Captain America: Civil War officially began Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by tearing the Avengers apart. In Civil War’s wake, the next batch of solo films will be tasked with repairing the superhero rift while also introducing new characters and elements which will pay off during the Avengers: Infinity War. Of all the Phase 3 entries, the most esoteric and peculiar will undoubtedly be Doctor Strange.
As his name suggests, the good doctor has a PhD in metaphysics as well as medicine. When his hands are injured in a car accident, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) learns to use magic with surgical precision – thanks to the teachings of the Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton). Taking the fight to the forces of darkness and evil, including (maybe) his old Lovecraftian foe Shuma-Gorath, forces the good doc to tap the depths of his magical resources. However, he has a little help in the form of magical artifacts.
Marvel head Kevin Feige already confirmed the presence of several key artifacts as filming began (of which, the Eye of Agamotto is visible in production stills). In order to keep the mystical enemies of the MCU at bay, the Sorcerer Supreme will need all the magical spells and relics he can carry (of which he has many). Before Doctor Strange arrives in theaters, we take a look at several of the most powerful goodies he brings to the table.
The Book of Vishanti
Every child is afraid of monsters and ghouls – all the things that go bump in the night. But if your job is to push back the howling fiends of the nether-realms into the darkness from whence they came, you’ll want to have one of these babies, the Book of Vishanti, at your side.
Originally, the Vishanti, – a triune of mystical beings consisting of Agamotto, Oshtur, and Hoggoth – used their magical acumen to craft the tome of positive spells and wisdom. Throughout the ages, sage mages added their own findings to its venerated pages. Possessed at various points by a sorcerer named Varnae, Queen Cleopatra, and the god Marduk, the Ancient One eventually took possession of the book after retrieving it from the ancient Babylonian deity, after taking out several of his griffin defense forces.
Later, the Ancient One bequeathed the Book of Vishanti to her disciple, Doctor Strange. The book itself contains just about every known positive magical spell. It also holds counter-spells and acts as a direct deterrent to dark magical spells and practitioners of the shadow arts. It’s a good thing, too because he also keeps a lockdown on the Darkhold a.k.a. the Book of Sins.
Written eons ago by the ancient god Chthon, the Book of Sins contains an incantation to suit just about any dark spellcaster’s needs. It even comes with a fun little catchall piece. Its user may cast the wickedest hex their heart desires, but at the cost of their immortal soul.
Crafted from indestructible parchment, the Book of Sins holds centuries-worth of arcane knowledge culled from the most sinister of dark sorcerers. Wannabes like the Necronomicon and the Book of the Damned try to be as badass evil, but pale compared to the Darkhold. Even the most heroic of efforts by light mages to destroy or separate the pages has met with failure.
The book is credited with spawning the first vampire (in the MCU), Varnae, kicking off the first batch of lycanthropes, and was (or is) coveted by everyone from Morgan Le Fey, Doctor Doom, Lilith, and Thulsa Doom. As such, it’s a good thing Doc Strange keeps the nasty little book under a close watch, using it in extreme measures to slake the forces of evil.
Speaking of cursed and dangerous objects…
Culled from the pages of Marvel’s medieval realms, in specific, the adventures of Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, the Ebony Blade made its first appearance in Black Knight #1. Originally, Merlin carved the shadowy foil from a meteor (how’s that for sci-fi Dark Ages), enchanting it for Sir Percy of Scandia, the first Black Knight. Sir Percy wasn’t exactly a happy-go-lucky crusader, and the violence attributed to his sword cursed it to thirst for souls. After it had caused him no end of trouble, the Black Knight buried the doomed weapon deep in the meteor from whence it came.
Although Marvel has no plans for a Black Knight film, the Ebony Blade has connections to the current MCU and Doctor Strange (of course). After the sword turned Whitman to stone during The Defenders escapades, Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson) held onto it, eventually returning it to Whitman and receiving Dragonfang for her troubles (more on that later). The troublesome blade also nearly caused The Vision to destroy the weapon due to its evil-villain-making tendencies.
Capable of cutting through nearly any substance (even opening up Iron Man like a tin can, once), aside from most enchanted weapons and adamantium, the Ebony Blade can also slice and dice ethereal barriers, deflect energy blasts, and absorb those same energies. At one point, our man Strange removed the curse at the Black Knight’s behest. However, the curse has since returned, thanks to Namor murdering his wife.
Of course, the Ebony Blade does get swiped or duped every now and then – even making its way to Wakanda. When the enchanted rapier goes for a walk, the good doctor might need a little travel wear to recover it.
