Doctor Strange #28-30
Issue(s): Doctor Strange #28, Doctor Strange #29, Doctor Strange #30
Anyway, these issues continue Topaz's quest for items that will help exorcise a demon that is possessing her. The crossover with Ghost Rider only lasts through the first issue here. Ghost Rider has allowed Dr. Strange to mystically remove some flame from his head (flame from a demon being one of the components Topaz needs). It's not going well, and the opening splash takes advantage of that to make us think that Strange and Ghost Rider are still fighting each other.
That's not what is going on, but they are unable to take any of his flame. Dr. Strange's spell seems to fall apart when Strange calls him a demon...
...and Topaz confirms that he is not a demon.
Topaz then touches Ghost Rider and gets some feedback, and soon the demon that Topaz thinks has possessed her, Ullikummis, shows itself.
Without giving anything away just yet, let's just say that Ghost Rider seems to be as convinced as Topaz that the demon is real.
Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider then go off to pursue Zodiak while Topaz and Rintrah take home the children that were in the ritual in the Ghost Rider part of this story. They follow a trail of ectoplasm that leads them to another dimension. There they fight a bunch of demons.
Their boss has an unusual color scheme.
It turns out that this group of demons had been on Earth during Inferno, but they were driven back by "various groups of youthful human mutants which called themselves X-This and X-That!". I'll note that it's said that Dr. Strange heard about Inferno when he returned from Wales (after Doctor Strange #3-4, i assume). At that point the demons got a taste for blood, so they are trying to return. Initially the assumption is that Zodiak was in control of them in some way, but the opposite is actually true: Zodiak is their agent on Earth.
It's kind of funny. I got the impression from Zodiak's first appearance that Howard Mackie had no idea what he was meant to be, so it feels like Roy Thomas is coming to the rescue here.
Back on Earth, Zodiak is hunting Topaz, Rintrah, and the children, and killing cops that get in his way.
Actually whenever Zodiak kills on Earth, he feeds the demons, even increasing their numbers.
Zodiak attacks Topaz and Rintrah, but is delayed by a minor illusion making Topaz look like Rintrah and vice versa. Poor Topaz proves absolutely useless against Zodiak; she runs screaming (she used to be pretty powerful!). But the delay gives Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider enough time to show up. It's said that Zodiak is a robot double yet again, but Dr. Strange observes that Ghost Rider still goes into a vengeance-obsessed bloodlust fighting him. However, it's then said that Zodiak isn't a robot this time, and he manages to generate a vortex and escape, leaving Ghost Rider and Dr. Strange flat-footed. Nice work, guys.
The good news is that Dr. Strange managed to get some flames from the demons in the other dimension, so they don't need Ghost Rider any more, and he leaves. The bad news is that Rintrah was badly injured during Zodiak's attack.
While Strange and Topaz are rushing Rintrah home, we find out why Baron Blood hasn't been answering his phone. He is out playing super-hero.
But, even beyond the fact that he's killing the criminals, there's a reason why he's not suited to be a super-hero.
A lot here that recalls Morbius, who, despite the limitations of 'vampire as super-hero' shown here, will be gettng his own series next year.
Baron Blood is stopped from drinking the blood of the woman he rescued by Morgana Blessing, who offers her own blood instead.
And i hope she's taking iron supplements or something, because she's been doing that a lot lately.
Meanwhile, Strange gets Rintrah home and, in addition to some magic, has to resort to his old surgical skills to save him.
Wong compliments him on his surgery, but Strange says that those days are behind him.
Strange then looks in on Clea, who is still asleep from the spell he cast on her in issue #26 (it's said to have been 24 hours since then). And then he hears reports on the news about the woman that was "saved" by a vampire in Central Park, so he and Topaz head over to Morgana's apartment. Where Baron Blood is hungry again.
It turns out that Dr. Strange has arranged for Victor to get a supply of blood from the Red Cross, so Strange wants to know why Morgana is letting him bite her (and surely there's also an element of jealousy involved). Morgana offers the "I can stop this -- anytime I want to" line that in comics always indicates that a person is suffering from an addiction. But the bigger concern is that Victor is running around playing vigilante, killing criminals. So Strange and Baron Blood get to fighting. But Dr. Strange can actually easily handle a "garden-variety" vampire with no problem, so it turns out that he's really just letting Vic blow off steam.
Dr. Strange then shows Baron Blood exactly why he can't be a hero like Spider-Man or Daredevil; namely the fact that the criminals that he kills come back as vampires.
Of course, not every criminal that Baron Blood kills would have to come back as a vampire; only those whose blood he's drained. So Vic could still potentially be a vigilante, as long as he continued to get his blood from Morgana or the blood bank. But those points aren't raised, and Vic seems to have accepted Strange's conclusion. He also transforms into a bat and donates one of his talons for Topaz's exorcism (he's later shown in human form with a bandage around his hand).
Strange begins the exorcism (with Clea still magically asleep in the other room), but what comes out isn't a demon called Ullikummis, as expected. It's Mephista, Mephisto's daughter.
Wait, who the hell is that? That doesn't look like Mephista.
Ok, now we're on model.
