As you must be aware, Doctor Strange is currently in the midst of his greatest story arc ever. Issue after issue the team of Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo have delivered flawless writing and art work that have combined to craft a story that deserves endless recognition. That story kicked into high gear with this latest installment and the series has, somehow, reached even greater heights.
So, in the last issue it appeared that the war being waged by the Empirikul against any and all magic in existence was about to come to a head as they intruded on Earth, home to the greatest sorcerer of all, Doctor Strange. It would have been so easy for Aaron to follow the lead of many other, possibly shortsighted, writers and end the story here with one big battle. That was not what he did though. Instead Aaron took yet another turn and raised the stakes, and the tension along with it, to a whole different level.
Those expecting to see a triumphant Sorcerer Supreme charge into battle and avenge his fallen brethren will have been shocked with what actually transpired in this fantastic offering. It is not a conquering Strange that you see but rather a defiant, though outmatched one, scratching and clawing and refusing to go down without a fight despite facing forces beyond his ken.
Aaron weaves a wonderful tapestry as he drops in important character details pertaining to the leader of the Empirikul in a way that does not feel forced. Yes, the villain does a small monologue but Aaron creates a situation where it feels wholly natural and justified, which is exceedingly rare. You get a much better grasp on just why these interlopers are so forcefully against the forces of magic. It may not be a complete picture as of yet but that is part of the reason that it works so well, no more is given away than needs to be.
As for the writing as it pertains to Strange; he is shown in a desperate state, struggling to deal with his foe and resorting to great measures to try to mount an offense. With what has been learned about the consequences of his magic use, this should have fans turning the pages with that bit more trepidation as they wait to find out just what this means for the beloved Doctor.
The immense success of this comic does not just lie in the character details though but rather the story as a whole. This is never more wholly apparent than when Aaron takes you through a tour of the magical locations of Earth and shows the effects the Empirikul are having on them along with their associated magic users. Recognisable names such as Scarlet Witch and Magik are among the victims and it gives enormous weight to the tale to see such titans of the Marvel universe taken down by this new enemy.
A supplementary series of shorts on offer at the end of the book show yet more people who rely on magic and their reaction to its new absence. These enhance the story to no end and one in particular is just a little heartbreaking as it shows a little girl losing dear friends and finding herself alone once more in the world.
To accompany all this excellence, you are treated to yet more superior art by Chris Bachalo and his team. Together they have crafted panels that suit the subject matter within them to perfection. It really does seem like there isn’t a single speck of colour out of place and these talented individuals blend seamlessly in order to create the most tonally appropriate and, at times, jaw droppingly gorgeous art in any comic available today. From the cover art to the final panel, this is as close to perfect as comic art gets.
There hasn’t been a bad comic from this team yet but this is still by far the best of the bunch. If you’re reading this series then you’ll know that to be true, if you aren’t then you must buy all of the current issues immediately, and if you can then you must compel others to do the same. Here’s hoping there are no major shuffles that lead to this title being reassigned or scrapped because it is nothing short of perfection.
Score: 6 out of 5 (Not a score that is likely to be given again but ‘5 out of 5’ just didn’t feel good enough).
To keep up to date with ‘Up For Review’ you can like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/upforreview/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
You can also follow the author on Twitter: https://twitter.com/shaunpond1994