewpoint that The Illuminati have in Hickman's New Avengers comic, which led to Secret Wars. In that story, the group became aware of a new threat to the universe, wherein parallel worlds began crashing into each other, forcing them to battle it out and choose who would die (they even encounter a world that's a clear riff on DC's Justice League). 

It's also possible that they're simply operating from a "control the multiverse" angle, but that does seem awful close to the Time Variance Authority already established in Marvel's Loki, doesn't it? In any event, this Illuminati could be what gives the MCU's Doctor Strange the idea to start his own secret group in the MCU, perhaps one that has to make tough decisions about eliminating other worlds. The only tangle there is that very few of the characters who made up this group in the comics are present in the MCU, which would mean that some swaps would need to be made, though that could change the hubristic theme that plays throughout the story.

Marvel Studios has kicked open the door on the multiverse to start their "Phase Four" slate of programming, and if they're truly thinking about this batch of stories their telling as something building to another Avengers: Endgame-like conclusion, Secret Wars seems to be it. Every film and show released by Marvel over the past two years has been about either installing a new version of a classic character in the MCU, debuting a brand new hero, or pushing toward a coexistence with variants of heroes we already know. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seems poised to give us multiple versions of Wanda and Stephen, a cool feat in its own right, but something that's getting mainstream audiences ready for the idea of what will come next. By starting with this movie, getting everyone really on board with the idea of the multiverse and different versions of characters they know, this seems like a firm foundation that will lead us to Secret Wars.

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