In an ancient catacomb beneath New York (which has simultaneously always and never been there), a trio of sorcerers seek out an artifact. However, they are chased by an unknown evil, and they never reach their destination.
In the present day, Doctor Strange and Zelma Stanton pick up where they left off, but the evil never left. In fact, it added the sorcerers to its ranks, and Strange and Zelma must outmaneuver them if they will ever make it out alive.
There was a bit of worry for me with Doctor Strange's future as a book. After Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo left and the usually excellent Dennis Hopeless put in a subpar stint on the book, I wasn't sure if the book could recover.
John Barber swooped in and put together an excellent 25th issue to the book, and, with #26, he shows that he has an eye for the adventures of the Sorcerer Supreme.
Doctor Strange #26 is a solid read with a lot of personality. It's a dark and supernatural tale which adds a dash of sinister to Strange's identity. He fights for good, but it's implied that he's done some bad for the side of good.
Zelma is given a bit more to do here, with her wits and drive being necessary for Doctor Strange to win the day. Aaron seemed to forget her for a good part of his run, but Barber is showing more interest in her as a character. I like Zelma Stanton and hope that she gets to be more of a part of Doctor Strange in the future.
There's something to be said how this comic could easily be a one-off arc and yet could be continued in the next issue. Strange and Stanton come to this location in search for artifacts to add to Strange's arsenal. The two manage to vanquish the threat within, and Strange is ready to go back. However, Stanton urges him to go forward, and the two advance deeper into the catacombs. As such, there is closure, but the next issue could continue from here. That's not an easy trick to pull off, and Barber earns respect for accomplishing this.
Niko Henrichon, who did the art for Hopeless' Secret Empire tie-in on Doctor Strange, is back and continues to rock the world of the Master of the Mystic Arts. Doctor Strange #26 looks great, and Henrichon's dark and grimy style fits the wild world of Stephen Strange perfectly. His color work is just as good, and his Doctor Strange work absolutely oozes with atmosphere.
Doctor Strange looks to be back on track under Barber and Henrichon. The two put together a great comic book, and it's one I can easily recommend. Give it a read.
Edit: I'm dumb and didn't even realize that these two weren't going to be the creative team for Marvel Legacy Doctor Strange. Donny Cates and Gabriel Hernandez Walta will be the new creative team, and this story continuing and even the prominence of Zelma Stanton are up in the air. This comic is unfortunately not particularly indicative of things to come in Doctor Strange.