Three “Strangers” unite against the unholy power of Salome!
This issue features two stories.
"Strangers Among Us, The Final Curtain: Salome's Children:" - [Cont. from DOCTOR STRANGE: SORCERER SUPREME #66.] A terrorist group, the Shrieking Rain Jihad, makes a suicide attack on business-persons breakfasting at the World Trade Center dining room, killing everybody and themselves in the name of Salome.
In her lair in Iraq, while reveling in the fear and anger reaching her from New York, Salome has her captive, Dr. Vincent Stephens, bound in thorny vines. She demands to know the whereabouts of Dr. Stephen Strange, but Stephens insists he doesn't know who she's talking about. To prove Stephens is not the human he thinks he is, Salome magically skeletonizes him, but his body reassembles itself, much to his horror.
In his hideaway far below the streets of New York City, Dr. Strange fears that the magical being Strange is approaching Stephens, which he cannot allow lest devastating chaos erupt. He attempts to use the Orb of Agamotto to weave a spell to prevent their proximity, but it backfires on him. Strange reaches the jihadists' camp outside Salome's lair and attacks her, while her gunmen fire upon him from below. Salome calls a cease fire, and begins to tell Strange and Stephens what she has deduced about their existence.
She has determined that the two are magical constructs created by Dr. Strange soon after her last battle with him when he became infused with her dark magic. Dr. Strange had mystically stopped time during the duel, and, leaving his cloak behind, made it appear that he had been disintegrated, while he went into hiding. Dr. Strange later created Dr. Vincent Stephen and Strange, imbuing the former with will-bending telepathy, and the latter with his magical abilities and few inhibitions. He set Stephens, who resembled the ambitious, successful surgeon he was before he took on his role as master of the mystic arts, to rebuild the material wealth he would need to function in the mundane world. Then he sent Strange to do battle against his enemies in his place, and to gather the mystical objects he required to re-establish himself as Sorcerer Supreme.
Being fully sentient, Stephens and Strange both bristle as this revelation, angry at being manipulated. Salome demands they join her against Dr. Strange, but at that moment, the former Sorcerer Supreme inhabits the body of Stephens, and the magical battle ensues. Dr. Strange fights Salome while Strange, despite his anger toward his creator, destroys the terrorists loyal to her. The two sorcerers t
hen join forces against Salome, who begins to sense Dr. Strange's physical location through his influence on Stephens.
In his hideaway, Dr. Strange, who has been resisting Salome's dark magic all these weeks, releases Stephens' body and gives in to the negative energies within. He appears as a specter above the fray and magically blasts the three combatants. The weakened Salome flies off the lick her wounds. Strange tries to merge with Stephens, but the latter refuses, and is left is the Iraqi desert by his 'other'.
Epilogue: Having made his way back to New York, Stephens tries to resume his business dealings, but finds his power of influence is gone. Strange approaches him and again asks Stephens to merge with him to prevent their eventual discorporation. Meanwhile, a quarter mile below, Dr. Strange gathers his mystic artifacts and begins the ritual that will re-empower him.
"Desperate Needs" - In the Dark Dimension, a team of warriors, six survivors of a larger force, find a safe haven in which they can hear their final instructions as recorded into a "Telling Stone" by Clea. She charges them with the task of rescuing a legendary adept, Muuro, from Dormammu's citadel. They proceed to the well guarded fortress and , using guile and force of will, reach the entrance. Four of the soldiers sacrifice themselves in order that two of their number, Sharr and Rei, gain ingress. Sharr tries to lead them to the holding cells, but Rei insists they go to the throne room instead. There, Rei reveals himself to truly be Clea. She explains the rescue attempt was a ruse, a fool's errand that would be beneath Dormammu's notice, allowing her access to the Portal of Passage. She traverses through it to find Dr. Strange and ask for his aid in their rebellion. Unable to follow, Sharr stays to make his last stand against Dormammu's minions. [To be continued in DOCTOR STRANGE #67.]
This issue also includes a pin-up by Robert Walker and John Stanisci.
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