At the beginning of Season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Coulson and company dove head-first into unchartered territory by introducing sorcery into the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. Adding magic to a show about spies is a dangerous gamble, but in terms of storytelling, the pay-off has been tremendous.
At the center of our heroes’ latest journey is the Darkhold, a book filled with knowledge no mortal should ever read. If the events of this entire season haven’t proven that yet, look no further than the comics in which the Darkhold played a crucial role.
From what we’ve seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., how much do we really about the Darkhold? So far, the writers have been careful to keep most of its background ambiguous, so there really isn’t much that we do know about it. The extent of its power also hasn’t been established, meaning there is no way to predict what the Darkhold will bring to the show next. Will we see it next season, or will the team have moved on to a completely new threat? If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is done with the Darkhold, there’s no reason why it can’t wreak havoc on a different Marvel show. To find out how, let’s have a look at 15 Things You Never Knew About the Darkhold.
15. The Darkhold was written by a demonic god
Over ten thousand years ago, several powerful entities called Elder Gods came to Earth. Among them were the serpent god Set, Gaia (Mother Earth), and the demon god, Chthon. As Set, Chthon, and others began killing each other for power, Gaia found a way to put an end to the violence. She had a son named Atum, who became known as Demogorge the God Eater. Demogorge was so powerful that he was able to kill many of the Elder Gods, forcing the others to flee to other dimensions.
Realizing that the existence of Demogorge was a threat to him as well, Chthon wrote the Darkhold Scrolls, spells scribed onto indestructible parchments. The scrolls were readable in any language, meaning that anyone who could read could use their magic. After escaping to his home dimension, he left the Darkhold Scrolls behind so that they could be his link back to Earth.
14. The Darkhold created the first vampire
Before the sinking of Atlantis, a group of sorcerers discovered the Darkhold Scrolls and began using them for evil. After being caught in a battle with Kull the Conqueror, the sorcerers were nearly wiped out, but one remained. Though heavily wounded, Varnae managed to cast a spell from a Darkhold scroll that was intended to unleash a new evil upon the world. After his death, he was reborn as the world’s first vampire. Varnae was later thrust into conflict with Kull, Red Sonja, and Conan the Barbarian, but was able to escape, allowing him to spread the vampire curse.
Varnae’s existence set the stage for all the vampires that followed him, including Dracula, the Lord of the Vampires, who plays an important role in the back-story of Blade the Vampire Hunter. Though its unlikely that we’ll ever see vampires on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there could be a place for them at some point in the MCU.
13. Morgan Le Fay used the Darkhold to trap Chthon in a mountain
Possession of the scrolls changed countless times over the next several centuries. During the 6th century, the sorceress of Arthurian legend, Morgan Le Fay, managed to find most of the scrolls and bind them into one book: the Darkhold. In a bid for power, she gathered a group of cultists who worshipped the book and convinced them to help her cast a spell from the Darkhold to summon Chthon.
Her intention was to force the Elder God into serving her, but she had made a terrible mistake in underestimating the scope of Chthon’s power. To fix the problem they started, they tried to banish him back to his own realm but he was too powerful. Instead, they used a spell from the Darkhold to trap him within Wundagore Mountain so that he could never be free.
Though unable to leave, Chthon has never given up on his plans to conquer the Earth, and has often called upon his followers to use the magic of the Darkhold to free him. Despite his best efforts, to this day Chthon remains a prisoner of Wundagore Mountain.
12. The Darkhold has had many hiding places, including Baron Mordo’s Castle and a box of Corn Flakes
In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Darkhold was found in the basement of an old house. It was revealed that it was sought by many prominent characters in the MCU, including Nick Fury and the Red Skull. This isn’t surprising, considering that the comic book version of the Darkhold is just as valuable. Doctor Doom, Doctor Strange, Morgan Le Fay and Count Dracula himself have all searched for the Darkhold at one point or another. That’s why the Darkhold has always been well-hidden and well-guarded by its various owners.
Over the years the Darkhold has been kept in an ancient tower built during the reign of King Arthur, the Sanctum Sanctorum, Castle Mordo, and Avengers’ Mansion, all with the purpose of protecting it from those with evil intentions. But not everyone who has possessed the Darkhold has had the facilities to properly protect the Darkhold. A perfect example of that is Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night, who safely hid the Darkhold in a box of Corn Flakes, a place he believed no one would look. He turned out to be right.
11. It can steal your soul
The Darkhold is one of the most powerful tools in the world. Though using its spells can give you whatever you want, its power is anything but free. A sorcerer known as Modred the Mystic learned this lesson well when he decided to use the Darkhold to do good in the world rather than evil. He gave up his soul for the Darkhold, but it corrupted him so much that he was unable to use it to pursue his original goals. He became a pawn of Chthon, who used him in many of his demonic schemes. Modred, once a good man, became nothing more than an empty shell of a human being, all because of the Darkhold’s evil influence.
