Monday, September 12, 2016

Doctor Strange #11 Review and **SPOILERS** - Marvel Mondays

You Are Now Witnessing the Strength of Street Magic

Written By: Jason Aaron
Art By: Kevin Nowlan & Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire
Lettered By: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: September 7, 2016


When your last name is Strange, you pretty much have to become a doctor, don’t you? Mr. Strange has no cache, Ms. Strange sounds like something drunkenly slurred. Prof. Strange is just asking for a classroom of jokers and crude, mocking drawings of the teacher. If you want to make the most of your surname being so…unusual, you have to get that doctorate degree for the best prefix. You don’t have to become a surgeon like Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts—you don’t even need to become a medical doctor at all. A doctorate in history or 20th Century American Literature will suffice, there’s accreditation for every subject if you look hard enough. With online schools, I’m sure you could have a degree in Marvel Comics or Pok√©mon or whatever the hell else. So you could be Doctor Strange, Master of the Fleer Hockey Trading Cards of the 1990s! Let’s take a look at what’s happening with the real Doctor Strange, shall we?

Explain It!

Kids, if there’s anything you ever take away from my reviews, it’s that there’s no hope in dope! Users are losers, and losers (or one variant thereof) are users! Of drugs, I mean! You can win while riding the fantastic prismatic dragon, which Dr. Stephen Strange learns when he shoots up with MGH (that’s Mutant Growth Hormone for those readers unfamiliar with sports scandals), briefly develops Cyclops’ powers and dies. Strange is given the traditional junkie burial of being tossed in a dumpster, and it looks like he might get taken out with the recycling when a ghostly form of the Ancient One—the guy that taught him magic in the first place, fyi—comes floating by in the lotus position and resuscitates Stephen with, uh, magic I guess. Strange pukes, probably improving the local stench a bit, then shuffles on to more desperation.

The problem, you see, is that there’s no more magic. Empirikul got rid of it all last issue using a bunch of leftover droids from Attack of the Clones. Dr. Strange is lamenting as much to Chondu, the floating head bartender at the Bar With No Doors, once a favorite haunt of magicians and probably warlocks, if there even is a difference between the two. Chondu says he’s got to pick himself up and stop trying to find shortcuts to restoring the world’s magic. Instead, he should build a new standard of magic, spell by spell, page by page. Dr. Strange is like, “Ugh! That seems like so much work!” but resolves to take care of things, since he is the main character in this comic book. Strange steps onto the street and opens up his third eye to see how the world of boogums and haints is faring—this sort of turns the regular world into plain black and white, while revealing all manner of floating sea life and colorful creatures that have latched on to the unsuspecting mainstream world. One woman is clutched by a pretty gross-looking bug spirit, so Dr. Strange steps up and tells it to vacate the premises…and it doesn’t go well for Stephen.

Back at the Sanctum Sanctorum, which looks rundown like a lot of places in the West Village are looking these days, Strange reconvenes with his staff: Zelma Stanton, librarian who is tasked with restoring the books of magic, page by page; and faithful Wong, who had to tell Dr. Strange’s monastic fan group to disband because they wouldn’t be sending any more signed 8x10 glossies anymore. Looks like we’re going to building magic from scratch, all the old tricks aren’t going to work anymore. Strange is going to have to start from Three-Card Monte and work his way up to sawing a member of the audience in half. Strange goes to his hall of weapons and retrieves a baseball bat wrapped in magic barbed wire. He’s going to go back for seconds with the parasitic bug spirit. We cut to an early tale of Stephen Strange’s life, when he was just beginning to train with the Ancient One in hopes of getting his surgery hands back in shape again. If you don’t know the story, grab the Marvel Masterworks or something—the early Dr. Strange books are flipping divine. The Ancient One’s other student, Baron Mordo, offers Strange a cure for his hands—if he scrams and never looks back. Strange decides he may be an alcoholic, philandering playboy, but he’s no quitter—and so decides to stay with the Ancient One for the long haul. Back in the present, Strange clobbers the spirit bug with his magic bat, then lies right on the sidewalk like a bum, even garnering change, despite him being the only thing standing up against the waking world and weird ethereal insect monsters!

Someone not that shocking shows up at the end, but at this point I can say…I liked this issue. A lot. I sort of dig the Fraction/Aja’s Hawkeye approach to Dr. Strange, and the fact that he’s got to start from scratch. The art complimented the story very well and I like it better than what’s come before (which, incidentally, I didn’t hate either.) This looks to be a pretty interesting tale ramping up, and despite my concerns that it might be another bloated five-issue set of press proofs for the trade collection, I must say that this issue roped me in pretty well for the next issue.

Bits and Pieces:

Dr. Stephen Strange is on the skids, and I think that includes his tighty whities. After some failed shortcut attempts to restore the world's magic, seems like there's only one thing to do: start from scratch and rebuild it one spell at a time! The art looks great in this book and really works great with the story. I especially liked how the "magic world" is expressed. Plus, a throwback to Doctor Strange's origin! Which actually happens quite a lot. But still! I dug it!

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