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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After nearly a two month wait Marvel gives readers a double dose of Doctor Strange. ComiConverse contributor Mitch Nissen is here with the details.
The Last Days of Magic
That is the title of the latest and possibly greatest story arc in the life of Doctor Strange. Last week Marvel Comics gave readers the second part in the latest Doctor Strange saga, Doctor Strange #7. Along with issue #7 Marvel released a companion piece one-shot titled Doctor Strange: Last Days of Magic, featuring a host of other magic users and their struggles against the science worshiping, witch burning Empirikul. We’re going to take a look at both.
Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic One-Shot
For those who’ve fallen behind in the current Doctor Strange saga the first five issue were a prelude to this current arc. Issue #6 was titled The Last Days of Magic Part 1 even though it starts at the climax of the last issue. Issue #7 is titled The Last Days of Magic Part 2.
The one shot Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic is essentially part 1.5 and occurs both prior and parallel to issue #6 but before issue #7. The one-shot follows a handful of Marvel’s mystics, mages, and sorcerers all under attack by the Empirikul simultaneously at different points around the globe.
Jason Aaron pens the sections focusing on the characters El Medico Mistico, Mahatma Doom+–, Professor Xu, and Count Kaoz. The stories are quick but fun showing the global assault of the Empirikul. All of these characters are new creations of Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo and they each receive individual exploration here.
Anyone who’s kept up with the comic books by Jason Aaron will notice a few of the writer’s trademark proclivities presenting themselves here. Aaron often employs Great White sharks in his stories somewhere and in profoundly bizarre ways, here they fall from the sky as magic rain cast by Medico Mistico. In Thor they were cosmic space sharks, in Hulk they were gamma irradiated Hulk-sharks, and in Ghost Rider their was a fiery-ghost rider shark. I have been on Shark Watch ever since issue one of Doctor Strange and Aaron didn’t disappoint.
Count Kaoz is also a creation distinctly belonging to Jason Aaron. Count Kaoz is a surly Siberian magician who at age nine killed and ate a bear. A magic bear. He has spit that will melt the flesh off your bones. He’s portly, bald, and bearded and the manliest mage in all the land. You can’t help but smiling when reading Aaron’s narration. Again, this is a character type which Aaron brings to nearly all of his writings.
Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Danilo Beyruth offer up an exciting story featuring Doctor Voodoo (Brother Voodoo). Duggan has been Doctor Voodoo’s primary scribe these last several months, regularly featuring the character in The Uncanny Avengers monthly title. Here Jericho is the sole focus, the Empirikul tracking him to his magic mausoleum in New Orleans. Beyruth’s art is inspired and wondrous to examine. Jericho Drumm has long been a favorite of mine and Duggan treats the character with respect. This section is perhaps the main draw for the book, and for me personally.
Writer James Robinson and artist Mike Perkins fill in the final section featuring the brand new character, August Wu. It is an origin story acting as both prequel and sequel. Mike Perkins’ art is gorgeous and reminiscent of Mike Deodato Jr. The story contains depth and realism and is well written. The only detriment is that the feature character comes across rather bland and generic. The most interesting part is trying to figure out where exactly in the classic Doctor Strange continuity this story takes place.
Overall the One-Shot is well drawn and well written. It expands the Empirikul narrative as well as providing new grounds to shine for characters both old and new. But I question the choice of characters herein.
Thinking about the story more shouldn’t there have been a significant portion dedicated to showing how one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe, Scarlet Witch, was subdued?
Or how Daimon Hellstorm, a one-time ruler of Hell, could be taken out so easily?
While I enjoyed the one-shot I’m perplexed as to the choice of characters that were showcased (Doctor Voodoo being the exception).
The book ends at the same point in which Doctor Strange issue #6 ended.
Doctor Strange #7
The story begins with a flashback exploring the backstory of the Empirikul. We see the inciting event that calcifies the Imperator of the Empirikul into the witch-burning monster we’ve seen until now. Magicians worshiping the elder god Shuma-Gorath killed the Imperator’s parents and anyone practicing science on their homeworld.
Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Daimon Hellstorm, and the rest of earth’s magic users are bound to trees, the Empirikul preparing to burn them alive. The old magician, Monako, (from Marvel’s Golden Age of comic books) appears, zapping the Imperator with a powerful spell while simultaneously teleporting everyone else to safety. Before Doctor Strange and the others vanish Monako tells them all to look for magic in the hidden nooks and crannies around them. Monako stays behind in order to help the others escape.
Doctor Strange and the others find themselves in a hidden subterranean cavern, free from the Empirikul, but with no magic. Monako is tied to a tree in their place and burned alive.
A grim ending to say the least.
Chris Bachalo’s art is in prime form once again. The contrast between science and magic is clear and distinctive in his pencils and colours. The sight of Shuma-Gorath is a personal favorite in the issue. Beyond that Bachalo maintains the same level of detail present in the previous six issues.
The issue is exceedingly expository while at the same time slowly advancing the story. Basically it’s an entire issue answering the question, “how do they get out of this one?” The Empirikul backstory feels a little uninspired and borrowed from Jason Aaron’s Thor: God Butcher backstory. It lacks the harsh reality and shock that was present in the God Butcher arc. Other than Shuma-Gorath’s brief appearance (which is awesome) the opening sequence feels like a standard villain origin.
Monako appearing to save the day is both exciting and troubling at the same time. Exciting in that it comes out of left field and is a delightful surprise. Troubling in that someone as powerful as Scarlet Witch can be captured with relative ease yet an old has-been like Monako can escape the Empirikul and deal them a crippling blow? In the moment the scene works but when one stops to think about it the idea quickly falls apart.
Marvel waited nearly two months to release issue #7 of Doctor Strange after releasing issue #6. Issue #7 feels the weakest of all the issues so far and least thought out. The one-shot, while containing Jason Aaron’s own signature troupes and cliches, feels more satisfying than issue #7.
We’ve passed the appetizers and are stuck on the first plate of the main course. We’re ready for the next course.
Jason Aaron is a wonderful writer and I hope he still has a few tricks left up his sleeve.
Be sure to check back later this month as I review Doctor Strange issue #8 and every Doctor Strange issue afterwards.
And remember… Stranger is better.
Mitch Nissen is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @NinjaMitche.
The latest issue of Doctor Strange by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo brings the same excellent level of art but falls a bit short on story. This heavily expository issue spins its wheels before moving forward. Overall still a fine issue. Just don’t think about it too hard.