The corruption of the Darkhold has already become evident in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. We’ve seen what it can do to people who read the tome, and the events in the comics surrounding Modred the Mystic serves as an explanation as to why the Darkhold has had such a negative effect on the characters in the show. If Modred the Mystic is any indication, it can only get worse from here…
10. The Darkhold had its own comic book series
During the 1990s, Marvel released Darkhold: Pages from the Book of Sins, a comic book series starring Victoria Montesi, a woman whose family had been entrusted with the protection of the Darkhold for many generations. In this series, Montesi was the leader of a group called the Darkhold Redeemers. Their mission was to thwart the plans of the Darkhold Dwarf, a villain who sold pages of the Darkhold to anyone who wanted them. The buyers would use the pages to fulfill their desires. Some wanted immortality, while others simply wanted to be rich. One buyer was a Spider-Man fan whose spell transformed him into a hideous spider creature. It was up to Montesi and her Redeemers to track down the lost pages and deal with the evil these spells caused, whether it be an army of N’Garai demons or a vicious Hellhound.
9. Darkholders tried to sacrifice Carnage
A group of cultists discovered an interesting passage in the Darkhold: “When the Red Slayer spills blood on sacred stone, he who sleeps shall wake and what walked will walk once again.” These Darkholders interpreted this to mean that they had to sacrifice the “Red Slayer” to resurrect their master, Chthon. Believing that the Spider-Man villain Carnage was the “Red Slayer” described in the book, they deceived Carnage into believing that the Darkhold would give him immortality. Darkholders brought Carnage to a Chthonic temple and tried to perform the sacrifice. However, something went wrong, causing the Darkholders to mutate into Carnage-like creatures.
Carnage embarked on a quest to use the Darkhold to enhance his abilities, with Victoria Montesi, now a member of the Children of the Night, leading an anti-Carnage task force on a mission to stop him. Like Morgan Le Fay, Carnage wrongly believed he could summon Chthon and control him. Luckily, the anti-Carnage task force was able to defeat Carnage and contain the threat.
8. Chthon used the Darkhold to possess Scarlet Witch
Though a prisoner, Chthon was never powerless. He has tried various methods of escape, one being the Scarlet Witch. When Wanda Maximoff was born on Wundagore Mountain, Chthon secretly infused her with some of his power. Since his plan was to inhabit her body in the future, he needed her to be one of the most powerful beings in the world. Chthon is the reason for Scarlet Witch’s reality-warping abilities that have had such a dramatic effect on the Marvel Universe.
Years later, Modred the Mystic, a pawn of Chthon, kidnapped Scarlet Witch and brought her to Wundagore Mountain. He used the Darkhold’s power to allow Chthon to possess Scarlet Witch’s body. Even with the combined might of the Avengers, Chthon was too powerful for them. It took a surprise attack from the Beast to give them the advantage they needed to free Scarlet Witch of Chthon’s hold on her.
7. Morbius used the Darkhold to resurrect his dead girlfriend
Though the Darkhold is mostly used to take life, it can also give it back, but as with everything involving the Darkhold, there’s always a cost. Morbius the Living Vampire used a page from the Darkhold to resurrect his dead girlfriend, Martine Bancroft. The spell restored her to life, but her body was possessed by a demon called Parasite. Morbius was forced to slit Martine’s throat in order to free her from Parasite’s control. Martine’s body was healed, and though she regained control of her own body, she lost the ability to feel. Martine later became a vampire in order to be like Morbius, but this decision resulted in tragedy. Morbius killed her by driving a stake through her heart, once again proving that no good can come of the Darkhold’s black magic.
The idea of resurrection via the Darkhold has already been toyed with on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the concept of the Framework. It remains to be seen if the idea will be taken any further than that.
6. Quicksilver was once trapped inside the pages of the Darkhold
Under the instruction of Chthon, Modred the Mystic cast a spell that stripped the words from the Darkhold itself and magically engraved them onto his skin. He claimed that he had “become the Darkhold.”
Quicksilver knew that Modred was trying to free Chthon and tried to stop him. Modred used his magic to trap Quicksilver’s spirit in the empty book that was once the Darkhold. With Quicksilver’s spirit out of the way, it was easy for Chthon to take possession of his body. The Avengers learned of Quicksilver’s fate when they found the Darkhold and discovered that words were appearing on the page. They soon realized that the words on the page was Quicksilver’s way of communicating with them.
