Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Strange: The Doctor Is Out! Review (Mark Waid, Emma Rios)

Stephen Strange is no longer the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. Heavily depowered with his hands no longer able to make the motions needed to cast spells, Doctor Strange’s demonic enemies are slowly awakening to the fact that their tormentor of many years is now vulnerable – and they’re hungering after some sweet revenge! 

Have you noticed that Marvel’s method of dealing with characters that are difficult on their own is to immediately pair them up with a sassy girl sidekick? I’ve seen this happen a lot in recent Marvel books like Silver Surfer and Magneto, but Wolverine often gets a girl sidekick to make him talk and in this book, Doctor Strange gets a girl apprentice too (a sorcerer’s apprentice – no dancing broomsticks though!). It’s a bit of a tired trope to keep putting into their books, much like the overuse of time-travel in Marvel’s comics. 

The stories in this four-issue mini-series are ok: Strange saves a doomed baseball team’s souls, evades some demonic baddies, and saves yet more souls, this time at an under-10s beauty pageant. They’re none too taxing and feel like stories that wouldn’t be out of place on a Saturday morning Doctor Strange cartoon show on TV.

But you know what? Self-contained, not-too-big stories like this are underrated and are perfectly suited to mini-series featuring minor Marvel characters (though seeing as a movie is on its way, Doctor Strange is about to catapulted to the big time very soon!).

And then, in the final chapter, Mark Waid drops the ball by throwing in the stereotypical “superhero has to save the world/universe” that too many superhero comics are flooded with. They do this to underline the fact that the character is a Big Deal and They’re Cool. It comes off as overwrought, unnecessary, and contrived, and I hated that what was turning out to be a decent read ended up becoming a hysterical mess with some really corny melodrama tossed in at the last moment. 

You can do lo-fi superhero stories and they can work really well – look at titles like Fraction/Aja’s Hawkeye – and that would’ve been great with a depowered Doctor Strange, except Waid couldn’t help going down the usual unimaginative superhero route. 

Also, though there’s obviously some backstory as to how Strange went from Sorcerer Supreme to lacklustre magician, not knowing it won’t impede your reading of this book. 

Emma Rios’ art is very pretty. She’s very anime-influenced so her art style – particularly from 2010 when this book came out – is very reminiscent of that. In recent years her work has become more accomplished and the anime-influence less noticeable, like in Pretty Deadly. 

Strange: The Doctor Is Out is an ok Doctor Strange book, though with the talent behind it – Mark Waid and Emma Rios – you’d expect greater things than what you see here. It’s enjoyable enough but very forgettable.

Strange: The Doctor Is Out!

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