Doctor Strange #4

2016-01-08-doctorstrange

Doctor Strange came out swinging when it was launched a few months back and since then it has established itself as the strongest book in Marvel’s revamped line-up. As such each new installment is met with a mix of excitement and trepidation, no one wants to see all that good work go to waste. Would issue four be the book that ruined this series?

In the early stages parallels were drawn between Doctor Strange and DC’s similar title, Constantine: The Hellblazer. These comparisons are very warranted as both deal with the occult and less than perfect mystical lead characters. However, whilst Constantine has also been fantastic, Jason Aaron has done a great job of setting his work apart from all others and has arguably made this the better of the two comics.

The most important thing that Aaron introduces is the idea that using magic has consequences. This entire issue is built around that central theme and it serves to ground the character in a way that hasn’t been achieved in the past. Too often a magical hero would simply be able to use their powers as a means to get out of any corner that a writer may have backed themselves into. It was lazy and undermined the tension of what had preceded it, leading to audiences simply not caring about any future adventures involving that personality. In this book Strange is shown to suffer from extreme bouts of vomiting when he uses his powers too much and as such he is forced to limit himself the way any other hero has to with their own respective abilities.

The addition of these new limitations means that the current villains Strange is running headlong into have taken on an even more sinister nature. It will clearly no longer be a case of him saying just the right words and being done with the situation, he will have to fight tooth and nail just to survive and that kind of tension and drama is exactly what makes this book a must read for any comic book fan.

As of late, most books seem content to have their heroes and villains confront one another immediately and do not put much effort into the build-up. It should be common knowledge that a payoff such as what these writers are looking for can only be achieved when the fans anticipation has been sufficiently stoked. Aaron gets that so right in this book. Audiences have been waiting for Strange to do battle with these Sorcerer killing zealots for four issues now and finally it seems that he is set to do just that next time out. One would expect this battle to be near cataclysmic for Stephen and every single person who has read this far into the series will, without question, be eagerly anticipating the next issue to drop.

Something else that Aaron manages to do here is to make his titular character feel more attached to the world around him, something that hadn’t been done in the previous issues. This doesn’t mean that he is engaging in the real world but rather that he is shown to be heavily involved with other magical types. It’s a nice change of pace to see him being less aloof and appearing suitably scared in the face of the coming war.

The art on this book was managed by a sizable team consisting of Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Mark Irwin, John Livesay, Wayne Faucher, Victor Olazaba, and Jaime Mendoza. The risk is always there with a group of this size that the resultant work will be unfocused and tarnished by too many cooks adding to the pot. That is, thankfully, not the case here as this issue is just a spectacular in design as all of the others that came before it. The colouring is arguably the most successful contribution of the artistic team though as Bachalo once again crafts a shadowy world befitting of such an enigmatic character. The final panel is particularly effective in its relative simplicity, setting the tone as it does for the next book.

Once again Doctor Strange is an absolute triumph of creativity and imagination. It may be too early to call this but this is shaping up the finest run in the character’s history. Should this keep up, and there’s no reason to think that it wouldn’t, then Marvel already have their best series of 2016 right here. Do yourself a favour and get reading if you haven’t already.

Score: 5 out of 5.

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Doctor Strange #4

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