Doctor Steven Strange has been battling, and losing the battle, against Empirikul who seek to destroy the very existence of magic, everywhere. Earth has more than a few powerful magic-users in the Marvel universe, and even their combined magical-powers are seemingly no match for the science-based and science-powered Imperator and his “army” called Empirikul.
In this issue, number seven, we are given a bit of the backstory of Empirikul, which, like many other hero and villain backstories, starts with the murders of the parents of the Imperator. On his homeworld, when he was younger, magic-users who worshipped the elder god Shuma-Gorath were killing anyone anyone practicing science there, including the Imperator’s parents.
The tables have now turned and Empirikul is now doing the reverse in hunting down and killing magic-users. To that end, Empirikul binds Doctor Strange, Scarlett Witch, and other magic-users of Earth to trees and make preparations to burn them all alive, not unlike those accused of witchcraft in our own non-fictional history.
An old magician named Monako appears in attempt to save the day. Monako is an old magic-user who made his first appearance in Daring Mystery Comics #1 in 1940 and who wears a stereotypical, and awesome, black top hat. While he may not have the power to eliminate the Empirikul threat, he DOES manage to teleport all of Earth’s magicians to safety. Just before doing so, he instructs them all to look for magic in “all the nooks and crannies.” Apparently *some* magic still exists, possibly nearby.
Doctor Strange and the other magicians safe, at least temporarily, in some sort of subterranean cavern, but they have been left with no magic. Monako, unfortunately, suffers the burning-at-the-stake fate that he helped all of his friends to avoid. The noblest of self-sacrifices.
Now underground, the remaining magicians, including Magik (Illyana Rasputin, sister of Piotr Rasputin, X-Men’s “Colossus”) have an outlook that is quite grim. With hardly a way to even get out of the cavern, they are pretty well convinced that even gathering up every scrap of magic in the world, as Monako instructed, will not be nearly enough to defeat Empirikul.
Jason Aaron’s uniquely creative writing of this storyline has been nothing short of superb, up to this point. Furthermore, I expect that it is about to kick into high gear as we follow what intriguing weirdness is happening in Doctor Strange’s home “the Sanctum Sanctorum.” This perfect pairing with Chris Bachalo’s wildly artistic visual storytelling makes for one of the best comics to hit the shelves in years. Not that there haven’t been a lot of good comic-book stories, lately, because there HAVE, but this one is the cream of the crop. See for yourself.
Doctor Strange: Last Days of Magic: Part 2, written by Jason Aaron, art by Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend. Published April 27, 2016.
Review by Steve Oatney.