Captain America: Civil War was only the first Marvel superhero film to come out in 2016. Now, fans are eagerly awaiting the release of Doctor Strange, which will introduce moviegoers to Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme himself!
But the #MCU spans a lot more than just films - in fact, Marvel Comics tend to release tie-in miniseries that further develop the world. Today saw the release of Doctor Strange Prelude #1, the beginning of a two-part miniseries that unveils the Masters of the Mystic Arts - and reveals a lot about the magical side of the MCU that we're about to dive into! Here are five things we discovered:
1. THE MASTERS OF THE MYSTIC ARTS PROTECT THE WORLD FROM DARK MAGIC
In the comics, Stephen Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme, and he stands pretty much alone against the forces of darkness. Doctor Strange Prelude #1 introduces us to a very different world, where the Ancient One's disciples defend the Earth against dark magic. They're organised as a group, and work together under the title 'Masters of the Mystic Arts'. Essentially, they're the mystic equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
This is a pretty important detail, because it explains why S.H.I.E.L.D. has rarely encountered magic before - in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 we saw just how sceptical S.H.I.E.L.D. agents could be when it came to dealing with magic. But there's a reason S.H.I.E.L.D. know little about magic; it's because the Masters of the Mystic Arts are very, very good at their job.
This also gives us a sense of the direction Stephen Strange's life will be expected to take. The Ancient One will be expecting to train him as a warrior against the darkness, one among many. We can presume that Baron #Mordo is another of the Masters, and that he'll rebel against the Ancient One. But will the Masters of the Mystic Arts survive, or will Doctor Strange and a handful of key allies be the only survivors?
2. THE SANCTUM SANCTORUM IS THEIR NEW YORK BASE
The Sanctum Sanctorum is Doctor Strange's traditional base of operations, located at 117A Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. In the latest Doctor Strange series, Jason Aaron has fleshed out the building's backstory:
Although Doctor Strange Prelude #1 doesn't show us the outside of this building, it does show us the interior. This is clearly the New York base of the Masters of the Mystic Arts, and they use it to hold captured dark artifacts. Eagle-eyed readers may notice one Cloak of Levitation...
3. WONG IS NO MERE MANSERVANT
There's an amusing irony to the fact that Benedict Wong is playing the part of Wong, traditionally Doctor Strange's manservant. In the comics, Wong was a disciple of the Ancient One who has some passing affinity for magic; that said, he's more skilled in Oriental martial arts.
This version of Wong is far more than a manservant! Doctor Strange Prelude #1 introduces us to Wong as one of the Masters of the Mystic Arts, a field operative who works alongside other Masters such as Daniel Drumm, Tina Minoru, and Kaecilius (recently confirmed to be Mads Mikkelsen's role). Wong is clearly relatively inexperienced, but seems to hold his own rather well in the end.
4. WE'RE INTRODUCED TO SOME MAGICAL BLOODLINES
I admit that I did a double-take when I read the above scene; both names will be familiar to comic book fans.
Daniel Drumm is the twin brother of Marvel superhero Brother Voodoo, who at one point even succeeded Doctor Strange as Sorcerer Supreme! Daniel was ultimately killed at the hands of the occultist Damballah, but his spirit remains with his brother as an advisor. Tina Minoru, meanwhile, is best known as the mother of Nico Minoru, a popular member of the #Runaways. In contrast to this role, though, Tina was a dark sorceress who worked alongside other supervillains to head up a criminal cartel in Los Angeles.
Neither character is examined in-depth; Wong and Kaecilius are the central characters. What's more, neither character is on the cast list for Doctor Strange. But both appearances are exciting nods to the broader world of magic that Marvel is launching into...
5. DID WE JUST SEE THE STAFF OF ONE?
The story centers on the Masters of the Mystic Arts pursuing a dangerous artefact - a mystic staff of tremendous dark power. It's unclear just what this artifact does, but visually it's reminiscent of the Staff of One.
In the comics, the Staff of One is a terrifyingly powerful mystic artifact that is typically associated with the Minoru family. Tina Minoru owned it, and it was stolen by her daughter Nico. Certainly the reaction this artifact gets is reminiscent of the Staff of One, but there are some traditional elements - such as blood-letting to summon the Staff - that are missing.
So there you have it! This comic serves as our first encounter with the world of Marvel's magic, and it's an intriguing one. The Masters of the Mystic Arts seem to be a fascinating group, and we can be sure Stephen Strange will find his first encounter with them challenging. The second issue of the miniseries will introduce us to the Ancient One herself, and possibly to some of the disciples Strange will encounter in Kamar-Taj...