Doctor Strange #14-18
Issue(s): Doctor Strange #14, Doctor Strange #15, Doctor Strange #16, Doctor Strange #17, Doctor Strange #18
Let's resurrect us some vampires!
Actually, that already happened when Dr. Strange's never before mentioned brother was found in a warehouse, and already a vampire. But that story has been sitting on hold while Roy and Dann Thomas played along with Acts of Vengeance. Now we are ready to get back to it.
Dr. Strange and Clea return from their fight with Arkon, apparently interrupting Morgana Blessing's calisthenics.
Another thing we've caught up to is the fact that Dr. Strange and Morgana had talked in issue #3, even though issue #10 acted like they hadn't talked since the previous Doctor Strange #79. It's too late to brush that aside now, so the Thomases are playing a longer game and making it a mystery.
Later, Morbius shows up to meet with Doctor Strange. Clea initially mistakes him for an enemy, and attacks, but when that's settled, Morbius explains that it was Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, that turned him back into a "living" vampire. Laveau is immortal thanks to a mystical process that involves drinking vampire blood, and she's become increasingly desperate to get blood since Dr. Strange eliminated vampires from the world. Morbius' science-vampirism is not like real vampirism, so transforming him didn't help her any, but she had a back-up plan. She was aware of Dr. Strange's brother Victor, and she knows that, in his early days, in an attempt to keep him alive, Strange uttered the Vampiric Verses from the Book of Vishanti. When Morbius confronts Strange with this, Strange admits that in the days before he became Sorcerer Supreme he tried a whole bunch of spells that he barely understood in an attempt to bring Victor back to life after the car crash.
Laveau had Morbius in chains at this point, and she mystically summoned Victor to her home in New Orleans as well. But Victor rebelled against his vampiric nature and fled, burning down Laveau's house and making it possible for Morbius to escape as well. That's how Morbius and Victor both wound up back in New York for issue #10.
You'll notice i didn't include any screenshots for the above expos dump. That's because these issues are illustrated by Butch Guice, and the panels are all just of Clea and Laveau lounging around in their underwear while the information is being provided. Feel free to sample some of the fashion magazines next time you're on line at the supermarket to get a taste for it.
I may also have glazed over an explanation for this, but i can't articulate exactly why Dr. Strange's spell in Doctor Strange #62, which not only destroyed all current vampires but made it impossible for new ones to appear, even from other dimensions or via time travel, somehow excluded Victor. I would have thought Victor would have been killed along with the rest of the vampires if he was already a vampire, or killed the instant he came out of suspended animation and became a vampire, or whatever. The gist of it is that the Vampiric Verses from the Book of Vishanti can counteract even the Montesi Formula from the Darkhold (doesn't this all seem kind of backwards? I mean, if the Vishanti's book discusses vampires at all, shouldn't it be the one that eliminates all vampires and vice versa for the Darkhold?), but beyond that let's just say "It's magic!" and move on.
At the end of #14, Morgana is attacked by Victor. He holds back from draining her blood, completely, though, and she's going to survive (and not become a vampire). But he also steals the Darkhold from Dr. Strange's house, the idea being that she'll prevent Dr. Strange from re-reciting the Montesi Formula after she has Victor create more vampires.
Morgana is able to sense Victor's location thanks to her run-in with him.
Morgana's connection with Victor is explicitly inspired by Mina Harker's long-distance connection with Dracula in Bram Stoker's novel. There's even a footnote.
By the way, i think Clea's dialogue in the above panel really sucks. The flippant humor from the earliest issues of the Thomas run has been dialed back, but stuff like that still occasionally slips through. Not the way i think Clea should be talking.
Morgana was actually coming back to Strange to get hypnotized to find out about her dual memory problem, and now Strange has an additional reason to delve into Morgana's mind. But first we get the double meeting problem out of the way. The first meeting from issue #3 is replayed, and then it comes out that it was really Clea, using a spell to pretend to be Strange, that met Morgana in that issue. She was jealous, you see. This was literally right after Strange gave her the equivalent of a wedding ring.
