Anyone who watched WandaVision could tell you how Wanda Maximoff became the villain of her own story, but in the latest trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the newly diademed Scarlet Witch steps back into the spotlight with a bit of a bone to pick about how her reputation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been shifting as of late.
After years of Vision warning Wanda that the day would come when her fellow heroes would fear her, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness appears poised to make good on that promise with a story making the case that Strange and the Scarlet Witch should be held accountable for their crimes against the natural magical order of things.
WandaVision’s finale made it seem like the Scarlet Witch was able to simply leave Westview without facing any repercussions for what she did to the small New Jersey town and its residents. Multiverse of Madness’ new trailer makes clear, though, that as busy as all of the MCU’s other magic users apparently were while Wanda was enslaving a city, her actions didn’t go unnoticed, and now there may be multiple dimensions of hell to pay. It’s always worth paying attention when Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch show up at the same functions in Marvel’s comics, but their Multiverse of Madness team-up is of particular interest because of their messy, chaotic paths to the new film — paths marked by grief, poor decision-making, and access to dangerous magical energies they don’t always understand.
Despite their not having spent all that much on-screen time together, everything about Strange and Wanda’s respective stories as of late has been building on the idea of them being two magical peas in a pod who always mean well but can never stop themselves from making the kinds of grievous mistakes that put other people’s lives in danger. But unlike WandaVision, which did ultimately frame its heroine as its villain as well, by the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home, you don’t really get the sense that anyone was rushing to punish Strange for fracturing reality with a complicated bit of magic he did at the behest of an impulsive teenager. Though the pair of handcuffs featured in the Multiverse of Madness trailer suggests that’s about to change, Wanda herself points out how she and Strange have been held to different standards for what they’ve done. And while it’s not exactly clear whose standards she’s referring to, it feels like what she’s saying is a fairly accurate read of the situation that’s about to unfold.
The Scarlet Witch of Marvel’s comics has a long and storied history of getting the short end of the stick and being made to feel perpetually guilty for her recurring bouts of mental instability that tend to end in death and / or mass extinction events. Though it’s been almost two decades since Wanda accidentally robbed most of Marvel’s comics mutants of their powers during one of her episodes, and she’s since gotten into therapy and repeatedly tried to make amends for something that wasn’t entirely her fault, it’s only in the past year or so that the X-Men and the Avengers have really been on good terms with her. In that time, comics Wanda’s adoptive father Magneto became one of her most vocal critics and a proponent of the idea that she had knowingly “tricked” everyone into believing that she and her brother Pietro were mutants — a bit of curious retconning to the characters’ lore that likely had more to do with complications surrounding their film rights at the time than any meaningful narrative choices being made.
Despite its title, Marvel’s X-Men: The Trial of Magneto from writer Leah Williams, artist Lucas Werneck, and colorist Edgar Delgado was more about the mystery surrounding Wanda’s most recent death in the comics and the different meanings that the word “trial” can carry. Not only did the comic see Magneto being put on trial under suspicion of killing his daughter, but it also put the two of them through an existential gauntlet reflective of their fraught relationship and the pain they’ve caused one another.
The MCU is so far removed from the trappings of Marvel’s prime comics universe that Multiverse of Madness broaching basically anything from The Trial of Magneto is a pipe dream. But what’s interesting about Wanda’s comments to Strange in the trailer is how much more sense they would make coming from someone far more infamous than she currently is. It’s not that Wanda hasn’t done the sort of things worthy of being put on trial for — she certainly has — it’s just that at this point, it’s hard to say who all exactly knows about the Westview incident, Wanda becoming the Scarlet Witch, and her getting her hands on the Darkhold.
If Wanda were the only person being saddled with blame in Multiverse of Madness, the question of who — who’s making these judgment calls? who’s putting Strange in cuffs? — would be even more difficult to guess. But between Strange himself also being presented as one of the movie’s villains and the trailer’s brief moment of someone speaking who definitely sounds like Patrick Stewart, it’s seeming more and more like Multiverse of Madness is also set to introduce the MCU’s answer to the Illuminati.
As exciting as it is to think that Multiverse of Madness might be the thing that finally unleashes the X-Men and co. upon the MCU, it’s also fascinating to consider an incarnation of the Illuminati being introduced that isn’t just a secret group of powerful characters from a singular reality. Between Loki, What If, and Eternals, the MCU’s origins have become increasingly obfuscated, as has its sense of scale. The stakes seem to rise with each new project revealing yet another bombastic Wizard of Oz-type pulling back yet another curtain to unveil even more mysteries meant to keep audiences watching with bated breath.
Judging from the brief glimpses the Multiverse of Madness trailer features of Strange being led through a mysterious white building by a group of robots (perhaps Ultrons) to stand before the person who sounds like Professor X and thinks that they should “tell Strange the truth,” this is about to happen once again with at least some of the Illuminati. What’s most promising about the latest trailer’s gesturing towards Professor X is the implication that Multiverse of Madness might frame the Illuminati as the secret organization to end all secret organizations — one composed of people with enough apocalyptic experience to know when it’s time to step in and power-mad magicians in time out.
If that’s how the Illuminati fits into the MCU, one has to wonder just who’s counted on their roster alongside the seeming Professor X. Because at this stage of Marvel Studios’ larger cinematic project, it feels like all bets are off, and the studio’s main goal is to take us all by surprise.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hits theaters on May 6th.