Doctor Strange #1-2
Issue(s): Doctor Strange #1, Doctor Strange #2
Issue #1 starts with an intro that shows Dr. Strange facing a new horror as just part of his everyday duties...
...while his assistant Wong's new fiancee Imei watches a videotape of a newscast showing a funeral for Dr. Strange. The funeral was part of the illusionary spell that Strange cast to make the world believe he was dead while he went hunting the elder demons. Imei remarks on the fact that Strange's spell was so powerful that it not only affected memories but left physical evidence such as this.
The intro also recaps the Gillis run to date, and provides an introduction to Clea. It shows us that whenever Strange things of Clea he experiences intense pain and confusion. This might seem to be due to grief over her decision to leave him, but we'll learn later that it's actually because Dormammu is preventing Strange from reaching out to Clea for help.
After a little time reintroducing the supporting cast of Wong, Imei, and Sara Wolfe (who has become friendly with Imei despite formerly having romantic interest in Wong herself), the story begins in earnest when Dr. Strange wakes up sensing an innocent being attacked by a demonic force. His physical form is exhausted by his earlier battle with that worm on the island, so he sends his astral form, but finds that the demon and the victim were both an illusion meant to lure him away.
He returns to his bedroom to find that Dormammu has taken possession of his physical body.
Strange activates his Amulet of Agamotto...
...and uses the opportunity to escape. Dormammu sends the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak after him.
Strange tries to get help from Kaluu, but he's not home. He casts Mirror Image to avoid the Cyttorak bands, but eventually gets caught by one of them. To get free he sinks into the Earth, eventually reaching the abandoned Morlock tunnels. With all of the effort he's expended, his astral form has shrunk, so he enters the body of a rat.
It's already been established that someone can be out of their physical body for one day, so Strange needs to work quickly to get back into his real body. And so the first issue of this series ends pretty awesomely, in my opinion.
The Case/Emberlin art was pretty good in the Strange Tales book, but i find it improved with the higher quality production values of the new $1.50 series.
In the next issue, Dormammu terrifies Dr. Strange's servants (and notice also that Strange's eyepatch is now no longer needed)...
...and Wong observes that he's neglected the new magical artifacts that Strange has collected, including the Wings of Needless Sorrow.
While Doctor Strangerat tries to figure out who he might contact for help (Strange obviously is not aware of the statuses of a number of these characters)...
...Dormammu floats about Manhattan and comes across the Four Freedoms Plaza. Sensing the presence of the Negative Zone portal, he folds the building into the folds of the world's fabric, so that no interference can come from that dimension.
Strange decides that he should contact the Earth goddess, Gaea, for help, and goes to Central Park where he'll be able to find the best connection with her. While there, he encounters the frogs from the Frog of Thunder issue.
Strange calls on the teachings of Merlin and Doolittle to help him communicate with the frogs, and convinces them to help him contact Gaea.
There's no immediate response, which Strangerat attributes to her being weakened by the attack of Shuma-Gorath plus a current disturbance "away south" that a footnote attributes to recent issues of X-Men.
As Strangerat heads back to his home, there's another reference to Inferno.
Don't know if that "Louise" is meant to be Louise Simonson and if so who the guy is.
Dormammu is also looking for allies, and calls in the demonic elements from this universe. Among a number of bizarre entities, including "The Great Many", there is a Dire Wraith sorceress that avoided the attack on Earth and therefore wasn't banished.
There's also a creature that was once a Sorcerer Supreme, or at least held the Eye and Orb of Agamotto.
But it turns out that creature "discovered that the fight was not worth the prize -- that good and evil were terms for others -- not me", and so it's now willing to join Dormammu in his quest to "destroy the lords of order on this plane - bring the Celestials down, burning in the Flame of Faltine".
It's also interesting to see Dormammu, in one of the panels above, talk about "the power that was given to mankind" which was previously? also? given to a number of races including that Great Many, and also the Elan, which is the name of the race of the Infant Terrible that once attacked the Fantastic Four. Not sure if that's a coincidence or what the implications are.
As Strange makes it home, he's met by Topaz, who was sent by Gaea.
Strange then makes it into his home and to the Wings of Needless Sorrow, but it turns out Dormammu left that stuff in place as a lure.
Strangerat still does battle with Dormammu...
...and while he's initially hit by Dormammu's spells, he remanifests as the light of godhead - ultimate order.
Dorammu blasts the light, which turns out to be what Strange wanted, because he's able to use the energy to reform his astral self. The battle continues...
..and Strange summons Clea. Dormammu initially thinks it's Umar.
