Doctor Strange: Damnation #2
Writer: Donny Cates & Nick Spencer
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Letter: Travis Lanham
Review by Frank Lanza
Marvel is really embracing the throwback vibes with Legacy. From old school trade dress on covers to traditional numbering to bringing back old characters, they’ve thrown everything at the wall to see what sticks. One that seems to be sticking are team-ups. And lots of them. Doctor Strange: Damnation #2 continues the streak with Wong gathering a mystical team of heroes (or maybe anti-heroes to be precise) to save the day. Hopefully they can come together long enough to save their own souls.
Since the Empirikul damaged the flow of magic, Doctor Strange has been in a terrible funk. When he’s not scrounging for what mystical artifacts that remain or working as a veterinarian, he’s been spending every spare second of his time trying to find a way to wrestle his title of Sorcerer Supreme back from Loki. In the process, he’s become a pretty difficult character to like. He’s gone to any lengths necessary to regain his magical mantle, including using the Sentry to “pay the price” for any magic he casts, to manipulating Yggdrasil to bestow him with Asgardian magic in exchange for the remains of a dead dog. Needless to say, it’s been a wild ride lately and Stephen hasn’t come across as the most noble of heroes in the MU.
So here we are with Damnation. Doctor Strange, on a whim, takes it upon himself to resurrect the ruins of Las Vegas with his newfound powers and in the process or bring the city and all its souls back from the dead, he also raises Mephisto and his hellish hordes up with it. Needless to say, things go badly and Mephisto steals the souls of the Avengers present along with Doctor Strange and creates his own demon mob to enforce his rule. Doctor Strange: Damnation #2 completes the set up begun last issue as we follow the trusty and loyal Wong as he assembles his own team of mystical and underworld heroes to try to retake Doctor Strange and defeat Mephisto. Wong’s team consists of Iron Fist, Blade, Moon Knight, Elsa Bloodstone, Doctor Voodoo, Man-Thing and Ghost Rider. Quite the eclectic group and definitely not top picks for a team-up since none of them typically play well with others. This doesn’t seem to concern Wong much, he’s single minded in his task to rescue Stephen and as the battle for their souls ensues, the team seems to be very much expendable as the mission unfolds. As the saying goes, no battle plan survives first contact and the team is quickly outmatched by the demonic Avengers under Mephisto’s control. The book ends with the team being rescued by a yet another unlikely anti-hero.
It’s hard to make any firm criticisms of the work Cates and Spencer have produced on this tale thus far. Honestly, it’s pretty standard fare for a Marvel team-up book despite it being dressed up as a mini event. First issue established the threat, second issue gathers the team. I expect the third act to be the counter attack and the fourth will see everyone go home with some minor alterations to the Marvel Universe. Really, these kinds of books kinda write themselves. To their credit, everyone is characterized exactly how you’d want to read them and Wong comes across as much more fleshed out and focused character than we’ve seen in the current Doctor Strange title.
Kudranski turns in some very impressive work this issue, and following on the hells of Rod Reis’s excellent first issue, is really saying something. Every panel pops with detail and energy, his linework is frenetic and reminds me of a tighter version of Del Mundo’s work on Weirdworld. Vivid, almost psychedelic colors really make this book stand out as a Doctor Strange title. It appears that Kudranski did all the art chores on his own, which makes it all the more impressive.
Wait and See! It might be that I’m a little burned out on event and team-up books right now. After Secret Wars, Secret Empire, Legacy and the slew of relaunches and mash-ups, this crossover mini-event just doesn’t feel necessary. I don’t see why this couldn’t have been handled in the pages of the Doctor Strange monthly after they resolved the Loki storyline. As it stands, this may turn out to be an entertaining tale with Wong taking the reins, but even so Doctor Strange: Damnation #2 shaping up as a story best read in trade paperback.