As cataclysmic confrontations between Karl Amadeus Mordo and this comic’s titular character go, Dennis Hopeless’ script for Issue Twenty Four of “Doctor Strange” must have pleased the vast majority of its 28,992 strong audience, with its excellent blend of heart-pumping shenanigans, multi-faceted strategies and dark incantations. Indeed, as conclusions to multi-part storylines go, the Missouri-born’s decision to depict the Sorcerer Supreme utilising his wits as opposed to simply relying upon exotic magical items, not only allows the rest of this book’s supporting cast to share in the ‘limelight’ as they collectively attempt to penetrate the Baron’s formidable protective bubble, but for once shows the Master Of The Mystic Arts relying upon his intimate knowledge of Hydra’s “trumped-up pawn” so as to use his arrogant vanity against him; “No one was going to defeat you from the ground. Not while you held the Sanctum. I had to compel you to gather up your mindless beasts and ill-gotten spells — and leave my house.”
Such a pleasantly surprising plot-twist also results in a far more physically dynamic battle than perhaps this publication’s bibliophiles were ordinarily used to, most notably Spider-Woman’s fantastic flying display behind the cockpit of the Phantom Eagle. Terrifically pencilled and coloured by Niko Henrichon, this “exhilarating… gun run in a zombie airplane with no roof” makes for a thrilling read, with Jessica Drew narrowly evading the tentacles of Mordo’s “great beasties of the Darkforce” and engaging in “a rousing round of hide-and-go death serpent”.
Likewise Benjamin Urich’s phantasmagorical swordplay against a “gangrenous horde” whilst inhabited by a spiritual Light Knight packs the Kansas State University alumnus’ narrative full of scything sensationalism as the “investigative journalist for the New York newspaper The Daily Bugle” chops down an “abominable army of rot” with both his “luminous blade light” and bluster. It’s rare to see the chain-smoker portrayed as such an obvious action hero, and Hopeless’ dialogue strongly suggests just how much the reporter is enjoying himself by penning Ben confidently wading into a zombie host alongside a similarly super-powered Wilson Fisk.
Of course, this comic’s arguable highlight however, has to be the Baron’s utter astonishment at having been bested once again by a magician whose modern-day abilities are far inferior to his own. Dethroned by Strange’s astral projection “rope-a-dope” ruse, and faced with the combined physical might of such notable costumed crime-fighters as Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Cloak and Spider-Woman, the beaten Transylvanian nobleman is so enraged with frustration that he rather humorously stands indignantly transfixed before his foes spouting his unrealistic defiance until Matt Murdock mercifully socks him in the jaw.