The Cloak of Levitation
Sometime our elders never know quite what to get us as a gift. While it's the thought that counts, a bolo tie (unless that’s your look) or a season pass to the local cheese factory isn’t the everyone's ideal gift. The Ancient One, on the other hand, knew just what to give a Sorcerer Supreme who’s facing a pan-dimensional dark lord (that’s Dormammu, in case you were wondering) and other menacing magic-users: the Cloak of Levitation.
Nigh invulnerable and machine washable (we assume), the Cloak provides defense against assaults of the mystical and normal varieties. It’s also capable of acting independently and heeding Stephen Strange’s commands – like a mystical version of Siri. It can also levitate (hence the name) and fly without absorbing any of his any mystical energy, retrieve all kinds of important items, and attack Strange’s enemies.
Far more than a fashion accessory, the Cloak of Levitation is an extremely functional way for Doc to keep on top of any threat or situation. It also happens to go smashingly well with the Eye of Agamotto (more on that in a bit).
On the topic of presents, if you’re ever looking for the perfect thing for a friend who’s constantly seeking efficient ways to breech through barriers of mystical energy, Dragonfang is the perfect way to say 'Have fun. Just don’t crash into my dreamscape between 4 and 6 am. That’s me time.' Initially carved from the tusk of an extra-dimensional dragon (you don’t find too many of those around here), the blade was crafted by a warlock named Kahji-Da. Later on, the sword fell into the possession of the Ancient One, who passed it down to his prized pupil, one Doctor Strange.
One of the reasons Dragonfang could play a role in the upcoming MCU is its next pair of owners. In the Marvel comic book universe, Strange gave the potent sword to Valkyrie for her aid in returning the Ebony Blade to the Black Knight – who lost it after the Enchantress turned him into a statue. During the events of Ragnarok (see where I’m going with this), Valkyrie was felled and Thor’s main squeeze at the time, Lady Sif, took possession of it.
Dragonfang was capable of absorbing magical forces and nigh indestructible as well. If the mighty Valkyrie gets a hold of this beauty, we could really see some heads roll in Thor 3. Even though he's been swinging bladed weapons as of late, Doctor Strange doesn’t really need a sword anyway. It would just get tangled up in his sash.
The Sash of Doctor Strange
Much like the Cloak of Levitation, Doctor Strange’s personal sash isn’t just a retro hipster fashion piece. It serves a very useful purpose. The long yellow ribbon of fabric, usually seen around the good Doctor’s waist or hovering unnaturally off to the side, has a very important feature. It can extend to well past it’s already excessive length.
Suppose the Doc runs into some trouble while on a cliff top. Voila! Magic sash to the rescue. Strange is trying to keep up with Spider-Man on his jaunt through Manhattan? All he has to do is let the Cloak of Levitation float on and swing from one conveniently menacing gargoyle to another Art Deco flourish with ease via the sash.
Of course, if rocking a sash made Strange feel a little self-conscious, he managed to pick up another weapon recently which exudes manliness.
Axe of Angarruumus
During the recent “Last Days of Magic” story arc, the Doc is stripped of his sorcery thanks to the invasion of the Empirikul, (whose leader was killed by mystical forces, and you know, REVENGE!). Forced to do battle with an extremely powerful and relentless enemy via more conventional means, Strange took to using one of his more recent (and brutal) weapons, the Axe of Angarruumus.
A naked and charmless (magic-wise, anyway) Strange finds himself astrally projected into Central Park. Under assault by the mystical-energy devouring Een’Gawori, the Sorcerer Supreme is forced to fend for himself without the benefits of his occult enhancements. Fortunately, he discovers Axe and uses its enchanted edge to combat the magic-hungry slugs.
While an ether-less Strange is a new twist, one mostly being explored in the pages of Marvel’s All New, All Different reboot, the studio may pull from more recent story arcs for the future adventures of Doctor Strange’s celluloid world, assuming the MCU’s first esoteric foray is a success. It sure would be great to have at least a couple more Strange flicks grace near-by cinemas.
Il Libro de Cagliostro
The libraries of Doctor Strange may or may not contain (depending upon who you ask) dozens of tomes featuring mystical mumbo jumbo spanning the multiverse. The Book of Cagliostro collects the esoteric writings and experience of the 18th century magician, whose name or nom-de-plume was Alessandro Di Cagliostro, into one convenient catalog. The warlock also transcribed the spells and wisdom of time-traveling 31st century sorcerer Sise-Neg into its pages, as well as witchery from the Darkhold.
