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What If? Vol 1 18

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Appearing in "What If Dr. Strange Had Been a Disciple of Dormammu?"Edit

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Synopsis for "What If Dr. Strange Had Been a Disciple of Dormammu?"Edit

Uatu the Watcher reminds the reader that events can always take a different path: that a distinction as apparently obvious as good and evil may be very slight indeed.

Doctor Strange, as established in the main universe, was an arrogant surgeon who cared more for his patients' money than their health. When his ability to operate was robbed from him due to injuries in a car accident, he sought out the Ancient One, who refused to hand him the easy cure he was hoping for. Instead, he let Strange stay at the retreat and witness Baron Mordo's treachery, thus realizing that greater forces were in the world than his own selfish ambitions, and setting his foot on the path that would lead him to becoming Master of the Mystic Arts.

In this world, however, things turned out differently. Mordo, directed by Dormammu, uses black magic to heal Strange's hands. Strange never learns to put aside his selfish ways, and when he returns to surgery his skills -- and arrogance -- only increase. Eventually he is convicted of malpractice and stripped of his license. Mordo approaches him in his anger and pride and promises to give Strange the power he really craves; he takes Strange as his student and warps his innate magical potential towards evil. When Mordo judges the time is right, he introduces Strange to his "real master," Dormammu. Strange willingly vows his service, to the horror of the Ancient One, who is watching from afar but cannot intervene.

The Ancient One assembles other masters of the mystic arts, including the Aged Genghis, Dr. Druid, Agatha Harkness, plus Wong and Victoria Bentley, to stand against Dormammu, but the others do not see how they can succeed if both Mordo and Strange are on his side. The Ancient One presents the Eye of Agamotto, his most powerful artifact, which among its many properties is a gateway to Eternity himself.

Dormammu summons Strange by night and tells him that he doesn't need two disciples. Strange quickly takes the hint and murders Mordo. This attracts the attention of Umar, who tricks him into freeing her from dimensional limbo. They become lovers, secretly plotting against one another all the while. Meanwhile, Dr. Druid and the Aged Genghis have found a scroll which will permit them to use Eternity's power against Dormammu.

A cloud of demonic wraiths, spying for Dormammu, find the gathered mystics at the Ancient One's castle. They cast a spell of protection just as Strange arrives to defeat them. As he summons demonic attackers against them, Dr. Druid's resolve breaks and he begins to chant the Eternity spell. The Eye of Agamotto expands, drawing Strange into its portal. Eternity himself appears to Strange and judges him unworthy, casting him back into the real world. Strange is initially shaken, but he soon returns to call upon Dormammu, demanding the power to destroy Eternity in return for the insult he has just received.

The Ancient One calls Hamir, Wong, and Victoria Bentley into his quarters, where he performs a ritual that allows them to become avatars of the three persons of the Vishanti. Though they will not fight the mystics' battle for them, they tell the Ancient One what he should do next. The next morning, the Eye of Agamotto comes to Strange in the form of a golden dove. When Dormammu sees it in Strange's possession, he realizes the man could destroy him and agrees to help him defeat Eternity, provided he defeats the Ancient One first. By now, both are seeing the other as an obstacle, while Umar hopes to goad them into destroying each other and then seize power for herself.

Doctor Strange, in the full costume of Sorcerer Supreme, attacks the Ancient One's circle of mystics with the Eye of Agamotto. But the light will not harm the old sorcerer and reflects back at Strange, forcing him to see the truth and goodness in his enemy. In retaliation he strikes them all down and flees through the portal to Eternity's realm. Dormammu unexpectedly joins him and seals him inside a lens, which he uses to focus his power on Eternity, since he cannot attack directly. Eternity responds in kind, leaving Strange caught in the middle. He realizes he must decide who wins -- good or evil, chaos or order. In a sudden moment of decision he chooses the good--

--and is thrown to the very feet of the Ancient One. Admitting his foolishness, he asks to become the aged sorcerer's disciple, who accepts him. The Ancient One tells him that he had to learn who and what Dormammu truly was, and who the Ancient One himself was, thus learning the lesson that the original Doctor Strange learned early in his career when he could not find the quick cure he sought.

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