DOC­TOR STRANGE

Magic, mad­ness and mous­taches

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

RE­LEASED OUT NOW! Pub­lisher Marvel Writer Ja­son aaron Artist Chris Bachalo

is­sues 1-3 It’s funny what hav­ing a movie in the pipe­line can do to your sta­tus in the Marvel Uni­verse. Sor­cerer Supreme Stephen Strange hasn’t had his own on­go­ing se­ries since 1996, in­stead largely act­ing as a go-to mag­i­cal ex­pert in var­i­ous cross­over epics. Now, with Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch about to em­body the char­ac­ter on-screen, Marvel have de­cided it’s time to give Doc­tor Strange an­other se­ri­ous push, so he’s in the front­line of their lat­est “All-New, All-Dif­fer­ent” re­launch.

With Ja­son Aaron on script and Chris Bachalo on art du­ties, there’s a strong cre­ative team in place, and Doc­tor Strange’s first three is­sues are an ef­fi­cient jump­ing-on point for new read­ers. As al­ways, Stephen Strange is based in New York, where he bat­tles any mag­i­cal threats that en­dan­ger the world – but when a Bronx li­brar­ian named Zelma Stan­ton asks for help with an oth­er­worldly ill­ness, it’s ac­tu­ally the first step in the plans of the Em­pirikul, an alien race ded­i­cated to hunt­ing down and de­stroy­ing magic across all re­al­i­ties…

Aaron is in a lighter mode here, play­ing closer to the free­wheel­ing crazi­ness of his early Wolver­ine and X-Men work than his more mythic sto­ry­telling on Thor. The pace is brisk, and there’s a play­ful sense of fun to many of the set­pieces, which is en­hanced by Bachalo’s zany ap­proach to the art. Any Doc­tor Strange comic faces the up­hill strug­gle of try­ing to match the sur­real vi­su­als of co-cre­ator Steve Ditko in the char­ac­ter’s orig­i­nal ’60s run. Bachalo has a head start thanks to his nat­u­rally off­beat art style, but here he pushes his work even fur­ther, show­cas­ing some spec­tac­u­lar dou­ble-page spreads along­side a wide se­lec­tion of car­toony weird­ness and gor­geously grotesque high­lights.

There’s plenty here to enjoy, and the in­tro­duc­tion of the Em­pirikul shows the se­ries is al­ready build­ing to­wards an epic con­fronta­tion, but there are also some fun­da­men­tal flaws. Strange him­self is loos­ened up as a char­ac­ter, more prone to wise­cracks and ro­mance, and

It hasn’t achieved the right bal­ance of drama and kook­i­ness

while th­ese mo­ments are of­ten fun, he now bears too much re­sem­blance to Marvel’s cur­rent take on Tony Stark.

The se­ries also hasn’t quite achieved the right bal­ance be­tween drama and kook­i­ness, with the ris­ing apoc­a­lyp­tic threat seem­ing odd sit­ting next to ex­cla­ma­tions like “By the Va­pors of Val­torr!”, and some of the back­ground story de­tail (like Strange’s visit to a mag­i­cal bar) feel­ing a lit­tle too ran­dom. This new in­car­na­tion of Doc­tor Strange is vis­ually ap­peal­ing and of­ten en­ter­tain­ing, but it still feels like Aaron and Bachalo are miss­ing out on that elu­sive in­gre­di­ent that would make this lat­est Marvel re­launch feel truly es­sen­tial. Saxon Bul­lock

Ja­son Aaron is the cousin of Gus­tav Has­ford, who wrote the novel Kubrick used as the ba­sis for Full Metal Jacket.

Strange knows one hell of a car­pen­ter.

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