Strange must literally make a deal with a devil to escape the Nothing Realm he is trapped in. But dare he risk unleashing Dormammu from his prison to wreak another hell on Earth?
DOCTOR STRANGE #389
Author: Donny Cates
Artist: Niko Henrichon
Colors: Laurent Grossat
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover: Mike Del Mundo
Publisher: Marvel Comics
What You Need to Know:
Becoming trapped in a Necrotic Sub Realm whilst chasing after his former wife Clea, Strange is accompanied by his faithful ghost dog Bats and encounters the trapped souls of Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Hawkeye, Falcon, and Thor. Alongside Jane Foster, who is separated from Thor in the nether realm, the heroes are almost defeated battling Shuma-Gorath, the self-proclaimed ruler, and are saved by the timely arrival of another Lord of Hell, Dormammu. NOTE: These events take place concurrently with those of Doctor Strange: Damnation #4.
What You’ll Find Out:
No stranger to the cost of magic Stephen ponders the events that led him to the position he now finds himself in, and we find how it came to be that Mephisto was the lucky devil who got to invest in some prime real estate in Las Vegas. While Strange was busy raising the destroyed city from the rubble, the ruling Lords of Hell, Nightmare, Dormammu, Shuma-Gorath and Mephisto spotted a loophole in the form of a very large rip in dimensional magic, which led to them battling each other for the right to cross through the gateway in the Necrotic dimension and raise some hell on Earth.
The result of which was Mephisto becoming the victor and trapping the others in the Necro Realm and adding insult to injury barring their way home to their respective dominions. It becomes apparent that he is relating this information to someone sat opposite him in the decidedly un-hellish location of a diner, who admits it’s quite a story. He agrees and says that he’s unsure how much of it is true based on the source, that of Dormammu, which brings us back to the drama at hand. Dormammu catches us up to speed in time for Strange to shoot a bolt of energy at him and demand to know where his Clea is. As Strange’s allies hold back the Mindless Ones from aiding their master Dormammu tells him if his niece was there he would know and that Mephisto has tricked him. As he gets up he goes on to declare none of them are strong enough alone to escape but if they help each other they can succeed, which Strange doesn’t like.
Strange believes Dormammu wants Strange to open the portal so that he may gain entry and attempt to get to Earth, which is, of course, the very opposite of what Strange is tasked with doing and which Dormammu reminds him smugly isn’t going so well. Jane narrowly talks Strange down from resorting to fisticuffs and lays out the options as she sees them. Dormammu interrupts and claims he doesn’t want to tackle Earth…today. Mephisto has made claim to that and he just wants to go home. As Strange looks clearly unconvinced Hawkeye pipes up and reminds them that there are others who have a stake in this and the Avengers should have a private discussion, without Dormammu. As they walk off Strange leaves Bats in charge and tells him to kill him if he tries anything.
As Bats seems to be digging himself a hole the heroes finish conferring and return just as Bats worries on what he’s just said. Strange takes charge and tells Dormammu they agree to his deal but there will be conditions. After being reminded by his allies that those don’t include Thor breaking Dormammu’s legs he relents and tells him that after he sends them home, then he will return Dormammu home. Dormammu is surprised he intends to stay there alone with him and Strange asks if they have a deal. Before he can answer the ground shakes beneath them, which Strange takes as a bad omen and Dormammu says it isn’t him. Seems he is telling the truth. Shuma-Gorath and Nightmare have come back. Maybe Shuma wants revenge on Dormammu for beating him last time, or maybe their grudge from the Empirikul incident is still a sore point between them. Or as Dormammu claims he can just smell Strange. It’s now or never.
As they begin to open the gateway Dormammu tells Strange to hurry up and Strange points out he is missing an arm, as he isn’t fully formed in this dimension. Dormammu fixes it with a dig about Strange’s lack of imagination and they finish the task ‘at hand’. After checking everyone is ready he turns and blasts Dormammu, knocking him on his back. As Dormammu blusters about the deal, Jane makes it clear they went another way. Apparently, they make a deal with another devil. Hawkeye tells Strange to go and leave them to hold the fort, while Dormammu screams a promise to pay him back for the affront, as Strange crosses back to Vegas. We finally discover who it is that Strange has met for lunch, none other than the woman he went to Hell and back to rescue, Clea. Like us, she is left with just the cliff notes what happens next.
