Alright, with “Wizard War” we’re just rounding past the third mark of the Darkhold series as a whole, and it hasn’t disappointed us yet. Issue 6 is the first part of a two-issue story that serves to, in many ways, close out the first story-arc of this fledgling Marvel horror series.
The previous five issues have introduced us to the major factors that are aligning against our heroes Sam, Vicki and Louise. We have Modred, an Arthurian Wizard (and Merlin’s apprentice) that was seduced by the power of the Darkhold into giving his soul to the evil God Chthon and now seeks to regain the power of the Darkhold to free himself from his curse. He’s been helping out team so far, acting as a Deep Throat of sorts, although with his own motivations.
We also have the Scarlett Witch, an Avenger and daughter of Magneto with mutant powers that have a decidedly mystical bent. Her mentor in magic is Agatha Harkness, and they both have sought the help of sorcerer supreme Doctor Strange to figure out the mystery of the return of the Darkhold pages, and what that means for the Marvel Universe as a whole.
Finally, we have the villain of our series: a small unnamed Dwarf who delivers Darkhold pages to unsuspecting people. When the pages are read aloud, they often produce disasterous magical results that threaten themselves, those around them, and often the world. Vicki receives visions whenever a page is about to be used, and she and her team to to fight them.
If these seven issues do in fact form a story-arc, then this issue is definitely leading into the climax. It starts with Agatha reliving the prophecy that the Scarlett Witch had in Issue 3. She then goes on to explain the prophecy: it seems to be referring to the Scarlet Witch, and that her powers will someday soon cause the return of Chthon and destroy the world of man. This sets the stakes high, but a problem arises when they think our heroes are the cause of the problem.
It’s fairly typical comic book fodder for heroes to fight over some vauge misunderstanding, but this is one case in which it works. It’s easy to see how Strange and Harkness would assume that Vicki and the gang were villains… hell, look at some of the company they’ve been keeping: Sabretooth, the Punisher, Modred… these aren’t boy scouts. Especially Modred, who up until this series has been a villain in the Marvel U and even violated the Scarlett Witch on one occasion.
When Vicki and the others follow her vision of a darkhold page in use to Maui, it sets the stage for the conflict. Strange and the others show up to question the three, at which point Modred appears and saves them. Strange and the Witch have dealt with him before, and it isn’t long before an all out battle in underway that threatens everyone on the crowded beach.
The magic battle itself is great. Often part of the problem with Dr. Strange is that all his battles involve people in weird suits standing around and saying ridiculous bullshit at each other while technicolor fart bubbles fly around. It’s anticlimactic. Chris Cooper deals with this very well and amps up the tension between Modred and Strange to the point where, in a case where we’re not really sure who to cheer for, either combatant landing a blow is a blow to the reader.
The battle is cut short however, when an WW2 army vet used a darkhold page to “make everyone remember why they fought”… and Maui is bombarded with a battalion of Japanese bombers. Yikes. Great cliffhanger.
This series, as I stated before, is one of the best that Marvel has to offer. it’s a shame its never been collected, and an even bigger shame that it’s never been adapted to either television or film. Either way, this issue comes damn close to being perfect. i was tempted to give it a five, but honestly it does suffer from Gueststar-atosis, in that the main characters don’t get very much screen time. That’s a minor quibble, but enough to bring down the score a little.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars