Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Classics - Dr. Strange #49

Writer Roger Stern turned in long runs on series such as The Avengers, Spider-Man and Superman - but he also took part in two memorable - but short - runs.

One was on Captain America with artist John Byrne (which I'll get around to one day soon), and the other was on Dr. Strange with artist Marshall Rogers.

The two only produced six issues starring the Master of the Mystic Arts (although Stern wrote a few issues with other artists) - but their run is a largely-overlooked masterpiece.

(This issue is actually the second in the series - I just liked this iconic cover better than the one on the previous issue.)

This issue introduces a new supporting character - a woman named Morgana Blessing, who figures prominently through this "limited series." She invites Strange to her apartment not realizing she's being used to lure him into a trap, which has been set by Strange's oldest foe, Baron Mordo.

The two take part in an intense mystic battle that spills across dimensions, and wraps up with an original and downright psychedelic splash page.

Stern holds up his part of the deal with a sharp and clever story, loaded with interesting characters, menace and mystery.

The much-missed Rogers (with Terry Austin providing his usual meticulous inking) also gets to show off a bit, from terrific character work, inventive layouts and panel designs, cutting edge (for 1981) fashions and architectural designs, and fantastic battle sequences.

The only strike against the artwork is the abysmal printing Marvel was using at the time - this work deserves better reproduction than it gets here.

But even with that limitation, readers could tell they were seeing something special here - and as the story continued, they were treated to some terrific time-travel stories that fit neatly into Marvel's continuity, crossed over into Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos and the Fantastic Four, and even answered some questions from the beginning of the Silver Age!

When you think of great Dr. Strange stories, you immediately think of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, and Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner - but with a mere half-dozen issues, Stern and Rogers have earned a spot on that list of "top creative teams."

Highly recommended, and the whole series is well worth tracking down!

Grade: A+


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