Review: Marvel's Doctor Strange #1 by Aaron, Bachalo, Vey, Irwin and Townsend | Fanboys Anonymous
All-New, All-Different Dr Strange wielding Axe and Kicking Ass
Doctor Strange #1 cover
by Bachalo, Townsend, Vey and Irwin
"The Way of the Weird"

I'll admit, right from the start, I have been looking forward to this latest take on Dr. Strange since it was announced by Marvel in June. With the build-up including the announcements of top talents Jason Aaron as writer and Chris Bachalo on art, the anticipation surrounding this "All-New, All-Different" series was always going to be big.

In a major way, Doctor Strange #1 delivers on expectations.

The idea of a new series utilizing a character who has had a prominent role in Marvel's big Secret Wars event is a sensible commercial decision. As the crossover event cast the spotlight onto Strange, and with the same character stepping up on the other side of the megalith Marvel multimedia machine with a titular movie in the works, the stage was cleared to bring a fresh take on the comics scene for the good doctor.

As the title for this issue indicates, there is a good deal more weirdness to be associated with the character this time around. This is best seen, rather than described, and Chris Bachalo heads an artistic team that is on point, filling the pages with striking detail.

Bachalo seems like the most obvious and logical choice to bring to life the wonderful world of Doctor Strange. As demonstrated by his recent run on Uncanny X-Men, there is a larger-than-life feel to his art, mixed with page designs and layouts that bring a surreal quality to the pages. It is his grittiness and portrayal of dirty, real-world landscapes that will help ground this version of Dr. Strange.

As we open the cover and are greeted by a one-page flashback on the origin of Dr. Strange, it is hard to imagine what might come next; however, once we turn the page, there is no going back. The audience is hit with four—that's right, four—double-page splash and overlay pages even before we get to the title page. The panel arrangements and page designs evoke the sense of other-worldliness where events are taking place in the "ectoplasmic plane," yet they revert to a more rigid and conventional grid format when in the real world of the Marvel Universe. This feature seems crucial in the establishment of this issue and the series at large as a way to define the difference between the planes of existentialism in which Doctor Strange takes place.

The inkers also come to the fore here, with Tim Townsend, Mark Irwin, and Al Vey all adding to the flavor of the art. They have worked with Bahcalo previously, and the collaboration continues to bring out the best of the art's qualities. A prominent example of this is on the fourth and fifth pages, where a photo of a toy teddy bear is incorporated among the other panels yet the ink work blurs the lines between photo and drawing.
Ectoplasmic plane battles in Doctor Strange
Bachalo shows off the All-New All-Different Dr. Strange
The colors are picked from a palette of green, yellow, pink, and purple hues. Bachalo keeps the colors tight, controlling the effect of the "weirdness" as a result. This approach also makes the occasional blues, browns, or reds stand out more, particularly on Dr. Strange's clothing. The attention on the colors develops a sticky moodiness that is pervasive.

Also feeling a sense of belonging is Jason Aaron, who takes on the writing duties. Aaron's story sets up a good platform for a lengthy, ongoing series with big story arcs, much like we have seen in his work on Thor: God of Thunder. It is clear that that this issue is just the beginning of a story that will be drawn out to attract an audience for the long haul. Issue #1 does well in providing context on who Dr. Strange is and his role in the wider Marvel Universe, and it is nice to see some background details so obviously planted in the story and portrayed in the art for this purpose. This makes the character accessible to new readers while grounding the issue in established continuity.

As Aaron builds the character, it is good to see the Doctor's interactions with others draw out the rules by which this series will be governed, for example, there are consequences for using magic in the Marvel Universe. We are already starting to see the character and his abilities have meaning; add this to his witty banter with the other wizards or witches he calls friends, and we have some nice scenes that further bring out his character. While this take on Dr. Strange embraces the magical aspects of his character, it seems grounded in a humanity that could only belong to the Sorcerer Supreme.
Bachalo's colors bring life to the page
The magic show is about to begin!
It is also fun to look out for information and clues that could be important in the future of this series. I learned this from reading Aaron's run on Thor, and it is a great experience to indulge in. While we are busy taking everything else in we also get to see what a day in the life of a wizard or witch is really like in the Marvel Universe—certainly this is high on the weirdness scale.

As Aaron balances the need for background with the opening action piece, the only drawback is that the end of the story can't keep up the same level of intensity. While this doesn't reduce the quality of the issue in any regard, it feels like a good TV series, where we have to tune in next time to see what happens next. It is also in this manner that Aaron can build a wider sense of suspense for the series, but in this case it was a nice segue into a bonus story at the end of the issue.

The bonus story, written by Jason Aaron with art by Kevin Nowlan, builds on the preceding one from a different angle. Entitled "The Coming Slaughter," it builds a healthy level of intrigue and mystery for the series going forward. Not only was it a nice surprise at the end of the issue (I honestly didn't know it was there until I got to it), the consequences of the story it tells add weight to the implications of the series itself.

It would be great to see the bonus story continue as an ongoing feature of the series (what better way for Marvel to ensure readers get their money's worth of comic goodness?), but regardless it was still a nice addition to this issue.

With that, this is what we thought about the first issue of Doctor Strange. But we really want to hear from you...

So what did you think of this this issue? Has it piqued your interest in the series as well? How on point was the art for Doctor Strange? Make sure you tell us what you thought of the book by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook or Twitter and make sure you come back as we continue to explore the weird world of the All-New, All-Different Marvel!

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