Doctor Strange Volume 1: Across the Universe is out this week from Marvel Comics, by Mark Waid, Jesus Saiz, and Cory Petit.
The trade paperback collects issues 1-5 of the series, and sees the Sorcerer Supreme stripped of his powers and heading to the stars to find new sources of magic.
Fans weren’t sure how to react when they first heard Stephen Strange was going cosmic, but the creative team pulls it off. Yes, there are elements here that aren’t “typical” to a Doctor Strange comic, but it still speaks to the heart of the character. In taking away Stephen’s magic and throwing him into a new environment, Waid does a deconstruction of his character and examines what makes him tick. It’s perfect for fans new or old. Saiz’s realistic art style provides more emotional weight to the already heavy story, and (if you’ll pardon the obvious use of the word) adds a sense of magic. Doctor Strange truly is a beautiful book to behold.
Without further ado, let’s break down the Top 5 Moments from “Across the Universe” in chronological order…
5. Meet Stephen Strange
Before Waid breaks down Stephen, he shows the Sorcerer Supreme at his peak. The opening pages of this tale are a flashback to Doc Strange battling the elder god X’axal, and we see the man as he was. He’s brave, powerful, somewhat cocky, and there are nods to his skills as both a sorcerer and a surgeon. It’s a perfect introduction to the character, and cutting from this scene to a powerless Stephen sets the tone for the story.
4. Activating the Eye of Basphorus
In order to activate a magical relic that requires adrenaline, Doctor Strange jumps out of a ship at the edge of the atmosphere and plummets towards the surface. This is the first time we see Stephen use magic in the present day, and the first glimpse of the Sorcerer Supreme we know him to be. It’s also an incredible demonstration of Jesus Saiz’s abilities as a visual storyteller. It’s three silent pages – except for a brief, one panel incantation – and watching Strange free fall in complete silence and activate the relic is powerful. Talk about an emotional gut punch.
3. Doctor Strange vs The Super Skrull
I mean, ’nuff said? It’s the Sorcerer Supreme against the Super Skrull (a Skrull with the combined powers of the Fantastic Four), and there’s an Infinity Stone in the mix. Just a badass action sequence as we see Stephen slowly regain his mojo.
2. Hello, old friend.
As Stephen and his two allies fall to their deaths, he calls upon a piece of magic that has eluded him since he initially lost his powers. He summons the Cloak of Levitation, a fan-favorite character in itself, and an iconic part of Doctor Strange’s mythology. “Across the Universe” is all about breaking Stephen down, seeing what makes him tick, and putting him back together again. The Cloak’s return marks a pivotal point in the story, and a return to form for the Sorcerer Supreme.
1. The Forge
After breaking Doctor Strange down and building him back up again, Waid takes things even further: he adds to Stephen’s narrative. As Strange recalls his tools, the Wand of Thessel, the Hearth of Shambata, etc., a dwarf of Nidavellir asks him a very simple question: “Where’s your stuff?” He continues, “I’m sure those are impressive items, but they’re taken from others. Don’t you build your own tools? If not, why not?” Strange is dumbstruck, and suddenly we’re in uncharted territory. We’re not just examining his character, or celebrating it; we’re now adding to it, exploring new territories. The dwarf leads Stephen to the Forge where he can craft his own tool, one that honors his time as both a sorcerer and a surgeon. It’s moments like these that allow creators to leave their marks on a character, and make for a memorable story.
And truthfully, all of these moments are trumped by the final page of this volume. No spoilers here, but suffice it to say volume two is going to be nuts.
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