Friday, March 22, 2013

Keep Your Butter Knives Sharp


Name This Marvel Villain??

Leader of a warlike, alien race on a distant world, Urthona is probably the best Dr. Strange villain you've never heard of. He makes his appearance in the closing issues of Vol. 2 of Doctor Strange, just before the title is cancelled--so we can assume that not many people were reading the book at this point. And that's a shame, because those who jumped ship ended up missing one of the greatest Dr. Strange battles of all time.

Revered by his people on a world where sorcery was as respected as your skill and ruthlessness in savage combat, Urthona put in motion a plan to wrest the title of Sorcerer Supreme from Strange and claim the position for himself. And by "wrest," you can take that to mean that he wasn't going to be gentle about it. Urthona's plan was two-pronged: to take out Strange with a brutal attack by his army's fiercest warrior, while also making off with Strange's sanctum and its treasure trove of mystic artifacts which would augment Urthona's already considerable might.

Urthona's assassin makes his appearance while Strange is totally off-guard, having lunch with his friend, Morganna Blessing:

The assassin's armor is able to blunt Strange's spells, so Strange makes use of the only tool at hand:

While Strange is occupied, Urthona strikes at his more valuable objective. And when Strange lets his guard down, he pays the price.

But though his body is mortally wounded, Strange is able to release his astral self and continue the battle. Still, his options are limited without a physical form, and the only tool now at hand is of a far more personal nature.

Unfortunately, Morganna fares no better against this brute than Strange:

And in a disturbing pattern that seems to be manifesting, Strange is driven to make another choice that puts his morals aside in order to deal with the crisis at hand.

Meanwhile, on his homeworld, Urthona has sacked Strange's sanctum (including making captives of his houseguest, Topaz, and his manservant, Wong) and stands ready to face Strange should the weakened sorcerer travel to confront him:

In the interim, Strange has proven resourceful in both saving his physical body from death as well as procuring a Skrull saucer from the Fantastic Four that can take him to Urthona's world. (The FF are better than an auto club, aren't they.  Every hero in town knows to come to them for transportation.) And as luck would have it, he comes across a young mystic apprentice, Rintrah, who is willing to host his astral self while his physical body continues to heal. Thus, when Strange arrives to face Urthona, his new form makes for quite the entrance.

Even Urthona, whose power is now off the scale thanks to Strange's own mystic artifacts, and who fights on his own home ground, is suitably impressed by Strange's abilities. Strange not only decisively fends off the attack of Urthona's army, but takes the fight to Urthona himself and manages to hold his own. But Urthona, like his men, is ruthless and without scruples, and sees an opportunity to strike a fatal blow to Strange's resolve:

With that one act, the tide turns for Urthona--for while Strange is consumed with grief, Urthona seizes the momentum and unleashes the demons of the Darkhold against his opponent. Seeing his master is not returning the attack, Rintrah frees his own astral form to take possession of Strange's physical body and attempt to release Urthona's remaining hostage, Topaz. The act has its desired effect, as Strange is renewed with purpose and begins to fight again.

Yet Urthona has discovered Rintrah's subterfuge, and prepares to slaughter both Rintrah and Topaz. Strange acts to save them--but in doing so, he leaves himself powerless for Urthona's reprisal, with his own talismans being used against him. And so Strange makes another fateful choice--which will effectively defeat Urthona, but also leave Strange without any means to protect his dimension from future threats.

Urthona uses the Darkhold to spirit himself away, but chastises Strange for his desperate act which has opened the door to possibly far greater threats. (What, did you expect this grand villain to depart without twisting the knife a little?) Afterward, while the dust is settling, Topaz tells Strange that Wong is alive, if you can believe it. I don't know--my eyes are as good as yours, and I'm pretty sure I clearly saw Wong's face crushed like a ripe melon, and by mechanical means and not some reversible spell. But aside from this minor (!) quibble, this three-issue story was a hell of a high note on which to bring Doctor Strange to an end.

1 comment:

dbutler16 said...

Wow, this does look like a pretty cool story.