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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The quest for magic continues in the latest issue of Doctor Strange from Marvel Comics. ComiConverse contributor Mitch Nissen continues his coverage of the sorcerer supreme.
Doctor Strange #9 has arrived from Marvel Comics and with it we take one step closer to the climax of The Last Days of Magic story arc.
The Story So Far…
Other dimensional science worshiping inquisitors called The Empirikul have come to Earth to eradicate all magic. They have nearly succeeded. Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, and the rest of Earth’s magic users have been rendered nearly powerless. Outgunned and on the run, Doctor Strange and the others must find all the remaining magic on the planet if they hope to defeat the Empirikul.
Synopsis (Spoilers Ahead)
A mystic call to arms has been sent. Those whose lives have been touched by enchantment gather for the last defensive of Magic. At a hidden Tibetan temple Doctor Strange’s devoted friend, Wong, assembles a group of Secret Defenders ready to give their lives to save Magic. A price has to be paid for the use of magic and a lot of magic is going to be used in the final battle.
Meanwhile the Empirikul are having trouble purifying the ruins of Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum. There’s something in the basement killing Empirikul troops. The Lord Imperator of the Empirikul makes his way to the cellar coming face to face with darkness and hatred personified.
Elsewhere Doctor Strange makes a mad dash through the jungle after having desecrated an ancient temple, a tribe of angry locals hot on his tail. Strange makes his escape in the Phantom Eagle’s old plane with the last magic artifact in hand. The mystic arsenal has been assembled.
It’s time for war.
Doctor Strange #9 doesn’t take the story much further from where we left off in issue 8. Doctor Strange is still globe trotting, playing at being an archeologist, (it’s almost pound for pound the opening scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc minus the rolling boulder and swapping the angry natives for angry monkeys) and the Empirikul are still puttering around the Sanctum Sanctorum.
The creature in Doctor Strange’s basement is one of the highlights of the issue. Chris Bachalo with the assistance of colorist Java Tartaglia present an unassuming shadow with an emotionless white mask (it looks like the black spirit in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away). This is the thing that has been dispatching Empirikul troopers left and right. When the Lord Imperator confronts the creature it reveals its true self. Letting your imagination run wild with this creature, imagining what it would look like in real life or on a movie screen, enhances this section of the issue greatly.
Chris Bachalo once again delivers the goods.
The most curious aspect of the issue are the final words on the last page: To Be Concluded.
This issue marks part four of the Last Days of Magic story arc. If the next issue truly is the conclusion and defeat of the Empirikul this presents pacing problems within the overall volume. The first five issues of this book, while fun and enjoyable, spent much of their time dealing with problems and events rather minuscule in the grand scheme of the narrative. All the while lightly peppering in scenes of the Empirikul, building the antagonist up as the end all be all of Doctor Strange enemies.
Less was more in the case of the first five issues.
Issues six and seven gave readers an epic throwdown and miraculous escape.
By comparison issues eight and nine have traveled very fast and given readers very little. The creature in the cellar plot thread feels well paced and natural but the key plot threads feel rushed. So far there have only been two scenes between this issue and the previous issue showing Doctor Strange hunting magic artifacts.
And just like that a whole arsenal is assembled to take on an enemy built up over seven issues?
What seems like an exciting ensemble of characters in Scarlet Witch, Brother Voodoo, Hellstorm, Shaman, and Talisman amounts to very little as the supporting cast contributes even less than the minor supporting characters of Wong and Zelma. The group of magic users have done little more than soak up the background.
And what about those directly effected by the loss of magic?
Where are the Ghost Riders? Dracula and the vampires?
Cyttorak? Dormammu? The Faltine?
Where are the Vishanti in this narrative when their champion, Stephen Strange, is imperiled? In case you don’t recognize any of the names mentioned above, they’re all big deals in the world of Marvel’s magic universe. I realize my previous request for Sleepwalker was probably asking a bit much from Marvel but leaving out the Vishanti presents a rather sizable plot hole. That’s basically the equivalent of leaving out The Force from a Star Wars story about Jedi and Sith (this comparison is in terms of story elements relative to both and their narrative functions).
Instead we are introduced to several characters who have relatively little at stake in the grand scheme, normal people with a little bit of magic in their lives. Writer Jason Aaron introduces these new characters to us at the beginning of the issue, citing their purpose in the narrative, to sacrifice their lives so that Doctor Strange may defeat the Empirikul and save magic. Then by the end of the issue Doctor Strange himself tells them all to go home and that no one else is paying his tab ever again. So essentially half or at least a third of issue nine’s plot contributed little to nothing.
The emergence of the Empirikul was setup nicely. In two issues Doctor Strange has bounced back from a devastating defeat, has traveled all over the world building a magic arsenal, and is ready to take on his greatest enemy.
All this sans magic.
Perhaps it’s business reasons that have forced Jason Aaron to speed up the narrative. Perhaps I’m being impatient and all my requests will be answered in the following issues. Maybe I am the only person out there that even remembers who Dormammu and the Vishanti are and no one else cares. I sincerely hope that isn’t the case but who knows. The confines of being a comic book writer today must be brutal.
Jason Aaron still manages a little fan service for us longtime readers though. The Secret Defenders and Phantom Eagle name drops brought a smile to my face.
All in all Doctor Strange remains a fantastic book, one of the best from Marvel. If I’ve learned anything from my experiences reading Jason Aaron’s books it’s that the more support this book receives, the higher the sales it enjoys, the better the story Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo will give us readers. Given the chance these two comic book creators will blow our minds. But if the sales don’t hold out on this book we may have to settle for simply a finished story arc.
Doctor Strange is a wonderful book. Jump on now!
Be sure to check back next month as I review Doctor Strange #10 and every Doctor Strange issue afterwards.
And remember… the Stranger the better.
Mitch Nissen is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @NinjaMitche
Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo set up what looks to be the final showdown with Doctor Strange and the magic killers, the Empirikul. The Doc is ready for war and it looks like these inquisitors have bitten off more than they can chew.