The following contains spoilers for Strange #8, on sale now from Marvel Comics.
Death already holds little dominion over the inhabitants of the Marvel Universe, but magic users have even fewer reasons to fear the reaper than most. While most masters of the mystic arts can raise the dead, some prefer to reserve the full power of necromancy for themselves, allowing them to continue menacing the world long after their hearts have stopped beating. Understandably, these undead sorcerers present a formidable challenge to the Earth’s mystical defenders, who’ve always struggled to find a reliable way of dealing with them permanently.
In Strange #8 (by Jed MacKay, Stefano Landini, Marcelo Ferreira, Roberto Poggi, Java Tartaglia, and VC’s Cory Petit), the director of S.H.I.E.l.D.’s magical defense division W.A.N.D. Pandora Peters and the recently-resurrected Stephen Strange revealed several shocking secrets about the organization to Strange’s wife Clea, including how it dealt with sorcerers who found a way to cheat death. This solution, a secret prison known as the Bigbox, appears to have been conjured straight out of a veteran Dungeons & Dragons player’s worst nightmare, with an inmate population entirely made up of Marvel’s version of the tabletop role-playing game’s deadliest enemy.
Strange’s Bigbox is Marvel’s Dungeons & Dragons Prison
The Marvel Universe is home to quite a few maximum-security prisons designed to house the many breeds of superpowered beings who inhabit it, with the Bigbox serving as a paranormal companion of the many other superhuman detection facilities owned and operated by S.H.I.E.L.D. before its dissolution in the aftermath of 2017’s Secret Empire. Serving as both a prison and a tomb, the undead wizards imprisoned in the Bigbox were kept in cryogenic storage at all times, preventing their vengeful spirits from reuniting with their bodies and wreaking havoc in the world of the living.
Unfortunately, like many of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s other “inescapable” prisons, the Bigbox ultimately proved to be far less secure than its architects intended. During a seemingly harmless test run of W.A.N.D’s experimental spell-casting blockchain, a legion of lost souls was able to infiltrate the Bigbox and reanimate its prisoners. This in turn allowed Charlie Bravo to steal vital intelligence and perfect the process they would use to reanimate deceased superheroes as their undead enforcers after they became the villainous Blasphemy Cartel.
Even with the nigh-unlimited magical power that he commanded as the Sorcerer Supreme and the assistance of Peters, Strange quickly found himself overwhelmed by the army of undead sorcerers Left with no other choice, Strange communed with the Bigbox’s sentient security system and convinced it to teleport the prison to another dimension, ending the threat and setting the stage for the Blasphemy Cartel’s eventual ascension.
Marvel’s New Prison is Like a Frightening Dungeons & Dragons Encounter
While the prisoners of the Bigbox are never referred to as such, they bear an unsettling similarity to the lich, one of Dungeons & Dragons‘ most famous enemies. With access to both powerful spells and a variety of Lair and Legendary Actions, liches are among the most powerful enemies in the game and have regularly served as the overarching antagonists and final bosses of both official D&D modules and countless homebrew campaigns. One particular lich, the demigod Vecna, is regarded as one of the most powerful beings in the D&D multiverse, cementing his kind’s in-universe infamy through his conquest and corruption of entire realms.
On its own, one lich can pose a serious threat to any party of D&D characters regardless of level, so the idea of a prison full of them would be enough to terrify even the most experienced of players. However, in the hands of a skilled Dungeon Master, the existence of a prison specifically designed for liches could serve as an exciting hook for a campaign. Given their near-limitless capacity for destruction, it’s only natural that the powers that govern a DM’s world may have constructed a prison capable of containing liches, and ensuring that prison remains secure could serve as a tense and exciting goal for the party.
Although the Marvel Universe is radically different from the high-fantasy worlds that most D&D campaigns unfold in, the presence of powerful undead sorcerers gives it an interesting connection to the trailblazing game. With the Blasphemy Cartel set to revive more undead heroes, Clea and Stephen may find themselves embarking on a quest to restore the Bigbox and ensure their former colleagues cannot cause any more harm.