The Multiverse is the collection of alternate universes which share a universal hierarchy; it is a subsection of the larger Omniverse, the collection of all alternate universes. A large variety of these universes were originated as forms of divergence from other realities, where an event with different possible outcomes gives rise to different universes, one for each outcome. Some can seem to be taking place in the past or future due to differences in how time passes in each universe. Eternity once stated that there are almost infinite aspects of itself, establishing the then official Marvel's positioning about the Multiverse's fundamental nature. Afterward the Beyonder estimated there is a "seemingly endless number of dimensions" to thereafter explore the entire Multiverse and its "myriad planes." The Crossroads also leads to an infinite number of dimensions. In addition, the Molecule Man, who was almost omniscient, has also postulated that there are infinite parallel dimensions to Earth's universe that together comprise the Multiverse. It was later stated in the Book of the Vishanti, which details the Marvel cosmology, that there is "literally a transfinite number, that is, a number greater than infinity" of universes in the entire Multiverse. The Multiverse was further described as boundless by Captain Universe. Moreover, the Living Tribunal has also referred to the Multiverse as an infinite realm, and the One Above All himself corroborated the statement that there are infinite realities. It was also said that there is a transfinite number of Multiverses. The Web of Life and Destiny forms a map of the Multiverse, with differing nodes representing the universes and the skeins representing people - particularly the avatars of Spider-Totems, objects, and series of events.
In the beginning, there was only one universe: the First Firmament. A war between its creations, the Aspirants and the Celestials, shattered the First Firmament into pieces, and from these pieces were born countless universes, thus forming the Second Cosmos and First Multiverse. As these new universes coalesced, a new, collective being was formed. Each iteration of the Multiverse has gone through a different instance of renewal, which constitutes in the destruction and re-creation of everything there is starting from zero, with each renewal prompting the Multiverse to evolve further. The Third Cosmos was the first Multiverse born from this cycle, and set the template for it through the battle between the cosmic entities Lifebringer One and Anti-All.
The sixth iteration of the Multiverse was destroyed by the Black Winter, leaving Galactus as the only survivor. The seventh iteration of the Multiverse was destroyed as a consequence of the phenomena known as incursions, and was eventually reborn as the eighth when Mister Fantastic acquired the power of the Beyonders, which was previously held by Doctor Doom. Richards' intervention caused the eighth incarnation to be a direct continuation of the seventh. Instead of starting from scratch, most of the destroyed universes were re-created, continuing their existence almost as if nothing had happened.
Each cycle has its own cosmic hierarchy. The following is a cosmic hierarchy from the Seventh Cosmos, though it is incomplete as there are many cosmic beings missing, such as Death, Oblivion, the Watchers, the Phoenix Force, etc.
- Tier 1: The Living Tribunal
- Tier 2: Eternity, Infinity
- Tier 3: Master Order, Lord Chaos, Mistress Love, Sire Hate
- Tier 4: Galactus, Celestials, Kronos, the Stranger, the gods of Earth (e.g. Odin and Zeus)
However, at the start of each cycle, the hierarchy of the previous cycle is rendered obsolete and the power rankings of all the cosmic entities are temporarily in flux while the new hierarchy is being established. This is proven at the start of the eighth cycle, when Galactus was able to defeat Master Order and Lord Chaos despite being below them back in the Seventh Cosmos. Galactus had switched roles from the Devourer of Worlds to the Lifebringer, and after failing to force him to revert back, Order and Chaos tried to appeal to the Living Tribunal. However, the Living Tribunal sided with Galactus as the old cosmic order is no more and the new order is yet to be set, meaning Galactus is allowed to change roles. Displeased with the decision and realizing that the Living Tribunal himself is part of the cosmic hierarchy, Master Order and Lord Chaos then killed the Living Tribunal as he was no longer their superior. Order and Chaos once again tried to revert Galactus to the Devourer of Worlds, only to fail for the same reason they were able to kill the Living Tribunal: There was no set hierarchy. To fix this, Master Order and Lord Chaos fused themselves with the In-Betweener to form the cosmic entity Logos and impose their own cosmic hierarchy. Logos was eventually defeated and the Living Tribunal was restored. It is unknown if the cosmic hierarchy of the Eighth Cosmos has been established yet, and if it has, how it differs from the Seventh Cosmos'.
Protectors of the Multiverse
The Multiverse was originally categorized and protected by Merlyn, who established the Captain Britain Corps. Most realities have a Captain Britain designated to protect its version of the British Isles and in extension the reality, thanks to an omniversal dimensional nexus situated in a tower on the shores of the United Kingdom. Individual members of the Corps draw their power from this nexus thanks to Merlyn's magic and science.
New realities are constantly created - a process that often involves time-traveling characters, as time-travel in Marvel Comics usually creates divergent realities, and it is typically not possible to alter time or travel back to your own past. However, exceptions to this rule have occurred, such as with Doctor Doom's use of his Time Platform and Silver Surfer being sent back to the beginning of the universe.
