WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange #3 by Mark Waid, Jesus Saiz and Joe Sabino, in stores now.
The Illuminati has always been one of the most divisive superhero ensembles, at Marvel or otherwise. Initially comprised of Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Doctor Strange, Namor, Black Bolt and Professor Xavier, the cabal would go on to rotate members for various game-changing decisions, as seen with them banishing Hulk prior to the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk storylines.
Quite often, the Illuminati’s decisions come back to haunt them, as they quickly forget about their moral compass and make questionable, if not selfish, choices. It’s hard to single one out for blame (Stark may be atop the list). but Doctor Strange stands out in a bad way.
Though the Illuminati seems to be a thing of the past, especially in the wake of Secret Wars, Strange’s new cosmic adventures make it clear he didn’t learn from previous mistakes made by the group. This is blatantly illustrated in Doctor Strange #3, when he repeats an act which landed him in big trouble with Captain America.
Mark Waid and Jesús Saiz’s current arc has Strange, a man who has lost his magical abilities, wandering the cosmos trying to regain his powers once more. He’s star-trekking, rebuilding his powers from scratch as he steals or buys artifacts, or learns from alien mentors, all in an attempt to become something at least similar to a Sorcerer Supreme again. His journeys led him to an alien arcanologist (basically someone who studies the mystic arts) named Kanna, and together they’re bartering magic as they traverse space.
Their current adventures take them to a mysterious planet called Tarnax II where Kanna wants Strange learn from Mt’Nox, a Skrull sorcerer, but a pacifist, not someone who endorsed the Secret Invasion event. The thing is, Strange finds the Super Skrull with the Time Stone there and tricks Kanna into helping him steal it. He promises she can keep it afterwards, but upon successful extraction, Strange pulls a fast one, pickpocketing the Palm of Forgetfulness from her, and mind-wiping her so he can successfully keep the gem, hidden of course.
It’s a disappointing move for a couple of reasons. First, if Strange was trying become worthy of magic once more, this is a regressive move; Kanna has been nothing but honest and loyal, willing to lay her life down for his. She’s going out of her way to help him, so this is a massive betrayal. Given the trust she has placed in him, such a lie is sure to bite Strange in the behind again, not only on ethical grounds, but he doesn’t know the repercussions for casting the spell, or how long until it wears off.
This amateur behavior is reminiscent of another mistake he made, mind-wiping Captain America in 2013’s New Avengers #3 from Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting. There, the Illuminati was planning to destroy other worlds to preserve Marvel’s Prime Earth. When Cap objected, Strange (on Stark’s orders) wiped his memory so he’d forget the meeting, allowing them to proceed apace with their genocidal solution.
Cap would remember what happened years later, as the secrets of the Marvel Universe came out in the Original Sin event, encouraging him to use the Avengers to hunt the Illuminati. He recognized such arrogance tears families, friends and fellow heroes apart, and more often than not, it leads to the loss of innocent lives.
Ultimately, Strange proves some things don’t change because just when we thought he was learning to be a new man, he shows his true colors: deceitful, rash and as impulsive as ever. His gambling with the powerful Time Stone just put a Skrull target on his back, and given their hatred for humans, when they come, hopefully Kanna doesn’t get caught in the crossfire paying for his sins.
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