Whilst this fifth and final instalment to Jason Aaron’s “Blood In The Aether” is far from the “jaw-dropping conclusion” which “Marvel Worldwide” boasted prior to its publication in January 2017, it’s 41,426 readers probably still enjoyed Issue Sixteen of “Doctor Strange” due to its first meeting flashback between the Ancient One’s prodigy and “the dread Dormammu” on Mount Everest, as well as Stephen’s impressive, albeit considerably contrived, ability to harness “all the magic that’s been slowly flowering since the Empirikul wiped the Earth clean” in order to defeat the Master of the Mindless Ones.
True, this twenty-page periodical does fill the intervening pages with a bizarre battle sequence between the two ‘all-powerful’ mystic energy manipulators which sees the former “preeminent surgeon” resorting to the ludicrous futility of stabbing the tower block-tall Eater of Souls “in the finger with an enchanted dagger.” Yet even so “pathetic” a drawn-out altercation as this still provides plenty of suspense, as Wong unwisely pleads for Mister Misery to save his increasingly battered master, Baron Mordo discovers he’s simply been used as “bait” by the Great Enigma, and the Orb forewarns Zelma Stanton of the dangers to come should the “Mistress of the Mystic Arts” continue to aid the titular character in his adventures; “I’m always watching the naughty ones. But if I were you, I might think twice about helping.”
Ultimately however, all these scintillating shenanigans boil down to the Sorcerer Supreme recollecting how he exorcised “Dormie” the first time round without the need of supernatural weapons, and resultantly he taps into “all the magic of the city” in order to command “the Lord of the Realm of Darkness” to “begone!” This satisfying supposition, which ends with both Dormammu facing Shuma-Gorath’s wrath for betraying the many-angled one to the Empirikul, and Karl getting towed away into the sky courtesy of a magic rope attached to a ghost plane, certainly rather aptly culminates the comic’s account. But just why Doctor Strange hasn’t similarly utilised “all the magic we’ve got left” before during so deadly a story-arc as the one the Alabama-born author has penned, arguably grates upon its narrative’s logic…
Perturbingly, “The Dread” is equally as inconsistent in its artwork as in its perverse plot-points. The consistent chopping and changing between series regular Chris Bachalo and Cory Smith throughout the magazine infuriatingly suggests that some of the sequences depicted were perhaps an afterthought in the Inkpot Award-winner’s mind. Whilst editor Nick Lowe’s use of no less than five inkers and three colorists disappointingly doesn’t help provide this tome with any sort of harmonious appearance either.