Doctor Voodoo? Avenger of the Supernatural? I’m not sure any comic can live up to the genius implicit in that title, but this issue certainly falls short.
Rick Remender jumps right into the magical fray here, following the events in “New Avengers” where Jericho Drumm, a.k.a. Brother Voodoo, gained the power of the Sorcerer Supreme. There’s no origin story here — no backfill — it’s just the newly anointed Doctor Voodoo kicking mystical ass.
The story opens with Doc Voodoo putting the “dread” Dormammu in his place. One of Doctor Strange’s greatest adversaries quickly dispatched, magically imprisoned, in the space of a few pages. It’s an effective way to show Voodoo’s powers, and Jefte Palo’s pencils and inks smolder with appropriately vicious fire. The opening scene promises a Doctor Voodoo who is not to be messed with, and it quickly eliminates any doubt that this will be a series that takes its protagonist seriously.
This isn’t Fred Hembeck’s Brother Voodoo, in other words.
But the ultra-serious tone stifles the first issue. It falls into the same trap that so many Doctor Strange stories have fallen into over the years. The high-magicks and straightfaced supernatural mumbo jumbo get in the way of the storytelling. The accoutrements of the Sorcerer Supreme become the story, and there’s not a whole lot of room for characterization or complex structural devices. It’s just magical battle after magical battle, with moments of meditation and repose in between.
There’s a darkness here, though, implicit on almost every page, and explicit in the warnings Doctor Strange himself gives to his successor. And when Doctor Doom himself runs scared after glaring into the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto, well, you know that something is amiss in the world of the Sorcerer Supreme. Dark forces are stirring. Bad stuff’s surely on the horizon.
Is it all enough — told well enough — to make a reader want to come back for more?
I think so.
But the series feels too reigned-in after the first issue. As it stands now, it’s just a dark, Loa-ridden version of “Doctor Strange,” and I don’t think that’s enough to keep readers for much longer unless Remender really starts cutting loose. Which he’s more than capable of doing.