By Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo, Java Tartaglia, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, John Livesay, Wayne Faucher, Victor Olazaba, Jaime Mendoza, and VC’s Cory Petit
As the gothic, Fall of the House of Usher reminiscent cover emanates an ominous tone, this issue marks the beginning of the “Last Days of Magic” event. Really, the past five issues have been building up to this, but no need to get technical when the story is this compelling! A militaristic force known as the Empirikul are hellbent on wiping magic out of existence in every reality. Now, they have come to Stephen Strange’s dimension and wage an all-out assault. As the masters of magic make their stand against the science-centric warriors, Strange puts it all on the line…
To be honest, Marvel’s titles are not the majority in my holdbox currently, but if their other books are as inventive and “out-there” as Doctor Strange is, then I’ll have to reevaluate some things. Granted, this is the kind of material one would expect from this character, but Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo constantly test the limits of the medium that make turning every page into a fanciful treat. From seeing a two-page spread detailing the various magical conflicts across the globe to Earth-shattering transformations, readers will never know what these creatives will present from one panel to the next. A talent of Aaron’s is his ability to write detailed, informative narration/dialogue while keeping it succinct. It’s done in such an organic, conversational fashion that it doesn’t feel like he’s spoon-feeding his audience. It’s the kind of work that suits the fast paced nature that the team has set for this comic. It’s a real breath of fresh air.
How Bachalo is able to come up with some of the ridiculously imaginative pages and character designs is mind-boggling. His style may not be traditionally refined or consistent, but his talent is undeniable with this issue in particular. The four pages that chronicle the final act of Doctor Strange’s battle with the leader of the Empirikul, Lord Imperator, is some of the best sequential art this reviewer has ever experienced. Period. The artwork feels as if 3-D glasses are needed to fully experience this comic, which, let’s be honest, would be pretty freakin’ awesome! (That’s my freebie to you, Marvel).
Now, Chris has colored his artwork the past five issues, but Java Tartaglia is credited in this issue as well. What his exact contribution(s) is to this issue may be unclear (possibly the backup stories), but from start to finish the coloring techniques implemented to render the magic of Marvel are pitch-perfect. Bachalo, in particular, knows when to restrain the palette or deliver the pain with reds and oranges to deliver the maximum impact for beats taking place within the panels.
Doctor Strange continues to break boundaries and deliver twists most becoming of the Sorcerer Supreme. This creative team perfectly suits the character and is adept at bringing fresh nuances to his established persona and mythology. This may be the start of the last days of magic, but it’s clear this is only the beginning of the return of Doctor Strange.