Review: Doctor Strange #1
Title: Doctor Strange #1 (2015)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Another year, another line-wide title relaunch from Marvel. Such things are par for the course in the modern comic scene, but one of the curious notes from this time around is the inclusion of a new Doctor Strange title. Despite being a highly prominent and long-standing character, the Sorcerer Supreme has never had a lot of success holding down a solo title. But with a movie on the way and the character having large roles in the recent New Avengers and Secret Wars books, it seems that Marvel has decided to give it their best shot. Can the highly talented pairing of Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo produce a winner with a historically difficult character? It’s hard to say for sure, but things are looking good at the start.
When it comes to Steven Strange, one of the things that’s always held the character back is the character’s power set; not only is the Sorcerer Supreme extremely powerful, but his magical abilities tend to be nebulously defined. It’s just hard to know what the good doctor can and cannot do in a given situation, and why he can’t just, say, turn the monster of the week into a fluffy bunny. In this first issue of the relaunch, the creative team seems to be addressing this problem by making the Doc’s fights focus more on visceral action, giving the character axes and swords to combat monsters with.
Strange taking some levels in Fighter isn’t the only change, though; for the new series, Strange has had a few tweaks to his usual personality as well. In pretty much every appearance I can remember from recent years, Doctor Strange has been a very dour character, and especially in the pages of New Avengers, has gone to some very dark places. Not here, though. No, here Stephen has a considerably more upbeat attitude; he’s not all sunshine and rainbows or anything, but it still took some getting used to seeing him flirt with an enemy Soul-Eater from the Sixth Dimension.
Once getting over this initial change of tone, though, I found that there was a lot to enjoy in this debut issue. Aaron and Bachalo both work best when they relish in the insane, making them a great fit for this character. Strange’s role as his realm’s mystical protector lends itself quite naturally to bizarre and exotic adventures, which is on full display here. Whether it’s a battle with the aforementioned Soul-Eaters in the dreamscape of a nine-year-old boy, or simply the Doctor walking the streets of New York while viewing the fantastical creatures unseen by mortal eyes, Aaron and Bachalo embrace the weirdness, and it works quite well.
That being said, there are some gripes to be had. While Bachalo is quite adept and depicting the crazy and unusual, I can’t help but feel that he can little carried away with the panel layout. During the high-pitched battle scenes, for instance, I can hardly tell what’s supposed to be happening. And as touched upon earlier, Strange’s new depiction can be somewhat jarring at first read.
In the end, Doctor Strange is a pretty solid debut. It is too early to say whether or not this title can overcome past trends with the character and sustain itself for a long run, but at the very least it looks like we’ll be having fun in the mean time.
Verdict: 4 Stars. Give it a try.