People are strange when you’re a stranger, and they don’t come much stranger than the Sorcerer Supreme. The good doctor is back for another action packed adventure in New York City… buck naked. Don’t worry you won’t see the little sorcerer but you will see a fantastical adventure that reaffirms Doctor Strange as one of the best told stories out of any of the big comics at the moment.
If the last story was quite contained and small in scope, then this one was a return to the series opener as readers were once again presented with a city spanning romp that perfectly coupled superb storytelling with exquisite artistry.
The book opens to find Strange running through Central Park in his birthday suit. He manages to avoid violating any public decency laws due to the fact that he is in astral form which is rather fortunate. What that means is his real body is still safely tucked away in the Sanctum but his consciousness has been spirited away and apparently clothes don’t come as part of the deal. He finds himself immediately engaged in a battle with magic eating Een’gawor Slugs and it becomes clear that his own magic is of no use against them. Luckily he stumbles upon The Axe of Angarruumus that graced the front cover of the first issue. See they had a plan for that all along. From there the story unravels and is largely carried by Strange all on his lonesome. What a triumph of direction that it is then that this book retains the immaculate quality of the previous issue.
Jason Aaron continues his sterling work with a script that serves to perfectly reinforce all that has currently been learnt about this character whilst also introducing new facets to the universe around him. It is taught that his magic is not within him but rather dependent on outside energies which creates new worries about the arc’s shadowy villains who seek to destroy magical energy. These touches are what is making a very rich universe for Stephen to live in and creating an unparalleled reading experience. Not only does Strange and the world around him benefit but so too does his house keeper, Wong. He was introduced in the last issue and you get a feel for him quite quickly. He is tough and loyal to the end but appears slightly exasperated by his boss’ antics. That is developed further here as, whilst Strange is traipsing around NYC, Wong ensures the safety of his physical body as well as that of the Sanctum. You get the feeling that the typically aloof lead has but one person he can rely on to be by his side and that resonates with the reader, helping to make Wong a welcome presence on the page.
Thankfully the tone of the book does not veer into too serious a territory and instead injects welcome humour throughout. An obvious example is Stephen essentially streaking through New York but perhaps an even better scene comes when two tourists are discussing how there is nothing to see in The Big Apple at the exact same time that some sort of magical explosion is taking place directly behind them, unseen by their eyes. And this serves as as nice segue into the artistic triumph that is this book.
Chris Bachalo has been flawless since day one and that doesn’t change for even a moment here. His use of colour to create visually arresting frames from start to finish is a skill so few possess. Sure there are plenty who make a bright, pleasing aesthetic but Chris goes beyond that to tell an immediately recognisable story with every brush stroke. He continues with the practice of distinguishing between Strange’s magical world and the real one by draining all of the colour from ‘reality’ and making the other come alive with vibrant hues. Once more each monster looks unique and just works within the confines of the writing, complementing the story and telling one of their own. This pair have proven to be an incredible choice to work on this book together and one would hope they do not get replaced as so often happens in the world of comics.
One more thing that continues to go right in this arc is that the hero has still not come face to face with the villains, allowing tension to continue to build for their eventual confrontation. Strange is by this point aware that something is very wrong in his world and is just now getting ready to find out what is causing these problems. With that in mind it is logical to think that a showdown in not far off but getting there is proving to be so enjoyable that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if they held off for another few issues. Plus, the little bits of development they do for the bad guys each month is paying off in dividends as the picture becomes clearer and more worrisome with each new crumb of information Aaron drops.
It is no surprise that Doctor Strange has once again knocked it out of the park as it continues to ride high on its wave of momentum. Special things are happening with this comic and it is a great time to be a fan of the mystical surgeon turner sorcerer.
Score: 5 out of 5.