The rift first became known on Earth-13812 in the head of the Sphinx. Lord Xavier, the Witch King, Nazi Xavier, and Xavier Head began sacrificing civilians to an interdimensional rift to gain power. The transdimensional X-Men were were able to rescue their Xavier and narrowly defeated Lord Xavier and Nazi Xavier. Unfortunately, the X-Men did not act quickly enough to save that world, and were forced to make an interdimensional jump, leaving that reality and all its citizens being consumed by the Exterminators vortex.
Meanwhile on Earth-616, AOA Nightcrawler and Dark Beast used the Dreaming Celestial to create a portal to New Apocalypse. Unfortunately, this portal opened the rift between realities wide enough for the Exterminators to pass over to Earth-295.
One of the Exterminators departed to Earth-616 where he drained the Dreaming Celestial while the other two Exterminators remained on Earth-295, one feeding off the rift and the other seeking out the power of Apocalypse in the Death Seed.
After Wolverine traveled back in time numerous times to prevent the rise of power of the evil artificial intelligence known as Ultron, the space-time continuum was broken, causing a multiversal massive shockwave to echo through time and space as reality seeming to shatter before being pulled back together. A "multiversal chaos" was unleashed, where numerous beings from other realities were transported to other universes through the tears of reality.
Incursions and the Eighth Cosmos
Due to the result of a phenomena paradoxical in nature known as incursions which resulted from the early destruction of a reality causing a contraction in the Multiverse, every universe in existence began to experience regular collisions one with another, with their respective planets Earth acting as the focal point. Unless the impact was averted by the destruction of either of the two colliding Earths, both intersecting realities would be destroyed when the two planets made contact.
While numerous different beings and groups of people from across numerous universes attempted to avert the death of everything, it all eventually came down to the final incursion between the last two surviving universes, Earth-616 and Earth-1610, which were subsequently destroyed. Only a handful of inhabitants from each universe outlived their realities, aboard life rafts that kept them in suspended animation. Among them were the Reed Richards of each universe, Mister Fantastic and the Maker.
After stealing the power from the Beyonders, powerful beings that existed outside what once was the Multiverse, with the help of the Molecule Man, Doctor Doom managed to salvage the remnants of several destroyed universes, merging them into Battleworld. Doom's eight-year reign as Battleworld's ruler came to an end when the discovery of the two life rafts caused bedlam. During a confrontation between Doctor Doom and Mister Fantastic, the Molecule Man transferred Doom's power to Reed, destroying Battleworld in the process. With the power he had received, Mister Fantastic began to restore the Multiverse, universe by universe, with the help of his son, Franklin Richards. This chain of events is what caused the creation of the Eighth Cosmos. However, instead of starting over from scratch, most of the Seventh Cosmos was carried over to the Eighth Cosmos.
Still resentful by the existence of multiple realities, the First Firmament decided to attack the current embodiment of the Multiverse, Eternity. Taking advantage of Eternity's weakened state caused by its most recent rebirth, the First Firmament bound it in chains, and sent its Aspirants to destroy it from the inside out. Additionally, the First Firmament and the Aspirants corrupted Lord Chaos and Master Order, leading them to taking over the Multiverse as Logos.
In an attempt to help strengthen Eternity, the Maker harvested the essence of the Aspirants and used the High Evolutionary's technology to disrupt and bring down the Superflow, the network that separated realities from one another, successfully merging every universe within Eternity into one. The Maker also took advantage of this opportunity to rewrite the laws of the Multiverse to bring back to life the original Ultimates from his defunct home universe. Even though the process strengthened Eternity in the beginning and allowed it to break free from the First Firmament's grasp, it soon proved to be counterproductive. Eternity began to deteriorate, facilitating the First Firmament's consumption of it. Because of this, Galactus sent his own Ultimates to stop the Maker.
After Spectrum and the High Evolutionary killed the Maker's then-current body, both teams of Ultimates worked together to reverse the damage caused to the Superflow. Using the nanites from his armor in the High Evolutionary's technology, which had been advanced by the Maker beyond its creator's understanding, Iron Man was capable of interacting with it. Spectrum subsequently used her powers to link together the minds of both teams of Ultimates, allowing their combined brain power to operate the machine, and restore the Multiverse to its normal state.
Galactus and his Eternity Watch subsequently entered Eternity and defeated the Aspirants and Logos, freeing Eternity from their detrimental influence. Full of vigor once again, Eternity summoned the previous embodiments of past cosmoses from the Far Shore to aid him against the First Firmament. This army of past cosmoses imprisoned the First Firmament, and took it away to another plane of existence in order to heal it.
When the future omnipotent Thanos forced his past self to follow his own path by using the Astral Regulator to absorb the majority of the Cosmic Beings, the two merged and then absorbed both the Living Tribunal and the Above All Others, becoming the very embodiment of the entire Multiverse. However, after the future Thanos realized the realities were stuck in a loop, he saw that life was meaningless and sought to "free" everyone by killing himself and destroy all of space and time. Thankfully, thanks to the combined effort of Adam Warlock, Kang the Conqueror, and present Thanos, the future Thanos' plan was stopped and he was erased from existence.
