Monday, June 27, 2016

Doctor Strange #9 Review and **SPOILERS** - Marvel Mondays

The Doctor is IN

Written By: Jason Aaron
Art By: Chris Bachalo, Mark Irwin, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba, Al Vey, Tim Townsend & Jamie Mendoza, Jay Tartaglia & Chris Bachalo
Letters By: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: June 22, 2016


It should come as no surprise to those of you that follow my usual reviews of DC Comics’ weird and outcast offerings that I am a big fan of Doctor Strange. I got a Marvel Masterworks edition of his first Steve Ditko-drawn adventures, and even delved into the second collection, and I love both of them. Curiously, I haven’t really enjoyed any iterations after the original one—I enjoyed Steve Englehardt’s time writing the character, and I like Brian K. Vaughn’s The Oath, but for the most part I’ve found that successive attempts at writing the character have been lacking the overly-pompous dialogue and psychedelic atmosphere of the original series. But when Jim Werner came down off his crack cocaine binge with the idea that we should start covering Marvel comics on Mondays, I knew that by the hoary Hosts of Hoggoth I had to be the one to review Doctor Strange. And so it falls to me, dear reader, to recap and review issue #9 of Doctor Strange, right now!

Explain It!

So of course, the first issue of Doctor Strange has to be part four of a five-part series titled Last Days of Magic, because nothing can be easy in my world. A quick recap: this partly-robot dude named the Imperator comes from a world where magic holds sway over science. His parents were scientists and so the local warlock militia killed them, but not before they shot Baby Imperator off in a spaceship, initiating something called the Empirikul. Specifically, this means that Imperator goes from world to world, dimension to dimension, purging everything magic and killing its wielders with the help of his semi-robotic stormtroopers wearing eyeball helmets. So Imperator has come to the Marvel Universe, sapped it of its magic and even killed a beloved magician named Monako, and now Marvel’s spellcasters are scouring the globe to retrieve all remaining artifacts, from which they can scrape the faintest traces of spectral essence and smoke it in their witchy bongs or something.

Our tale begins in the Himalayas, where Strange’s manservant…what? That’s what he is! Wong and the Sanctum Sanctorum’s librarian Zelma Stanton are hanging out at the Temple of Secret Defenders, which probably sounds a lot cooler when said aloud in Cantonese. People from around the world touched by magic, but unskilled in wielding it, have convened due to some psychic broadcast that probably promised the magic world’s equivalent of tickets to see the Rolling Stones. In fact these disparate people are part of Wong’s plan to provide some kind of ethereal shield for the good Doctor when he finally goes up against Imperator…and where is Doc Strange, anyway? Why, he’s right around the corner, in the jungles of Tibet, being chased by mask-wearing, magic eating monkeys with his dead mentor’s skull in a bag. Stephen leaps from a cliff and radios in help from his pal Joshua, flying the Phantom Eagle’s bi-plane that makes it just in time (of course.) In the plane’s rear seat, Strange crushes up the Ancient One’s skull and sucks up the magic right there. Damn dude, you can’t wait until we get into the hangar? I mean it’s just half an hour away!

Back in Greenwich Village, Imperator is pissed off that the Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, aka his house hasn’t been razed, and the eye-bots tell him that demolition has been halted because they’re a-scared of something mighty fearsome in th’ cellar! Imperator just strides down there to find a kid, the embodiment of all the pain and suffering Dr. Strange has incurred using magic, somehow? Is that how that works? You can just bank pain and suffering in your basement like shitty Christmas presents and shameful pornography? Okay. Strange’s pain-thing wants to strike a deal for its freedom, but Imperator is like, “Mmm, nah,” and shoots it with his eye-lasers. Oh yeah, he’s got eye-lasers.

At the Temple of Secret Defenders, Strange has convened with Scarlet Witch and a bunch of Marvel Universe magicians with whom I am relatively unfamiliar to go over their empowered booty: looks like a bunch of dull weapons and rocks. The team begins to waver, but Dr. Strange grabs a magic axe and gives a rousing speech about how he’ll do it himself, if he has to, because he’s an idiot. The rest of the gang agree to face off with Imperator, but before taking off he knocks Wong out with a spell and tells everyone called there by his magic beacon to go home, the Rolling Stones aren’t going to show up. That’s sort of a bummer because these are people of every age and ability who came hundreds and thousands of miles to climb the Himalayas for this shit, I mean how is the nine year-old kid who had a monster under his bed supposed to just go home? He probably doesn’t even know how he got there in the first place. So I guess they teleport or whatever over to the Sanctum Sanctorum and it’s pretty awesome because Scarlet Witch has a sawed-off shotgun and dudes are just clubbing eye-bots and stuff, no magic needed here buddy. Stephen Strange has made his way into the basement, where Imperator is still tussling with that goopy magic hangover, and fires a spectral arrow right into Imperator’s back!

So this was an okay comic book—a great comic book, technically speaking, the art and the plotting was absolutely top notch. The story was a little lacking, I thought, and had some placeholder moments that seemed intended to stretch this story into a neat five-issue trade collection. I also would have liked to see more visual depictions of magic in this book, but I suppose during an arc titled the Last Days of Magic is not the best time to expect such a thing. I dunno, I had no problems with the dialogue, and there was plenty to read but somehow I seemed to tear through this and the three issues that preceded it at a lightning pace. That’s not really a great look at four bucks a pop.

Bits and Pieces:

If you ever get the call from an ethereal beacon to trek to a monastery in the Himalayas, here's a tip: don't heed it! It's freezing cold up there and you'll probably have wasted your time. Doctor Strange continues to gather artifacts in preparation for his final conflict, in this story arc that looks to be about two issues too long, yet somehow each issue is a freakishly quick read. You get a lot of bang for your buck, however, poring over the exquisite artwork and layouts.


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