|DOCTOR STRANGE No. 9, August 2016|
Curiously containing a somewhat redundant plot thread which lasts for almost half the comic book and focuses upon Wong’s attempt to bolster the number of magic-users housed within the Himalayas by cajoling refugees, this fourth chapter to Jason Aaron’s “The Last Days Of Magic” story-arc probably still pleased most of its 46,306 readers by featuring a violent clash between some of the Earth’s surviving mages and the Empirikil’s eyebots, a rip-roaring ‘Indiana Jones-inspired’ set-piece located “elsewhere in Tibet”, and a frighteningly tense confrontation between the Imperator and “an evil, unspeakable horror lurking in the cellar”. Indeed, in many ways it would seem a genuine pity that the Alabama-born author didn’t decide to simply omit the insinuation that Doctor Strange’s butler would willingly sacrifice the lives of his “brothers and sisters” inside the Temple of the Secret Defenders and alternatively expand upon the more action-packed exploits of the Master of the Mystic Arts and his friends; especially when one of those under-represented ‘secondary strands’ concerns the Sorcerer Supreme fleeing a temple packed full of man-eating monkeys who were desperate to defend the skull of the Ancient One.
Sadly however, this is disappointingly not the case, and instead of enjoying plenty of fast-paced, pulse-pounding dramatics with barbed wire coated baseball bats and strafing bi-planes, the Harvey Award-winner’s twenty-page script is interspersed with a succession of sequences depicting librarian Zelma Stanton desperately trying to expound the virtues of her employer to any migrants that will listen and Strange’s sidekick waxing lyrical as to how people must be willing to endure “pain like you’ve never imagined” if they want to “protect the man who fights in our name.” Such dialogue-heavy ditties could potentially have been bearable if they’d actually been some point to them. But just as soon as the former “preeminent surgeon” discovers the sinisterly secret sacrifices which have been keeping him alive, he disbands the monks and renders his deceitful domestic worker unconscious with a ‘sleep spell’.
Chris Bachalo’s artwork also arguably suffers on account of Aaron’s choppy storytelling, with only the Canadian artist’s breakdowns illustrating the sorcerer’s fraught flight through an overgrown Tibetan jungle with his old master’s head underarm and Count Kaoz “shooting ghost bullets at eyeballs from space” containing any real sense of “alakazam”. It is certainly doubtful that his seemingly endless panels depicting weary snowbound travellers conversing in the Himalayas were viewed as being “more fun than Saturday night in
|Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist: Chris Bachalo, and Colors: Java Tartaglia & Chris Bachalo|