Commentary: Doctor Strange And The Expendable Avengers

by Frank Martin

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) breakdown has become an infamous storyline in Marvel Comics lore. For years, she has bordered the line between hero and villain, disassembling the Avengers and also rewriting reality to create the House of M. Ever since she first appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans have been wondering if they would eventually adapt one of those tales. While it is certainly a difficult proposition given that the MCU is its own original creation, fans got a glimpse of what Wanda is capable of when she gives in to her trauma during WandaVision. But with Multiverse of Madness, the MCU was able to depict the Scarlet Witch’s turn to villainy in a very clever way.

If it was their goal to have Wanda become an all-out villain, then Marvel Studios had a very particular problem. How could Wanda be portrayed as a real threat going up against some of the MCU’s famous Avengers? Obviously, the Avengers are still set to appear in future installments of the universe. If Wanda were to really be shown as a villain, she would have to not only defeat them, but also kill one or more of these important and big name heroes. But the Multiverse provides a great solution to this problem: in a separate universe they could have both new and old characters existing in different forms. These are heroes fans are familiar with and will feel pain for when they die. But more practically speaking, their deaths don’t have any real lasting effects on the MCU story since they are a part of a completely separate universe.

They aren’t the Avengers in Multiverse of Madness. Instead, they are referred to as the Illuminati. But the end result is the same. They are, essentially, an expendable group of heroes who allow Wanda to battle well-known names — and even dive into villainy by killing them — without any real consequences to the MCU at large. Of course, there were still plenty of other people Wanda killed in the normal MCU, and the murder and trauma she caused in this other universe can’t be discounted from her character. Wanda’s fate after the movie hasn’t been settled, and whether or not she has to pay for her actions will have to wait. But the movie successfully showed her as a villain by taking out an Avengers-like team while also leaving the ramifications of her terrible actions largely separate from the MCU — a unique ability Marvel Studios has developed by embracing comic book ideas.

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