With Chthon in Quicksilver’s body the Elder God was nearly unbeatable, but the Avengers, led by Hank Pym, managed to defeat him once again. Modred’s spell was reversed, Quicksilver was freed, and the words were put back on the pages.
5. The Darkhold transformed Blade into the Demogorge
When Chthon left the Earth all those centuries ago to flee from Demogorge the God-Eater, he understood how dangerous such a creature could be and knew that if he could create his own Demogorge, the destruction it could cause would be immeasurable. So Chthon bound some of the Demogorge’s power into a page of the Darkhold.
When the vampire hunter Blade got his hands on the Darkhold, he used it to cast a spell that would help him kill supernatural enemies. The spell turned him into the new Demogorge. Adopting the name “Switchblade,” he was able to kill super-powered people and absorb their powers, making him stronger with each kill. He murdered Johnny Blaze (the former Ghost Rider), Demogoblin, Werewolf by Night, Morbius, and Danny Ketch (Blaze’s successor) before the spell was finally reversed. Blade was restored to his normal self and the people he killed were resurrected.
4. The Darkhold can access other dimensions
The vast amount of knowledge and power found in the Darkhold once attracted the attention of Doctor Doom, the ruler of Latveria and the archenemy of the Fantastic Four. Studying the Darkhold led Doom to the discovery of a portal that took him to Limbo, a dimension populated by demons. Limbo is a key area in X-Men comics due to its ties to Magik, the sister of Colossus. Doom managed to conquer Limbo, but his reign was short-lived due to the intervention of Captain Britain’s superhero team, Excalibur.
When an evil sorcerer gets their hands on the Darkhold, one of the first things they like to do with it is summon a powerful monster from another dimension. This kind of tactic is an ideal distraction for the heroes. While they’re busying fighting monsters, the sorcerer can use the Darkhold as he pleases.
It’s unclear how many realms the Darkhold can tap into, but what we do know is that there seems to be an abundance of spells that can connect to different realms. One of those spells summons a tentacled monster from a place called the Outer Dark.
3. The Darkhold can control zombies
The popular comic book series Marvel Zombies focuses on an alternate universe where the heroes and villains of Earth have been infected with the zombie virus. Fighting off the zombie versions of Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and many others are two interdimensional travelers from the mainstream Marvel Universe: Machine Man and Howard the Duck.
Machine Man and Howard were on a quest to stop the zombie virus and needed to collect samples from various alternate realities in order to create a cure. In one of these realities the zombies were being controlled by the magic of the Darkhold. It took the Ebony Blade, the cursed sword of the Black Knight, to finally destroy the Darkhold and end the spell.
Though it’s a good bet we’ll never see zombies in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—or anywhere else in the MCU for that matter—what happened in Marvel Zombies just shows how much one spell from the Darkhold can affect an entire world.
2. The Darkhold has a spell that can destroy all vampires
Count Dracula is one of the many villains to go to great lengths to find the Darkhold. When Doctor Strange learned of Dracula’s interest in the Darkhold, he knew that whatever Dracula could want with it couldn’t be good. So after reaching the Darkhold first, Strange discovered that within the Darkhold was a secret that could put an end to Dracula and all of his vampire minions for good: the Montesi Formula. The Montesi Formula was a spell that would instantly obliterate all vampires from existence, including the Lord of the Vampires himself. It would seem that what the Darkhold can create, the Darkhold can also destroy.
Knowing what Strange could do to him with the Darkhold, Dracula sent a telepathic message to all vampires, enlisting each one of them in his bid to stop Strange from reciting the Montesi Formula. After a hard-fought battle with Dracula, Strange succeeded in casting the spell. All the vampires on Earth were destroyed in what appeared to be a great victory for Strange, but as with many comic book characters, Dracula was eventually reborn.
1. The Darkhold created the werewolf curse
Though the Darkhold has a legacy as the mystical artifact tied to vampirism and the Elder God Chthon, the Darkhold was actually introduced as the cause of lycanthropy, better known as the werewolf curse. The Darkhold’s first appearance came in Marvel Spotlight #4, the title that starred the Werewolf by Night, Marvel’s most popular canine monster.
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact date of when the first spell was cast, but the earliest known occurrence of werewolves was in 18th century Transylvania when a man named Gregori Russoff was bitten by a werewolf in the service of Dracula. The curse remained dormant in his family line until the modern era when one of his descendants read a passage from the Darkhold which triggered the curse. The curse passed to his son, Jack Russell. As the Werewolf by Night, Russell had a long series of adventures in the Marvel Universe and has also been involved in crossovers with Marvel’s flagship characters.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns on April 4 @ 10 p.m. on ABC.