Letterer:VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover:Javier Rodriguez, Álvaro López & Jordie Bellaire
On Sale Date: November 23, 2016
**NON SPOILERS AND SCORE AT THE BOTTOM**
You know, if Marvel just pluralized the last word instead of the second-to-last word in the title, then this book could be about legendary R&B singer Diana Ross’ back-up band—with magic powers!
Another missed opportunity. Read on for the review of what is, and not what might have been.
So Merlin threw a hastily-arranged surprise party for all of the best Sorcerers Supreme throughout history, and then he had the nerve to die. The host should never die! The host of any gathering must stay alive to serve punch and pie! Not to mention the thing that killed him, the furious super-demons that Merlin himself banished, is still lumbering around in a kind of collective “shabby evil” kind of get-up. There are some interesting characters here, though, for instance Billy Kaplan aka Wiccan: former Avenger, current X-Man and apparently future Sorcerer Supreme. He had a special bond with Merlin, so he’s especially distraught over his mentor’s passing, but after a while he shakes it off and takes the fight to the red-haired mystery monster. The team does a pretty good job working together, but after Yao (a young version of the Ancient One that will one day teach Doctor Strange the ways of mysticism) gets his arm broken it’s clear that they are not match for this towering nightmare. Wiccan pulls a Cloak and everyone escapes into his striped cape, to reappear on a remote beach.
Something about the sand and surf seems to loosen Billy’s tongue, and he blithely informs Doctor Strange that not only he is alive in Billy’s future, but he is married! Before that can be pursued, or Yao’s broken wing set correctly, the whole team (save for Newton’s minion, the Mindful One) fall into an expanding sinkhole. There, they go to trippy land and are beset by Spirits of the Unholy that they must not touch. Being experts in the board game Operation, they all get through this purple zone and come back out onto the same beach that swallowed them up in the first place. There, Newton surmises that this was a trap set by Merlin to keep out intruders, and that the horrible spirit monster that whipped their asses is sure to try and take down Merlin’s castle. So they trudge onward, to protect the keep and get some magic goodies as well.
Plodding through some dark woods, Doctor Strange plies Wiccan for more information about his future bride, but Wiccan is suddenly mum. Should have asked him on the beach, people just can’t shut up in that environment! Through conversation, we also learn that Newton and Yao were both freed from prisons, which is sure to screw up the time stream. For example, they get to Merlin’s castle and it looks like an abandoned crack house. Wiccan finds some chicken bones, maybe? And then either remembers the first time he met Merlin, or meets actual Merlin who then takes him into a magic portal in the ground. Whatever it is, his actions seem to have impact on the present because ol’ Merlin promises to get him back in time for supper, a call back to the beginning of the issue when Wiccan’s had a conversation with his husband promising the same.
And it was sort of a dud, as far as endings are concerned. But the rest of the issue was fairly decent, if a little padded. I mean, the coloring for the page and a half that the Sorcerers fell into Merlin’s sand trap was pretty cool, but was ultimately unnecessary. I also don’t have any personal history with Billy Kaplan, so if the fact that he’s married to a dude or heir to Doctor Strange’s title are big bombshells, they went over my head. The monsters are rendered better than the humans, which is not a terrible thing provided there are plenty of monsters—to that end, there could have been more abomination-fighting action in this issue. I am interested to learn more about individual members of the team, and I’m certainly curious to see where this goes, so the comic book did its job in that respect.
Bits and Pieces:
Some talk-laden meandering and a rather flat ending are the low points that keep this book from being the exciting mystical romp it could be. The assembled team is pretty interesting, however, and each has their own back story that I will be curious to learn about. There are certainly less-deserving comic books out there that get more notice, but I'd say that only serious fans of Doctor Strange need apply here.