History Deepens in Doctor Strange 23

by Taylor Anderson

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The Marvel universe is as deep as the Mariana Trench, which is to say it’s practically bottomless. After more than fifty years of continuously pumping out serialized stories, it’s fair to say that no person knows everything about the Marvel universe no matter how much they’ve read. The breadth of its history gives writers a leg up when writing their stories: when you have deep pool to draw from it’s unlikely it will run dry any time soon. Even with the vastness of this narrative landscape, Doctor Strange stands out because it always hints at an even deeper world history beyond the Marvel pages. This is something Dennis Hopeless knows and uses to his great advantage in Doctor Strange 21.

Stephen, Spider Woman, the Kingpin, and Ben Urich are continuing their fight against Mordo and the Darkforce dome that has descended over Manhattan. After fighting a witch employed by the Kingpin, Stephen finds several magical artifacts that could aid him in his fight with Mordo. The problem is, however, each artifact has a significant drawback when used by a human being.

I’ve marveled before at the ability of Doctor Strange to suggest a world that is deeper than what is presented on the page and I suppose this is no different. However, what really impresses me in this instance is the way all of these magical items exist within the context of history, both in the Marvel universe and our own. It stands to reason that anyone who used the magical horn, Mayan knife, or werebear necklace would be known to history. However, outside of Stephen, few, if any, knows about these events. The reason is because each item eventually destroys the person who wields it so their story is lost to time. They say history is written by the winners after all.

What’s neat about this little bit of world building is that it suggests these things exist in the Marvel universe and, in a way, even our own. How? The same reason that no one knows about the magical objects in the Marvel universe in theory could be the same no one in our does either. Now I’m not saying I believe in these magical items – they are clearly fictional – but there’s something fun and clever about a story that hints at the hidden history in our own world as well as its own. In this way, Hopeless has crafted a world that is endlessly deep and fascinating that could be very well be fictional, or maybe even our own.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

3 comments on “History Deepens in Doctor Strange 23

  1. Honestly, I think I preferred last month’s ‘cultural narratives turned into magic spells’ to these magic artefacts, that felt relatively generic. These felt like exactly what you first think of when you think ‘cursed artefacts’. Not strange enough. The only one that really inspired me was the Phantom Eagle, at the very end.

    Again, the true success with this is that Hopeless has creates a really well done team, each providing different perspectives. Which Hopeless then develops through the magic, giving them magic that fits their archetypes. Things like revealing that Urich is a roleplayer that likes to LARP is a fantastic piece of subtle characterization, showing his very different set of data. Where Strange uses expertise and Jessica uses experience, Urich’s knowledge base is positively mundane. And the joke about him getting lost in character was hilarious.

    It also creates an itneresting contrast with Mordo. Ultimately, what is the big difference between Strange and Mordo? In most ways, the differences a purely academic. But the fact that Mordo only has minions, Strange has allies. He doesn’t even have to like them. He’s closest to Jessica, and isn’t actually that close, Urich is mostly an unknown and Fisk is a villain. But even so, those first two pages show two very different people.

    And that is the secret of Hopeless’ story. Four completely different people save the day because they can work together, no matter how out of their depth they are

  2. The death of Ben Urich in the Marvel TV-Verse (which is the same as the movieverse?) has freed up the character to be anything now. How long has Urich been a character that was a smoking hard boiled super serious crime reporter? And now he LARPs and makes D&D jokes?

    Not a complaint. I thought this was a great comic that is a perfect level of insane to deal with the heavy lifting that Secret Empire is trying to do. I’ve liked Urich under Hopeless’ pen. But this seems new and I kind of like the Urich reboot in the past couple of years.

    • I don’t think it has to do with Urich’s death in the Daredevil show (damn, that was a waste of a great character, died before his story truly begun. At least it unlocked a lot of potential for the show’s secret weapon, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page). Recently, Marvel haven’t let the movies dictate content too much. Doctor Strange, Spiderman, Captain America and Thor have barely any similarities to the movies.

      I think the reason for the change is that Urich moved from the Daredevil books, where he always lost, to Spiderwoman, where he gets to win. It all fits the old character, but you can see the old character never getting the chance because things were so dramatic and Elektra just stabbed him.
      Away from Daredevil, this new side finally gets the chance to be revealed (and yeah, I love the new Urich too)

      Also, from my understanding, the TV verse and the movie verse are seperate universes. They were supposed to be the same universe at first, but the split between Marvel Studios and Marvel TV, as well as the utter refusal for either universe to acknowledge each other, rendered that meaningless. And with the announcement that Tilda/Deadly Nightshade (from Nighthawk and Occupy Avengers) will be in both Black Panther and Luke Cage season 2, played by different actors, it is essentially official

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