The opening of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness drops viewers in the middle of a chase through a spectacular space with America Chavez and Strange racing to reach something that stands on a pedestal, which at first glance could be the Darkhold. While describing this scene would lead to immediate spoilers, what matters is they’re trying to reach the Book of Vishanti. So what is this book in Doctor Strange 2, and does it relate to the Darkhold?
Warning: Spoilers for Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness follow. In the scene where fans meet America and Doctor Strange, it becomes evident quickly this is not the Strange fans know from the 616 multiverse. He’s a Strange from a different multiverse, with a ponytail and a murderous urge to hurt America, which thankfully he fails to do before the monster pierces him through the heart.
But that book the two were chasing is the critical part, and it’s not the Darkhold. Though there are multiple Darkholds across every universe (all of which are copies of the original, located in the 616), there is only one Book of Vishanti. It is located in between universes, hidden by the Illuminati from the 838 multiverse.
So what, exactly, is the Book of Vishanti? It’s the polar opposite of the Darkhold. The Darkhold is black magic. It’s known as “the Book of the Damned” and is a corrupting influence on whoever reads it. (Evil Strange tells 616 Strange that it “exacts a toll.”) The Book of Vishanti is white magic, much of it acting as counterspells to the dark magic that comes from books like the Darkhold.
The Book of Vishanti was initially introduced in the Doctor Strange comics and is unique to those stand-alone stories. That’s the complete opposite of the Darkhold, which appears in several different comics and has many primary characters interact with it. Strange only uses the Book of Vishanti when strictly necessary, like during the New Avengers “Secret Wars” period, when trying to divine which of the superhero team were Skrull imposters. Like the Time Stone, Strange is the protector of this magic book, keeping it safe from those who would use it for selfish reasons.
That’s a very different take from the film. The movie version has the Illuminati as the protectors of the Book of Vishanti from the 838 multiverse version of Strange. It also raises the question if the Book will come into play again. The Scarlet Witch destroyed the original Darkhold at the end of the film, taking out all the copies floating around various multiverses. But that doesn’t mean Strange couldn’t find himself in need of white magic to solve other problems in the future.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is playing in theaters now. The rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is on Disney+, except for the Spider-Man films and The Incredible Hulk, available via Starz, HBO Max, and Amazon rentals.