Ugh. *gag* Blech. Why is Clea being punished for Roy Thomas and his editors not having read issue #3?
Strange's "you didn't even act surprised" line is surely a dig at Peter Gillis' writing, but the original scene did not imply that it was the first time Stephen saw Morgana after returning.
Marie Laveau has used a golden Cupid arrow to enthrall Victor, and she's dressed him up in a Baron Blood costume. They've returned to New York at this point and they're attacked by Dr. Strange and his friends.
Clea is disabled with a lead Cupid arrow, which causes hate instead of love.
While Strange has his hands full fighting Clea, Morbius fights Victor, and gets taken over by bloodlust. Strange still doesn't want to see his brother killed, so he blasts Clea and then Morbius.
This allows Marie Laveau and her Baron Blood to escape to Haiti.
Clea is still under the effect of the lead arrow at the start of issue #16 (as Morgana poses for the camera)...
...so Dr. Strange contacts one of her followers, Rahl, and sends her home to the Dark Dimension where Dr. Strange won't be around to hate.
The remaining characters then travel down to Haiti and meet up with Brother Voodoo...
...before finding the castle where Laveau is drinking up her newly created vampire blood and/or posing for her latest photoshoot.
When Strange and his companions arrive, she casts a spell from the Darkhold to make it nighttime so Baron Blood and the new vampires he's created can come out.
Brother Voodoo's prescription for vampires is zombies.
The zombies tear the vampires to pieces, except for Baron Blood, who Strange still wants to keep alive. So Strange has to turn the zombies into dust. Laveau flees, leaving Baron Blood in control of his facilities.
We take a break from Guice's unusual brand of cheesecake for issue #17. Strange, Morbius, and Brother Voodoo travel to Marie Laveau's home in New Orleans (which i thought burned down, but i guess not) but find a demon thing waiting for them instead of her.
Meanwhile, Brother Voodoo has asked his manservant Bambu to take Morgana, Rintrah, and Baron Blood to his mansion in the Bayou. Baron Blood is tempted to drink Morgana's blood again, so he runs off into the woods to eat an alligator instead.
When the others get to Brother Voodoo's mansion, they find Laveau waiting for them. No problem, because Rintrah is there, right? Well Laveau has a minotaur of her own: Dragonus, summoned via the Darkhold.
Rintrah may be a minotaur, but he's also a sorcerer, so you'd think he wouldn't have to fight Dragonus hand to hand. But that's what happens.
Rintrah is wounded, and Laveau sends Dragonus away.
And now for the final issue we return to Guice and... oh, come on! Tracing from fashion magazines is one thing, but panty shots? Really?
Dr. Strange, Morbius, and Brother Voodoo figure out that if Laveau isn't at her own home, she probably went to Brother Voodoo's. So they head there, and find it surrounded by a forcefield. Brother Voodoo's summoning of the zombies was pretty awesome, but since then he's just been uselessly throwing "wanga dust" everywhere.
Laveau tells Strange that she's going to torture Morgana unless he turns over the Vampiric Verses from the Book of Vishanti. And Strange nearly does it, getting as far as magically teleporting the page from his Sanctum...
...over the objections of Morbius and Brother Voodoo, who he blasts away. But then he changes his mind and casts a spell to get rid of the page forever.
But it turns out Laveau has another back-up plan. The mere existence of Victor Strange allows her to cast a spell from the Darkhold, summoning the original Lord of the Vampires back to Earth.
Laveau needs a human sacrifice for the ritual, to be killed with an Atlantean knife and transformed into the vampire's body. She intended to use Morgana, but Bambu takes the blade instead.
By the way, the original Lord of the Vampires is Varnae, not Dracula.
Varnae has no interest in making any deals with Marie Laveau.
Strange finally makes his way through the barrier to fight Varnae.
He threatens to use an Incantation of Oblivion, something something the Living Tribunal.
And with that, Varnae flees.
I love that Varnae is only considered a warm-up act, and the real fear is that Dracula might return. Like, isn't the fact that vampires are somehow back on Earth enough?