The family and followers of the wizard protected the magical artifact, passing it down through their generations. Eventually, the book wound up in the hands of Cagliostro's great-great-granddaughter Lilia Calderu. The Gypsy witch wound up being seduced by an old fiend of the Doc's, Karl Mordo. The Baron hoped to gain the powers contained within the book to get one over on the Ancient One. Upon his defeat by Doctor Strange (as per usual), the Sorcerer Supreme spirited the spell guide back to its lair, where it presumably dwells to this day.
This particular curio, at least according to the prelude comics, has a strong connection to Strange's nemesis Kaecilius in the forthcoming cinematic outing. Fans could catch a glimpse of the Book of Cagliostro in the film. Of course, they'll probably see a whole lot more of the next couple of artifacts – including Strange's very own crystal ball of sorts.
Orb of Agamotto
Agamotto, one of three mystical beings whom Doctor Strange draws his powers from, was a member of the ancient Vishanti triad. He created any number of powerful magical objects during his eternal life (thus far, anyway). Of those, Strange is fortunate enough to have several of them in his possession, including the Amulet of Agamotto (once interchangeable with the Eye, now considered the Eye-lite), the Eye of Agamotto, and the Orb.
Tucked away inside the Sanctum Sanctorum, the potent scrying device dwells in the Sorcerer Supreme‘s Chamber of Shadows, resting in a display case. In times of need, the Orb floats to life. With it, Strange can dig up ethereal dirt on alternate dimensions and stream other planets in real time. This high-end crystal ball of sorts can also pinpoint other major magic users – aside from those powerful enough to block it – and project the Strange One's psychic voice through time and space.
Best of all, in a pinch, the Orb of Agamotto can be used as a sort of ethereal subway system to leap in and out of other dimensions, especially when linked up with the Eye of Agamotto.
Eye of Agamotto
At long last, our light tour of the Sanctum Sanctorum comes to the frontispiece in Doctor Strange’s collection. The Eye of Agamotto is undoubtedly the most powerful artifact in the Doc’s arsenal.
Typically worn around Stephen Strange’s neck, Flava Flav-style, the Eye is actually the one piece of the trinity of mystical items created by the third Vishanti, Agamotto. Unlike the other two eyes, those of Power and Prescience, the Eye of Truth emits a candor-causing aura, gives its user a ‘reality rewind’ of sorts, allows its wearer telepathic powers, and functions in both conventional reality and the astral realm.
Most importantly, especially for the plot of the upcoming film, is its ability to create doorways through time and space. It’s this capability, coupled with Marvel’s peppering of Infinity Gems or Stones throughout the MCU, that led to speculation about Strange’s role in the eventual Infinity War saga. Initial rumors suggested that Strange’s flashy jewelry will actually be the Time Stone.
If true, the Eye’s overall tie-in to the upcoming Infinity War films makes sense, even in the comic book realm. Following numerous Thanos-based Gauntlet skirmishes (and lucrative crossover events), the Illuminati superhero collective charged Doctor Strange with watching after the Soul Stone. Neither the Soul nor the Time Stone has been uncovered in the context of the MCU thus far. And, seeing as Kevin Feige says Strange’s Eye of Agamotto has the ability to “manipulate probabilities” and “screw around with time,” it seems most likely that the Eye could turn out to be the Time Gem.
Fans will just have to wait and see if Strange's favorite amulet winds up being nothing more than a badass wizard bangle or a major piece in the MCU's event puzzle.
Mysticism in the MCU
When Doctor Strange arrives in November, he’ll open up a Pandora’s Box for Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Previously, the MCU’s main heroes have used a combination of science (Captain America, Iron Man) and mystical pseudo-science (Thor, the Tesseract) as an origin, to combat their foes, or both. The introduction of the Sorcerer Supreme and his esoteric items and abilities will open the film world to mystical time travel, demonic forces, and other horror elements such as vampires (Blade!), werewolves, and multi-dimensional baddies.
Assuming the Sorcerer Supreme’s solo outing meets or exceeds expectations, the aftermath will make the MCU a more nuanced and numinous expanse. Fans and filmgoers won’t have long to wait either, as Doctor Strange is next in line to take the Marvel stage. Here’s hoping director Scott Derrickson and Benedict Cumberbatch do the good Doc justice. So far, though, we have a good feeling about this one, or is that just the residual magic.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2– May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.