I’ll be honest: I never really got into Doctor Strange before. My primary experiences with the character were always from other comic lines and guest appearances, and he always came off as a superbly powerful character that was sidelined for whatever reason. The last time I saw him make appearances in comics were in the first Civil War event and a minor appearance in last year’s Secret Wars, and I wasn’t horribly impressed.
That said, it’s no surprise that I waited until after the movie to decide if it was worth reading up on the character. Granted, I have a thing for supernatural and magical characters, so I’m surprised I waited this long. Then again, I wanted to wait until I got my hands on a few of the trades before digging in, and now that my library has the first two volumes of the new Doctor Strange (2015-2016) as well as his origin story, I thought I’d give it a shot.
==What I Read==
I read three of the trade paperbacks. Doctor Strange: Way of the Weird, Doctor Strange: The Days of Magic, and Doctor Strange: Strange Origin. Since I don’t have all of the knowledge of the older generation beyond the general notes (lots of Golden Dawn, Eastern Mysticism references), I thought it’d be a good idea to just read everything of this “reboot” and see how it pans out.
Doctor Strange is a skilled surgeon who, after a tragic car accident, looses the ability to use his hands as he originally expected (tremors causing his hands to shake). He spends his fortune seeking a way to repair his hands, which brings him to the door of the Ancient One, a powerful sorcerer in Tibet.
While Strange is skilled enough to memorize spells and postures, the Vishanti, the beings that grant power, refuse to grant him even the simplest of spells. Strange Origin tells the story of how he overcame this issue.
The other two volumes, Way of the Weird and The Last Days of Magic, show Strange in action against a multiversal invader that is destroying magic.
==What You Get==
In these three volumes, you get some decent artwork, an origin story showing how Doctor Strange began his journey (with some artwork pulled from the classic storyline), and a plot that would be impossible for the Avengers to face, as they cannot comprehend (or even see) what is happening).
As I previously mentioned, there’s some good artwork here. Sometimes it isn’t stellar, but it is overall solid, which is important for a graphic novel. The writing style includes quite a bit of comedy, mostly small jabs that will make you chuckle at times.
We also get some interesting hints about the world of magic and how it works in the Marvel Universe. The topic doesn’t come up often when dealing with other characters that use magic (Scarlet Witch, Magik, etc), so it was nice to see the “costs” associated with spellcasting, as well as how many characters have to deal with it.
One note I did enjoy: we got to see a number of other spellcasters milling around, including those we’ve never seen before, such as Kaoz, Mahatma Doom, and The Wu, and those that we should all know already, such as Scarlet Witch and Doctor Voodoo.
Plot-wise, some portions of this were rushed, and horribly so. The origin story wasn’t too bad, and the only rushed elements were in travel. The other two volumes, sadly, don’t explain too much beyond the necessary backstory for the villain and hints from other spellcasters about what it happening. Hopefully we’ll see more about why things are the way they are that consist of more than an aside, like the “thing in the cellar,” clearer reasons why Strange can’t eat human food, and why/how magic functions the way it does in the Marvel Universe after the events of Secret Wars (which rebooted the Multiverse).
At times, I also felt the plot was too busy and had some gaps. We go from seeing Strange escaping from the new villains to hoarding a stockpile of magical relics that he’s “scoured the Earth” for…all without the help of the Avengers or even the help of his magic, but rather the help of other sorcerers who are equally powerless against this multiverse traveling threat. There wasn’t anything leading up to it beyond a vague statement and then boom, new adventure.
If anything, I think the villain here, the Empirikul, got more of a backstory than just about anything else, and since villains are bound to be defeated at some point (no spoilers as to how it ends), . For a comic that’s a reboot of the franchise after the multiverse ended and was reborn, there really wasn’t much to go on, which was sad.
The Doctor Strange comics are getting a 3.5 buns.
Wonky pacing shot this series in the foot, honestly. We are given a number of side characters that play bit roles (but we still get backstories for them), a new villain with an in-depth history, and then zero explanation of why our hero is in the situation he is in. This arc feels more about the villain than the hero at times, further jumbling this comic.
Is it worth the read? Sure. It’s got some fun things going for it and an interesting idea that I am looking forward to having expanded in future issues, but for now, it’s just above middling.