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Thrilling and meaningful: 'Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic' review

Comic Books

Thrilling and meaningful: ‘Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic’ review

‘Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic’ is an excellent thrill ride with an awesome conclusion.

Doctor Strange has been on an epic journey the last few years thanks to Chris Bachalo and Jason Aaron. In this latest collection (out this week in bookstores), Doctor Strange is fighting against scientific aliens who wants to expel magic from the universe. Little do the Empirikul know how chippy Strange can be!

So what’s it about?

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The official summary reads:

They have crossed the dimensions, purging them all of sorcery, one by one. Now the Empirikul are here. And with Earth’s Master of the Mystic Arts weakened beyond measure, is there any chance of stopping them? The Sorcerer is no longer Supreme, and he will find himself at the mercy of the Imperator! With his magic destroyed and his world on the brink of disaster, are there any more tricks left up Strange’s sleeves? Or, failing that, how about some cool weapons? Plus: as the Empirikul wreak havoc on magic users across the Marvel Universe, discover Wong’s ultimate sacrifice, watch Brother Voodoo make a stand, and meet a new player just as she is about to lose the game!

Why does this book matter?

This collects Doctor Strange #6 through #10 and the Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic one-shot that ties in nicely. Though it’s not the full “The Last Days of Magic” storyline it does finish it. It also starts at a good point where the chips are very down and the magic of the world is very much depleted. It’s an epic magic-based hero story tying multiple magical Marvel heroes into a story that showcases the last gasp of magic. Breath it in.

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

Thrilling and meaningful: 'Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic' review
The book opens in a not so good place for Doctor Strange.

This is a story I dipped my toes in with the single issues here and there but never had an opportunity to keep reading it as it came out. Boy was I silly not to read it! This volume opens with Doctor Strange outside his Sanctum Sanctorum literally getting the snot beat out of him and with no real chance of winning. Readers can easily pick up here and not miss much because this volume goes on a mini journey focusing on the last magic-heroes finding the last bits of magic in the world. It also flashes back to villain Empirikul’s past which thoroughly explains why he wants all magic wiped from the universe.

From beginning to end there’s an adventure feel to the story–it helps Doctor Strange must jump off cliffs like Indiana Jones in order to acquire bits of magic–that also manages to tie directly to the core of who Doctor Strange is deep down. Aaron and Bachalo make this feel like a thriller, with the heroes rushing to acquire magical artifacts and Aaron never letting us forget magic was everywhere and now nowhere. He does this very well via quick vignettes captioning people who had ties to magic in unique and strange ways. These scenes help remind the reader Strange isn’t just saving his own butt, but many lives who rely on magic to survive.

In a surprise twist of sorts, the ending satisfies further than you might imagine due to some quick twists of a Deus Ex Machina kind. The trick of what saves the day is how it ties to the pain Doctor Strange has suffered throughout the years to save others. It’s a clever way to not only tie the defeat of Empirikul to Doctor Strange’s many sacrifices but allows the win to mean something more.

Thrilling and meaningful: 'Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic' review
This flashback adds a lot to the meaning in the conclusion.

In a bit of genius fantasy fans will adore, Aaron and guest artists Mike Deodato Jr., Jorge Fornes, Kev Walker, and Kevin Nowland show a few folks who relied on magic to survive. At first we see a magician who escaped many things in impossible ways only to have the last day of magic end and her life taken from her. In another, a genie’s lamp runs out too soon and two fat tourists end up pissing off many natives, another shows off what looks like Aladdin and Jasmine falling to their deaths from the magic carpet. It’s quite fun to see the homages and fans of those and other famous magical stories not mentioned here will love it.

Bachalo draws an awesome comic and if you haven’t seen his Doctor Strange work you gotta see this. His ability to make Strange pop off a back background using a white border is incredibly unique, the way he makes you feel hope and humor comes at opportune times and his ability to depict the strange and mysterious in ways that are inconceivable but believable is quite something. There always seems to be a splash page or a panel that takes you off guard and makes you delight in the weird world of magic. While Steve Ditko showcased incredibly surrealistic landscapes carving a unique space that may never be matched, Bachalo has carved out a place in Doctor Strange visual storytelling too and he’s done it with the monsters and weird creatures that inhabit the world. You’ll see it here–heck the villains and their orb heads are part of it too–and it’s a wonder to see.

Thrilling and meaningful: 'Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic' review
The way Aaron ties in characters who touch magic is very interesting.

It can’t be perfect can it?

The inclusion of the Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic issue is welcome, though it actually occurs between two of the prior issues in this book yet is placed at the very end. They obviously didn’t want to disturb the story arc Aaron and Bachalo are telling, but it’s strange reading it in this collection since the story ends…and then it goes back and shows how many of the magical heroes dealt with the enemy. This issue tackles different heroes and varies in quality, which further separates it from the bigger story. This certainly helps flesh out the other heroes involved in the story arc since the main story arc focuses mostly on Doctor Strange though.

Is It Good?

An excellent collection that caps off the end of magic storyline with a thrilling story and an excellent climactic finish. Without a doubt, Aaron and Bachalo have carved a Doctor Strange story that will be held up with the greatest and they’ve certainly left a mark on the character forever.

Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic
Is it good?
An excellent conclusion that can be read on its own.
An excellent conclusion to a story arc that has touches of thriller and lot's of compelling ideas about how magic is used
The villain has a backstory that helps explain things
The art is excellent by Bachalo and the others who join in
The 'Doctor Strange: The Last Days of Magic' story is added at the end even though it takes place between issues, which is an odd and disorientating choice

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