In Review: Doctor Strange #1

A super story undone by colors that filter the art and lettering that flits about.

The covers: Six covers to seek and spirit away to your inner sanctum. The Main cover is by interior artist and colorist Chris Bachalo. The top third of the image has the Doctor on this side, the title in the center, and the bottom third shows the massive battle axe he’s wielding. I love the look of Strange, I love the action shot, and I love when titles are superimposed over by the art. The coloring is also very bright, and that’s how I like my magic to look. This is winning in every way. The first variant is the Kirby Monster Variant by Erica Henderson. This has the Mad Thinker’s Android strapped down to a table looking upon an image of Strange. It’s a good image, but I would rather see the Sorcerer Supreme battling the monster than being gazed upon. The next Variant is by Kevin Nowlan. One can’t ever go wrong with Nowlan’s art and he does the good doctor proud as his cape flays out as he casts a spell forward, unaware that behind him some tentacles are ready to grasp him. This is fantastic! Next up is the cover by Jakub Rebekla. Standing among the dead demons he’s just slain with a long sword, Doctor Strange looks down upon the carnage he’s created. Nice, but too Conan the Barbarian for me. This type of physical butchery seems beneath him. Juan Doe does the Hip-Hop Variant and it’s a sensational cover of an image of the Doc in an oval on a white field. Surrounding him is his name and title. This is a tee shirt quality image and looks terrific. The final cover is the Cosplay Variant by Allen Lee Hansard, with the costume by Mary Cahela, and the photography by Judy Stephens. This is an okay cosplay of Strange, but not great. Big thanks to Marvel for doing something I’ve been bemoaning for some time: they show images of the variant covers within the book! I cannot say “Thank you” enough, Marvel! Overall grades: Main A+, Kirby Monster D+, Nowlan Variant A+, Rebekla Variant C-, Hip-Hop Variant A+, and Cosplay Variant C-

The story: “The Way of the Weird” by Jason Aaron opens with a summary of Strange’s origin as earth’s mightiest sorcerer. With a turn of the page a double-paged splash is revealed showing him battling a slew of odd looking plant-like creatures that are chasing him. Another page turn reveals him to be making a stand before a giant teddy bear. He turns to face the beings. “I mean you no harm. And I cast a spell of translation, so stop pretending you don’t understand me.” The lead creature responds vocally and then physically. Things change dramatically when a new spokesperson appears for the entities, which has the doctor having a thought I’ve never seen him have before (Page 6, panel two). This is not the Doctor Strange I’m used to. Granted, I haven’t read any Doctor Strange comics since the early 1990s, so some differences were expected, but not this. It’s not a bad change, just one I never would have suspected. Within three pages, the scene has changed, and the book goes into territory I would expect. I really enjoyed the Bar With No Doors and who was there. This was a fun location with some history I’d be willing to have more of. After leaving, Stephen goes home and finds Zelma Stanton waiting for him. I liked the dialogue between the pair, with Strange having more of the “one-step-ahead-of-you” banter I want him to have. What Zelma brings him was surprising and leads into a good cliffhanger. There’s an additional story of five pages after this that strongly tie-in to the first story. It’s a short story by Aaron, and it’s awesome. I won’t reveal it’s title to avoid spoilers, but you’ll like it. Overall grade: A

The art: Chris Bachalo is responsible for the pencils and colors, with inks being done by Tim Townsend, Al Vey, and Mark Irwin. The line visuals are exceptional. The first page as Stephen narrates his history is composed of previous incarnations of him, including the artist that helped launch him, Steve Ditko. I was so pleased to see this series launch in this way; acknowledging the past before going forward. The second and third pages are a double-paged spread that is fantastic with an absolutely bizarre collection of creatures after the doctor, who looks great with his hands making his iconic gesture as he weaves a spell. However, I’m not keen on the footwear; seemed way too modern. Having Strange make a stand against the teddy bear initially seems odd, but it’s a telling visual. I don’t like that this giant bear is not colored but filled with a photographic insert because it shows. Why are artists compelled to do this of late? I’d rather the fur be drawn and colored. The new spokesperson is sensational — eerie and occult wrapped into one being. The battle that commences is great and the panel that reveals the story title and credits is perfection. The setting where Stephen is actually located is terrific and his walk on the city a show stopper. Additionally, his home is every bit as fantastic as I could hope, with Zelma’s final panel a wowser. What I don’t like is the coloring on this book. It’s shot through a filter. All energy is sucked out of this book by dull colors that seem to be trying to create a mystical mood, but instead only drown the art in blanket tones. This was incredibly frustrating. I can tell the art is good, but to try and look at the details of the art is a challenge. Even the exterior of Strange’s residence is a blasé experience (which also includes a photo inserted skyline that stands out horribly as a bad green screen setting). Much better is the artwork on the final five page’s story, illustrated and colored by Kevin Nowlan. Bright colors exist in this fantastic setting. This magic looks impressive because of the colors, and the outstanding visuals can easily be seen. The final two panels of the story are brighter than all of what the main story contains; and it shouldn’t be like this. A frustrating experience because of the colors. Overall grade: C+

The letters: Both stories have lettering by VC’s Cory Petit. He creates narration, dialogue, the spokesperson’s font, sounds, the book’s credits, scene settings, a yell, the “To Be Continued…”, Witchfinder Wolves’ words, and the story title and closing credits for the last tale. I’m not liking the dialogue. It looks like everyone speaks in a wistful tone. This would be fine if it were used solely for magic users, but everyone speaks in a flitter and it distracted considerably. The font for the nonhumans is terrific, but I want more time spent in a more fitting dialogue font. Overall grade: C+

The final line: A super story undone by colors that filter the art and lettering that flits about. A frustrating read. Overall grade: B

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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