Collects Doctor Strange (2015) #1-5
I was recently reminded that superheroes will never grow old. Chances are, the costumed adventurers that we grew up reading would be the same heroes our grandchildren will be reading too.
Heroes may be eternal but the creative teams working on the books are not. So we readers get the wonderful treat of seeing how the same hero is handled by a particular creative and then compare the current team to the ones that came before.
Take this Doctor Strange collection, for example. This is Doctor Strange as interpreted by Jason Aaron.
Let me start by talking about my favorite parts of this collection.
At the top of my list is the tour of 177A Bleecker Street – more popularly known as the Sanctum Sanctorum. Dr. Strange’s house with the distinct round window on the roof. The second and third issues gives us a tour of the place and it is a tour that I highly recommend you taking. I’ve always loved the Sanctum and now I love it even more.
Another favorite of mine is the Bar With No Doors – a hangout place for magic types. The bartender is Chondu, who is pretty much a head in a jar – he mixes drinks through some form of magic telekinesis. We get to visit this bar with Doctor Strange and hobnob with the likes of Doctor Voodoo, the Scarlet Witch and others. Interesting conversations all around. I love the Bar With No Doors.
Art for the collection is by Chris Bachalo.
As expected, Chris has a lot of opportunity to draw weird supernatural stuff and he does it with a touch of whimsy. The magical creatures in Bachalo’s world are almost cute where it not for the horrific edge Bachalo gives them. Sort of like ice cream with a spicy aftertaste.
Bachalo also draws a relatively younger looking Doctor Strange and he gives up the soft blue boots for some thick-soled army style shoes.
All in all, I’m very happy about the art in this collection.
Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange
So let’s go back to Aaron and the new things he brings to Doctor Strange.
I notice that Aaron does not do the traditional spells. You won’t find the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak here, or the Vapors of Valtor, or the Shield of the Seraphim. There are many references to Hoggoth, but those are just swear words. The Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth are nowhere in sight. Neither are the Flames of the Faltine. When Doctor Strange gets into a tussle he summons up an eldritch axe or uses an actual magical axe – lots of hacking not much hand waving. It’s the most action oriented Strange I’ve ever read. Strange does use the eye of Agamotto though; and Aaron introduces something new – Atlantean Black Magic (this is a wicked spell).
Another new Aaron concept is the notion of spells not being free. Cast a spell and you always have to pay some kind of price for it. Doctor Strange reveals that he pays a stiff physical price that includes regular sleep deprivation and a special diet. By ‘special’ I mean ‘disgusting’. You’ll know what I mean because Wong is shown cooking one of these meals. The concept of paying a price for spells goes beyond food and sleep; it is a concept that has ramifications all throughout Aaron’s Doctor Strange run.
I almost forgot about Zelma. Aaron introduces us to Zelma Stanton who is destined to become a mainstay of Doctor Strange; swelling the Doctor’s entourage to a total of two: Wong and Zelma. She’s a librarian and a welcome addition to the Strange household since Zelma represents us. Stephen Strange and Wong are so steeped in the occult that it’s hard to relate to them. Zelma is our representative inside 177A Bleecker Street – a normal person inside the world of Strange.
The collection starts out with us pretty much hanging around the doctor, sort of like a day in the life. Since this is Doctor Strange everything is just fascinating. As we progress through the issues we are shown that something is amiss and that Doctor Strange and our reality are under threat. I love the way Aaron builds this up slowly – sort of like a silent tsunami.
By the fourth and fifth issue this crisis finally hits home and we are shown the mettle of Doctor Strange as he tries to survive under very trying circumstances.
This collection ends with a mild cliffhanger and points us to the next collection called “The Last Days of Magic”. That collection and this one comprise a complete story. But as I said, it’s a mild cliffhanger, so if you can only get this book, that’s okay.