Not Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie: (Doctor Strange #382 Comic Review)

While Loki tries to break down literal barriers and get closer to Zelma, Strange seems to have finally had enough of his house sitter. Schmoozing with his apprentice might just be the final straw and Stephen will literally climb mountains before he allows that to happen.

Writer-Donny Cates
Artist-Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Colorist-Jordie Bellaire
Publisher-Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:
Doctor Strange is no longer in residence in Bleeker Street…and Loki IS. When Loki isn’t attempting to break down a mystically sealed door in Doctor Strange’s house to gain access to a mythical spell he is strutting around telling all and sundry to come to him if they want anything done in the magic realm without personal cost. Meanwhile, Strange has taken somewhat of a sabbatical, much to the disgust of Wanda Maximoff and is playing doctor to the four-legged world…and talking to Basset Hounds.

What You’ll Find Out:
After a dramatic opening scene which finds a battered and bruised Strange climbing a mountain at the heart of a snowstorm to meet a man who he says doesn’t technically exist we cut to Bats the Basset Hound bursting in on Strange performing a veterinary examination on an arthritic cat in the company of the pensive couple of owners. Reporting in on his latest information gathering mission on Loki, Bats retires to the office leaving Stephen with the decidedly unenviable task of filling in the owners on his lack of true vet credentials. Strange barely ‘bats’ an eye and tries to downplay the fact his dog talks but his patient’s owners aren’t letting him off the hook and comedy gold ensues. Back in the office after the owners take their leave and their cat (unsurprisingly) Bats completes his mission and informs Strange of the goings on with Loki. When he learns of Loki and his plan to find the spell of Singhsoon Strange tells his spy that the supposed emergency shut off switch is nothing but a myth. Bats is relieved as he also heard Loki and his girlfriend are close to finding it. Strange balks at the label of girlfriend for Zelma and when Bats insists, Strange decides it’d be a good time to take the dog for a walk.

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The new Sorcerer Supreme is at this time using decidedly unmagical methods of trying to gain access to the locked room, opening fire with machine guns, which he informs a noise canceling headphoned Zelma are not simply guns but the property of Skurge the Executioner. Unimpressed and unable to understand his obsession she states she would help if she weren’t so bogged down in paperwork relating to a thorny issue regarding excommunicated Giggle Ticks. He informs her he’s already taken care of that and when she states her shock and worry at the cost of his frivolous attitude toward magic he exclaims he is at a loss as to why she doesn’t have more confidence and see herself as he does, more than an apprentice. As Strange arrives outside having invoked his astral form to approach his now floating abode and spy on Zelma and Loki he witnesses the pair in the window, kissing. As he abandons Bats to return to his body he narrates to us that there is more to it than simple jealousy. He quickly returns with a bag and his physical form. Informing us that in fact not only is the spell real and he was in possession of it all along, but he hates it and to avoid being tempted to use it has bound it to the unknowing souls of those he cherishes.

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Its current location can easily be guessed and Strange informs us that not only will it be revealed to Loki if Zelma opens her heart to him, but its removal will cause harm to her if done incorrectly. On some level, Loki may sense this as he is at this time telling Zelma he senses something different about her and is unaware of why he is attracted to her. Strange wastes no time in interrupting the pair on the pretext of wanting to talk to her alone. Angry at his recent unexplained departure she is having none of it and after a brief admonishing storms off. A scuffle with Loki sees Strange hurled from the house and into a parked car. Jumping to his defense Bats is held at bay by Loki by way of a restraining spell. Strange demands he releases the dog, stating he has a weak heart. Loki releases him but apparently too late. Loki tries to apologize but leaves not knowing how to deal with the situation.

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Now we are brought to the present and the drastic reason for Strange climbing a mountain in a snowdrift. Arriving at the top of his goal of a humble looking warmly lit house surrounded by a white picket fence Strange reasons that the fate of the Universe hangs in the balance. The man he has come to visit is none too pleased to see him and though Strange says the situation is dire, the unnamed man is worried about the cost of his involvement in world affairs. Strange assures him all that is in the past, reminding the recluse that the mountaintop home is an illusion, its all in his mind and realizing someone must truly be in danger the hermit calmly asks what he can do. As Strange touches a finger to his forehead he simply says he can change, as he, in fact, isn’t there for him. He needs his alter ego.

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What Just Happened?
So, this issue starts at the end. In a world full of flashbacks and interludes in storytelling this at first annoyed me. Much like the last issue where we still have a huge chunk of backstory missing and the whole status shift of Loki and Strange, too many questions arose. But like the STILL untold story of why that happened (I’m guessing it is all going to play out in the final act) the pay off was well worth it. The final panel with Strange arriving at the end of his climb to find….who he found…was truly eye-opening and gives me faith that the reasons for Strange allowing Loki to be doing what he is will be very intriguing. The drama here is only barely topped by the comedic dialogue of our doggy detective and his scene-stealing entry into the examination room. How Bats isn’t a Pet Avenger yet is beyond me.

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The sight of Loki using machine guns (recently seen in Thor: Ragnarok, another nod to the movie as last issue and the grudge between Loki and Strange) while Zelma talks LOUDLY wearing noise-canceling headphones is priceless. Donny Cates comedy intertwines well here with drama as Loki gets closer than he realizes to his goal and the possible risks to Zelma are revealed to us. Some serious revelations going on here. Zelma as the repository for the very thing Loki is searching for as well as Strange and his trek to enroll the aid of a past ally are both very interesting twists in the tale here. Also, I am a BIG fan of Bats the Basset Hound and Gabriel Hernandez Walta draws him beautifully, giving plaintive looks while talking to Strange that melt the heart and I for one will find it near impossible to forgive Loki for what happens later even though it was unintentional. I almost relish and welcome what he clearly has come to him.

Rating: 9/10

Final Thought: As comebacks go this one has just come out of left field. Logan seems to have left the door wide open when he returned and now not only Xavier, Jean, Adam Warlock and Bruce are returning but they will be joined by another Marvel powerhouse. And with this one having a track record of being a God-killer Loki had better watch out.

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