Monday, July 11, 2016

Doctor Strange Prelude #1 Review and *SPOILERS* - Marvel Mondays

Magic Goes “Sombra”

Written By: Will Corona Pilgrim
Art By: Jorge Forn├ęs, Jesus Aburtov
Lettered By: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: July 6, 2016


Hey everybody! Marvel’s got a new movie coming in the fourth quarter of this year, and this one’s starring Doctor Strange! You know Doctor Strange, don’tcha? Master of the mystic arts? Founding member of the Defenders? Owner of a Greenwich Village pad that must be worth over ten million dollars today? Well, if you’re a fan of the movies and unfamiliar with the comics, it’s likely you haven’t run across the good Doctor. Heck, even if you’ve dabbled in Marvel comic books, you may not have seen him. Doctor Strange is sort of antithetical to much of Marvel’s more realistic, science-based approach to storytelling. But I love him, and I’ve been reviewing the current series for the site’s Marvel Mondays, so who better than to review the digital-first prelude to the upcoming movie? I’m asking, is there anyone better? Because I’m scared of what changes to the character I might find within! Will you hold my hand and read on?

Explain It!

A very conspicuous woman with taped hands, wearing a hooded robe, and wielding an arcane-looking staff is stopped by a chubby guy who wants a word with her, so she smiles and thrusts her sceptre into the sky, creating a brilliant blue light to emanate from its tip and freak out all the bystanders. She makes a cryptic threat, then vanishes with a SSSSOMBRA sound into a wisp of blue smoke coming from a smudge. We learn the husky fellow is Wong…Master of the Mystic Arts? I thought he was once the Ancient One’s and now Doctor Strange’s knowledgeable assistant/butler/spell nurse. Anyway, Wong reveals that he was sent to Kamar-Taj to take a peek at this relic held by the mysterious disappearing weapon, which makes the fact that she disappeared with it even more disappointing.

I initially thought Kamar-Taj was a member of the Green Lantern Corps, but no it’s the home and training grounds to the Masters of the Mystic Arts. Now wait a minute, ain’t there only one Master of the Mystic Arts? And ain’t his name Doctor Strange? And where is that guy, anyway? Seems a little rude not to show up to your own prelude. There are Kaecilius, Daniel Drumm, and Tina Minoru, Masters of the Mystic Arts, all of them. Who isn’t a Master of the Mystic Arts around here? There’s so many, they’re taking minimum wage to perform exorcisms. Kaecilius is breaking Wong’s balls for not subduing the mysterious, relic-wielding woman, but Wong insists her magic is hella strong. Drumm and Minoru show up to have Wong’s back, and Kaecilius says, “smell ya later,” then—this is awesome—takes one end of the sash holding his robe together, then whips it around like a helicopter’s blades and flies away in a flash of ethereal light. He shows up instantly at the Shard in London, where mysterious hooded lady stands with her sceptre high on some balcony. Sensing he is behind her, the lady explains that she asked his people for help but was pushed aside. Kaecilius doesn’t give a hang about her pleas and says he’s there to take the relic from her, and punctuates his meaning by drawing a pretty mean-looking grass sickle. They fight, the woman’s blinding magic emanating SOOMBRA sounds, but otherwise it seems to be a fight using regular weapons. Kaecilius gets his ass handed to him, and is found unconscious by the rest of the Masters of the Mystic Arts Club.

The team decides to tackle this issue—using the power of friendship! They find mystery lady hanging out at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, and, well, they fight. There are lots of flashes coming from various implements, and some of the SOMBRAs are so intense that the vowels go two- and three deep. But it’s essentially a martial arts fight, which is sort of disappointing. One of my favorite things about Doctor Strange is the weird way he fights with magic, and how that is represented by different artists (my favorite being Steve Ditko.) Here, it looks like ninjas are fighting with fireworks exploding around them. The Mystic Arts Bunch then does some kind of move so serious, it sounds like SSSSSOOOOOMBRAAAAA that eventually occludes the blue light coming from the mysterious woman’s relic with more yellow and orange light, which I guess is a good thing? There’s a little more kung-fu fighting, then the sceptre goes all wacky and eventually the woman is subdued. At the end, you see the relic is being kept at the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York City, which is Doctor Strange’s home pad if you didn’t know.

This was a fairly thin story that did a good job introducing some new characters, and changing the nature of some old characters, that will hopefully be useful when we see the film in November. The art is pretty good, and the action scenes are nicely rendered, but the whole thing reads kind of quick, and makes me wonder if this had to be one of two issues, or if we couldn’t have just had a one-shot. Worst part is Doctor Strange wasn’t even in this issue, but I know that’s all part of building suspense and tension, though Benedict Cumberbatch in his Doctor Strange get up is featured on the cover! More suspicious types than I might call that a bait-and-switch.

Bits and Pieces:

Nice artwork and coloring don't save this action-heavy comic from feeling like a bit of a letdown. We are introduced to some characters and locations that are probably important in the upcoming Doctor Strange movie, but otherwise we see some martial arts action, which suggests we may be seeing more of that in the film as well. Frankly, I expect more for four dollars.


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