|We jump straight in from the last issue, where Daniel scoffs that Strange would challenge him when he has an entire team of Avengers to throw at him -- people Strange wouldn't want to hurt. He accepts, of course. |
Strange's opening salvo is the move from the preview pages -- he binds everyone in the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, stating again that he didn't want Jericho to die. Daniel, in the body of Thor, brings the lightning to disrupt the spell (and Strange), and now it's Strange vs. Everyone.
We get a flurry of one-page specials from various artists showing Strange fighting and disabling Avengers one at a time -- Red Hulk, Spider-Man, Thing, Cap, Thor, Captain Marvel. Carol is the only one to win. As Strange is knocked down, bruised and bleeding, and the Avengers move in for the kill, two voices start commentating from 'above'. They turn out to be Daimon Hellstrom and the Ancient One. Daimon demands that the other do something to stop this, but apparently it is a test.
Vision pulls himself up and tries to stop this. Daniel can't possess him, so he possesses other Avengers to try to force him to stand down. The Avengers start to fight back, but Daniel is too fast for any of them to resist. But Strange has an epiphany and departs for the astral plane.
Enter Luke Cage, who also joins the fight against Daniel only to get possessed. Strange comes back to his body...
At this point it's hard to tell what's happened, because only Vision, Luke Cage (possessed) and Strange are visible in an otherwise empty world. Strange tells Daniel he had to "stop by a friend's house and look something up." Daimon Hellstrom starts cheering him on. This won't be pretty...
Strange explains that he understands why Daniel killed Daimon and Jennifer Kale -- two dark sorcerers. Perhaps Daniel thought Strange was above using dark magic himself. Daniel was wrong.
Cue pentagram. Cue several unspeakable spells from the Scrolls of Damnation. Strange tells Daniel that, what he might not do as Sorcerer Supreme, he is perfectly willing to do now, especially since Daniel hurt and killed his friends. He asks Daniel for any last words but doesn't really wait to hear them.
One spell of astral form disintegration later and Daniel is no more.
Back to the real world, everyone recovers as Strange tells them it is over, apologizing profusely. Daimon tells the Ancient One (or someone, or several someones) that the world needs a Sorcerer Supreme. Suddenly there is a burst of light and the Ancient One and Daimon appear.
The Ancient One tells Strange that he has passed the test, by protecting his friends and the world, and by using dark magic without letting it control him. He reinstates him as Sorcerer Supreme, giving him back the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto.
At this one, bless Bendis, there is no lengthy period of stammering and stuttering and I'm-not-worthy-ing. The very next page shows Strange in his glory, wearing his Cloak and the Eye over his new costume, with his smiling friends looking on.
Daimon and the Ancient One depart. Hellstrom really is gone, but he assures everyone that you can't kill a Son of Satan. The Avengers regroup and try to get back to normal.
Some time later, Avengers Mansion is restored and Victoria Hand has her statue. Spidey, of all people, quips that he wished Daniel's destruction would have brought her back, but that isn't how it works. Luke Cage sells the mansion back to Tony -- for $5, to make a profit. Another nice Bendis touch. He, Jessica, Squirrel Girl, and the baby say their goodbyes and make their exit, with only one last look back.
Squirrel Girl makes an endearingly awkward speech about how they have a right to be proud of how far they've come. It appears they're going to start a new Heroes for Hire, with Squirrely staying on as their au pair, and we end on another page of string-of-pearls Bendis dialogue as they mosey down the street.