As the final issue before Legacy begins we find Doctor Strange and Zelma Stanton trawling the depths of New Yorks abandoned 76th Street subway on a twofold mission to teach his new apprentice about an ancient temple whilst also on the lookout for more mystical artefacts. What follows is a confrontation with three beings possessed of a seemingly demonic force of Mignolaesque proportion
DOCTOR STRANGE #26
Writer: John Barber
Artist: Niko Henrichon
Cover Artists: Jakub Rebelka
Colorist: Niko Henrichon
Publisher: Marvel Comics
What You Need to Know:
Where previously Doctor Strange has become somewhat reduced in defensive power due to actions taken by his new apprentice coupled with the weakening of the magical realm he is now on the search for as many mystical artifacts as he can find to strengthen his position. In a recent encounter with a girl who he had previously dealt with and forgotten about much to his peril, he was faced with the realization that his past decisions haven’t always been the best.
What You’ll Find Out:
The opening sequence takes place eons ago in an undisclosed location deep in the earth, when a trio of mages known collectively as the Thaumaturge Trivium, called Maarika, Varkath and the other unnamed, are being ruthlessly hunted down by a malevolent force as they stumble upon its domain and can only wait and prepare themselves as they hear the sinister beings loud approach via the thrum of its heartbeat, wait in the darkness and facing a fate unknown.
What follows is the present day arrival in seemingly the same location of Doctor Strange and Zelma Stanton in what is apparently a typical back and forth of the teacher imparting knowledge and the student who has heard it all before and makes the mistake of not listening, a trait which never ends well. Whilst searching the grounds of an abandoned subway station they encounter the very same foreboding noise the previous travelers heard.
Beset by the three now possessed beings they do battle with nothing more than a torch and a book of spells in an attempt to discover what they are facing. As Strange comes to the realization of who they have stumbled across he takes Zelma by the hand and runs deeper into the catacombs explaining to her who they are and at the same time spells out some of the grey areas of being a Sorcerer Supreme. As their enemies approach, he commands Zelma to stand back as he physically confronts the thousand-year-old animated burning corpses and attempts to relieve one of them of his sword and discover if they are soul corrupted or truly possessed while she forms incantations to draw their attention and maneuver them to a more defensible position. Strange himself attempts to communicate with the inner being believing them to be incorruptible souls who can fight back from their possession. When this falls on deaf ears he takes more drastic measures and allows himself to also become possessed. Whilst he battles the threat from within attempting to overwhelm it Zelma does battle herself and arms herself with the sword ready to do her worst if he fails. But the Doctor prevails and the three trapped souls turn and leave in peace without a word or a backward glance. The school day is not over, however, as our trusty allies pick up their belongings, torch, ax, and cloak and forge deeper looking for more artifacts and lessons.
What Just Happened?
In what could have simply played out as yet another filler issue and allowed us all to tread water we are invited to the back and forth of two people who are coming to terms with each other and their places in the world they live in and share together. Zelma is at times sassy and funny and Stephen is fatherly without being patronizing. Part buddy movie and part character exposition, the constant ribaldry coupled with dark humor are all going forward well enough and I only hope the next arc with the forthcoming face off with Loki will be in the same league. If the dialogue they share so far continues with the God of mischief we are in for a treat.
Final Thought: As with the issues before Strange is constantly learning while also teaching and it seems as though he is becoming better for the lesson. The art here is very reminiscent of Mike Mignola and this is no bad thing as it lends itself heavily to a battle with the same forces Hellboy faces on a regular basis. I’m seriously loving the art as well as the interplay between the two characters and am learning a lot about Doctor Strange as a person in a way I’ve never been privy to before.