Grew up reading comic books in the 90's. Marvel fan at heart. Hulk, the Midnight Sons, and Marvel's cosmic universe are my favorites.
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Doctor Strange may not have gotten as much attention as other upcoming Marvel releases, like Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse, but have no fear. Our Mitch Nissen is here to break down the latest Doctor Strange comic for you, so we can all get to know this sensational character before he hits the big screen.
If there’s something Strange in your neighbourhood who ya gonna call?
Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme! And the doctor is in.
Of all the magical super heroes in comicdom, none have been as successful or as iconic as Marvel Comics’ Dr. Stephen Strange. Back in October of 2015 Marvel Comics released issue #1 of Doctor Strange, one the first books to be released under Marvel’s All New All Different rebranding.
Writer Jason Aaron and artists Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, and Kevin Nowlan are the creative talents behind this latest incarnation of the master of the mystical arts. No doubt Marvel has released this book due to the upcoming release of the Marvel Studios film of the same name, coming in November.
Hey, whatever gets them to publish a new Doctor Strange book.
Issue #5 has just recently dropped in comic shops everywhere. Before covering that epic masterpiece of magic we need to go back and touch on Issue #1 while there’s still time to catch up. “By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth, the fiery flames of the Faltine, and the black roots of the anti-seed, blessed Vishanti bring our readers up to speed!”
Doctor Strange was created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee and first appeared in July of 1963. He started off as a mini backup story in the book Strange Tales and went on to take over the book and eventually gain a title of his own.
He has been a Marvel mainstay ever since.
When the comic market crashed in the late 1990’s the supernatural side of Marvel’s universe was hit the hardest. It has been twenty years since the good doctor, Stephen Strange, has had an ongoing monthly title and Marvel’s supernatural realm is still in need of healing.
That’s what doctors are for, right?
Let the healing of the supernatural heroes begin.
Something strange is happening in the magic realms. Rare demons and monsters are appearing in places they usual never go, and acting out of character. Doctor Strange is trying to make sense of all the madness occurring around him, invisible to everyone else not gifted in the ways of magic. All signs point to something terrible on the horizon, a metaphysical storm the likes of which the Doctor has never seen.
The Empirikul are coming and they mean to destroy all the worlds of magic and mysticism.
Chris Bachalo is on both pencil and color duties for the book with Kevin Nowlan providing the pencils for a short backup story. Bachalo’s art is overwhelmingly busy and chaotic during the nether realm sequences. He goes wild with the fantastic imagery and the myriads of creatures seen in the book. Bachalo’s style is at opposite ends of the spectrum from the realistic pencils of classic Doctor Strange artists like Frank Brunner and Jackson Guice. The art is even a far cry from the murky ethereal quality of Gene Colan. But Bachalo’s approach does provide an otherworldly feeling just as the aforementioned artists have done and in doing so showing us a true Doctor Strange landscape.
The book sometimes appears overly cartoony. The contrast between the real world and the magic worlds is stark. Sometimes the reader isn’t sure what they’re looking at in the netherworld scenes but then finds recognizable scenery and a firm picture of reality in the real world sections. This is all by Bachalo’s design and he pulls it off magnificently. There are however a few inconsistencies here and there, instances where Doctor Strange appears very human-like and then moments later where he appears rubbery like a cartoon character. This inconsistency isn’t just with the titular character but across the board, and another part of Bachalo’s style.
We’re given action, suspense, Soul-Eaters and a Malebranchian Psyche-Leech. There’s a simple and concise origin retelling and narration that clearly defines Doctor Strange‘s purpose in the grand scheme of the world. The foundation for the overall plot is laid out too with the threat of the mysterious Empirikul. We are also shown two locations which will no doubt be returning, the Sanctum Sanctorum (Dr. S’ home in Greenwich Village) and the Bar With No Doors, a magicians only hangout. Here we see a group fellow magic users, Doctor Voodoo, Scarlet Witch, and Shaman of Alpha Flight. These characters and the concepts discussed here will no doubt return in future issues.
Needless to say, this issue is packed. But it isn’t perfect. Jason Aaron has few trademark themes that eventually show up in many if not all of his books, one of these is magical or mutated great white sharks (see Aaron’s Thor, Incredible Hulk, and Ghost Rider if you don’t believe me) and another is sex. Here Aaron gives us a scene with Strange making out with a monster and gloating about it later. Thor having sex with viking wenches in the middle ages is one thing but Dr. Strange exhibiting similar qualities is contrary to the character’s origin.
Before his fateful car crash that crushed his hands Stephen Strange was an arrogant, self-obsessed neurosurgeon. In becoming the chosen disciple of the Ancient One he had to shed such self-serving thoughts and actions. Other writers have taken Doctor Strange down similar routes, Matt Fraction’s Defenders for example. As a result the character comes across as sleazy and distasteful, character traits unbecoming of a selfless hero.
Hopefully Aaron will move away from this rather than towards it in the future.
Such a lifestyle doesn’t fit the character.
Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo are reunited once more, delivering a solid book. This first issue is over-sized allowing for thirty full pages rather than the typical twenty pages. Few books leave one feeling as satisfied as this. Jason Aaron is an ideal writer for this subject matter and he proves it here. His writing makes the book both easily accessible to new readers and longtime fans. Chris Bachalo takes the art away from the realistic styles of previous Doctor Strange books and provides the reader with an intriguing and visually unique experience. It isn’t a perfect or pretty book by any means, but it is a feast for the eyes and the imagination.
Mitch Nissen is a Contributor for ComiConverse. Follow us on Twitter: @ComiConverse
Writer Jason Aaron, having penned successful runs in both Ghost Rider and Thor, is a perfect choice to write the Sorcerer Supreme and the writer proves it here. Chris Bachalo brings a different and distinctive look to the book providing a truly strange visual experience. A wonderful book.