[Contains SPOILERS for Doctor Strange #12 and 13.]
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first mystically empowered movie, Doctor Strange, arriving shortly it’s ironic that the Sorcerer Supreme found himself fighting for the existence of magic in the comic book realm. Using conventional weapons endowed with the mystical essences, he managed to defeat the Empirikul, but in the process, the old magic was destroyed. As the “Death of Magic” series wrapped up, Doc found himself in a weakened state and forced to discover new incantations and tactics – which made it the perfect time for his enemies to strike.
His old foe Baron Mordo (working with pal Dormammu, natch) popped up once again, taking on a mystically drained Doc. Strange fought valiantly against Mordo, struggling to find his footing in this new world, where things turned from bad dream into a Nightmare.
Doctor Strange #13, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Chris Bachalo, begins the “Blood in the Aether” story arc threatens to bring back some of the good doctor’s most ruthless rogues – all over the course of one week no less. The previous issue already saw Mordo attack Doc in broad daylight in front of his home. During his pitched battle with his archenemy, Strange finds himself ripped from the city by dark forces – this time, though, not into the dark dimension lorded over by the dread Dormammu (who isn’t pleased with the Baron letting Strange slip through his fingers, by the way).
Instead, Strange finds himself falling through the ether of the Dream Dimension and meeting up with his old fiend, Nightmare. A demon from the Everinnye dimension, Nightmare first reared his gnarled head in Strange Tales #110 (1963). The dream demon has persistently haunted the slumber of Strange for decades, at times working for Shuma-Gorath and the Fear Lords. Feasting off the bad dreams of the living, he’s also tormented the likes Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Dazzler, among others.
The latest round sees Strange face off against the subconscious creep once more, but he has to shake off the shackles of his own dream state. Nightmare traps him in a dream from his old life. Fortunately, Wong has a very strong suspicion about what happened to his colleague. He and Strange’s assistant Zelma Stanton fall asleep, in a fun Freddy Krueger–Dream Warriors moment, helping Strange remember who he is and the voodoo that he does so well. Unfortunately, once Strange is cognizant of his surroundings, Zelda and Wong are trapped by Nightmare.
Still minus his normal bag of tricks, Strange crafts a new spell to aid his battle with Nightmare. He swipes the sweat-soaked night terrors of billions of slumbering people, living through each one by himself. However, before he can defeat the surreal supervillain, he’s sucked through a fiery portal, only to wind up at Satana Hellstrom’s feet.
It’s books like Doctor Strange #13 latest run a fresh feel so far. Forced to depend upon a mystical barbwire-wrapped baseball bat and a brand new bag of tricks, longtime fans of the Strange one will enjoy watching the Sorcerer Supreme cultivate new magic in a world razed bare by the Empirikul. His next task, though, will take all of his might, as he faces the brunch of the damned.
Doctor Strange #13 is currently available online and in print.