WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange #5 by Mark Waid, Jesús Saiz and Cory Petit, in stores now.
A few months ago, Marvel's new Doctor Strange series began with a mystery. Stephen Strange, once Master of the Mystic Arts and Sorcerer Supreme, found himself powerless. On Earth, magic had begun to fade, and Stephen's old artifacts lost their potency until there was effectively nothing left. A talk with Tony Stark would inspire Stephen to leave the Earth behind and roam the spaceways to find new magics to wield.
In the cosmos, Strange went on new adventures with a new friend, an arcanologist named Kanna, where he would learn how to find magic. But while the sorcerer learned new tricks over the course of the series, he just now completed a complete power upgrade, and it's courtesy of Asgardian magic.
In issue #4, Strange and Kanna went on a mission to rescue a Nidavellirian dwarf named Eoffren from the grasps of the villainous Majesdane. Eoffren is from Nidavellir, where Thor's powerful hammers were forged and, according to Kanna, he is a master craftsman, whose abilities to forge magical weapons are legendary. However, the rescue mission goes a bit awry; Stephen manages to make it out with Eoffren, but Kanna remains in the grasp of the Majesdane.
To rescue her, Strange has no choice but to become a student once again... this time under the tutelage of Eoffren.
In Eoffren's mystical Forge, Stephen learns how to create new magical weapons. He blends enchantments to materials unlike anything found on Earth, and he finds new purposes for every spell he had ever learned. He unearths ancient magics, and even goes so far as inventing new ones. When Stephen is finally ready to rescue Kanna, he has a brand-new costume that shows he is no longer the same old Sorcerer Supreme. He wields a new weapon, a sword he refers to as a scalpel, able to cut through the fabric of reality itself. And, he wields new artifacts that are more than a match for the Majesdane. For example, such a weapon is a gauntlet-like glove that increases and multiplies his reach with magical hands made of energy.
With these powers, Strange has become even more powerful than ever. The Majesdane are easily defeated, their scheme to destroy the Earth is thwarted. The Doctor's power levels are redefined, and his magical reach appears to be even greater than before. Once, his magics were based on the Earth's past but now, he's armed with cosmic, Asgardian weaponry, both new and old. Now, Stephen is ready to go home, and pick up where he left off... Or maybe not.
There's just one problem: on Earth, there's another Doctor Strange, one who appears to be the Stephen Strange we've seen in action in the pages of Avengers, as well as the previous Doctor Strange volume.
Is the Asgardian-powered Stephen Strange a double, who came to be as a result of the Doctor's manipulation of the Time Stone? Could he be from an alternate reality? Or did we just witness the creation of the real Doctor Strange's most powerful adversary? After all, magic, as the Doctor himself says, always comes with a price.