Doctor Strange comics have been on an impressive run through a handful of creators. Starting with Jason Aaron’s inventive tenure, to Donny Cates’ recent short and monumentally sweet run, and a little bit from Dennis Hopeless in between, Doctor Strange has been a crucial book for Marvel. The torch is now passed on to Mark Waid.
***SPOILERS LIE AHEAD***
As was teased in the previews, Strange takes to the stars to further his search for a way to return magic to Earth. Stephen Strange has been dealing with a dwindling supply of tools for sorcery and now the well is completely dry. He seeks advice from Tony Stark, which leads him un-powered and alone through the cosmos. It’s definitely uncharted territory for Doctor Strange comics.
Mark Waid decides that Strange is down in the dumps without the means to be Sorcerer Supreme. He’s alone and emotional (where the hell is Bats?!), which is an interesting route to start off a story, but not necessarily the most riveting read. This mood shift was inevitable ever since Jason Aaron started us on this path of depleted magic. The problem is that in doing so we lose a lot of what we like about Doctor Strange comics.
Waid doesn’t really play up the same sarcastic tone that Donny Cates did, which makes Doctor Depressed even less appealing. There’s also no supporting cast (outside of a scene with Stark) in this first issue, which also limits the enjoyment readers will find here.
The concept of sending our favorite sorcerer into space is certainly a fun one, but this first issue doesn’t reach the level of energy or excitement that Doctor Strange has recently. Strange’s mystical adventures work best the deeper we dive into the weirdness that our protagonist’s job consists of. All of that fun is stripped and we’re left with one sad, desperate man.
Doctor Strange #1’s biggest highlight is the opening flashback to better times (and a better costume). That’s also where the art shines the brightest. Jesus Saiz isn’t really given much to work with, he keeps the panels pretty stripped down and focused. None of these pages are too busy, which makes for a quick read.
Saiz doesn’t do a bad job, it matches the safe and boring tone of the script. The art is technically sound, although there are moments where it looks like a comic from the early-2000’s when artists first started dabbling with digital. He does a great job with the Stark/Strange scene in making sure we’re never confused at who is who between these very similarly looking characters.
This is by no means a bad comic book, it just doesn’t come close to matching the energy that the previous creators had been injecting into the character. There are plenty of places to go in space so there’s plenty of hope that it’s all uphill from here. We’ve been spoiled with Doctor Strange wackiness lately. Perhaps we’re now coming down from that high, crashing like a Stark-made rocket ship on an uncharted planet.