As he smoothly avoids spoiling the plot of the Damnation finale, just hinting at the role Johnny Blaze plays, he moves on to the reason for meeting her, in that after all that happened he wanted to check she was okay, she confirms all is well and she asks why Mephisto used her image to trick him. Strange downplays this as out of date info, but she isn’t so sure. He confesses that it may be because she is the one person he’d believe would to come to help as she is the one person he hasn’t let down, adding lately. Clea tells him to stop feeling sorry for himself, that he just told her of all his friends who came to help when he needed. Going on, as only an ex can do, to point out the terrible shape he’s in and his bad personal grooming. In his defense he says it’s been a terrible year and she isn’t fooled, reminding him that life was never easy for him, what makes this so different. It dawns on her that it must be a woman and that had Mephisto used her instead Strange would still be trapped. As she gets up to go she gives him some advice. Go home, shower, shave and call the woman who so clearly has him in this state.
What Just Happened?
I never get tired of the opening narrative of the events in Strange’s life. They are so wonderfully…strange. If it’s not Bats the ghost dog talking about how he managed to possess the body of his master, it’s Stephen himself comparing the price paid for hitting someone to that of raising the inhabitants of a city from the dead. Especially the bizarre method where it all comes to light, recounting the whole event in a nice heart to heart discussion, in a diner, over a nice meal, with the ex-wife. With all the drama he has faced since Loki it is easy to forget he has this personal issue still to resolve. I for one have been wondering where the hell Zelma was and now he has Bats back I have wanted to see the double act they would make and the strife they could cause Stephen between them. But that’s the least of it and is all still to come. The only thing I didn’t like about what Clea said was the shaving of the beard. I hope he doesn’t listen to that part as it’s a good look for him.
The wrap up of the arc was spectacularly understated but rewarding nonetheless. From Hawkeye declaring an Avengers meeting and not wanting to offend the Magical Super Villain in the room to Bats staring down the forces of a Hell dimension, the humor is knife-edge sharp and is countered with the best balance of drama. The way Strange tried to make Dormammu believe the deal included Thor breaking his legs for revenge was chuckle-worthy. Even the little moment Dormammu claims innocence for the ground shaking as Shuma-Gorath returns is funny in a not out of place way. That added to his insinuation Shuma-Gorath can smell the stink of Strange, the snide comment about Strange’s lack of imagination and snarky dig about Strange not doing his job of keeping Earth safe from Mephisto, makes me kind of like him.
The creative team has done it again. Right from the Usual Suspects cover offered by the incomparable Mike Del Mundo you know it’s going to be a riot of a read. Then Donny Cates gives us a battle of wits with Strange and Dormammu…not to mention good old Bats and an ending free of Damnation-spoilers that still manages to satisfy. Topped off with Niko Henrichon’s art and the visuals of a Nether dimension battle between four Hell Lords this was a stunning wrap up of the saga. Again Laurent Grossat has what it takes to show Niko’s art in all it’s glory and the intercut everyday scene at the diner with Strange and Clea in so comforting and reassuring a setting is an interesting counterpoint, reminding us all what the other heroes aren’t privy to in their war zone. The addition of Bats and co helping and playing such a crucial role in the victory Strange has and again the sacrifice his friends make for the greater good is equal parts touching and tragic. We will all have to read Damnation #4 to see how that plays out. I’m sure it has an equally satisfying pay-off.
Final Thought: Nothing like a friendly meal with the ex to sort out your priorities.
Follow us on Twitter, and Like us on Facebook! Subscribe to us on YouTube!
Join our Age of Social Media Network consisting of X-Men, Marvel, DC, Superhero and Action Movies, Anime, Indie Comics, and numerous fan pages. Interested in becoming a member? Join us by clicking here and pick your favorite group!
User Review( votes)