As Strange succumbs to the tender mercies of Mephisto and his use of a Thunder God for an enforcer, Wong gathers together a rag tag team who may be uniquely qualified to deal with the fall out of his hubris.
DOCTOR STRANGE: DAMNATION #2
Author: Donny Cates & Nick Spencer
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover: Rod Reis
Publisher: Marvel Comics
What You Need to Know:
After bringing back the fallen Las Vegas Strange has unfortunately invoked the ire of Mephisto. Unaware the heroes he met on arrival have been possessed along with the people of Vegas, he agrees to a game of chance with the Lord of Hell. Upon being discovered attempting to cheat he is first tortured by the gathered demons and then punished by having his legs broken by Mephisto’s new heavy, a Ghost Rider-esque possessed Thor. As Strange suffers at the hands of Mephisto, Wong sets in motion a rescue plan thanks to a warning from Strange’s ghost dog Bats and gathers a select team of individuals with a particular skill set.
What You’ll Find Out:
After a brief recap of the events in Doctor Strange #386, where the good Doctor muses on his dilemma and that he could use some friendly assistance, we are treated to Wong and Bats attempting to do just that, as they search a hooligan (and vampire) infested back-street pub looking for Blade. Followed by the summoning of Elsa Bloodstone, Iron Fist, Moon Knight, Brother Voodoo, Man-Thing and Ghost Rider, the group retire to Bleeker Street where Wong fills them all in on current events in Vegas. Outlining field assignments laid out in a folder in front of each of them, he goes on to explain the plan. But not before the obligatory Q and A session and some severe doubts from each about the others qualifications, including Elsa diminishing the importance of a vampire hunter like Blade by pointing out there aren’t that many around, to which Blade replies “you’re welcome”.
After some interesting back and forth within the team, Wong calls the meeting to order and goes on to inform them of the reasons for his choices. Firstly as marked individuals, they are all not without sin. Secondly, he believes they are the only choice and finally, should they fall he believes he could take them down if they get added to the ranks of the lost. Then he, in turn, offers them a choice. Go with him and help or leave, via one of the many exits within the house, back to where he found them. But to add emphasis to his argument he reminds all assembled to ask themselves if Strange would even hesitate to help them all. Then due to Jericho pointing out Man-Thing’s inability to read, Wong still has to verbalize the plan anyway. Basically, everyone runs interference while he and Bats go to save Stephen. Which brings us to…
Upon arriving in Vegas Blade doesn’t waste the opportunity to point out to Elsa that there seem to be a lot of monsters present which must surely pain her, but gets a little distracted by being pinned by a flying hammer. The Ghost Avengers have arrived in a hail of fiery arrows courtesy of Hawkeye. With Blade out of action, it is soon also revealed the possessed heroes are immune to Brother Voodoo’s magic. But just as all seems lost the cavalry arrives in the form of a cement truck, hurled into the mix by Ben Reilly AKA the Scarlet Spider. Cue looks of dumbfounded shock from the team (well, the ones standing anyway) before Ghost Rider notices Wong has disappeared.
Speaking of whom, the retreating Wong is also wondering who would be mad enough to pull a stunt like throwing a cement truck. As he and Bats make their way towards the tower, Bats asks what will happen to the team and Wong reminds him that they are all fulfilling a task and they must press on with their own mission. He doesn’t need to worry about finding Strange though. Strange has found them.
What Just Happened?
Though the focus has shifted and Strange is “strangely” absent most of this issue the writing here was engaging and not distracting, or making me wonder what had even happened to him. Scarlet Spider entering the scene like a true hero at the last second was nothing short of inspirational. And also Strange’s arrival at the end is no less powerful, or dramatic given his new status along with the other possessed heroes. Switching the drama from Strange last issue to Wong and his team this issue was perfect and not disjointed as it could easily have been and came off perfectly. As with the roster change, the artist has also changed and although I for one loved Rod’s work, Szymon is proving more than capable himself. His rendition of Elsa reminds me of the art of Patrick Nagel at his finest (specifically his art for Duran Duran’s album cover Rio) something only once closely approached by Jae Lee in his X-Cutioner’s Song arc on Uncanny X-Men.
Bats is in fine dog form here, again doing what dogs do, much to the disgust of Man-Thing. Ghost Rider paying for gas and getting a scratch card is just as hilarious to me as is his jealousy of Danny Rand at the meeting table. Careful Johnny, jealousy is a sin and an infraction which can get you a little demonized and hot-headed over in Vegas….oh, wait, sorry, never mind. Similarly, Mister/Moon Knight asking Jericho to clarify who Elsa is calling a psychopath is laugh worthy and all the comedic one-liners don’t take away from the drama here. The only thing missing is Elsa Bloodstone’s patented cursing by way of emoticons.
So Wong is an Arsenal fan? I knew I liked him. And Tottenham fans are vampires? This also explains a lot. Tottenham til I Die (also an Arsenal football fan chant) was originally a song called ‘I am H.A.P.P.Y’ from a British hospital TV sitcom show called Only When I Laugh so the black humor this issue is fitting.
A bald man recruits a gang of super-powered misfits to fight a menace no one else can defeat. Welcome to Professor W and the…wait, no, this isn’t an x-title. A shame all the mutants are busy. Magik. Just saying. She would be invaluable here. It is a great team however and I do love a good recruitment drive issue and this is on a par with some of the best.
Has Man-Thing ever attended a table briefing before? Does Wong know PowerPoint? Was Scarlet Spider intentionally channeling Kyle Reece from Terminator with that “come with me if you want to live” line? These are some of the questions I need to know the answer to! Speaking of questions, any and all questions the assembled heroes ask are probably the same we’ve been asking ourselves so it’s good to have them cleared up, especially regarding Sentry and Wanda. Also although the recap at the start is doubled up by Strange and Wong, it is far from repetitive and it’s vital we see how Wong perceives things too in order to inform why he has selected the group in the first place and what their motives are as well as his plan. As usual, the dialogue is top notch here even in the heat of battle. This game keeps getting more and more interesting as it unfolds.
Final Thought: With so many changes from last issue it could have been a struggle to keep things ticking but an admirable job was done by all concerned from artist to writing team. Keep it up, guys.
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