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This month, two of Marvel's most powerful magic users will confront one of their universe's most terrifying artifacts head-on: The fabled text known as the Darkhold. For years it's been a part of the Marvel Universe that existed only as a copy, and its devotees whispered that the true Darkhold, the one written on the flesh of a dead god, would drive anyone who read it completely mad. Now it's been found, and the elder god Chthon knows it…
That's the setup behind Darkhold, the new Marvel event that kicks of later this month in The Darkhold Alpha #1, written by Steve Orlando (Curse of the Man-Thing, Commanders in Crisis) and drawn by Cian Tormey (Injustice: Year Zero). The launching point for a series of one-shots that will propel an unlikely team of Marvel heroes into a world of magic and madness, Darkhold Alpha explores what happens when Victor Von Doom and his devotees uncover the real text of the Darkhold for the first time.
"We're paying homage to the original Darkhold lore, which is to say -- the Darkhold that's menaced the Marvel Universe for years has long been said to be a copy of a copy, written on parchment, where the original was written on the flesh of a god," Orlando explained to SYFY WIRE. "In Darkhold, the true, original, primal Darkhold is uncovered, and we find out very quickly that the reason the Darkhold we've known has been copied and recopied was for our protection. The powers within this initial version, penned by the elder gods, are enough to drive a mortal mad."
As Doom seeks to uncover the secrets of the Darkhold, more than one magical being awakens to his plans. On one side is the elder god Chthon, who's ready to break through into our world to get what he wants. In the other is Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch (Note: This event is set before her apparent death at The Hellfire Gala), who has her own dark history with the legendary text and seeks to prevent the whole world from falling prey to it. Despite that long history, and the Darkhold's history as a keystone of Marvel magic, Orlando also stressed that Darkhold is designed to be friendly to new readers, including those who just learned about the Darkhold through things like WandaVision.
"Everything you need to know about Wanda and the Darkhold, as well as Wanda and Doctor Doom, you'll find within the pages of this series," Orlando said. "Darkhold will welcome readers new and old alike. If you've followed Wanda for a long time, then there will absolutely be added context, but all the essentials for this ride are right within the pages. And that's always been my perspective: Be welcoming to all, make sure all the required details are there, and tell the best damn story possible. There'll always be additional context for longtime readers, but the best books reward new readers for giving the characters a shot for the first time, as well as longtime readers for sticking with the characters for however long they have. We'll give you what you need to get on this primeval action rollercoaster, you just need to strap yourselves in."
In the gallery below, you'll get just a taste of what Darkhold Alpha has to offer, from Wanda's dark dreams to what it's like when Marvel heroes experience the legendary text firsthand.
Of course, Wanda can't ride this rollercoaster alone, and that means Darkhold will also feature the arrival of a team of heroes to aid in the defense of Earth from the onslaught of Chthon. Desperate for help, Wanda reaches out to find the right superheroes who can both fight beside her and withstand the madness of the Darkhold, and finds Wasp, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Blade, and Black Bolt responding to her call. Together they might be Earth's only hope, if they can resist the pull to all-out madness that the Darkhold brings.
"Chthon is such a primal force, and we've set up his world of the Other-Realm to be a place that breaks the sanity of any mortal. So we knew from the start that we were going to have to push deep into the concept of cosmic horror, of cosmic madness, of truly unsettling imagery that takes the heroes who once comforted us and makes them unsettling," Orlando said. "So, we had to question what people expect for these heroes, their stories, and their designs...and then challenge that, break that, and provide nightmarish versions that could stand toe to toe with a cosmic nightmare like Chthon. The key, and I know everyone involved in Darkhold did a great job with this, was to ensure that no matter how twisted these visions of our heroes became, they still stayed true to their core. Even if that core was poisoned, mutated, or maligned. The heartbreak and tragedy come from the fact that these are still people we know and love, albeit fallen."
Speaking of twisted versions of these heroes, Darkhold is set to unfold not as one miniseries, but as a group of interconnected one-shots, each of which will explore a different hero's descent into battle against Chthon, and the horrifying ways that battle changes them. The Darkhold saga continues in October with The Darkhold: Iron Man from Ryan North and Guillermo Sanna and The Darkhold: Blade from Daniel Kibblesmith and Federico Sabbatini. In November, the madness rages on through The Darkhold: Wasp by Jordie Bellaire and Claire Roe and The Darkhold: Black Bolt by Mark Russell and David Cutler. It all wraps up in December with The Darkhold: Spider-Man by Alex Paknadel and Diogenes Neves, and the concluding volume, The Darkhold Omega by Orlando and Tormey. It's all part of a massive collaborative effort that, according to Orlando, was defined as much by individual creators' ideas about the characters as it was by the overarching narrative.
"Darkhold has been a great moment, not unlike my time putting together [DC Comics event] Milk Wars, where as creators we can work together towards this big blockbuster northstar, but also give folks all the room they need to do what they do best. So I'm happy to say with the one-shots, the main goal was to let folks know the key idea of what reading the true Darkhold does to a person, and then step back so these stories could evolve in their own exciting, organic ways. We knew we were always heading towards a set finale, but it's exciting for me, as a creator and a reader, to watch other amazing talents work incredibly creative stories in ways that surprise me. Darkhold is better for the freedom everyone had to tell the story they wanted, and I'm incredibly proud of where we landed."
The Darkhold Alpha #1 is in stores Sept. 29.