Summoned by the Aged Genghis—the oldest, if not the most powerful of Earth’s many sorcerers—the mages of Earth are gathered for a rare conclave. By the order of The Vishanti—the magical guardians who provide the power for many of the spells utilized by those of a heroic bend—a test will be held to answer a question. Who among the magic-users of Earth is worthy of the title and responsibilities of the Sorcerer Supreme? To the surprise of few, it is Doctor Stephen Strange who ultimately wins the challenge.
The true surprise comes later with the revelation regarding the boon that was promised as part of the trial. This boon was to be awarded, not to the victor, but by the victor to any other wizard who managed to survive the challenge without succumbing to the pitfalls of the test. Only one wizard earns this boon and must now have their one request honored by the newly affirmed Sorcerer Supreme. That wizard is Victor Von Doom—scientist, sorcerer and sovereign ruler of Latveria, best known to the world at large as Doctor Doom!
To Doctor Strange’s surprise, Doom’s request involves neither conquest nor revenge upon the many costumed heroes who have contested with Doom in the past. Doom relates a tale of his family and how his mother—a skilled magician in her own right—fell prey to trickery, her soul claimed by the devil known as Mephisto. Doom’s boon is simple enough—save his mother from Hell! It is a matter that is more easily said than done, however, and both Doctors will find themselves tested as never before!
Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment is a must-read graphic novel for fans of both of its titular heroes. Indeed, despite receiving first billing, one could argue that this is more a Doctor Doom story than a Doctor Strange one. Regardless, Triumph and Torment is a wonderful introduction to those unfamiliar with the characters, recapping their origin stories as part of the larger narrative.
Writer Roger Stern does a particularly fantastic job of presenting the character of Victor Von Doom as more than a cliché-spouting demagogue. Here, Doom is a tragic Byronic hero—a modern day Odysseus doomed (no pun intended) by his own hubris. He makes an interesting parallel to Doctor Strange, who was cursed by a similar since of pride which he has managed to work past.
The artwork boasts a rather fitting gothic aesthetic, with heavy inks and deep shadows prevalent throughout. This is par for the course with Mike Mignola, who did the artwork for this story along with inker Mark Badger. Triumph and Torment pre-dated Hellboy by several years (it was first published in 1989) and the style here foreshadowed the work that Mignola would forge on his own. No doubt fans of Mignola’s later works will wish to read this series to compare and contrast his work over time.
Marvel has rated this volume as appropriate for ages 12 and up. I believe this to be a fair rating, though some may object to the plot as it involves trafficking with demons and helping a sinner to escape just punishment for her crimes. There is some brief nudity, with several of the magicians being scantily clad and Doom’s mother presenting herself nude before her demonic patron but nothing is shown to great detail in the artwork.
Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph & Torment
Written by Roger Stern
Art by Mike Mignola
Marvel Comics, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: T (12+)