We're four episodes into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, and diving ever deeper into the world of the supernatural. Deadly mystical forces are gathering, and they're all focused on one mystical tome; the book of dark magic known as the Darkhold! Lifted straight from the comics, the Darkhold ups the ante in the most dramatic way possible. This series is just going to get darker from here on in - if the Darkhold is in play, anything can happen!
What Is the Darkhold?
Sometimes known as the Book of Sins, the Darkhold is perhaps the most dangerous mystic artifact in the #Marvel Universe. It was created by a demonic entity known as Chthon, and it has been at the center of the darkest magic running through history. On ancient Atlantis, the Darkhold's evil sorcery was used to create the first vampire; in the eighteenth century, it was used to cast the curse of the first werewolf!
The most powerful and dangerous sorcerers have always pursued the Darkhold. Morgan Le Fey (the contemporary of King Arthur, and legendary foe of Merlin) was the first to have the Darkhold bound like a normal book. In the present day, Doctor Doom learned to penetrate the barriers between dimensions from the pages of the Darkhold.
It's impossible to overstate the evil of the Darkhold. Simply reading its pages opens you up to the corrupting forces of Chthon, and puts you in danger of being cursed with vampirism or lycanthropy. At some points, the spirits of demons themselves have been bound to the Darkhold, and unleashed by the opening of its arcane pages!
The MCU Version
We learned a lot about the Darkhold in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 4. It seems that the legend of this dark mystical tome is one that runs through history; many of Hydra's greatest figures — from Daniel Whitehall to the Red Skull himself — have searched for it. At one point, even Nick Fury hunted for the Darkhold; but, like all those before him, Fury was unsuccessful.
Somehow, the Darkhold fell into the hands of the scientists of Momentum Labs. Unwisely, they used the Darkhold's sorcery to create a 'quantum particle generator': a machine that they believed would create matter out of nothing. In reality, I suspect the 'quantum particle generator' was drawing matter out of another dimension, perhaps even the Dark Dimension we'll soon be seeing in Doctor Strange. Needless to say, any attempt to integrate such dark magic with science was doomed to failure; the scientists were left transformed into 'ghosts'. Now, they're seeking out the Darkhold in order to regain their humanity. We have no reason to expect this experiment to go any better than the first one...
Where Has the Darkhold Been All This Time?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is gradually exploring the Darkhold's history. We know that it has been sought by some of the greatest figures in S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra history; Coulson even mentions that Nick Fury "feared this thing". The most fascinating hints of all, though, were in the episode "Lockup". There, we saw Lilli Birdsell's Lucy Bauer retrieve the Darkhold from its previous owner.
The scene heavily implied that the Darkhold had been hidden by none other than Johnny Blaze's Ghost Rider! He'd retrieved the Darkhold from someone who intended to use it for evil, and secreted it away in the hopes it wouldn't be found again. Unfortunately, Lucy Bauer and her team were able to track it down.
How Does This Fit In to the Rest of the MCU?
The Doctor Strange Prelude comics have already teased the Darkhold's existence. The Zealot showed us #Kaecilius stealing forbidden knowledge from the Ancient One; there's a reference to the Book of Cagliostro, a collection of dark knowledge that was influenced by the Darkhold. It seems that the sorcery Kaecilius uses to shatter the barriers between dimensions is rooted in knowledge from the Darkhold. This season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is only two episodes in, and already we have a fascinatingly ominous tie-in between the comics, the movies, and the TV shows!
I have to be frank that I'm startled at the idea the Darkhold is in play. As we know from the Prelude comics, the Ancient One heads up the Masters of the Mystic Arts. This group are dedicated to policing the world, protecting it from powerful and dark mystic artifacts. If the Darkhold has slipped through their grasp, then the Masters of the Mystic Arts weren't doing a particularly good job. No Staff of One or Cloak of Levitation could ever pose the threat of the Darkhold. It's very possible that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will tie in to Doctor Strange a bit more directly than we'd previously expected — perhaps with a splinter group of Zealots seeking the Darkhold's power...
Introducing the Darkhold raises other thrilling possibilities, too. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has already introduced #GhostRider, but through the Darkhold, we could see the series reveal other, far more dangerous mystic threats. Could we meet vampires or werewolves? Could one of our stars be corrupted by the Darkhold's evil influence? With the Darkhold in play, nothing is off the table. What's more, I doubt the team will get an offer of help from #DoctorStrange...
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- Five Things Marvel's Doctor Strange Prelude #1 Teaches Us About The World Of 'Doctor Strange'!
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Featuring the Darkhold in this way is a step of genius. Its arcane power can transform Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as surely as it turns men into werewolves; the series can literally turn in any direction from this point, and we can't possibly know what the future will hold for any of our major characters. Right now, anything is possible — and I couldn't be more excited!
Do you think the Darkhold will transform any of our S.H.I.E.L.D. stars? Let me know in the comments! Meanwhile, how well do you think this team-up will work out?