I don't know. I have several conflicting reactions to this arc. I guess i'm neutral to the fact that we're undoing the destruction of all vampires from Roger Stern's run; despite Marvel's efforts at the time to convince us that it was permanent (i even still have the death certificate), it was inevitable that it would be reversed. Marie Laveau is a minor and ambiguous enough character that her hard heel turn isn't too hard to take. And there are some fun team-ups in the this arc. Dr. Strange, Morbius, Brother Voodoo, the new Baron Blood, Rintrah, Clea, and obscure villains like Dragonus and Varnae and even Marie Laveau... it's a fun cast of characters. But Butch Guice's art is a real distraction at this point. It's not just the women with vacant stares posing strangely for the camera; it's the fact that those scenes replace any sense of action in these issues, so all of these fun team-ups and fights barely actually happen. There's probably more to recommend than not, but i am still on the fence. In any event, it's an "important" story since it does return vampires to the Marvel universe..
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 73,300. Single issue closest to filing date = 64,900.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Doctor Strange and Clea return from their fight with Arkon at the beginning of issue #14, placing this not long after issue #13 (but taking into account the fact that a lot of things are happening concurrently during Acts of Vengeance).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (16): show
The writing here is meh, the art is beyond terrible (Not only is it traced, it's badly traced!) and I have a natural aversion to stories that are only intended to undo a previous story. With all that put together, these may be some of the most annoying comics (to me) on the site so far.
Posted by: Berend | May 6, 2015 7:28 PM
I would have less of a problem that NEW vampires could be created that that we're dredging up old characters.
Roy Thomas, for all his importance to Marvel and comics, just could not create anything NEW. He wanted to bring back old characters, adapt existing characters from other media, and engage in comics or pop culture archaeology.
There is simply no reason to bring back the Baron Blood costume or name.
Jackson Guice did better work elsewhere. He does seem to be phoning this in. I wonder if he was bored by the stories?
Posted by: Chris | May 6, 2015 10:11 PM
Varnae this time is much scrawnier than his Steve Bissette-drawn appearance.
At least Marvel finally got Marie LaVeau's race correct.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 7, 2015 11:19 AM
Fnord, I think you're missing the point of what Thomas is trying to establish about the Book of the Vishanti and the Darkhold- the idea is that the Book of the Vishanti is literally the Darkhold's opposite- it possesses a spell to do the opposite of every spell in the Darkhold. (We'll see later that destroying the Vampiric Verses in the Book of the Vishanti caused the Montesi formula to vanish.) It's a dumb idea. Why did Strange need to obtain the Darkhold to destroy the vampires if there should have been a spell to destroy the vampires in the Book of the Vishanti? Why isn't there a spell in the Book to cure Jack Russell if the Darkhold turned him into a werewolf? How is the Darkhold supposed to be a threat if every time a spell is cast from it, the heroes can just look up the opposite spell in the Book of the Vishanti? Because of this, the idea that the Book of the Vishanti and the Darkhold are opposites is quickly forgotten about.
Posted by: Michael | May 7, 2015 12:35 PM
I think in a lettercol Roy said he was going for a Yin-Yang idea, that even an evil book like the Darkhold can have a good spell and that even a good book like TBOTV can have a good spell.
Posted by: Thanos6 | May 7, 2015 2:05 PM
Wow, guess Greg Land really had a father to his style... that pic with Laveau holding the Darkhold looks mid-orgasm.
Posted by: cullen | May 7, 2015 7:07 PM
Adding to Fnord's amusing criticism of the photo-referencing going on here, issue 15 got in trouble for referencing an image of Christian singer Amy Grant on the cover, apparently her representatives were unhappy with her image being connected with this occult comic book. A well known story it seems, but I don't remember hearing it before: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/02/28/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-144/
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | April 17, 2016 8:16 AM
So, is there literally no reason presented as to why Victor Strange actually becomes Baron Blood beyond Roy Thomas indulging himself?
Posted by: AF | October 12, 2017 7:33 AM
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