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By Odin’s beard, it finally happened! A volume of Doctor Strange, as written by Jason Aaron, CLICKED with me! I think I’m starting to understand where Aaron’s strengths with Strange lie–he does a good job of exploring interpersonal relationships, the bread and butter of Mister Misery. The presence of Jane Foster’s Thor in two of the issues collected within this trade paperback helps, too!
Following after Mister Misery’s abduction of Wong at the close of the previous volume, the first issue opens with a reckless, frustrated Strange trying to figure out where his…uh, majordomo, has gone off to. We are given a few flashbacks that show the origins of this fruitful relationship, the antagonistic beginnings of Marvel’s most magical friendship! A conflict with the musician formerly known as Doc Strange’s dark little secret, here belovedly referred to as Mr. Misery, has been a long time coming and it went about the way I expected–but the challenges it offered along the way hit a personal note for Strange and for Jane Foster alike; seeing the two commit to a more unusual team-up was some of the greatest fun I’ve had with Aaron’s run on the character. I’ve mentioned in passing my love for Jane Foster’s iteration of Thor, and this was a welcome treat, considering it’s been several years now since Foster gave up the mantle.
The conflict with Mr. Misery is concluded within three issues, and we are given a forth, which allows Aaron to shore up the relationship between Strange and his intern librarian, Zelma. I keep forgetting to mention Zelma, but she’s the one character I’ve consistently enjoyed throughout the run, a nerdy book-smart twenty-something year old whose curiosity about the magical world is unending. The repercussions of that final issue will have a lasting impact on Doctor Strange‘s supporting cast, a development that surprised me and maybe took me out of the story a little bit. If you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil, but if you have…the character that leaves at the end, I thought they left somewhat unexpectedly, especially after some work had been done in prior issues to shore up the relationship.
My love/hate relationship with artist Chris Bachalo continues; he draws two and a half of the issues in the collection, and those weren’t entirely impressive. I was very taken with Frazer Irving’s art on Issue #17, which set an entirely different tone to Strange‘s adventures, one far more gothic and eldritch as compared to Bachalo’s drugged up Wonderland-like whimsy. Here’s a piece of Irving’s, not from the interior of #17 but quite enough to give you an idea of what to expect from him.
This is Aaron’s last volume on the Doctor Strange title, and I have to admit, this uneven run ended on a high note for me. From this point hence, we’ve got Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme by Robbie Thompson, whose Star Wars: Target Vader was mediocre, and a SECRET EMPIRE crossover volume of Doctor Strange, penned by Denniss Hopeless, who I’m not familiar with. I think I’ll play it safe and skip that volume–Secret Empire is one of the absolute worst, most boring events in comics I’ve read, and I can’t imagine this tie-in would be great. I am, however, excited about the two volumes written by Donny Cates–the first one features Loki as the Sorcerer Supreme, and I’m swooning with excitement about that one.