Graphic Novel Review: Doctor Strange: Blood in the Aether

Doctor Strange: Blood in the Aether

Doctor Strange: Blood in the Aether - Credit: Archant

After the Empirikul destroyed almost all the world’s magic and nearly killed Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme must try and build himself back up. Plus, witness the return of Baron Mordo... But what effect did the Empirikul attack have on him?

(Panini Books)

Magic has gone from the world. Just a few scraps of the mystic arts remain, clinging desperately to ancient artefacts and the flotsam and jetsam washed up in our reality from other dimensions. It isn’t a good time to be Sorcerer Supreme, yet Stephen Strange is determined to do whatever he can to continue living up to the title.

But the devastation wreaked by the Empirikul has not only left Earth depleted of magical energies, it has also unleashed new forces to menace the planet, including the morbid Thing in the Cellar, and Strange no longer has access to his repertoire of spells and former abilities, instead relying on rudimentary techniques linked to the equipment he is able to hold onto.

Of course, with the good doctor at his weakest for decades, now is the perfect opportunity for his old adversaries to strike, including Baron Mordo and the dread Dormammu. In many ways this story arc is a series of greatest hits battles between Strange and his rogues gallery, but is no less enjoyable because of this.

It serves to set up the character’s new status quo and working methods by pitting him against enemies he previously only managed to defeat using his full array of magical powers, not scrambling around for whatever supernaturally-charged remnants he can get his hands on.

Of course, just as writer Jason Aaron has changed Strange’s MO, he’s also given him something of a personality transplant, replacing the po-faced mystic with a wise-cracking warrior, whose determination to survive against the odds is irrefutable. In many ways he’s a bit Tony Stark-lite, but there’s a lot in common between the two characters beyond the moustaches. Strange’s origins are rooted in his career as an egotistical, materialistic surgeon, and although his subsequent car crash and damage to his hands dampened much of those personality traits, they have often risen to the surface, not least in his proclamation as Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.

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A solid, reliable book, which has finally made Doctor Strange readable again. Long may it continue.