As cataclysmic confrontations go, it is probably likely that Stephen Strange’s all-out attack upon the God of Mischief in Issue Three Hundred And Eighty Four of “Doctor Strange” didn’t quite excite the comic’s 25,652 strong audience in January 2018 as much as its writer Donny Cates would have hoped. Indeed, as battles between two of the Marvel Universe’s greatest magic users go, this penultimate instalment to the American author’s “Loki: Sorcerer Supreme” storyline arguably lacks much in way of either pulse-pounding mystic pugilism or sense-shattering spells; “I have shown remarkable patience with you. But I have a limit. And you are dancing rather precariously on its edge right now.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that this twenty-page periodical isn’t entirely devoid of entertainment, with the veterinarian’s nonchalant transmutation of the entire Dimension Blood, “ancestral nesting realm of the cancerous Vampa Cambra Warriors”, into a rolling green landscape filled full of cute bouncing bunnies debatably being worth this publication’s cover price alone. But even such other notable moments like the titular character bringing the Lord of all Liars’ floating Sanctum Sanctorum crashing down to the ground with nothing more than a hand gesture, or unexpectedly dropping the deity from a great height, seemingly lack the phenomenal dynamism many of this book’s readers probably expected from such a titanic tussle and instead apparently play out like something out of a bog-standard ‘fight-by-numbers’ script.
Perhaps this battle’s biggest disappointment though, is that it is brought to an abrupt halt two-thirds through the magazine by Zelma Stanton’s miraculous ability to rob both combatants of their ability to “cast any magical spells” for “the next three minutes” simply by angrily uttering the words “Vrak Par Hensargin!” Just how a former librarian from the Bronx is able to reduce both the Master of the Mystic Arts and Thor’s half-brother to so vulnerable a state that neither “can so much as wish on a lucky penny” smacks of Cates desperately scrambling around for a reason as to how Loki could unsuspectingly force the “unbelievable hack” to release the Void when the “second-rate sorcerer” is being powered by the Sentry and Yggdrasil.
Fortunately, despite its potentially poor penmanship, Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s storyboards do at least prove predominantly pleasing to the eye, especially when the Spanish artist depicts Stephen Strange’s wonderfully-humorous facial horror at having been robbed of his magical spells whilst still in close proximity to the fuming Asgardian god. In addition, the Hugo Award-nominee provides a nice nod to this comic’s co-creator, Steve Ditko, by pencilling “DITKO” on the arm of the construct seen “on the panel that features Strange and Loki exiting the Dark Dimension.”