Across The Omniverse.

Film  Having given it the requisite few weeks, let's briefly talk about the magnificent Spider-Man: No Way Home and how it fits within the MCU's general "multiverse" system.  Numerous tweets, blog posts and video essays have suggested that there's a continuity error between the appearance of the other two Spiders and various villains and what was established in Loki (and Agents of SHIELD for that matter) something which presumably be explained in Doctor Strange's Multiverse of Madness.

But the structure of how these fictional universes fit together has already been well established in both the MARVEL and DC continuities and indeed the Marvel Database has a whole page explaining how these things are nested which I'm about to regurgitate in relation to how it works in this new live action version and once you have it fixed in your head you can see how the whole notion of "canonicity" in relation to "things happening in fictional universes" is absolute nonsense.  That everything is canon(ical).

This nested structure breaks down as follows:


An infinite collection of all fictional universes ever.  As the Marvel article lists,  "not only Marvel Comics, but also DC Comics, Image, Dark Horse, Wildstorm, Archie, Harvey, Shueisha, Boom Studios, Rebellion, Dynamite, IDW, Graphic India, Derby Pop, Vertigo, Oni Press, Udon, Valiant, and every universe ever mentioned or seen".  Basically, this is everything.  Every film, tv show, comic, advert, every piece of fiction ever created.  The DC version of the article is a bit more exclusive because of course it is.

To keep things simple, I'm only going to refer to how this works for the MCU.  


This is were the jargon becomes a bit confused and why what appears on screen is more complicated.  What seemed to happen at the close of Loki is the creation of a multiverse but its implied that all the individual universes must be branches of the main MCU timeline.  Except the universes which feature in the Spiderverse (including the animations) are wildly divergent to the point of not having their own Avengers and Peters fighting solo.  Not to mention wherever Venom is coming and going from.

That's because Loki isn't about creating the multiverse.  The multiverse already existed and contains all of the different live action MARVEL film series, all existing within their own continuity.  Roughly speaking:

The Raimi Spider-Man
The Webb Spider-Man
All of the different universes in the Spider-verse film
The Tim Story Fantastic Four
The Josh Trank Fantastic Four and arguably Deadpool
The OG X-Men and/or the First Class X-Men
Whatever was happening with mutants on TV and/or Logan
The Blade films
The Ghost Rider films

What we saw in No Way Home was the top three of these connecting together and hopefully in Doctor Strange's Multiverse of Madness a few more of them giving us a cameo.  The Sony Spider-verses aren't alternative versions of the MCU, they are their own distinct universes that happen to share some similarities with each other but are wildly different in other ways, not unlike the Bondiverse and now potentially have their own branches thanks to the events in No Way Home.


This is a single nested continuity which itself can contain numerous alternative realities.  But they're all variations on a much similar theme and their own history or continuity can be changed and its the variations in one of these which we watch being created in Loki and What If? with the various characters oblivious to the other timelines nested within their greater multiverse.  There can be an infinite number of timelines within these universes with all the Kangs which could look like a "multiverse" when viewed from inside, if you're not aware that other "universes" exist, that there's more than a sacred timeline.

At least that's how I rationalise it, although its possible DS's MoM won't view it that way or at least present it in those terms although it'll be possible to retroactively apply it to this structure anyway.  

Loki (the series) has already thrown a spanner in the works by not presenting us with lots of Loki that all look like Tom Hiddleston and could have emerged from places as significantly divergent as the Spider-verse but the show makes it clear that they're all the result of anomalies in this single timeline that they've had to trim, work the Time Variance Agency is presumably doing without an awareness that there are universes out there in which the laws of Time are wildly different anyway.

But how does Agents of SHIELD fit into this?  The timey-wimey direction the show takes in its latter seasons has been used as a reason to exclude it from the MCU even though with all of the various movie crossovers in which it literally set up storylines in much the same way as the Disney+ originated series.

Except it fits perfectly into the events of Loki.  Due to how its main character is resurrected, that show happens in 2012 as per MCU chronology.  So when SHIELD's adventures diverge and the timeline changes, they're creating or at least part of an alternate reality which can now exist because of Sylvie's actions and which they can travel back from in the final episodes to the main MCU leaving Deke behind (and the episode is sneakily vague on how that works in relation to the snap).

Reading back through that it looks like absolutely gobbledygook but I've had it rattling around in my head for weeks and its good to get it written down.  But it also makes it easier to understand how a particular fictional universe fits within a much wider narrative context.  I've simplified things a bit here, but obviously you'd include all of the various MARVEL comics universes in alongside the ones listed above and try to figure out how the spider-verse in the comics connects the film and the version which originated in the cartoon.

All of which said, my suspicion is that there are more levels to this and that you could make a clearer distinction between universes and timelines.  Oh god, now I'm trying to explain how this works in relation to the DCU and that's a whole other multiverse of madness.

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