by Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Spencer: Doctor Strange has had a rough year. Mind you, I don’t think superheroes ever get to have easy years, but Strange has still had it harder than most as of late, between the Empirikul’s magical genocide, Loki’s coup, and the loss of all his friends and allies. It makes sense that Strange might be looking for a win. It makes sense that his decision to raise and restore Las Vegas might not be entirely selfless. And, given the price he’s paying for this act, it makes sense that his attempts to make things right are only leading to more mistakes. Strange thought he’d hit rock bottom, but he didn’t realize how much worse things could get.
Donny Cates and Niko Henrichon’s Doctor Strange 387 takes place concurrently with Damnation 1, meaning the issue opens before Strange raises Las Vegas, allowing us to see the preparation he put into the act. His prep is both magical and more mundane, including a bit of hair dye to cover up his graying temples. Bats extrapolates this minor act of vanity into an entire thesis statement, and I think the ghost dog’s got a point.
Raising Las Vegas is a good thing, but why did Strange do it — because it was the right thing to do, or because he desperately needed a win? The evidence seems to point towards the latter. First there’s Strange’s fantasy of the city raised, which Henrichon and Cates depict in a sunny, joyous two-page spread and which finds Strange the center of attention. Then there’s Strange’s stubborn refusal to calculate the cost of his massive magical act. “I’ve been paying [the price] for a long time,” Strange states; he seems to think that he’s owed a win after the year he’s had.
He might not be wrong, but sadly, neither magic nor the world works that way. This pattern continues in Strange’s game of cards against Mephisto, where Strange wins the game by cheating, but is eventually caught. This move is brought on by Mephisto taunting Strange with the supposed fact that all his friends damned because of him, to which Strange responds “I don’t have any friends. Not anymore.” Again Strange thinks that he’s already hit bottom, that he’s already lost everything there is to lose, and he couldn’t be more wrong. Maybe Mephisto can teach Strange some humility in that sense, but how many others will end up hurt to impart that lesson? And will Strange actually internalize it, or will he just keep thinking of others’ pain as personal indignities against himself in a neverending cycle of hubris and bad luck?
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?