Mephista, who demonstrated an attraction to Dr. Strange in her previous appearance, claims to be jealous when Dr. Strange expresses concern for Topaz, so Mephista tosses her across the room. Rintrah, despite still recovering from his surgery, leaps to her rescue but knocks himself out in the process.
It's clear the colorist is having trouble keeping track of all the characters that are standing around. But note Dr. Strange's comment about a shadow.
It turns out that Strange has known all along that it was really Mephista that was possessing Topaz. Mephista compliments him for that, and also lets slip that she's really Donald Trump, describing the fight between her father and Satannish in her previous appearance by saying that they "battled gigantically". How about bigly?
Despite the ruse about Ullikummis, Mephista really did need those three components to get free, because she was buried that deeply inside Topaz's psyche. But she's mad that her father Mephisto never came looking for him during all that time.
Dr. Strange offers to let Mephista take him to her father if she'll spare his friends, and she agrees. A revived Rintrah observes that as they are teleporting away, Mephista's shadow seems to move independently. And indeed when Strange and Mephista get to a dimension leading to a backdoor to Mephisto's kingdom, we learn that Mephista wasn't the only one hitching a ride in Topaz.
After he battled gigantically with Mephisto and Dr. Strange separated them, Satannish followed Mephista into Topaz, figuring that she would eventually give him an opportunity to launch a surprise attack on her father. Satannish starts heading for the back door and Dr. Strange convinces Mephista to join him in fighting the bigger demon. Strange makes what seems to be a tactical error in using the Flames of Faltine against Satannish.
But that turns out to be part of Strange's plan. He knew that it would draw out Mephisto.
As the two devils battle...
...Mephista gets increasingly mad at Dr. Strange for seemingly helping Satannish over Mephisto. But it turns out that what he's really doing is a variation on what he did the last time they fought. Instead of merging their bodies, he's mystically connected them so when one of them is harmed, the other one feels it.
Satannish leaves, and Mephisto revealed that he knew all along that Mephista was in Topaz, but since Satannish was there too, he couldn't do anything. He really does love her (awwwww!). And although Dr. Strange is in no position to fight back, Mephisto thanks him for rescuing his daughter, and gives him a pass for the moment (but next time...!). With that, Dr. Strange returns home to find an awake and pissed off Clea.
And that's actually where this arc ends. Next issue is an Infinity Gauntlet tie-in where Clea doesn't appear.
Dr. Strange out-clevering powerful demons is a lot of fun, so overall this is an enjoyable story. Chris Marrinan's art may not be super great but it's hard to make Satannish look bad and his cosmic stuff, while not as mind blowing as some past Dr. Strange artists, is fine. The Baron Blood plot is interesting, and the overall Topaz quest was a nice way to include some guest stars, even if the Zodiak plot felt like a tangent (and even there, at least it helped Ghost Rider's book nail a few things down). There are some problems with the arc: Dr. Strange putting Clea to sleep for the entire arc is just crazy. Topaz, despite the arc nominally being about her, is a complete non-entity. Rintrah counter-intuitively seems to be getting stupider as his apprenticeship goes on. But in broad strokes, if you just pay attention to where the plot wants you to, it's a fun story.
It's announced in the lettercol that (not in these exact words) since Chris Marrinan is a faster artist than Butch Guice, the Book of Vishanti back-ups will be discontinued except when they're really needed. These issues don't have any but they will be back for one final three-parter starting with #31.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 80,209. Single issue closest to filing date = 74,200.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: In issue #29, it's been 24 hours since issue #26. This continues directly from Ghost Rider #12. Despite issue #30 ending with Clea waking up and confronting Dr. Strange, issue #31 doesn't start that way (and it's an Infinity Gauntlet tie-in), so i'll be placing it in a separate entry (Clea isn't seen until issue #32; more on that when we get there). No reason why Mephisto can't be popping back to his home dimension even while he's hanging out with Thanos in Silver Surfer. It's also worth noting that revelations in this arc have an effect on placement of some previous issues. First, it's said that Doctor Strange was in Wales (Doctor Strange #3-4) during Inferno (or at least part of it; he heard about certain demons from Inferno after coming back from Wales). Second, this reveals that Satannish has been bonded with Topaz since Doctor Strange #5-8. That potentially has ramifications for other Satannish appearances, namely Hulk #356 and #357-359. I suppose we could say that he stepped out of Topaz for a while to do other things but mainly stuck with Topaz so that he could make his move when Mephista tried to return home, but i'd prefer not to do that..
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showBaron Blood (Victor Strange), Clea, Dr. Strange, Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Imei Chang, Mephista, Mephisto, Morgana Blessing, Noble Kale, Rintrah, Satannish, Topaz, Wong, Zodiak
Was Dr Strange a direct market only book by this point? The special may have been created to give newstand GR readers a chance to buy the crossover, if that's the case.
Posted by: Bob | September 16, 2015 5:20 PM
Yeah, something similar happened with Quasar during Galactic Storm.
Posted by: Michael | September 16, 2015 7:55 PM
Dr. Strange was direct sales only. Ghost Rider was a newsstand title. The special was for newsstands.
Posted by: Steven | September 17, 2015 1:45 AM
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