Saturday, 17 October 2015

Doctor Strange #1 Review (Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo)

EL-YOO-VEE that first page: faded Silver Age panels with too many chunky blocks of text crammed into a page, over-explaining Doctor Strange’s fairly straightforward origins. In the foreground? One sentence caption boxes with Jason Aaron’s script, elegantly, efficiently and effectively laying out Strange’s origin story in far fewer words, much more quickly, indirectly (but deliberately) comparing his writing to Stan Lee’s and showing the gulf of quality between them while also spelling out (pun intended) that this is a different, modern Doctor Strange. It’s like that first page from All-Star Superman - a masterclass in writing origins. 

Turn over and it’s a splash page. Monsters. Teddy bears. Moustache. Let’s get our magic on! Boom. Now THAT is how you write superhero comics! 

Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo give us the first ongoing Doctor Strange series in years and this first issue is fan-bloody-tastic. I love that the opening scene is a house call, like doctors make, but it’s also this superhero-magic-action-sequence at the same time with Bachalo throwing stunning splash pages at us, one after another. It’s exciting, it’s fun, it sets the tone, it introduces you to the character - it’s perfect. Aaron and Bachalo in sync like you read about. 

From there it’s an awesome ride through Doctor Stephen Strange’s world. We see how he sees reality, his local watering hole, and what he does to keep the world safe. Aaron’s Strange is a much less arrogant character than he’s sometimes written so he's more likeable but he's generally still quite morose - I don't think he smiled once in this issue. It's understandable though given the Hellblazer-esque angle where Strange is the Sorcerer Supreme with enormous power that comes with an equally massive price to pay - an angle I’m sure will come into play later in the series. 

I love - and I’m gonna keep using that word because I loved this whole issue unreservedly! - the little details too like his payment for saving that kid’s life in the opening scene (it keeps coming back to community - so cool) and how his cape transforms into a raffish scarf. A quick word on the axe featured in all the promo art: it makes an appearance but it doesn’t play a huge part in the story (so far anyway). He wields it like a scalpel the surgeon he once was would use it, except against The Dread Dormammu, etc. 

There are only indications of the main story in this first issue but there’s a backup (superbly drawn by Kevin Nowlan) included which develops the threat headed Strange’s way - and that looks great too! Jason Aaron writes really good villains and these guys look evil as shit! 

Chris Bachalo’s art is wonderful - those splash pages that opened up the story were outstanding and he looks like he’s having fun drawing the weird interdimensional monsters plaguing our reality, unbeknownst to us. Love the outfit he gives Strange mixing practical work boots into his classic robes - and that cape! It’s constantly morphing, I don’t know how he does it - it’s a kind of magic? No sign of Wong yet so don’t know what he looks like now but the issue closes out in the Sanctum Sanctorum so I expect he’s right around the corner. 

By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth, this is an excellent start to the new Doctor Strange series (and sure to get people excited about the forthcoming movie)! Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo give Doctor Strange the best possible start with this issue - open your (third) eyes to this terrific new series!

Doctor Strange #1

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