Though they may not have realized it, fans of the MCU have been traveling in the “Microverse” for the last several years, ever since it was introduced to them in Ant-Man. Only it wasn’t called the Microverse then, but the “Quantum Realm,” another dimension on a sub-atomic level that can only be accessed by shrinking down to such a small size as to fit between atoms. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, accessed it by way of Pym Particles.
The Microverse is what the Quantum Realm is referred to in Marvel comics, and shares many similarities to its cinematic counterpart, such as only being accessible by the atomically diminutive and containing microscopic worlds within worlds. It also has a bunch of differences, however, such as having origins rooted in time traveling princes and containing entire societies of people with their own socio-economic problems. Without traveling there yourself, here are ten of the most prominent ways the Microverse is different from the Quantum Realm.
At the point of its conception in the early 40s, the Microverse was considered so small that it existed in the space between atoms. It was thought to consist of dozens of worlds, and universes within universes beyond the comprehension of the human mind and only reachable when a person could shrink down to sub-atomic size. It took Pym Particles, created by the original Ant-Man Hank Pym, to allow a person to shrink down to the size they would need to be to visit the Microverse. This was later refined when the Microverse was considered a parallel dimension, rather than a series of alternate universes.
Some 15,000 years into the future of the human race, young Prince Wayfinder was born on Ithaka, and eventually would become the last surviving member of the Ithacons when the Haamin slaughtered his people. With the help of his father’s adviser, the wizard Delphos, he escaped death, eventually discovering the Sword in the Star and using it to help save his people. He used the power of the sword, a sort of future incarnation of Excalibur, to send them back in time to prehistoric Earth. When it couldn’t sustain them, he used the last of its energies to create the Microverse, where it transported them to reside.
The Microverse is considered a series of parallel dimensions, and in one such dimension, the Microworld of Mita was being attacked by Togaro, a warring tyrant bent on usurping its rulers. Fearing for the safety of their daughter, the princess Dianna, they sent her to live as a human on Earth in an adoptive human family.
When Togaro discovered her whereabouts, he conceived of a plan to send an invasion force to Earth. This drew the attention of Captain America and Bucky Barnes, who went to the Microverse to stop him. Captain America became the first Avenger to visit the Microverse unharmed.
Holding together the pieces of the Microverse is the Enigma Force, a mystical, mysterious energy source that is both what defines the Microverse and ensures its survival. Without it, the Microverse would collapse in on itself. The Enigma Force is somewhat sentient, and won’t allow itself to be used by forces of evil. The Enigma Force has been known to sometimes bestow great sources of power and energy onto those it deems worthy and can be channeled through objects such as the Sword of the Star, which Prince Wayfinder used to create the Microverse for his people to dwell in before becoming one with the Enigma Force himself.
Ethereal beings of light and energy, time travelers can appear humanoid when it suits them, but mostly spend their time connected to the Enigma Force that binds the Microverse together. From their Temple of Time, they ruminate on the puzzles of the Microverse, strategizing on how to bolster its defenses. When it’s needed, time travelers band together to impede a threat, such as Baron Karza invading certain parts of the Microverse and taking them for himself. However, due to the mercurial nature of time travelers, even their best-laid plans don’t always come to fruition until the last possible moment, resulting in a deus ex machina of sorts.
Ant-Man, The Wasp, Silver Surfer, and other Avengers aren’t the only superheroes to have discovered the Microverse and been able to visit it. In the 70s, Marvel’s Micronauts comic, based on the popular toy line at the time, featured the characters and their mythology into the larger Marvel framework.
The Micronauts lived on Homeworld, a planet that was terrorized by the supervillain Baron Karza, and eventually split apart to merge with other sub-atomic world and planets that exist within the Microverse. This didn’t stop the Micronauts from going to war with Baron Karza continuously, despite the fact that he had bigger threats (like Thanos).
The Microverse consists of dozens and dozens of worlds that not only resemble planets but links in a chain of molecules. Each planet has a “Worldmind," making it semi-sentient and communicable. Usually, this duty falls to the world leader with the best interest of its inhabitants in mind. With a link between the world leader and the planet’s “Worldmind,” certain responsibilities come to the forefront. With Baron Karza intent on attacking the rocky world of Spartak, it was necessary for Spartak’s leader, Prince Acroyear, to link to its Worldmind and convince it to self-destruct, taking Baron Karza along with it.
While the Enigma Force is the mystical energy that binds the Microverse together, it isn’t impermeable to destruction. And while the time travelers do their best to predict threats to the Microverse, they aren’t always successful. Perhaps this is why a time traveler granted the Uni-Power force to someone outside the Microverse, in the Marvel Universe, who could help. When the Uni-Power is extended to the Macroverse, that person becomes Captain Universe and inherits all of the powers of manipulating the Microverse, combined with whatever super powers they possess. Most recently, this happened to Spider-Man and made for one seriously impressive Spidey suit.
When Hank Pym first describes the Quantum Realm to the new Ant-Man, Scott Lang, he explains that it’s another dimension on a sub-atomic level about which not much is known. This is in contrast to the Microverse that has dozens of worlds within it, many that are known to scientists and superheroes. There’s K’ai, a world full of green-skinned, blonde haired humanoids who have long since lost their technology, Kaliklak, the bug planet infested by giant insect type beings, Spartak, a rock world, and Tok, home of the Lizard Men, among many others. Unfortunately, many of these worlds have been at war for decades.
After engaging in another harrowing battle with the Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom is exposed to a shrink ray and disappears from sight. It turns out he’s been transported to the Microverse, where he promptly sets about finding ways to seek revenge on the Fantastic Four. After conquering the world of Mirwood, he uses shrink rays on Marvel’s First Family who find themselves in the Microverse as well. The Fantastic Four were saved by Ant-Man, who came to the Microverse to help them crush Doctor Doom but only served to drive him back into the Macroverse. Other notable superheroes to enter the Microverse are Silver Surfer, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther.