Ever since they began to air, fans have debated whether or not pre-Disney+ series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Runaways, and Cloak & Dagger are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even in the cases of the Netflix “Defenderverse” — in spite of both Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio appearing as their Netflix Marvel characters recently in MCU projects — there’s still no firm agreement on whether or not the shows are part of the canon. But Doctor Strange 2 — aka Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — may have done some of the heavy lifting to open the door for at least two of those series to be considered 100% canon. We can’t talk about it without SPOILERS for Marvel Studios’ latest cinematic release, so from here on in, we consider you warned.
As you may remember if you’ve seen Doctor Strange 2, after America Chavez unintentionally sends herself and Doctor Strange across the multiverse, Wanda takes Wong prisoner. While Wanda’s dream-walking through the body of her 838 variant, Sara (Sheila Atim) sacrifices herself to destroy the Darkhold. No longer able to dream-walk without it, Wanda demands Wong provide a solution and tortures Kamar-taj’s other sorcerers until he does. Unable to watch as his friends are tormented, Wong reveals that the Darkhold is not the first place the spells contained within were written. They were, in fact, copied off the walls of an ancient chamber in Mount Wundagore by Chthon.
What does any of this have to do with Doctor Strange 2 canonizing the pre-Disney+ Marvel shows? Well, ever since the release of WandaVision, one of the biggest pieces of evidence that shows like Runaways weren’t canon was the appearance of the Darkhold in Disney+’s first MCU original series. First appearing in the 1972 Marvel Spotlight #4, the Darkhold was adapted to live-action long before Wanda found the book in Agatha Harkness’ basement. The malevolent tome appeared both on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hulu’s Runaways. But as you can tell by the comparison below, the pre-Disney+ version doesn’t look anything like what appeared in WandaVision. The one from WandaVision includes no English words on the front cover, while the one from the pre-Disney+ series has the actual name of the book written across the cover. Not to mention that there’s no explanation as to how the book made its way into Agatha Harkness’ basement.
When asked about the discrepancy in a March 2021 interview with Screen Rant, WandaVision writer Matt Shakman admitted he hadn’t considered the version of the book as it appeared in the other series. While he said he imagined the book in his show was the same book that appeared in the other series, he offered no narrative explanation as to how that could be the case. And now continuity sticklers can breathe a sigh of relief because Doctor Strange 2 has given us the answer.
Why do the books look different? Because they are different books; or, to be more precise, they’re different copies of the same book. If one copy could be made off the walls of Wundagore Mountain, why couldn’t a second? Why would Chthon make a second Darkhold, assuming it even was Chthon who made both? We don’t know and we don’t need to know. Doctor Strange 2 provides all the info we need to open the possibility that there could be more than one Darkhold, and hence that both Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Runaways can be considered part of the growing tapestry that is the MCU.