Stephen Strange has been one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe since the beginning. He is the Sorcerer Supreme, he wields the powers of magic to protect our world and infinite others. What happens when you take away the power of magic from the good doctor? What happens when a foe wields the power of science to wipe out the world of magic, and all those within the community? A group known as the Empirikul, lead by the Imperator, has waged a winning war against all of the magic in not only our world – but ALL worlds.
Doctor Strange #9 is the fourth chapter in the story arc entitled, “The Last Days Of Magic”. Stephen and the other remaining mages of planet Earth have been forced to run, scrambling to scrape up whatever little bits of magic they can find. In an effort to protect Strange in his final effort against the forces of science, Wong and Zelma have gathered volunteers from around the world to act as his shield through their combined life force. Meanwhile the Empirikul find themselves confronting the unspeakable evil being that, until their invasion, remained dormant in the Sanctum Sanctorum’s basement.
Stephen gathers his troops and equips them with the handful of scraps that make up the remaining weapons of magic as they prepare for battle. However, before they embark on their potentially final journey, Strange discovers Wong’s collection of human defense and puts a stop to it, taking Wong out of commission for the time being and ordering the crowd to go home. As the Imperator faces off against the basement being apparently composed entirely of pain, Doctor Strange and company begin their assault to take back his home, the Sanctum Sanctorum.
Jason Aaron has been writing one hell of a Doctor Strange run through nine issues. “The Last Days Of Magic” has been an incredibly strong story arc and one readers won’t get the feeling they’ve seen before. With the Doctor Strange movie on the horizon, this run has provided a perfect entry point for new readers to the character, while also not boring long-time fans with a rehashed origin. Strange’s powers and how he uses them have always been fascinating and extremely useful; he’s been pivotal to so many classic Marvel stories. Jason Aaron dove even deeper into Strange’s abilities and what he sacrifices to use them, making it a major theme throughout the run thus far. The man of science, betrayed by magic, wages a war against it in the ultimate science versus faith story line. Personally, I have loved this character for years but this run is the most interesting and appealing version of him I have ever read; hopefully this is what they’re aiming for with Benedict Cumberbatch.
Aaron has also given a deep layer to Wong, who has been protecting Stephen all these years without him knowing by having other people absorb his pain, further prolonging Strange’s efforts to time and time again save the world. He even introduced a new character in Zelma, who acts as those reading the character for the first time. She’s gradually been becoming more a part of this book and should be growing on the audience.
When your main hero is the Sorcerer Supreme and wields the almighty power of magic, you’re going to need some wicked imagery to sell this book. Java Tartaglia and Chris Bachalo are fully aware of that and their efforts don’t shortchange anybody picking up these comics. There’s a newly discovered dark side to Strange that Aaron is exploring and it comes out very strong visually. The character designs are all fantastic; heroes, villains, monsters, portals, monkeys, artifacts, magical weapons – it’s all crafted beautifully and is a ton of fun for readers to absorb. Through most of the pages in this series readers don’t see very much of Doctor Strange’s eyes, only for heavy drama and emotional reactions are they revealed; it does wonders as the art expands the already enthralling story. This tactic paints Stephen as more of a cautious and defensive character, where readers willingly buy into the peril before him whenever he flashes those pupils. The creature in the basement, when finally revealed, is a well crafted nightmare that I hope plays more of a role outside of this arc.
There seems to be a lot of this going around lately in the current era of comics, and Jason Aaron and company are churning out a very iconic take on the Sorcerer Supreme and the world(s) he lives in. A new angle on the character, giving him a depth previously unseen, accented flawlessly by an art team who are having loads of fun and playing to their strengths. The last page of this issue features Doctor Strange’s version of “I’m Your Huckleberry“, setting up the big finale in issue #10. There are real stakes here, not just for Stephen Strange, but for the entire world of magic, and I cannot wait to see where it goes.