Grew up reading comic books in the 90's. Marvel fan at heart. Hulk, the Midnight Sons, and Marvel's cosmic universe are my favorites.
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Doctor Strange #10 hit the comic stands this week and with it came the thrilling conclusion to Marvel Comics’ nearly year-long story arc of Doctor Strange and his battle against the Empirikul. ComiConverse Contributor Mitch Nissen is here with the details on these mystical machinations.
“Magic is dead. And I killed it” ~ Stephen Strange.
These are the Sorcerer Supreme’s words as we find him in final battle with the science worshiping Empirikul. But Doctor Strange’s guilt over what has happened these last ten issues is not the message Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo convey as we read this issue.
Magic is still very much alive, and if you don’t believe that then you haven’t been reading Doctor Strange.
Doctor Strange #10 Synopsis:
The issue opens with a flashback of Doctor Strange on the brink of death, having just stopped Baron Mordo from destroying the world. In order to save his life, Stephen and Wong transfer all of Doctor Strange’s wounds and pain to a creature hidden in the cellar. Strange confides in Wong that they cannot continue to divert his pain to another.
Wong assures him, “If you want to make up for what we’re doing here… then keep saving the world.”
The story returns to the present to the final assault against the Empirikul. Doctor Strange faces off against the Imperator while Scarlet Witch, Daimon Hellstrom, and the rest of the magic users take the fight to the Empirikul troops. The Doc uses every magic weapon in his mystic arsenal to no avail, forcing him to turn to the last store of magic left: the pain monster in the cellar. Strange merges with the creature but the years of pain and suffering composing the beast is too much for Stephen to bear.
“My name is Zelma Stanton, and I believe in magic. His pain belongs to me now,” chants Zelma and Wong and all those who were saved by Doctor Strange or touched by magic in the past. They all join the fight by taking Stephen’s pain and sharing it among themselves so that the Doctor can save the world once more. Together, Doctor Strange and the pain creature defeat the Imperator and topple the Empirikul.
They saved the world, but magic is still dead.
Doctor Strange #10 Analysis:
Beginning with the art, Chris Bachalo once again delivers a barrage of pencils both clear and abstract in their interpretation. In previous issues Bachalo has flirted with an indecipherable panel or two. Here there are a few panels where one doesn’t quite know what they’re looking at, particularly panels involving the pain monster as it battles with the Imperator. Bachalo uses tight close-ups in many of the panels in which reference points to the characters and basic shapes is somewhat lost in a jumbled mess of inks and blacks. Such intimate panels often increase the intensity and chaos of an action sequence. Here however a handful of panels feel rushed and too zoomed in resulting in confusion where a zoomed out view may have rendered the sequence clearer.
As has always been the case, penciler and colorist Chris Bachalo along with his host of inkers provides his own wondrous and unique style to the pages. While losing clarity of story here and there, the art yet embraces the spirit of the weird world of Doctor Strange.
As for the writing this issue is the crescendo of everything writer Jason Aaron has built until now. We met the character of Zelma Stanton in the very first issue of this volume. Later on Jason Aaron revealed the physical burden of casting magic and those who bear that burden for the sake of the Doctor and therefore the sake of the world. The ultimate purpose of all of these plot threads is revealed here.
From issue one to issue ten the story coalesces masterfully.
Don’t let Marvel‘s marketing fool you, issues one through ten are one story, not two.
While the plot comes to a head in this issue, looking at the ten issues as a whole, the climax seems rushed. Seven issues were essentially build-up, our heroes only escaping their captors at the end of issue seven and by issue ten they’ve rallied and returned victorious. Seven issues were devoted to building up the threat and devastating power of the Empirikul, the heroes taken out quickly and with ease while still possessing much of their magical powers.
Then in three issues they return with bargain basement mystic artifacts and no abilities of their own and with this they triumph?
In issue five there are a handful of panels showing the Empirikul’s assault on Earth. They are shown battling the Man-Thing, at Wundagore Mountain (the home of the High Evolutionary), Weird World, and later there is a mention of the Ghost Riders but none of these characters and places ever return to the story.
Doctor Strange’s fellow magic users, Scarlet Witch, Talisman, Shaman, Hellstorm, and the rest are shown in fleeting glimpses battling with very little bearing on the story begging the question of why include them at all?
It appears as if the original scope of this story was to be far wider than the pages of these eleven issues (including the Last Days of Magic one-shot) and I for one had hoped it would’ve been. Jason Aaron took the time to name drop and mention all these little details, locations, and characters only to end up not using them. This makes one wonder if the sales simply weren’t where Marvel wanted them to be and an executive decision was made forcing Jason Aaron to tie up the story far sooner than originally planned. Or maybe I am asking too much of one writer.
Marvel’s magic and supernatural corner of the universe is amazing, just as good as any other corner of the universe, and Jason Aaron seemed to want to show us that. And he did, albeit perhaps not in the way he originally intended. Even so, Aaron told a wonderful story worth every penny. He showed readers the magic of his writing and less the magic of these wonderful characters and universe on the periphery. Again it appears as if he wanted to show us everything but was not given the space to do so.
But if the solicitations for Doctor Strange in the coming months are correct it looks as if the effects of the Empirikul’s attack will still be reverberating throughout the Marvel universe and the pages of this book. Hopefully all these hints and nods toward the other characters in the magical circles of the Marvel universe will pay off in the future. As long as this book continues being published Jason Aaron will have the opportunity to build it stronger and better.
As it stands issue ten is evidence that Aaron and Bachalo’s Doctor Strange book is one of the best written titles from Marvel.
Throughout the story Jason Aaron continually explored the nuances of magic in everyday life, a child’s imaginary friends, the wonders of watching a Vegas magic show, and the magic of a first kiss. Aaron transformed the abstract, psychedelic world of Doctor Strange into something relatable and down to earth. The wild and weird magic is still there and that’s the magic the good Doctor is fighting for, but he’s also fighting for that little magic in all of our lives as well.
What Jason Aaron may really be telling us is that a world without Doctor Strange isn’t a good one. That’s a sentiment I can get behind.
So, if you haven’t already jumped onboard with this wondrous book, what are you waiting for?
If you have been keeping up with Doctor Strange and, like me, want more of the classic supernatural characters like Dormammu and Satana to show up… keep your eye of Agamotto on the horizon.
Keep it Strange, my friends.
Mitch Nissen is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @NinjaMitche
Source: Marvel Comics
Doctor Strange battles the Empirikul for the last time. The final chapter in the Last Days of Magic saga comes to a head in this action packed issue from Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo. Truly one of the best books from Marvel.