I was excited about this series in large part thanks to Leah Williams and Filipe Andrade’s excellent What If? Magik one-shot. Then I was able to ask Williams a few questions and I was thirsty for more. How does Doctor Strange’s story end, how does cyberpunk play a part, and can the world live without a Sorcerer Supreme?
This is the type of book where you won’t know what may happen from page to page. With a bit longer page count Williams and Andrade, with colors by Chris O’Halloran, take us into the life of Doctor Strange. It’s not clear how far into the future this is, but Strange is looking a bit old and his powers are weakened. We learn why along the way, but first, we meet Doctor Strange’s assistant who is also a projection. That is our first tip this is the future. Soon we learn Doctor Strange is making coin by reading palms and other magic-by-trade trivialities and his first customers arrive. They are a younger set with no respect for Doctor Strange or magic at all. Soon he’s teaching them a lesson, realizing magic must be saved, and goes on a quest.
It’s quite an adventure and an adventure that comes with an interesting twist in the story near the end. Why Doctor Strange didn’t go on this quest earlier is beyond me, we’re really given only scant details on what is going on with this world, but by limiting what we know Williams has effectively captured our interest and imaginations. You can sort of fill in the gaps.
The way Williams writes magic is on point too. You are given just enough to understand there are rules, but it’s also an unruly thing to be a master in magic too. The use of setting helps establish the magical nature of the story too. A cemetery, a frozen tundra, and what appears to be an ancient library of books all fit in with Doctor Strange’s purview.
This is aided by subtle world-building going on in the visuals. From the clothes of the brats who enter Doctor Strange’s domain, to the somewhat alien decor of the surroundings on Doctor Strange’s journey you get the idea that this is the far future. Or at the very least Earth has changed quite a bit. We also get a quick snapshot of some magical elements that are out of this world cool.
One problem I’ve seen with “The End” stories is how it requires the reader to ignore huge questions in order for them to work. “Where is Thor and the other super-powerful heroes and why can’t they help?” is a question that might pop into your head. I think you need to read these as the singular end of the character and what it’s trying to convey in doing so. Forget all the noise of continuity and let the message of these stories flow over you.
This is a good “The End” for Doctor Strange thanks to the subtle textures of the world around the character as he goes on his final journey. It serves as a means to prop up another character but by doing so it enriches the love and care of Doctor Strange. For a character with an ego such as his that’s a nice sentiment to leave him.
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