Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Classics - Marvel Premiere #10

(New comics day doesn't hit until Thursday this week - thanks a lot, Independence Day - so we have an extra "Classic" review for today.)

It's rare, but there are times when you read a comic book and think, "That was something special."

That was exactly my reaction to this issue of Marvel Premiere. That "try-out" comic had spent several issues featuring Dr. Strange in the latest attempt to revive his career as a solo character (this issue is cover dated September 1973).

For this venture, they tried to re-cast Strange as a lone hero standing against cosmic monsters of the kind made famous by H.P. Lovecraft. It seemed a half-hearted effort and not really a good fit for the character, who was more suited to intelligent adventures.

Luckily, the team working on this issue (and the one before it) quickly set about fixing that problem. Writer Steve Englehart and artist Frank Brunner were just beginning what would become one of the all-time best runs on Dr. Strange.

This issue was the wrap-up to the menace of Shuma-Gorath, a monstrous, one-eyed, tentacled entity who had merged with Strange's teacher, the Ancient One. His aged mentor was the key to the problem - the monster was using his power to enter our world, and the only way to stop that from happening was for Dr. Strange to kill the Ancient One.

The story took some impressive metaphysical turns and unexpected twists, and at the end, I distinctly remember thinking, "Wow."

And what made the story was the mix of a terrific story and amazing artwork. Brunner was relatively new to comics, and this issue - with the inking of the Crusty Bunkers - was a revelation.

The Neal Adams influences were strong (which makes sense - Adams may have done some of the inking, since the Bunkers were working out of his shop), but Brunner also brought his own, powerful style to bear, providing the story with a unique, ever-changing reality and a genuine sense of gravitas. The characters seemed three-dimensional, the emotions raw and the layouts powerful.

Brunner is probably the best pure artist to work on the character, and this was the issue that put him - and for the second time, Dr. Strange - on the map.

And there were even better stories ahead for this creative team. Their run was relatively short - about 10 issues - but it's some of the best comics work ever.

It's all available in reprints, and highly recommended!

Grade: A+

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Doctor Strange is one of my favorite Marvel characters but when he got his own title in 1968, sales weren't strong and it was cancelled despite some great writing and art. The fans just didn't take to a master mage.
He wasn't "cool" like Spidey and The Hulk.
But with this return, some new kids on the block showed what could be done with our conjuring hero. The results were amazing and
Doc reclaimed his status as a major
player in the Marvel Universe!

Sam Kujava