Marvel’s leading super-magician regularly goes to weird dimensions and foreboding soulscapes to protect the Earth. But Stephen Strange hasn’t always felt like a guy who had his feet on the ground. The new Dr. Strange comic changes that.
The first thing I noticed when Marvel teased the post-Secret Wars look for Dr. Strange was the fact that he was wearing big ol’ black boots. Some versions of his previous uniforms covered his feet in what looked slippers, inadvertently reinforcing that this is a character who hovers above us all. But this new take on Doctor Strange—written by Jason Aaron with art by Chris Bachalo—is one who’ll be getting his hands dirty. Like stabbing demons with swords dirty.
Dr. Strange #1 is one of the first comics in Marvel’s All-New, All-Different initiative, which has them relaunching their entire publishing line in the aftermath of this year’s big—and, because of delays, still unfinished—Secret Wars event. It gives readers a more down-to-earth version of Stephen Strange. He’s still casting spells that invoke far-flung potentates like Valtorr but he’s also going to grab drinks with Dr. Voodoo and the Scarlet Witch at a local dive bar. Granted, it’s a mystically hidden, magicians-only dive bar but it’s not the kind of thing you’d have seen previous iterations of this character doing.
You remember the whole bit where Stephen Strange became a more humble, aloof human being after becoming the Sorcerer Supreme?
Not so much with the humble or aloof anymore. The inner monologue that narrates the book is cocky and sharp-edged and other characters razz him about being a ladies’ man. Aaron’s dialogue and overall approach for the title character strikes a more everyday tone as well.
While the opening battle against an invasive nomadic band of demons is in keeping with traditional trappings and happens on a plane beyond mortal ken, it’s revealed to be part of a house call. His purview is still to engage with threats from beyond the veil but they sometimes arrive via or live amongst people who come to Dr. Strange with symptoms that need treating.
Aaron, Bachalo and crew offer clever twists on how someone of Strange’s station sees the world, potraying him as a eldritch out-of-network specialist necessary for the continued health of reality. It’s a similar approach to what Aaron’s done during his stellar Thor run, where he humanized the God of Thunder and elevated a mortal woman to godhood. The ominous theme running throughout this debut chapter of the new Dr. Strange is that magic has a cost—”a life for a life,” in the words of the older magician who owns the secret watering hole—and Strange hasn’t been mindful of that truism. And it’s hinted that the increased necromantic incursions that Strange wards off on- and off-panel are consequences of neglect on Strange’s part. Cockiness was Stephen Strange’s downfall before he became Sorcerer Supreme and it may just trip him up again.
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