Monday, March 15, 2010

The Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange #1 (One-shot)

In this review of the recent mini-series Strange, I wrote:
I don't understand why each new creative team feels like it has to re-invent Dr. Strange - there's a perfectly good version sitting on the shelf, waiting for the right team to put him back in the game.
As if by design, here we see that Dr. Strange return - including his correct costume, mystic amulet, cloak of levitation and the proper supporting cast.

But as this black-and-white issue also shows, that doesn't automatically mean it's a great comic - it's just a good start.

So here we have four stories starring the good Doc - a full-length comic, two short comics and one short text story. How I wish I could report that they're all outstanding.

Well, they actually are in terms of art. I'm especially delighted to see one of my all-time favorite Dr. Strange artists, Frank Brunner, returning to tackle one of the short stories. I would have picked this up for that alone. Brunner is an incredible artist, adept at surreal landscapes, alien creatures and real live humans. How I wish he were doing more work these days!

The main story is drawn by Frazer Irving, as artist I'm not familiar with, but I like his work here. It's an original take on the classic version of the character, with dark and moody artwork and some strong visuals of mystic events.

The other comics story is written and drawn by Ted McKeever, and it's a quirky yet enjoyable venture into Strange's darker days. The art is terrific and the story's pretty good, too.

The text piece includes some excellent illustrations by Marcos Martin, and the story therein is the best in the issue, as Strange fights to survive a mystic encounter early in his studies of the mystic arts.

The Brunner-illustrated story is written by Peter Milligan, and it has some good moments, but ultimately it's a bit on the thin side (and actually hearkens back to Strange's first-ever comics adventure, helping a man haunted by dark dreams).

But the full-length story by Kieron Gillen is the most disappointing. It sets up a world-changing threat, which Strange approaches with an attitude of indifference, and his solution is one that the real Dr. Strange would never countenance. In my opinion, anyway.

So a real mixed bag here - to me, worth it for Brunner and McKeever, but as always, your mileage may vary.

This issue is something of a disappointment, but I'm still hopeful that this could lead to more stories focusing on the "real" Dr. Strange.

Grade: B-

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