Comics that showcase a whole slew of brand new characters are always a treat to experience. Too often new characters are used for a story one time and are forgotten about in limbo. But today, when it comes to the world of Marvel magic, they get to shine in an anthology one-shot, DOCTOR STRANGE – LAST DAYS OF MAGIC.
In this issue, Jason Aaron teams up with Leonardo Romero, Gerry Duggan, Danilo Beyruth, James Robinson, and Mike Perkins to showcase new characters (and one old mainstay) trying to survive in dire times. We learn a little of their histories through the narration of Zelma Stanton, the good Doctor’s new patient-turned-librarian supreme. If you’ve been on board with Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s run on DOCTOR STRANGE since the start, you’ve seen a fair share of new characters crop up already. And that is thanks to the next best thing to a “Hogwarts-style pub crawl”, The Bar With No Doors. Stephen Strange drops by here after a long day of Sorcerer Supreming to have a beer with his bewitching buddies, and we see some familiar faces– Scarlet Witch, Magik, Doctor Voodoo, Shaman, Daimon Hellstrom, okay, fine, we expect to see them. But how about Monako, Prince of Magic and Chondu the Mystic? No? They’re pretty old-school obscure, I wouldn’t blame you.
Allow me to introduce you to El Medico Mistico, Mahatma Doom, Professor Xu, Count Kaoz, and The Wu… or rather, recap this new issue that introduces them in superb fashion. The world of magic is in peril– magic is failing those bound to it, and a race of scientifically advanced warriors called the Empirikul have embarked on a campaign to destroy all magic and the Sorcerers Supreme. These five are only a handful tasked to face this looming threat alongside Doctor Strange.
El Medico Mistico is a Dia de Los Muertos-styled Mexican sorcerer who can summon a rain of great white sharks and animate massive Aztec status all while fighting an army of robot clones with his hands. His dialogue is also written in untranslated Spanish, which adds an extra air of dramatic mystery to him. Mahatma Doom has a history rooted in one of the greatest origin stories of all time– he was among the Tibetan Monks who encountered Victor Von Doom, training the Latverian lord in the mystic arts, even ensorcelling his first suit of power armor. Mahatma Doom has dedicated his life to balancing the karmic scales in wake of his namesake. Professor Xu is a Chinese living wraith, a paranormal historian turned “elite immortal alchemist” She speaks volumes with demonstrations of raw mystical strength… and blank speech bubbles. Count Kaoz… well, I’ll just let this panel speak for itself.
Suffice to say, eating a magical bear to gain superpowers is pretty incredible.
The Wu, however, gets more depth than all of them. Alice Gulliver was the daughter of Hong Kong’s mystical protector, The August Wu of the Coral Shore, in every way a contemporary of Doctor Strange in ability and grace. Since her mother’s passing, Alice has become a dual-wielding police detective protecting the mean streets of Hong Kong from mythological threats, inheriting her mother’s role in modern style. Seeing her in action, she feels very much in the vein of a character created by John Woo, almost undoubtedly her namesake.
Doctor Voodoo, cool in his own right despite not being new, also gets a story here where he narrowly escapes getting obliterated by the Empirikul. But if you’re here for just him, you’re missing out on some fresh new stuff. Opening the door to these new characters, their own adventures and histories in “worlds” exclusive to them reminds me in the best ways of the Immortal Weapons from Ed Brubaker’s IMMORTAL IRON FIST. While Jason Aaron is no stranger to throwing new characters into the mix of his runs on GHOST RIDER, WOLVERINE and INCREDIBLE HULK, I hope these new additions to the Marvel Universe have some staying power as Strange’s supporting cast.
The Doctor Strange – Last Days of Magic One-Shot is fun side story in the onset of the ongoing Doctor Strange story arc of the same name, well worth checking out. Especially if you’re looking for a new Strange tale to jump into in the months before the movie comes out.