And so it has come to pass (or is just about to, for those of us in the US). The newest member of the #Marvel Cinematic Universe has joined the ensemble universe cast roster, and he came in with quite the bang.
Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) explodes onto the big screen in #DoctorStrange this month, opening up the Marvel movies to magic, mystery, and the multiverse. And it's the third of those M words which may have the biggest impact on the #MCU as we move forward towards the big one — Avengers: Infinity War.
The MCU Multiverse
The Marvel Cinematic Multiverse is a relatively newish concept to the MCU itself. It's been hinted at since the days of #Thor, and prodded a little in Ant-Man, but it wasn't until the #AncientOne (Tilda Swinton) sent Strange hurdling through time and space that we saw the other dimensions surrounding that of the MCU.
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The multiverse has traditionally been the sandbox of DC, but it's important in Marvel canon too. And it has more than a little to do with the various Infinity sagas of Marvel Comics. There's been various iterations of these plot-lines in the comics — most famous is Jim Starlin's trilogy, Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade, a loosely connected series of stories which began with Thanos traveling the galaxy to collect the six Infinity Gems — Time, Space, Mind, Soul, Reality, and Power — in Thanos Quest.
With all six Gems in his possession Thanos is able to power up the Infinity Gauntlet, gaining almost unlimited power over the Marvel multiverse itself. He uses this power firstly to attempt to impress his would-be paramour Death, because just cause you're a big purple faced Titan it doesn't mean you don't have certain needs, dammit.
Whilst the Infinity Gauntlet messes with time and space, it also messes with the multiverse. #InfinityWar sees the Magus imprisoning Eternity — the ancient being who holds the collective consciousness of the entire universe — and using reality-altering cosmic cubes to create a new alternate dimension as part of the multiverse, populated by villainous doppelgangers of all the Marvel superheroes.
Now that the MCU multiverse has been properly introduced in Doctor Strange, it's unlikely that it won't come back into play again soon. Especially with the various Infinity comic book arcs messing with the multiverse and drawing in cosmic characters. And whilst the mere fact that the multiverse was introduced in Doctor Strange would be enough to speculate an Avengers: Infinity War connection there, there's something else pretty interesting which popped up in the movie.
Could Baron Mordo Hold The Key?
During a training sequence between Doctor Strange and Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Mordo wields what he refers to as his personal "relic." Relics are items imbued with magical power which sorcerers can channel their energy through, in the case of Mordo's relic it's a staff which breaks apart into a whip like weapon.
But the really interesting thing about it is it's name — Mordo refers to it as the Staff Of The Living Tribunal. No such weapon exists in the Marvel Comic Universe, but it's likely another name for the Staff of Polar Power, which was used both by Doctor Strange and the Living Tribunal himself to harness, channel and focus cosmic energy.
If you haven't read the comics you may not be familiar with the Living Tribunal. If you have then great, you can skip to the next paragraph. For the rest of us: the Living Tribunal is an ageless being, a humanoid cosmic entity and a guardian of gateways. Like Eternity, he's existed as long as the Marvel multiverse itself and he cuts a pretty impressive figure.
The important part here is the Tribunal's specific role in the Marvel Universe — he exists to protect the cosmic balance of the multiverse, specifically to keep mystical forces in check. Now, who else does that sound like?
Mordo Could Be Very Important
Doctor Strange leaves off with Baron Mordo throwing a hissy fit in Hong Kong and heading off on a personal mission to readdress the balance of magic in the universe, which he fears has been thrown off by Strange's use of the Eye of Agamotto — a.k.a. the Time Stone.
He pops up again during the post-credits scene, which sets him up as a villain for future movies as he confronts Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt), who channels magic to allow him to walk after he was left paralyzed in an accident. Mordo forcibly takes Pangborn's magic from him, claiming that the way he's using it is a perversion of the natural order, leaving him paralyzed again. Dick move, Mordo.
This chimes with some narratives from the current run of Doctor Strange comics, as Strange is forced to address the balance, paying the price for the magic he's been using. But more importantly for the MCU, there's a narrative parallel here between Mordo and the Living Tribunal — both are characters seeking to address a cosmic balance in the universe. And, though the Living Tribunal has not yet been introduced into the MCU, Mordo has his staff — solidifying the link between them.
So, does this mean we'll see Mordo, or indeed the Living Tribunal himself, showing up in Avengers: Infinity War, or its as yet unnamed sequel? It wouldn't be a huge surprise, given the breadcrumbs which have already been planted, especially if Thanos (Josh Brolin) starts screwing with the multiverse when he gains possession of the six Infinity Stones.
One thing is for sure though, Doctor Strange will be showing up in Infinity War when it finally rolls around, and the now-divided Avengers are going to need all the help they can get. If it so happens that the cosmic side of the MCU also brings with it a glimmer of the Living Tribunal when it collides with the Earthbound, then that's just even more exciting a prospect to look forward to.
Doctor Strange premieres November 4, 2016, and Avengers: Infinity War follows up on May 4, 2018. Do you think Baron Mordo will appear in Infinity War? Sound off in the comments below!