Readers who pick up “Doctor Strange: Last Days of Magic” #1 with no prior knowledge of Doctor Strange or the “Last Days of Magic” storyline might find themselves a little lost. While the one-shot is interesting, it doesn’t explain enough to entice new readers to go back and pick up “Doctor Strange.” Though the issue fails at making readers care about the impending threat, it includes enthusiastic attempts at revitalizing and showcasing characters from the past as they defend themselves from the members of the Empirikul, a cult-like group dedicated to eradicating magic users and magic itself from all of space and time.
Framed by the organizational efforts of librarian Zelma Stanton, a character from the main “Doctor Strange” series, Jason Aaron provides glimpses of the Empirikul’s effect on three vastly different magi. Our first hero’s introduction is simply fun: El Medico Mistico’s flamboyant luchadore design is simply a light-hearted caricature, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. Each of his lines, delivered in Spanish, is memorable, such as his bit referring to his fists of magic. Artist Leonardo Romero even sneaks in some great cultural details onto the Mayan temple and the sugar skull design of El Medico Mistico’s mask. Jordie Bellaire’s neutral color palette for the Empirikul versus the flashes of fuschia also make for a fun contrast.
Doctor Voodoo is our second brush with magic in “Doctor Strange: Last Days of Magic” #1, but — even under the witty Gerry Duggan — it falls flat. Doctor Voodoo uses most of his pages to solve a problem, but he doesn’t have enough charm or excitement to be the star of his chapter. Nevertheless, the upside to having so much of the issue dedicated to Doctor Voodoo is getting to feast your eyes on Danilo Beyruth’s stunning artwork. It’s dynamic and, paired with Dan Brown’s gorgeous colors, it helps move the story along quickly.
James Robinson rounds out this issue with August The Wu, a magician based in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, this section is also lackluster. Robinson provides a strong attempt at an origin story, but Wu doesn’t quite fit in with the other two. Even if the story is meant to introduce her and make her a mainstay among the rest of the magic users, it just rings hollow due to a convoluted legacy beginning in Strange’s early career. What’s more, the story focuses much more on her mother instead of fleshing her out. Mike Perkins’ solid art designs make her visually interesting (she is a magician toting around a pair of handguns, after all) and his pulpy artwork feels like it comes straight from “Doctor Strange’s” series in the 1990s. Colorist Andy Troy keeps the artwork from feeling dated with his bold tones and easily does the best coloring and inking of the issue.
In the end, “Doctor Strange: Last Days of Magic” #1 is an issue meant to supplement the current arc for “Doctor Strange” readers. However, it’s hit-or-miss at best, as it doesn’t spend enough time on the more enjoyable characters or concepts of the Marvel universe.