Doctor Strange has become the herald supreme.
In Doctor Strange #13, the master of the mystic arts must prevent the destruction of the universe after Zoloz, a mystic from Zarax, sought Strange's help against the planet-eating Galactus.
Taking matters into his own hands, Zoloz consumed the magic from the artifacts contained within the Sanctum Sanctorum, banishing the devourer of worlds into the depths of the mystic realm — threatening the fragile balance of existence.
Within the Nether Realms, Strange notes the sorcerer's misguided efforts to save his planet from being consumed has left all reality in peril: "To unleash a presence so defined by science and technology into a magical plane utterly devoid of those characteristics tips the balance of all existence."
Faced with the might of Galactus, Strange thinks, "The Multiverse is safe only so long as I can return Galactus before science and magic collide... and I'm not sure I can." Strange confronts Galactus, who is unable to differentiate between the "lesser life-forms" that are humans.
Galactus hungers, and the "pitiful morsels" in his inter-dimensional prison fail to sustain him. Strange warns they'll poison Galactus, ordering him to stay within the prison until Strange can secure passage home.
Galactus disobeys, stepping beyond his prison. "For the good of all creation," Strange cries, "I cannot allow you to move freely through the mystic dimensions!" He goes to halt Galactus, but is swatted away.
Misan-Ha-Gorath appears, dwarfing even Galactus, who is warned he is not welcome in the demon-looking creature's kingdom. The Beast of Pain attacks, unleashing a forceful blast on Galactus, who tells Gorath he has erred: "You have given me a taste of the vast energies that lie inside you," Galactus says, unleashing his own pink-tinged might against Gorath and feasting upon his energies.
"Stories exist of Gorath holding his own against the Living Tribunal and the other cosmic abstracts," Strange thinks. "Galactus breaks his bones like kindling. And I've not a fifth of Gorath's power."
Worse, Strange thinks, Gorath's energies have unbalanced and changed Galactus, who laughs at Strange's inadequacies.
As Galactus spots a planet "ripe for the taking," Strange grows further concerned: the more magic Galactus draws from the Nether Realms, the more likely he is to transform. The planet Galactus is about to drain is filled with living creatures, forcing Strange to plot to relocate its giant-sized predator.
Using the Snare of Baltik in an attempt to bind Galactus, giving Strange a chance to determine where best to transport him, Strange envelopes Galactus in powerful blue energies. Galactus grows more impatient, but Strange orders him to stop resisting:
"For the last time, I'm trying to save us all — you included! There is a nearby realm that was wiped of all sentience during the Great War between the Satannish and the Cyttorak! There's nothing there to poison you — and no lives to claim!"
But Galactus thrashes, a tantrum that is "like trying to contain an exploding star," Strange thinks. The sorcerer isn't strong enough to both restrain and teleport Galactus, who will snuff Strange like a candle should he break from his bonds. Galactus' furious roar perturbs Strange so much it rattles his concentration, partially dissolving Strange's restraints — until some unknown force reinforces Strange's spell, re-wrapping Galactus.
Strange musters the strength to temporarily move Galactus to a safe zone, saving the planet and its inhabitants. Suddenly, Clea appears. Strange asks his student turned lover turned partner turned ex-wife to help contain Galactus.
Overcome by the expense of energies, an exhausted Strange passes out. He awakes in Clea's bed a day later. Clea says Galactus remains where he was banished, but he's "expending great effort attempting to escape." Clea's allies have done what they can to reinforce his boundaries, but, she warns, "they cannot be maintained much longer."
She goes silent when asked to name her allies, instead telling Strange that Galactus' life force has begun to create an imbalance in the Nether Realms.
"You must take him back," she commands. "My plan too. Problem is, I'm outpowered unless these allies of yours can bring some serious force to the table," Strange says.
Just then, Strange is met by Umar, Queen of the Dark Dimension, sister of Dormammu. "The need for survival makes for odd bedfellows," Umar says.
The previously war-torn dimension was in the middle of peace negotiations, Umar explains, before Strange and Galactus arrived. Strange reluctantly agrees to partner with Umar, expecting their betrayal.
"Between the fading of the toxins within his system and his need to feed again, Galactus may — may — be rational enough for me to turn," Strange says. "I have to try."
Strange agrees to let Clea assist him because of Galactus' overwhelming power, and is shaken to learn Galactus' madness has worsened instead of abating as he had hoped.
The rage-filled Galactus unleashes his red-beamed fury on Strange and Clea, whose presence is the sole factor preventing Strange's death.
"I HUNGER!" Galactus roars, as Strange and Clea are only just barely able to hold him off.
"I have an alternate diagnosis," Strange tells him. "You're becoming addicted to magical nutriments that your body isn't built to process! Everything you consume in this realm drives you closer to the edge of insanity! For the last time, hear me out! What will it take to keep you calm while I try to fix this?"
Galactus' answer is simple: "Sustenance. Now." Strange translates: "A world vibrant with life."
Strange cuts a deal. "Stay your appetite a while longer. In return, I promise I will find what you seek. Do you hear me?"
"I, Stephen Strange... I will serve as the Herald of Galactus," Strange vows, shocking Clea. "Time is not kind to me at this juncture," Galactus bellows. "What guarantee have I that you will honor this arrangement?"
Clea tries to stop him, but Strange is resolved. The trust of Umar and her peers, Strange says, will be their sole fallback.
Galactus accepts the wizard's terms. Should he fail, Clea's coalition will serve as their one contingency. He instructs Clea to work with the magic users to seek a way to send Galactus back.
Gorath, withered from his encounter with Galactus, appeals to Lord Dormammu. He tells Dormammu of the being from the dominion of science, who threatens untold havoc to be wreaked on this domain. Gorath wishes to be healed for the coming battle.
But Dormammu is instead compelled to finish off Gorath and seize his defenseless kingdom as a prize, saying he looks forward to his coming encounter with the "science demon."
A traveling Strange visits the infinite worlds of the mystic realm, admitting he was mistaken to think it was "comprised merely a pocket or two of magical realities."
"And though my quest reveals many that are suitable to Galactus' needs, they are invariably inhabited — some with monsters — some with innocents — but all with sentiments whose deaths at my hand would make a mockery of the oaths I have sworn as doctor."
When Strange enters a domain that shows promise, it's only for an instant: he's confronted by a furious creature demanding Strange's exit. "I know precisely what you were doing! Word has traveled quickly! You seek sustenance for a devourer of worlds! There is much for the taking, for all the mystic realms are alive! You are no savior! You are a DESTROYER!"
Strange says he's trying to do the least harm, seeking a living world without sentience, but the creature tells him to "dream on."
Strange is sent off with an ominous warning: "It is impossible to keep your hands clean in this matter, precious 'healer'! Sooner than later, you yourself will have no choice but to decide who lives — and who dies!" To be continued.
Doctor Strange #14 releases May 22.
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