Warning: SPOILERS for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness explores the concept of the multiverse and possibly established Earth-838 as the MCU’s version of the Ultimate universe from the comics. The multiverse first appears in Loki and Spider-Man: No Coming Home, establishing that several different universes exist within the MCU, which feature different versions of popular heroes and villains, such as Sylvie, a variant of Loki, and Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Men. However, the universe that Multiverse of Madness spends most of its time hinting at a movie version of the Ultimate universe.
In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Earth-838 is billed as the home of the Illuminati, a group of heroes consisting of Captain Carter, Black Bolt, Captain Marvel (Maria Rambeau), Mr. Fantastic, Professor X, Karl Mordo and the Elder Stephen Strange . The universe appears to have progressed further into the future than the main MCU universe, confusingly named Earth-616, the same designation as the Marvel comics universe (the MCU had previously been designated Earth 1-99999 before the release of the film). As America Chavez and the MCU’s Doctor Strange explore the universe, they discover that the Earth-838 version of New York is advanced, with alternate crossings and memory machines around every corner.
Earth-838 appears to have a similar history to Earth-616, although its heroes appear slightly different, such as Captain Carter becoming the First Avenger instead of Captain America, just like in What if?. However, the Illuminati (likely this universe’s main hero team) are confirmed to have fought Thanos on Titan, suggesting that the events of the Infinity Saga still happened, albeit differently. As a technologically advanced universe that seems to share many parallels with the main MCU Earth-616 universe, Earth-838 may well be a symbolic continuation of Marvel’s Ultimate universe from the comics.
The Story of the Ultimate Marvel Comics Universe
The Marvel’s Ultimate Universe is established as a comic book variant of Earth-616, the main Marvel Universe. It was created to allow Marvel writers to explore modern takes on classic characters with a fresh start, ignoring decades of continuity. In the Ultimate universe, characters such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men are all getting updates to make them more contemporary. Some are simple, like altering the Fantastic Four’s origin story, while others are dramatic, like turning Norman Osborn into a literal, monstrous green imp.
The Ultimate universe is also notable for not featuring the Avengers team, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the focal point of many stories set in Earth-616. However, he has his own team of heroes, made up of many of the same members, including Iron Man, Thor, and Wasp. Like the rest of the universe, the Ultimates are a modernized take on a classic lineup of heroes, reimagining the Avengers for a more modern time and linking up with other heroes from the Ultimate universe, such as Ultimate Spider-Man . The Ultimate universe is considered somewhat mixed, with some series receiving critical acclaim, while other comics, such as “Ultimatum“, being criticized critically.
Why Doctor Strange 2’s Earth-838 Is The Ultimate MCU Universe
Earth-838 isn’t literally an adaptation of the Ultimate universe, but it does share similarities and could act as one in future multiverse stories. As with the comics, the universe is similar enough to Earth-616 to be recognizable, as its main heroes are (mostly) familiar to those seen in the main MCU Earth-616 universe. However, the repositioning of the status quo, such as 838’s Captain Carter and Captain Marvel replacing Steve Rogers and Carol Danvers, shows just how slightly different the universe is from the main universe. It also features characters not previously explored in Earth-616, such as John Krasinski’s Mr. Fantastic and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier.
The arrival of new characters and new versions of old characters in Earth-838 is symbolically similar to the various versions of classic characters in the Ultimate universe. This could mean characters from the Ultimate universe, such as Miles Morales, could be introduced across the multiverse in Earth-838, staying close to how the comics introduce Miles to Earth-616. Although his appearance in the main universe of Earth-616 has already been announced in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which featured Aaron Davis/The Prowler character talking about his nephew, Miles, could be easily written off if Marvel or Sony choose not to introduce Miles Morales into the MCU proper. Additionally, the setting of Earth-838 is also spiritually reminiscent of the Ultimate Universe. Its futuristic aesthetic references how the Ultimate universe told modernized stories of heroes that had been around for decades.
Secret Wars: The future of the MCU’s Earth-838?
Many viewers of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness are already speculating how the movie sets up Marvel’s next big rumored crossover event: Secret Wars. 2015’s comic book event of the same name sees Earth-616 collide with the Ultimate universe, as characters from across the multiverse converse in an epic event that ultimately sees characters such as Miles Morales retreat to Earth. -616. With the focus on the multiverse in the MCU, many believe Marvel Studios is gearing up for a live-action adaptation of Secret Wars. With the introduction of Earth-838, it may have already revealed the universe the MCU will collide with and cause an incursion.
Although Earth-838 has seen its most fearsome team, the Illuminati, almost entirely slain by Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, it likely still has a host of superhero variants waiting to be explored. If a multiverse war sparked by Kang the Conqueror will be the next conflict the Avengers endure, Earth-838 could be the key. Plus, returning to Earth-838 is a great way to explore unique fan casts, as evidenced by the appearance of John Krasinski as Mr. Fantastic. If the universe is used in a Secret Wars Style event, Marvel could finally cast Tom Cruise as a variant of Iron Man, a rumor that swirled ahead of the release of the strange doctor after. He might even introduce a version of the Ultimates to replace the fallen Illuminati. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness presents the perfect, cinematic version of the Ultimate universe in Earth-838, and Marvel Studios should definitely bring it back for future projects exploring the upcoming multiverse war.
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