The bulk of this Doctor Strange tale was concocted in 1998 and it is only now, 12 years later, that we get to experience this standalone one-shot about Doctor Strange’s first night in his brownstone Sanctum Sanctorum. I am not sure why now would be the time to drop this issue on the public. If it’s Marvel’s way of fighting Vertigo’s “Resurrected” issues then I’m not sure I get it, unless there’s going to be more like this from Marvel. The way this one pans out, I’d be happy to see more in this vein.
This book reads and looks like the type of work that was put out in the late 90s to appeal to the kids that comics were so desperate to lure in. The art is inoffensive and the tale whips along without too much logic to slow down the action beats. This is a Saturday morning cartoon and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I do wish the tale had a little more edge to it because the danger that should be apparent on these pages is severely diluted by the comical feel.
At the start of the issue, the dwelling itself plays a large part. Strange is sucked into a party memory of the man he used and it suddenly felt like this tale of the first night in the Sanctum Sanctorum was going to go down some dark path reminiscent of “The Shining”. This would have added a defined creepiness to the tale, but instead we get a demon creature cackling about his love. All the dark tone and menace inherent in a ghost house story is lost.
When you think of a Dr Strange story, there are certain tropes you want to see on the page. Stern and Vokes deliver these story aspects in spades. The childish glee evident in unleashing ‘Vapors of Valtorr’ and ‘Mists of Munnipor’ and drawing swirling smog and the ‘Rings of Raggador’ make this book fun in a way that would excite most children, if not a few adults as well. This is Strange created the way you want him to be, like getting The Eagles to play Hotel California on repeat when you catch them in concert.
The artwork is inventive and fun in a way that comics don’t always feel in today’s creative climate. Neil Vokes and Jay Geldhof don’t get in the way of the pacing and they take every opportunity to stretch out and add some cartoony zaniness to the magic and the fighting. The characters might come across as too blocky most of the time but the magic is nigh on perfect. Lee Loughridge’s colors also make this action pop in a way they most certainly would not in black and white. Loughridge uses every color to make this issue look like a bag of tricks spilled out just for you.
If Marvel has more issues of this quality in their vault then I’ll be happy to sample them. This stands doubly if they are issues of a character like Doctor Strange that doesn’t get enough of a run as a solo character on the stands. This adventure reminds me of the sort of fare that got me out of bed in the cold on Saturday mornings. If you have a kid in your life then buy this for them, but make sure to read it first before you give it to them because you’ll like it, too.