The reason for Loki holding the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme is finally revealed and in a bid to save the life and possibly soul of his apprentice Strange takes the offensive on a visit to Asgard…with a God Killer as his secret weapon.
DOCTOR STRANGE #383
Artist-Gabriel Hernandez Walta
What You Need to Know:
Loki is getting close to Zelma and doesn’t realize he’s also getting close to discovering the location of the Exile of Singhsoon spell he’s been looking for. Meanwhile Stephen Strange has decided enough is enough and after the accidental death of his friend Bats takes matters into his own hands and has enlisted the aid of the Sentry, last seen taking the Celestial Executioner into space, to help him take down Loki once and for all.
What You’ll Find Out:
At last, we finally witness the events that brought about the status change of our beloved Doctor and the God of Mischief and Lies, Loki Laufeyson. Strange stands as the lone victor over several fallen sorcerers. He is observed by The Vishanti, in the form of Oshtur the Omnipotent, Hoary Hoggoth and Agamotto the All-Seeing and the tournament Strange has talked about for the last three issues are over. Every three or so decades the tournament takes place and this being the third he has attended he has just discovered it is one he has now inexplicably lost. In their wisdom, the Vishanti have seen fit to bestow the title on someone else. That someone is Loki. As shocked as Strange is by this turn of events it can only match the seeming surprise of Loki himself. Regardless the triumvirate have decreed a mortal is no longer fit to fulfil the role and appoint Loki the role in his place, to which Loki has his doubts stating he only came to watch the “wizarding cup” but is interrupted to be told that despite his past he has the qualities they seek of atonement, restraint, caution, and regret and warn he will need these qualities to face what is to come. Strange asks what that means and is told it doesn’t concern him. When he interrupts again he is resoundingly admonished by Agamotto and is joined by Oshtur and Hoggoth who tell him the very attitude he is displaying is that which have lost him the title, especially given the times he has so clearly let them down and ask if he truly believes he is fit to bear the title.
Which brings us to the present situation and the need Strange has for calling in the big guns. As they walk down a snowy suburban street past houses lit by Christmas lights Strange recounts his loss and the Sentry takes all this information in and comes to the same conclusion as many before him, Strange is taking things personally as not only has he had to give up his house but also his girlfriend, which Stephen again disputes. As they discuss the matter further they hash out his motives, whether its the house, the death of Bats, the loss of cloak and title, the tournament, or Zelma or the reasons Strange insists, the destruction of the Magical Realm and possibly Multiverse. Strange does admit it’s a little about the dog. On top of all this, the Sentry worries about the return of his alter ego, the Void. For every act of good, he performs the Void will counter a hundred times worse in return. Strange assures him there is no danger of this and offers the small consolation that what they are to do can hardly be called good.
Finally arriving at the door of a nondescript house Strange rings the bell to be answered by none other than Wong, who welcomes them by simply declaring the plan Strange has in mind is the dumbest thing he’s heard of from Strange, which is apparently saying something, while greeting the Sentry without even missing a beat. Going on to calmly declare it will be the death of Strange he is interrupted by Robert declaring his surprise that Wong knows the plan already and asks if they have a psychic connection. Strange reveals it was nothing as exotic and he simply sent him a text. Wong says it was a bit more than texting and after hinting it was borderline stalking hands over a scroll containing a spell Strange asked him for. Informing him it cost him on the dark web goblin market and is going to bill him. After Strange says that he could have used his own account as he paid extra for delivery and asks when Wong is coming back, Wong answers by repeating the question to him. Strange doesn’t answer so much as change the subject and reminds Wong to keep to the plan. Wong points out that he knows Stephen is putting on a brave face and asks him when he gets where he intends to go he ensure he doesn’t go into things showing arrogance Asgard doesn’t abide that attitude.
Across the Rainbow Bridge Strange arrives alone at the door of Odin’s throne room to discuss Loki only to find the current position filled by Cul Borson, Odin’s brother. Cul is equally displeased to see Strange. Grabbing him by the neck he demands to know how the trespasser got there. Apparently this was the reason for visiting Wong earlier, the spell was to hide him from Heimdall and he goes on to inform Cul this is the least of his worries and he mentions the angry blond god he has following behind, assuring him it isn’t Thor, who will act as a distraction while Strange dematerialises in front of the stunned God and goes on to improvise as the Sentry makes a grand entrance.
It would appear Strange was hoping to talk to Odin and not to use the Sentry here as his role is still to be revealed in the plan. While he had considered Thor for this part, he realized she would not approve and the Sentry was the most logical choice given his past. The Empirical has depleted his magic to such a degree he has need of that of Asgard as it is almost limitless and he just wants to borrow a little. While Sentry causes a ruckus in the Halls of Asgard Strange sneaks into the company of Yggdrasil and implores the World Tree to hear his plight and that Loki is going to hurt someone he loves and is desperate. Touching the trunk of the tree a third eye appears on his forehead and the tree seems to communicate with him. He understands the tree requires a trade and he offers the shrouded body of Bats the Basset hound. As tendrils reach out to claim the prize Strange also is lifted up and the tree speaks.
Released as suddenly as he was grasped, Strange kneels prostrate before the World Tree and marvels that he feels more magic coursing through him that he has ever felt before, wondering if he is even mortal any more he believes himself to be the God of Magic. And vows to get his cloak back.
What Just Happened?
Thankfully this begins with a well-needed flashback (how I hate those but it’s been a long time coming here) Loki dismissing the importance of the tournament to that of Wizarding Cup is genius. The meeting with the Vishanti crackles with energy and I loved the little visual of having Loki steady Strange after receiving his telling off from Agamotto and Strange’s wide-eyed shock at his treatment by the Vishanti. It seems the mighty truly have fallen and he is no longer the favorite son. I wonder maybe if Loki is feeling a little sorry for him here as he recognizes what he is feeling. Maybe the humility will do Strange good and he can better understand and see the lot Loki has had to live with most of his life… judging by the final scene maybe not. The visual of Strange and Sentry on Wong’s doorstep is equal parts heart-warming and hilarious as Wong dispels any mystery of their communication methods, virtually accusing Strange of cyberbullying and some foreshadowing is apparent in Wong’s warning as they say goodbye. The visuals are stunning in the meeting with Strange and Yggdrasil as well as his crossing the bridge and Sentry letting loose in the Halls of Asgard, Cates, and Walta make a great team here and Bellaire has the right blend of dark and mysterious and switching to iridescent colors for the crossing to Asgard.
Since the arc started it has been nothing but consistent and mixes subtle humor with the mystery of the magical in a way that has made me miss this kind of narrative for a long time now. Keep it up guys….however, no appearance of the lady Zelma this whole issue? Wong was a suitable replacement but she needs much more page space, especially as we no longer have Bats. One point lost from Gryffindor!
The image of Strange giving up the body of Bats as an offering to the World Tree is tragic and somehow apt given it was Loki who caused the death in the first place. Strange may well have taken the bull by the horns here as he grapples with magic he has barely reckoned with and I wonder if the solution is worse than the problem. Magic this big must surely come at a cost….as we have already been warned.
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