REVIEW: Doctor Strange Annual #1

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DOCTOR STRANGE ANNUAL #1 / Writers: Tini Howard & Pornsak Pichetshote / Artist: Andy MacDonald, Lalit Kumar Sharma, & Sean Parsons / Colors: Triona Farrell & Jose Villarrubia / Publisher: Marvel Comics / Publish date: October 30, 2019

Halloween With Doctor Strange

This Doctor Strange Annual is a book in two parts. The first, “A Hallowed Evening,” takes place on Halloween when the veil between the living and the dead is thin. Doctor Strange and his witchy friends gather together to please the ghosts of the Sanctum’s past. The only problem is the Doctor’s apprentice Zelma broke the protective seal to the house and now all must pay the consequences.

In the second story, “Treat,” we join two teenage thieves who have chosen the sanctum to rob. Little do they know Wong’s creepy house pets bite! This robbery quickly backfires as the two are separated. We learn the two are nothing without each other. Then one is killed by the other and a demon unmasks. In the end we see the power Wong holds, as well as his relationship to Doctor Strange as a parallel to these two misled, now dead, teens.

A Hallowed Evening

Tini Howard writes the first story, “A Hallowed Evening.” She does a great job of creating Zelda’s character as a lovable misfit who isn’t all that well versed in the mystic arts. It feels as if Zelda is a kid playing at magic with the sternest of mentors. The story itself is lacking some clarity. Why do they need to welcome these spirits? Do these powerful sorcerers do this every year in the sanctum? Why does Zelda not know she shouldn’t break a seal when she is Doctor Strange’s apprentice? It is also too bad that Doctor Strange was not the focus. Regardless, the action created is entertaining and the monsters are a diverse collection of evil that is fun for Halloween.

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Andy MacDonald’s artwork is interesting and supports the story. I especially like the structure of his sorcerer introductions and how he created each spirit encounter differently. The facial expressions of Doctor Strange versus those of Zelda also accentuated their vast differences in both magical and mental maturity.

Triona Farrell’s colors really create that Halloween tone that the book needs. The pinks that she associates with Doctor Strange are eye-popping and powerful. She also takes the great art from MacDonald’s character introductions and heightens them with each character’s colors. The effect is impressive. Her color association for each spirit encounter is what readers will enjoy most in this story. Weather it is the white and blue horses, green pumpkin limbs, or red and green medusa monsters, Farrell’s colors stand out.

Treat With A Trick

In “Treat” by Pornsak Pichetshote, we find the true creepiness of Halloween. This story is well crafted, with twists and turns the reader will not see coming. Like the story before it, Doctor Strange is not the focus. Actually, he doesn’t even appear in this story, but Wong his “sidekick” does. For a reader unaware of these characters’ bond, it was interesting to see how they are linked and how that impacts their friendship. Pichetshote also uses the two teens as a precautionary tale of the evil that awaits wrongdoers. The reader leaves creeped out, with a sense of Halloween and a new perspective of Wong.

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The art by Lalit Kumar Sharma and Sean Parsons helps create this creep factor with human-shaped teeth monsters and spooky masks. They also create a truly frightening furry beast crawling out of a human form that is straight from the most frightening horror movie. Jose Villarrubia’s dark colors against the cold white of the masks and clothing make the tone all the more fearsome. The dark tone is alleviated by the bright yellow warmth of Wong’s powers and brightness of his green suit.

Overall, Where is Doctor Strange?

Overall, I feel that this Doctor Strange Annual lacks Doctor Strange. In the first story, he is barley a fleshed-out version of himself. Even Agatha Harkness had more page time than the book’s namesake. The second story is a great horror story, especially since I read this on Halloween. The first story could have been stronger but does have interesting characters and ghosts to carry the reader on an adventure. Readers will leave having had a great bit of Doctor Strange Halloween fun and a new respect for Wong.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5

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Danielle is a lover of all things comics, superheros, fantasy, and supernatural. She is a Doctorate of Education student, while working full time event planning for a University. When not working or comic reading, she can be found snuggling her dog, Sir Dublin Von Fuzzypants or her husband Dave.

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