With “Doctor Strange” #385, Donny Cates and Gabriel Hernandez Walta bring their first arc on the title, ‘Loki: Sorcerer Supreme,’ to a close. Read on for my thoughts and some spoilers.
Written by Donny Cates
Illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Colored by Jordie Belllaire
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
LOKI: SORCERER SUPREME PART 5! Get ready for a super-powered wizard’s duel in the Mighty Marvel Manner! Loki, Lord of Liars, versus Stephen Strange, the former Sorcerer Supreme! And this time, way more is on the line than the title. Will Loki gain the spell so dangerous, Stephen even hid it from himself? And how will Strange pay for the magic he’ll need to defeat a god?
After Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s run on “Doctor Strange” ended, the book seemed like it might be a little bit lost. The way that magic was handled in that run and the way that by the end of the run it was sort of destroyed, it seemed that creative teams going forward only had two real options. Either continue on the story of Doctor Strange dealing with magic having almost disappeared from the world and having the book spend most of its time with him continuing to look for magical artifacts, or just reset the world to the status quo.
For most of ‘Loki: Sorcerer Supreme,’ it seemed like Cates had found a third option. Instead of continuing the story Aaron had already finished telling, or just restoring the status quo by bringing in Loki and then the Sentry, it seemed like this arc was following a third, far more exciting path. With “Doctor Strange” #385, all the threads laid out so far in the run come together. Sentry and the Void, strange taking magic from the World Tree, Loki’s search for the Exile of Singhsoon, the spell that will consolidate all magic on earth into one person, all come to a head.
Walta does a great job portraying the fight between the Void and everyone else. His portrayal of the Void with its bizarrely shaped, razor sharp teeth, and it tendrils spreading out from it in every direction, as if it is slowly engulfing each of the panels, gives the Void a great sense of menace, for the first part of the issue. Walta’s facial expressions throughout are also very well done. You can feel the terror on Loki’s face when he is first fighting the Void. And then there are the subtler moments, where just the shift in a character’s face conveys more than any amount of words would be able to.
Along with Walta, Jordie Bellaire adds a lot of interesting dynamics to the fights in the issue as well. There are a number of images throughout, where the white pink of the heroes’ magic comes up against the inky black of the Void and creates some really great moments of contrast in the fight.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems with the issue, but they are very small ones. For one, as fun and well done as the fight is, it does seem to wrap up a little bit quickly in the previous issues. And, while in the beginning of this arc it seemed like this was going to be something just completely different, in the end it turns out that Cates was actually telling a story about getting Doctor Strange back to the status quo. Or at least, something resembling the status quo for him. It seems that by the end of the issue, magic has been resorted to the magic users of the marvel universe, and that Stephen Strange is once again Sorcerer Supreme.
But, given that this is a super hero comic, and that it was always going to revert back to that status quo eventually, ‘Loki: Sorcerer Supreme’ has been a very fun way to do it. This arc took a number of twists and turns, but Cates has brought a great deal of humor and fun to the book, while also being capable of a large amount of pathos. For what seemed like a kind of silly arc, with Doctor Strange beginning it as a veterinarian who spent most of his time talking to his dog, the story ended up have a really nice amount of heart. There is a reveal on the final page of this issue, which I won’t spoil, that left me with a huge smile on my face. It’s impressive that Cates can make some of the part of this arc that seemed so silly when it started mean so much by the end of the five issues.Continued below
With that, I’m excited to see what Cates is bring to the table going forward. Next for him and Doctor Strange is the event ‘Damnation,’ which Cates is co-writing with Nick Spencer, dealing with the fall out of ‘Secret Empire.’ Hopefully, going forward into that event and whatever else follows, Cates is able to keep both the humor and heart that has made this book so fun for this arc. It would be a real shame if this got stuck, like so many Marvel books do, in these events, unable to focus in on the story that they are trying to tell. Hopefully, since Cates is also writing ‘Damnation,’ it won’t be too painful
“Doctor Strange” #385 continues what has been enjoyable about the series since it was relaunched with the original numbering. The sense of fun and humor is all still there, along with a real sense of pathos and interesting characters. Personally, I’m excited to see how the series continues forward. If it can continue to be an exciting rollercoaster like this first arc has been, then I’m exciting for the ride.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – A fun conclusion to the ‘Loki: Sorcerer Supreme’ arc, and a good set up for the series as it goes forward.