DOCTOR STRANGE #1 / Writer: Mark Waid / Artist: Jesùs Saiz / Letterer : Cory Petit / Marvel Comics / June 6th 2018
The two things I adore most about the Marvel Universe are cosmic and magical elements. Imagine how excited I was when Marvel announced they were sending Doctor Strange to space; I was over the moon (pun 100% intended). Despite giving me space magic I was a little worried knowing that Donny Cates was not going be writing the Sorcerer Supreme anymore because his run had been nothing short of fantastic. My worries were immediately brought to halt when the creative team of Mark Waid and Jesùs Saiz was announced. After months of waiting, the first issue dropped this week and it was amazing. In this first book, we see a distraught Strange who’s losing his connection to the world of magic. An arrogant man’s fall from grace is a driving theme for this character. Strange has nothing to lose anymore so he decides to go to the stars to rekindle with magic by finding magical artifacts from other planets. As soon as his adventure begins he’s met with trouble in the Shiar Empire.
This book is immensely different from the Donny Cates’ run. Waid portrays a more vulnerable and tragic Stephen Strange. It’s less humorous and takes itself a little bit more seriously which I enjoyed a ton. I think the tone this book sets is perfect; the themes of darkness and sadness are really fitting in this scenario. I love seeing heroes in positions of adversities I believe it’s the best way to tell a story and build up a protagonist. Observing characters rise up and overcome obstacles gives this sense of attachment that makes fiction come to life. In this first issue, Waid does a phenomenal job at setting up Strange in this position of vulnerability.
The action, in this issue, is contained in the flashback sequence, but ultimately it’s sparse. This is usually a criticism when it comes to superhero comics, but this time around it felt genuine and necessary it was much more about setting the mood and tone of our protagonist’s state of mind; a huge action piece would have taken away from this important character set up. Another thing that is usually a criticism, but is not, in this particular instance, is wordiness. This book does a lot of exposition in regards to Strange’s situation. In comics, you have to show and not tell the writer should let the artist showcase the feeling and emotions. Waid does something different; he tells you a lot about what’s going on, but leave enough space for Saiz to show some profound emotional hardship through astounding art. It is the perfect balance between words and art.
The pacing of the book was strong. This first issue didn’t waste any time to get the story started while setting up most of the important elements in a concise manner. Waid sends Doctor Strange to space right away without neglecting believable motivations. Despite this, it could have been slowed down a little. The book should have ended when he successfully launches into space, giving the reader an aura of mystery to what awaits Stephen in the cold vacuum of space.
The lack of villain and supporting cast is the biggest flaw of the book. It keeps the reader in the dark about what to expect in the future which to some is frustrating because it feels like a lack of direction. On the other hand, it helps the tone of mystery and mysticism that a Doctor Strange book should have so it ends up benefiting the story. My biggest fear for this book is that it ends up only being a way to tie Strange into Infinity Wars. We already know he will be involved in the event, but hopefully, his space adventures won’t end after that. I hope to see him in space for at least a few volumes.
An important aspect of this Fresh Start re-branding is how accessible these books are as jumping on point. This book perfectly embodies the essence of what Fresh Start is; self-contained stories that act as jumping on point for new readers. I loved that it didn’t mention the last two runs at all allowing the reader to not feel obliged to go back and read anything else. You can just jump in without a worry in the world.
The premise of Doctor Strange losing his connection to magic is far from a new one, but the execution of what should be an overused concept is fantastic. It utilizes a new avenue for Strange to overcome this problem which also makes it an enjoyable read for tenured Strange stans who just can’t get enough of the Sorcerer Supreme. This is the best of both worlds good for new and old readers.
So far, I’ve only praised the writing, but ending this review without highlighting the work of Jesùs Saiz would be a criminal offense. The attention to detail he gives to character and backdrop is some of the best I’ve seen in recent memory. Every panel felt like a water painting and the level of skill and range displayed throughout this book had me in awe. I was unfamiliar with Saiz work before this and I had been missing out on some top-notch artistic prowess. There was a page in particular which I found fantastic; the one where Strange his holding his cloak was a mixture of beautiful color contrast and insane panel work. The emotions conveyed through the art were enough to give you a heavy heart as exposed in the previously mentioned page; while Strange is clutching his cloak we can see the shadows creeping up around him illustrating his state of mind which resonated exquisitely with me. Saiz has the ability to convey tone to perfection providing the right emotional beats without even having to look at the words. If you’re not a fan of the writing this book’s look alone should be enough for you to pay the 4$ it’s worth.
In conclusion, Doctor Strange #1 is an enjoyable experience in and out. Waid shows why he is a true master of building character. This is combined with Saiz’s art which is a spectacle unfolding before one’s eyes. This is a strong start to Doctor Strange and another strong addition to Marvel’s Fresh Start. Despite a strong line-up of books by Marvel this week and a lot of hype behind Al Ewing and Joe Bennet’s Immortal Hulk #1 this fresh start for the Sorcerer Supreme should not be slept on.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 Excelsiors