Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Doctor Strange: This isn't your kid's Harry Potter

Doctor Strange: This isn’t your kid’s Harry Potter
by rick olivares

Spells of translation. Divination. Transmogrifying fire.

Nope. That isn't JK Rowling's famous creation.

This is Doctor Strange, a character first created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko has received a huge makeover.

With a Doctor Strange film (starring Benedict Cumberbatch) in the works, the good doctor is getting a push in comics. I have to admit that I was not much of a fan of Strange. I loved the old Defenders comics but even if Stephen Strange was a staple of those stories, I wasn’t a fan. In fact, I found Alan Moore’s homage to Strange, the beatnik Johnny Beyond more interesting. Leave it to Jason Aaron to get me interested. 

Writer Jason Aaron is on a roll. After his success writing Thor, God of Thunder, arguably the most exciting and important stories about the Norse character in years, Aaron, one of comics’ top writers for a while now, sank his creative eyeteeth in Star Wars upon its return to the House of Ideas. And ten issues in, Star Wars doesn’t feel or read like a comic book. It is like you’re watching a Director’s Cut of the first trilogy. Or some lost footage. Maybe even a new film. It blends seamlessly yet the new stories  are fresh and different taking the original mythology and expanding it; making fans like me eagerly salivating for the new film.

And now, I after one issue of Doctor Strange, I too, am salivating over next.

I like how Aaron portrays Strange as quirky, weird even. It’s quite a departure from the more serious tone used on the Master of the Mystic Arts we’ve all known. Plus, he’s imbued him with some of the playboy tendencies of Tony Stark. Or maybe it’s the mustache that gets the ladies — human and non-human?

And how about that welcome to Strange’s world? He goes about dispatching demons and foul creatures (ala Ghostbusters) then has a drink at the Bar with No Doors, a gathering of Marvel’s version of Vertigo’s Trenchcoat Brigade. Strange walks around literally with his third eye (the Eye of Agamotto) on his forehead that allows him to see the very interesting interdimensional bacteria! Brilliant! This makes for so many possibilities. 

As has been a vital ingredient to Marvel Comics and their cinematic counterparts, Aaron imbues Doctor Strange with a sense of humor. “Was he just making kissing sounds…” Absolutely hilarious! Even the Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff throws in a naughty jab about Strange being a dog. More of the Bar with No Doors, I say!

Now let’s not forget the action. Strange wields a battle axe against that aforementioned interdimensional bacteria and uses a massive sword that reminds me of Ilyana Rasputin’s Soulsword to dispatch Spurrgog the Hell-Breather. 

And that leads me to the art.

Chris Bachalo is a perfect fit for the book. While I have been a fan of his stuff, I wasn’t sure if it worked best with superhero comics. I picked up his Generation X and Ultimate X-Men but I thought that those book deserved clear and dynamic art instead of the more moody strokes and use of blacks Bachalo prefers. His art on Vertigo Comics’ Death defined the character. So from one “supernatural” character to another. 

I can’t wait to turn a page to see this weird and strange new world of Stephen Strange. It’s that exciting. 

In the space of one issue, Aaron and Bachalo have revitalized Doctor Strange. What they have here is a great opportunity for what was a semi-non-traditional superhero comic into an entirely different comic of the macabre, magic, and the weird.

Now waiting for the second issue… is like an eternity. If I drown a few rabbits maybe it’ll be here faster than one can say, “By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!”


Doctor Strange comics can be purchased in the Philippines through  Comic Odyssey, Comic Quest, Filbar’s, and Planet X.

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