What Is Zero Matter On 'Agent Carter'? It Has 'Strange' Connections To The Marvel Universe
We're only two hours into Season 2 of ABC's Agent Carter and we've already got a brand new location (sunny Los Angeles), about a dozen new characters (like Jarvis' never-before-seen wife, Ana), and a perplexing new MacGuffin — aka the "motivating element in a story that is used to drive the plot […] usually a mysterious package / artifact / superweapon that everyone in the story is chasing." Captain America had the Tesseract, Thor had the Aether, the Guardians had the Orb... and Agent Carter has Zero Matter, the unstable substance created by sinister Isodyne Energy. But what is Zero Matter, and what is its significance to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Fans of the MCU's small screen efforts like Carter and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been been burned before by trying to read too much into the comic book origins of some of the shows' characters and storylines. Remember when we all spent half a season theorizing about which Inhuman Raina had transformed into, only to eventually come to the anticlimactic realization that she was simply an original creation for the series? So some viewers will likely be hesitant to read too much into Zero Matter, especially considering that it's a substance even the most diehard Marvel fans have never heard of before... but actually, Zero Matter is an example of something that is pulled directly from the pages of the comics. It's just going by a different name now.
Carter executive producer Tara Butters revealed to Comic Book Resources that, in Season 2, Isodyne Energy would "stumble upon what people in the Marvel Universe will know as Darkforce, but because they've never seen it before they just name it Zero Matter." On the page, Darkforce is a negative energy drawn from a parallel dimension that gives people in our dimension superpowers. Some mutants are able to draw on the energy naturally, while humans must conjure it through technology or magic. Once summoned, it can take the form of gas, liquid, or solid and imbue a person with abilities as varied as camouflage or teleportation.
Butters also revealed that the inclusion of Darkside — aka Zero Matter — ties Carter into two other properties in the MCU. The first is its ABC brethren, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which featured the substance in the Season 1 episode "The Only Light In The Darkness." That episode centered around Marcus Daniels (aka the Marvel villain Blackout) and his obsession with Coulson's former flame, cellist Audrey Nathan. As in the comics, Daniels' powers stemmed from his ability to call upon and manipulate Darkforce.
The second MCU property that Carter will connect to vis-à-vis Zero Matter is one that hasn't even come out yet: this November's highly-anticipated feature film, Doctor Strange, which, according to Butters' interview with CBR, will also apparently make use of the extra-dimensional substance to explain the titular hero's magical powers. In the same way that S.H.I.E.L.D. has already spent an entire season planting the seeds for the eventual Inhumans film — and is also spending a good deal of time this year setting up the conflict for May's Captain America: Civil War — Carter's use of Darkforce is firmly establishing the show as an integral piece in the puzzle that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But since the MCU has never been a literal adaptation of the Marvel comics, the show is taking a concept that's familiar to diehard fans and riffing on it, taking it in unique directions not pulled from the pages of the comic books. Whitney Frost, one of Season 2's new villains (played by The Newsroom's Wynn Everett), is based on a preexisting Marvel character: a villainess who goes by the alias Madame Masque — thanks to the golden mask she wears after being horribly disfigured in a plane crash. The cliffhanger of the second episode, "A View In The Dark," teased that transformation by having Whitney exposed to the Zero Matter, imbuing her with as-yet-unknown superpowers.
However, Whitney Frost's comic book counterpart has no superpowers, simply taking on heroes (like Tony Stark, who's also her on-again-off-again lover) with her proficiency in martial arts and marksmanship. She did briefly attain powers once, although that was through the use of various magical objects — and demonic possession — rather than through the channeling of Darkforce. (The comics version of Madame Masque is also never married to a man named Calvin Chadwick, a character invented wholesale for Carter.) It will be interesting to see how similar — or how different — this Whitney Frost will be to her on-the-page counterpart. Although Tony Stark himself is but a twinkle in his father's eye in the current timeline of the show, perhaps Whitney will fall in love with (or at least pretend to fall in love with) Dominic Cooper's Howard Stark instead?
While much about Carter's version of Madame Masque and the MCU's version of Darkforce — sorry, Zero Matter — is still unknown, one thing is for sure: with each new season, series, and sequel, the higher-ups at Marvel are getting increasingly savvy at tying their disparate properties together in subtle, surprising ways.
Images: Eric McCandless, Screengrab/ABC