‘The Last Day of Magic’ rolls on and with it so too does the superb writing of Jason Aaron. With Doctor Strange fighting the losing side of a battle against the crusading Empirikul this represented the tensest entry in the young series. Did it also represent the best?
From the word go this series, led by Aaron, has been a shining star on the Marvel landscape. Where other post-Secret Wars titles have avoided making bold leaps, aside from one recent one from Captain America, this has relished in the opportunity to take its titular hero in an entirely new direction. That direction has seen the good Doctor be stripped of his immense powers and forced into a corner against a, thus far, superior foe. It is in doing this that Aaron has created something truly special for fans across the globe.
This week’s offering saw Strange continue his efforts to fight back and reclaim the magic that is quickly dying out. For the most part, the action was contained to a mystical cave that housed a few of the last remaining magical weapons that Earth had to offer. It was this claustrophobic setting that allowed for the tension of this story to really shine through. Strange appeared to be trapped in the gloom, shadows closing in on him and danger present at every turn. Chris Bachalo really should be the one receiving the praise for this as he has done some of the best work with colours that you will see anywhere today. In the early issues he made things bright and vibrant whenever magic was involved, which was beautiful at the time but now it is made so much more poignant with the subdued colour palette he is using to signify the complete absence of magic. Such a clever touch is one that must be heralded and shows that this team have had a carefully laid out plan in place for this spectacular tale from the off.
What fans are given here is a more resourceful Strange who is being forced to use what he can find to battle back. He has allies still in the form of Talisman and Scarlet Witch but they are still at a distinct disadvantage yet Strange refuses to call in the likes of Tony Stark to help. The reason? He wishes to clear his own magical debt. To explain that a little better, for the entirety of this series the idea has been firmly implanted in reader’s minds that each magical act takes a toll on the host. This toll can take many forms and is more or less severe depending on the size of the spell at work. In this issue you find out exactly how Strange has been avoiding paying his own debt and it is a reveal that takes a very ugly, but possibly advantageous form.
The story doesn’t get that much closer to its conclusion with this issue but it does provide a great deal of excitement as you join Strange on his journey. Some may dislike the slightly prolonged, meandering narrative but it is something that has made a superhero tale seem far more important and consequential that most other arcs do. It has shown that the bad guys do not pop and get knocked down in a matter of pages but that these incursions are a threat to the heroes, they are fallible and as such this arc has given you a reason to worry for the lead character. It has become all too believable a possibility that he could very well die or at least magic could be irreparably damaged before things are laid to rest.
As mentioned earlier, Bachalo has been on fire for months now. His work her continues to impress for the reasons laid out above but there is one small gripe that others have expressed and that is the lack of detail in some of his panels. It is true that on occasion he can leave things a little lacking but that only adds to the charm of his work. The sense of absence is not all too palpable and his more detailed scenes more than make up for any that are missing a few brush strokes here and there.
It should be no surprise to hear that Doctor Strange is still going strong as this current creative team are absolutely thriving in their roles. You can expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future as Aaron and Bachalo are showing no signs of stopping any time soon.
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