There's a mystical showdown coming in the Marvel Universe, and the stage is set for what's left of Las Vegas.
Marvel Comics releases Doctor Strange: Damnation #1, the first issue of a five-issue event series from writers Nick Spencer (Secret Empire) and Donny Cates (Doctor Strange) and artist Rod Reis (Secret Empire), in February 2018. The story sees Doctor Strange attempting to undo the destruction of Las Vegas that took place through the orders of the evil Captain America during the Secret Empire event.
Strange's intentions are good, but those good intentions pave him a road to exactly where you might expect, and he ends up summoning Mephisto to the mortal realm. Even Strange can't handle Mephisto alone, and so he assembles a team of some of Marvel's top magical heroes to aide him in his mission.
ComicBook.com spokes to Cates and Spencer about the new series.
What is the story you're setting out to tell in Damnation?
Nick Spencer: Pretty simple-- We wanted to tell a big, fun, explosive story bringing a host of our magic/horror characters together to face off against a major threat from one of the Marvel Universe's most evil forces. It all begins with Doctor Strange resurrecting a lost city, opening the door to that evil inadvertently-- and from there, things go crazy.
Donny Cates: Yeah, when Nick and I began talking about this story, we both gravitated towards those really fun "corner events" like Annihilation. A story that focuses on one specific corner of the Marvel Universe, but still has vast consequences and very high stakes. In that way, Nick and Rod and I have set out to make this a kind of Magic Annihilation. Wait... that's a dope title. Can we use that??
Doctor Strange was trapped in New York during Secret Empire, so the devastation of Las Vegas may be a relatively fresh wound for him. What is his initial reaction and how does that factor into this story?
NS: Stephen's attitude is basically "if I can do something about this, I should." He understands that there might be consequences, that all magic comes with a price, but he's looking at something horrible enough that inaction isn't an option. He has the power to fix it, so in his mind, he has to.
DC: Yeah, what Nick said. Stephen is doing what heroes do here. He's trying to right a wrong using the powers he possesses. But, as we've learned in the past few years with Doctor Strange...everything has a price. And while Stephen is obviously aware of this, he has no idea what he's unleashed this time...
Aside from the game he was playing with Doctor Doom in Infamous Iron Man, this will be the first we've seen of Mephisto as a real threat to the Marvel universe in some time. As much as you're willing to reveal right now, what can you say about what he's after, what his plan is, and why he chooses now to strike?
NS: One of the fun things about this story, to me, is Mephisto's motivation. For starters, he believes he's the aggrieved party here. One day, through no doing of his own, Vegas fell to his realm. He loved it; it was a natural fit -- he and his minions were having a grand time with it. Then along comes Stephen and takes it away from them. In Mephisto's mind, that's not playing fair. If Doctor Strange wants to mess with Mephisto's realm, Mephisto is more than happy to return the favor in Strange's realm.
Mephisto is the external demon, but what internal demons is Strange wrestling with in this story?
DC: Well, now we're getting into spoiler territory! After the events of my first arc [of the Doctor Strange ongoing series], where we saw Loki take the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, Stephen is still a little bruised. Both physically and mentally. He just went through hell, and he came out the other side of it with something to prove. He wants to be a hero again. He wants to show everyone that he's back and he's better than ever. He has a lot of work ahead of him to get back on his feet, and he starts this journey in Vegas. And... yeah, it doesn't go super great.
What kind of supporting cast will Damnation have? When things go bad, who does Strange turn to for help?
NS: The call goes out to a wide cast of heroes who either wield magic themselves or have been touched by it. You can see from the first cover that includes Ghost Rider, Blade, Iron Fist, and Moon Knight. But there are more -- many more. I'm excited about bringing some of these characters into the story, and putting them together in the same place is half the fun.
DC: SO MANY MORE! I can't tell you all how stoked I am to write some of these characters. I've wanted to get my hands on BLADE for so long. I'm such a huge Blade nerd. And Ghost Rider! Moon Knight!!! Iron Fist! I really am a kid in a (demonic) candy shop here.
Donny, you're writing the ongoing Doctor Strange title, where Loki is apparently taking over as Sorcerer Supreme. How does Damnation interact with that series and the story you're telling in that series?
DC: Well, again, not to get into spoiler territory here, but at the opening of Damnation, Stephen is anxious to get out there and do some good again. He's been sidelined for a bit since the events of Secret Empire and then with the whole Loki thing. So what you'll see here is a Stephen Strange who's anxious to get back to the business of being a hero. Of being the man he used to be. But of course its Stephen, right? So things are going to get a whole lot worse before they ever get better!
Nick, this is your first big story since culminating your Captain America story in Secret Empire. Las Vegas is a clear connection to that story. How does Damnation relate to Secret Empire in a thematic and narrative sense?
NS: This story very much begins with one of the biggest lingering wounds of Secret Empire -- the destruction of Vegas, and the impact that's had on both the heroes and the world at large. But like all the stories we're doing that deal with that event's fallout -- whether it's Captain America or Tales of Suspense or Deadpool or Falcon, it's important to us that what we're doing now stands on its own two feet. So if you read Secret Empire, I think this adds to the tapestry. But if you didn't, this can certainly be enjoyed as its own thing, no continuity knowledge required.
In working with artist Rod Reis, what is the atmosphere and tone you're trying to strike for Damnation? Is this a massive mystical battle? Something darker and more cerebral? A little of both?
NS: I've had the joy and privilege of getting to work with Rod for the last year or so, and he's very quickly become one of my favorite collaborators ever. I just love the passion and enthusiasm he brings to the page, the work itself is beyond gorgeous, and he's especially well suited for these kinds of visuals -- the otherworldly, the terrifying, the dreamlike... it's all very much in his wheelhouse.
Are there any last teases you'd like to leave fans with?
DC: As a die-hard Marvel fan myself, the end of the first issue had me freaking out with how cool and hardcore it is. There's this thing that happens (You'll know it when you see it) that I just LOST it over when Nick and I were brainstorming the series. It's so much fun. Nick and I are buddies, so we just get on the phone and jam on stories and ideas all the time. And obviously Nick is an amazing writer, so it's just such a kick to play in the magical Marvel sandbox like this. And then to have those idea come to life from someone as incredibly talented as Rod? Jeez, how lucky am I? This is how the best comics get made.
Doctor Strange: Damnation #1 goes on sale in February 2018.
DOCTOR STRANGE: DAMNATION #1 (OF 5)
DONNY CATES & Nick Spencer (W) • ROD REIS (A/C)
Variant Cover by RON LIM
Variant Cover by TBA
CONNECTING VARIANT COVER by GREG SMALLWOOD
Trading Card Variant Cover by JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER
The city of sin gets its biggest sinner yet. When Doctor Strange raises Las Vegas up from its destruction during SECRET EMPIRE, he inadvertently opens a big door for the embodiment of evil, MEPHISTO! The devilish villain takes the city for himself and sets his sights on the rest of the world. It’s going to take heroes from all over the Marvel Universe to defeat him, but there’s nothing simple about fighting the lord of Hell.