Rules of Time-Travel
The way time travel works within the Multiverse is open to variations from story to story, and thus inconsistencies in its application exist throughout all mediums. That being said, Mark Gruenwald laid out a loose set of rules for time travel in Marvel Age #117 in 1992:
- "Time travel should be used very sparingly in order to keep the phenomenon as special as possible. To ensure that future usage of the phenomenon are kept consistent with the majority of past usages, observe the following principles:
- The Marvel Universe is part of a multiverse (a system of related universes) which diverge from one another at critical junctures.
- The act of time travel always produces a critical juncture diverging a new alternate timeline or world at the moment one enters the reality of another time period, past or future of the time period set out from. It creates one timeline where an extratemporal person or element materialized via time travel, and one 'virgin' timeline where that person or element did not.
- Because it is impossible to travel to the 'virgin' timeline, and because divergent timelines are dimensionally displaced from one's root timeline, all time travel actually involves dimensional travel. A time traveler does not truly travel straight backwards or forwards in time, but backwards or forwards and a bit off to the side to a divergent timeline now running parallel to one's timeline of origin. Since this timeline will have been identical to the 'virgin' timeline until the moment of divergence, there will be virtually no differences between the two timelines until most time travelers have no reason to be aware that they are not on the 'virgin' timeline.
- If one travels a second time to an era one has already been to, one will not materialize on the 'virgin' timeline nor the timeline diverged by one's previous trip, but a third timeline diverged from one or the other. A time traveler can never travel back to the exact same timeline more than once. Again, since the second and third divergent timelines are identical until the time traveler's arrival, they will be indistinguishable at first.
- When one travels a second time to any era in which one already exists, it will be possible to meet a temporal counterpart of one's self already there. A new counterpart diverges into being every single time a time traveler travels to a timeline one already exists in. Subsequently, multiple temporal counterparts could co-exist through multiple time trips to the same time period.
- The co-existence of mulitple counterparts of the same being on one timeline does not cause time paradoxes. Time paradoxes are only possible in single timeline universes.
- Altering an incident in the past will indeed affect the future reality of the timeline diverged by the time traveler's presence. One can create any number of different divergencies by one's significant actions, the act of time travel being but the first. Whether one will be able to return to the present of the timeline where one did no reality-tampering divergences or one which diverged as a consequence of one's past actions is a function of the means of time travel.
- Returning to one's present also creates a divergent reality. If one has been gone any length of time, one may find differences have accumulated in accordance with the length of time one was away.
- Selective alterations in the present as a consequence of the time traveler's actions in the past do not occur. An alteration in the past will create an entirely new timeline with events proceeding smoothly from the point of divergence. To the denzins of that timeline's 'present', the past is a continuous series of events that always happened as they happened. Were one to see selective dematerializations, they would either be caused by something other than the act of time travel unto itself or would be hallucinations.
- There are three possible methods of time travel in the Marvel Universe: a. Time travel machines (Dr. Doom, Kang). b. Magic (Dr. Strange, Thor's hammer). c. Personally generated energy (Silver Surfer).
* All methods involve generating 'chronal displacement inertia' freeing one's chronological position in the timestream (just as escape velocity frees one from earth's gravitation), skimming through the extra-temporal realm outside the timestream (Limbo), and re-entering the timestream at another chronological position. Because no time exists outside the timestream, the perceived duration of the passage through limbo may be anything from non-existent to an eternity.
- If any of the above is confusing to you or your writers, you may ask the Senior Executive Editor for clarification. If it still is confusing, you should not be doing a time travel story. The above principles only apply to the Marvel Universe; other fictional realities may have other rules of time travel.
According to writer and editor Jordan D. White, these rules are flexible and not strictly enforced. The Handbooks, the Unofficial Appendix and by extension the Marvel Database attempt to follow the original rules laid out by Gruenwald as best as we can.
- The Soul Stone of Earth-616 contains an entire Multiverse of worlds within itself, known as Mergiverse. Each life on those worlds is a mix of two individuals.
- The concept of time is sometimes tied to the multiversal cycles. The start of the current cycle is referred to as "the dawn of time"; the "end of time" is located at the end of the current cycle; and beings like Galactus, who predate the current cycle, are sometimes described to be "older than time." Previous cycles are called "the time before time," and future cycles are called "a time beyond time."
- 188 appearance(s) of Multiverse
- 19 minor appearance(s) of Multiverse
- 190 mention(s) of Multiverse
- 244 image(s) of Multiverse
- 44 characters that originate from Multiverse
- 41 teams that originate from Multiverse
- 14 organizations that originate from Multiverse
- 22 locations that originate from Multiverse
- 13 items that originate from Multiverse
- 2 vehicles that originate from Multiverse
- 21 races that originate from Multiverse