After much waiting (and even a very public leak) the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer has arrived. The action-packed first look at the new status quo for Spidey features a ton of villains, Easter eggs, and even some multiversal magic. But we’re here to talk about the strangest part of the trailer… Doctor Strange. We all knew he’d be playing a part in Peter’s third MCU movie, but his role is an unexpected one. Not only does Strange agree to do some dangerous magic for Peter’s personal gain, but he also creates the multiverse. It’s a lot to comprehend and it left us with one overwhelming question: was that really Doctor Strange?
Why are We Suspicious of Stephen Strange?
Let’s break it down. After Mysterio exposed Peter as Spider-Man at the end of Far From Home, the teenager’s life has been turned upside down. He’s Public Enemy #1 just like J. Jonah Jameson always wanted. Everywhere he goes he’s photographed and chased. He’s under suspicion for the murder of Mysterio and is generally having a really tough time. So he does what any teenager who knows a wizard would do: asks the wizard to fix it for him. While it seems like something Strange would never do, he embraces the idea with an unexpected aplomb. That’s just one of many things that got us thinking.
Strange is usually a serious fellow with a respect for magic that belies his arrogance. But here we find him lounging in sweats in an icy and snow-covered Sanctum Sanctorum. Naturally, that’s also very suspicious… and not only that, but the Sorcerer Supreme seems very… silly? He immediately agrees to help Peter with an out-of-character wink. “Don’t cast that spell,” Wong warns him sternly. “It’s too dangerous.”
Strange says okay and then takes Peter straight to his weird basement to cast it anyway. There, Strange does a spell that makes everyone in the world forget Peter is Spider-Man. But Peter suddenly realizes that means MJ, Ned, and his Aunt May too. Despite the fact he’s the Sorcerer Supreme, Strange seems to struggle with Peter’s indecision and the spell goes wrong, creating the multiverse. Great job, Steve!
All of this seems incredibly out of character—add that to the fact we see Stephen pushing Peter’s soul out of his body later in the trailer—so we’re proposing that Stephen might not be Stephen at all… In fact, there may be something wrong with Doctor Strange. But if that’s the case, who is posing as Stephen, and why??
Let’s Start With the Obvious… Doctor Strange Is a Skrull in No Way Home
Look, with Secret Invasion on the way we have to put this out there as an option. Not only because the Skrulls are known shapeshifters and exist in the MCU already, but also because Spider-Man: Far From Home established that Nick Fury had been using Skrulls in place of himself while he was on vacation. So there’s already precedent for heroes utilizing their new alien allies as decoys when needed. The question is, though: could a Skrull actually use magic?
In the comics, Super-Skrulls are an elite force of Skrulls who’ve been adapted using science and magic to have superpowers themselves. This has allowed the aliens to take the place of some of Earth’s most famous heroes while also being undetectable. So if the Super-Skrulls are already on Earth, perhaps one has taken Stephen’s place?
Skrulls can range from evil missionaries to clumsy tricksters. And while whoever this is ends up causing a multiversal incident, it seems like that’s more of an accident than intentional. Maybe a Skrull with the ability to practice magic was helping Strange by pretending to be him. Or it could be that he’s been replaced by one without his knowledge while he’s out hunting Wanda. Either way, it would explain Stephen’s strange demeanor and his lack of finesse when casting Peter’s magic spell.
The More Realistic Option Is Someone Strange Chose (or Created) Himself Has Replaced him
If we’re thinking of the most likely options, we can look back at Stephen Strange’s comic book history. Over the years the Sorcerer Supreme has often created duplicates of himself to distract villains. This spell—the Images of Ikkon—goes as far back as 1965’s Strange Tales #130. We’ve seen him do something similar during his battle with Thanos in Infinity War and against Dormammu in his first movie. So there’s a chance that Strange created a functioning duplicate here, one who’s stopping New York from seeming vulnerable while Strange is off on his mission. Though that would be quite a leap from a simple duplication spell. But Strange is incredibly powerful in the MCU so we’re not writing this one off yet.
In the comics, when Strange is off-world others would sometimes take on the mantle of the Sorcerer Supreme in his stead. Although they wouldn’t take on his appearance, a version of that could be happening here. Let’s not forget the Sanctum Sanctorum’s perpetual state of winter in the trailer, which leads us to another option.
In the Marvel Universe, Canada’s most powerful magic user is Dr. Michael Twoyoungmen A.K.A. Shaman of Alpha Flight. Hailing from Calgary, Shaman is no stranger to the cold; perhaps he even prefers it. That could explain why the Sanctum is covered with frost and snow. If Shaman is impersonating Doctor Strange while the Sorcerer Supreme is off saving reality, Wong may have offered to let Shaman truly make himself at home. That might also explain why Wong tells Strange off when Peter asks him to do the spell. It’s something that doesn’t fit in with their usual banter.
Some Other Nefarious Villain Is Impersonating Strange for Their Own Gain
Because digging into weird comics history is fun, we’re also going to point out that villains LOVE to impersonate Doctor Strange. And when we say LOVE, we’re not exaggerating. Here are just a few of the bad guys who have pretended to be Stephen: Baron Mordo, Asmodeus, Rintrah, Blackheart, and Oberoth’m’gozz. Heck, even the X-Men hero Magik once pretended to be Doctor Strange. The big connector here is they are all magic characters, and it’s unlikely to be any of these except maybe Baron Mordo, although he seemed a lot less fun in Doctor Strange. It’s just important to note how often Stephen gets impersonated by other people. Spoiler alert: It’s a lot.
The Outlier—But Reason You Likely Thought of First—Doctor Strange Is Really Mephisto
Eagle-eyed comic book fans likely recognized this setup from the much-maligned One More Day / Brand New Day / One Moment in Time series of Spider-Man stories. In One More Day, Peter and Mary Jane make a deal with Mephisto to save Aunt May’s life. The price they pay is that they give up their love, meaning they were never married, which plays out in Brand New Day.
During One Moment in Time, it’s also revealed that Peter made a deal with Doctor Strange to make people forget that he was Spider-Man at all. Those similarities mean that many fans might be thinking Mephisto is finally making his MCU debut in the guise of Strange. But we think that’s just another big red herring. Seeing as the MCU has Mephisto-baited us before, this seems like an outlier rather than the most likely of options.
Whatever the truth we’ll be here theorizing ’til Spider-Man: No Way Home hits theaters on December 17.
Featured Image: Marvel Studios