While Strange and Clea battle Dormammu, Topaz, a healer, comes in and "heals" the "infection" of Dormammu in Strange's body.
It does the trick, at least banishing Dormammu from the body and leaving him with no physical form. Strange gets back into himself just as his 24 hours are up.
Topaz decides to keep the rat.
A nice use of Dormammu in an unusual setting for him, and great magic battles from Richard Case. It's nice to see something a little more traditional and less dark after the Strange Tales stories, and i really love how Peter Gillis uses just a ton of elements of the greater Marvel universe throughout these two issues. Really great stuff and i'm disappointed that Gillis only stayed on for two more issues now that we're into a regular length format.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is not an official Inferno tie-in, but the cover of issue #2 and Inferno references inside place this during Inferno, most likely during an ebb where the Limbo demons aren't showing themselves to a great degree. I've therefore placed this after X-Terminators #1 but near the Spider-Man issues that i've also had to place during Inferno even though we don't see signs of it there.
None of the frogs are named, so i'm unsure if Puddlegulp or Princess Greensong should be included here.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
The physical evidence left behind by Strange's spell is weird- so everyone remembers Strange as having died circa Secret Wars II 9 but everyone also remembers Strange having delivered Wanda's children months later. I know, if it made sense, it wouldn't be magic.
Posted by: Michael | August 10, 2014 7:19 PM
I'm really liking Richard Case's art. I thought he peaked on "Doom Patrol," especially when inking himself, but he's hitting all the buttons here. I know I still have these issues somewhere in storage, and am itching to look at them again when I get the chance.
I've completely blanked out the first four issues of Dr. Strange's new title, but these two remind me that it was pretty good after all. A decent Dormammu story, that incorporated the entire Marvel universe (your mileage may vary on whether or not it was successful) as "Inferno" started... Reading this piece, I was in fanboy heaven.
And, this may sound weird (like anything else I write doesn't sound weird) I particularly like the way Doc faked his death and specifically tied it to "Secret Wars II" and his one brief encounter with the Beyonder. The X-Men spent years pretending to be dead, but how they died was quickly forgotten. With Doc, it was always an encounter with the Beyonder, everyone nods, says 'what a shame' and moves on. And Doc even helpfully left video for us to look up on Youtube.
Posted by: ChrisW | August 10, 2014 11:34 PM
That's weird, I thought that "See recent issues of the X-Men" footnote was a reference to Inferno itself. That next panel where they talk about the heat-wave and the sky tearing itself apart sounds a lot like the portal opening over Times Square, though it may be the storm we see building in Web of Spider-Man #47 that takes place before the portal opens. The graveyard where N'astirh is casting his spells may be causing the "some disturbance away south" of Central Park...
I'm guessing Four Freedoms Plaza is restored when Dormamu is expelled from Strange's body? When do you think that moment takes place for the FF and are they home when it happens?
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | August 11, 2014 2:35 AM
@Michael - i'm the Anti-Mephisto. Instead of undoing people's marriages, i marry everyone. Fixed that, thanks.
@Jay - I'm sure the "recent issues" footnote was meant to be pointing to the Dec and Jan issues of X-Men, which would be actual Inferno issues. But the fact that it's a vague reference helps me place this into what i think has to be an "ebb" in Inferno, because here's Dormammu actively going around sealing off this dimension (the Negative Zone portal) but he doesn't even comment on a gaping portal to Limbo? The heatwave had been going on for some time, and i think the sky tearing itself open could be a reference to the events of these issues, since we see the sky aflame due to Dormammu. I could easily move this into 1989 to go concurrently with specific X-Men issues when i get there, but i think it works better this way.
We don't actually see the FF building getting restored, but i assume you're correct. It's not said if any of the FF are home, and Dormammu says that if they were in the building they wouldn't even notice the effect unless they tried to leave, so i don't think it needs to be a placement consideration. So this will land between FF #321-322 but that's just the way it'll happen to fall.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 11, 2014 7:50 AM
Meant to add: I did consider that Dormammu's "native" reference might be a reference to his vow to stay off Earth, but he seemed to be implying something else here, like because he was (re-)born in this dimension he's now godly force for this universe instead of (or in addition to?) the Dark Dimension.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 11, 2014 10:08 AM
Bringing the Wings of Needless Sorrow back to our attention at this point was probably meant to tease the possibility of Doc falling down into the abyss again.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 7, 2014 4:43 PM
Since the Elan can warp reality, perhaps the gift of power refers to the sort of thing Rick Jones and Franklin Richards can do, which has repeatedly been stated as the "potential" of all humanity over the years.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 28, 2015 9:18 PM
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