Featuring a fascinating phantasmagorical face-off between Benjamin Urich and Wilson Fisk due to the long-feuding antagonists inadvertently donning magical manifestations whilst thwarting Karl Mordo’s latest attempt to murder this comic’s titular character, Dennis Hopeless’ script for Issue Twenty Three of “Doctor Strange” certainly delivered plenty of pulse-pounding action to its 32,745 strong audience in July 2017. But whilst this mastery of the dark arts proves an intriguing moment within the Kansas City-born writer’s story-line, especially for those readers aware of the feuding pair’s violently short-lived relationship as depicted during the first season of Drew Goddard’s American web television series “Daredevil”, the supernatural duel featuring the “chain-smoking, tough-as-nails investigative journalist” as a Light Knight debatably detracts from the far more operatic-scaled battle taking place elsewhere between Power Man, Iron Fist, Cloak and the Sorcerer Supreme’s greatest rival.
In fact, the Baron’s battle against the street-level costumed crime-fighters is arguably well worth this publication’s cover price alone, as artist and colourist Niko Henrichon really pulls out all the stops to pencil a truly horrifying bout of fisticuffs involving multi-fanged mythical monstrosities, the blackest of arcane spells and Manhattan’s finest going toe-to-toe with all manner of slithering tentacles; “Mordo may look like a chump but he’s hiding a serious god complex under those Slytherin robes.” Disappointingly however, this admittedly rather one-sided affair is frustratingly cut short by the Harvey Award-winner’s evident desire to give the lion’s share of the ‘spotlight’ to his comic’s leading cast and resultantly, just as Tyrone Johnson is somehow shockingly sucked inside Karl’s spell book, the audience is disconcertingly snatched back to witness Spider-Woman being scooped up by the Phantom Eagle whilst preoccupied with her team-mates’ immature in-fighting.
This ‘change of view’ really is annoying when it quickly becomes clear, courtesy of this book’s concluding cliff-hanger splash illustration, that the “unbreakable brawler” and “immortal living weapon” have both subsequently been overpowered by the Transylvanian nobleman ‘off-screen’. Of course, such a dalliance with Stephen’s now magically-enhanced ‘friends’ appears entirely appropriate given that it sets up this story-line for an almighty altercation with the master of New York City’s darkforce bubble in the ongoing series’ next instalment. Yet surely such a premeditated re-positioning of Hopeless’ heroes within his narrative could have been otherwise manufactured without refocusing the publication’s attention away from such sense-shattering shenanigans as Luke Cage and Danny Rand’s disconcerting defeat..?